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Pinot Heaven

07/31/2009 05:00PM ● Published by Wendy Sipple

My taste for wine started with the likes of Mateus Rose, Boones Farm (apple only!), and the occasional bottle of Lancers Chianti or Blue Nun.

Please understand, I am Irish with a little Italian and German thrown in – maybe that is the reason I used to lean towards Liebfraumilch! I am not a sommelier, but I know what I like, and I like wine – especially those wines that tickle my fancy, and are easy on the wallet.

Having lived in California for over 20 years, I have had the pleasure of honing my wine tasting skills on many of California’s superb wines. I have also developed a propensity to often order and buy pinot’s – both pinot noir and pinot grigio.

Now I am not a real delicate guy, but I understand that this is one of the most delicate and difficult grapes to grow. All I know is what I like, and whenever I speak with a real wine expert or sommelier, they usually confirm the same basic principle, which is – as long as you really “like the wine,” that is all that matters.

So, what are these wines? The first comes from the Monterey wine region of California and according to a sommelier and wine reviewer I know, it is probably one of the “best buys” in wine today: Castle Rock 2007 Pinot Noir. I will not bore you with a feeble attempt at sounding like I know more than I do when it comes to the subtleties of this wine, but I will tell you that at a holiday party at our home, we gave our guests the simple choice of “white or red”...as it was a chilly December evening, most asked for red. Without fail, each person who tasted the red did the same thing – they took a sip, took another, turned to me and asked what wine they were drinking. If you want to see a wine lover’s face light up, I have found the words that work every time: “It’s Castle Rock Pinot Noir, and it’s less than $10 a bottle!”

As to the choice of a pinot grigio, I was weaned on wines that of course were born in Italy, and over the years, I have tried to find a California pinot grigio that compare favorably with some of the better-known bottles from that part of the world. Once again, being the non-connoisseur I am, I literally stumbled into a case stack at a local wine store, saw the label (a winery I knew), and bought a bottle based on my knowledge of this local winery and because I loved the label – that’s right – I bought it because of the label. What can I say, marketing works.

The wine I am referring to is Montevina Winery’s 2007 Pinot Grigio. Having developed a taste for a particularly good Italian brand, I am always somewhat reticent when tasting pinot grigio from California and elsewhere...until now. Dry with just a perfect touch of the right fruits – this is more than a delightful bottle of wine – it’s once again a wine I can pour for friends and know that a smile will take over their face in seconds.

I have tried so many of the two pinot varieties that there is one thing I can tell you without hesitation – and that is for my money, these wines represent two of the absolute best values you can find anywhere. Moreover, the beautiful thing here is that whether you want to try for yourself, or see if you can prove me wrong, it will cost you less than $19 for both bottles – out the door – and in this day and age, that is saying something. •

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