- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mark West, Pinot Noir, California, 2007, $12

Finding a good but affordable pinot noir can prove a daunting challenge. Since many $30 or $40 bottles taste unpleasantly sappy and hot, the chance of locating a harmonious pinot for less than $15 is slim. Well, here’s a pinot that beats the odds. Bright and vibrant, this wine tastes true to the grape and never seems excessive.

Pinot noir is a notoriously difficult grape for making balanced wines. If the weather turns cold during the growing season, the wine will taste harsh. Conversely, if temperatures soar, the wine can seem candied and heavy. Then, if the winemaker handles the fruit roughly in the winery, pumping it too forcefully or over-manipulating it, the juice may become astringent and the wine bitter.

Fine pinot, however, can be a delight to drink. Soft and sensuous, it’s a wine that tastes vivacious. Being made with a thin-skinned grape variety, pinot tends not to have truly firm tannins, so a good example feels deliciously silky when you sip it.

Mark West sources grapes from throughout California to make this pinot noir, which exhibits cherry and raspberry fruit flavors set against a backdrop of vanilla and baking spice. Though slightly sweet, it never seems too much so, and will be a fine partner for many pork, ham, and poultry dishes.

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