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The Hunt for Budget-Friendly Pinot Noir

The Hunt for Budget-Friendly Pinot Noir

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Searching for value where value is often hard to find

It may be tough to find value-priced pinot noir, but the savvy shopper can find some gems in the marketplace today.

I took a bit of flak last week for some offhand comments in my prelude to tasting notes for value-priced sauvignon blanc. I made the grave mistake of saying that finding value priced pinot noir that exhibits varietal character is a challenge, and more than one merry reader took me to task for saying so. So what do I do? I trudge down to the cellar and pick out a case of value-priced pinot noir to taste, that’s what I do. After all I have to back up my words.

Now to begin with, this is a case of comparing apple to oranges, but even more to the point, while the sauvignon blancs I reviewed ranged in price from $9 to $14, this set of pinot noir starts at $12 and climb to $16, which to my mind probably corresponds well to the price point I focused on for sauvignon blanc values. If anything these wines, within the world of pinot noir at least, represent even greater values.

As you will see it’s an eclectic group from around the globe and as is often the case these days we get some surprising results when we pit international combatants against one another. Yes, there were wines that came out rather decisively on top, but lets pause for a moment to think about what that means in this case. As with the sauvies I was not looking for terroir with these wines, rather I was looking for the best expression of varietal character among these wines. That is not to say that these wines don’t possess terroir, it’s just to say that that is not what I was looking for.

What I was hoping to find in these wines were bright red berry fruits supported by juicy acidity and supple tannins. I was looking for wines that had enough meat on their bones so that they didn’t come off as simple, lean or overly tart. A little complexity was appreciated, though I have to admit that I prefer a bit of herbaceousness to the sweet spice of clumsily used wood. Not surprisingly I found a few wines that overachieved here but there were plenty of duds as well. Predictably it is more difficult to find delicious value-priced pinot noir than sauvignon blanc, but the savvy shopper can find some gems in the marketplace today. The Hahn, Primarius, Murphy-Goode, and Windy Bay pinots were real standouts in this tasting. With two coming from Oregon and the other two coming from California they offer a variety of styles that should appeal to a broad range of Pinohiles out there.

— Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth

Wine column: Burgundy that won’t break the bank

WINE enthusiasts love to wax lyrical about top-shelf Burgundy and precious pinot noir.

WINE enthusiasts love to wax lyrical about top-shelf Burgundy and precious pinot noir.

To help you discover the joys of pinot noir (vintage matters – pinot can’t be blended like in Bordeaux where merlot and cabernet can shine together) here are some suggestions that will pull on the purse-strings without breaking the bank.

Pinotphiles on the hunt for a bargain Burgundy should try Louis Jadot Cote de Beaune Villages 2008 (£11.29, Sainsbury’s) from this excellent Beaune producer in the heart of the Cote D’Or.

While the fruit-driven wines from the 2007 harvest are pretty much ready to drink, 2008 is just hitting the shelves. Young and berry-delicious, this bright, food-friendly pinot has soft tannins and a gentle freshness.

An international star, family-owned Louis Latour boasts some of the best vineyards in Burgundy. Try Louis Latour Aloxe-Corton Premier Cru Les Chaillots 2006 (£27.99, Waitrose) – a seductive pinot from the family’s home town that ticks all the right boxes. Silky and well rounded with fine tannins and a glint of minerality, it’s ready to be uncorked.

For a rhapsody of fruit and exotic spice, try Beaune, Les Teurons, Premier Cru, Domaine Rossignol-Trapet 2007 (£33.40, Not quite ready to grace the table yet, this superbly scented purple fruit will taste even better with another year in a cool, dark corner.

Further south, a stone’s throw from the celebrated village of Chassagne-Montrachet (home to world-famous whites), pretty Santenay produces little gems such as Lupe Cholet Santenay Tastevine 2007 (£14.49,

A ripe, ruby red with delicious depth of fruitiness, a blossomy finish and hint of spice, this bottle is good to go.

A Burgundian grape escape wouldn’t be complete without passing through the Cote de Nuits in the north, and the celebrated village of Gevrey-Chambertin.

Supermarket giant Tesco has an exciting offering with its Laboure-Roi Gevrey-Chambertin 2008 (£16.99, Tesco). Partly due to the spicy character and higher acidity, the 2008 harvest needs a little more time to evolve. This robust, and yet elegant, pinot with a lovely intensity will bring pleasure to the palate for up to eight years.

For an easy-drinking, supper-party wine, try Cotes de Nuits Villages Domaine Gilles Jourdan 2008 (£18.49, With summer berry compote flavours, a hint of violet and a fragrant finish, it’s a smooth, morello cherry charmer your friends will love.

Sainsbury’s is another keen contender with its Antonin Rodet Gevrey-Chambertin 2008 (£25.99, Sainsbury’s). Weighty with dense black cherries, a hint of tobacco and subtle tannins, it’s a perfect partner with roast chicken.

Foodie Bucket List

Being raised in the back rooms of my family’s restaurants, and being a current restaurant owner is the reason that my bucket list has a large food experience section (I am constantly on the hunt to find the best food in the world!)

And I’ve picked out the best 30 things every foodie must do:

The Fab Four: value wines for a luscious lasagna

This month, the wine panel searched for budget-friendly wines to go with a beloved Italian-American classic: lasagna made with meat sauce and three cheeses.

It’s hard to top lasagna for versatility. You can assemble it a day ahead — a month ahead if you freeze it — and bake it later for a weeknight meal, no-fuss entertaining or a comforting casserole to cheer a friend. Double the recipe, and you can host dinner for a crowd just add a big tossed salad and garlic bread.

For this tasting mission, we held the budget to less than $15 a bottle, but didn’t budge on our quality standards for entertaining. Whether you’re facing a weeknight family meal or a party buffet for 12, you don’t need to spend a lot for a good wine to pair with lasagna. Although our budget eliminated some Chianti Classico wines that we would have enjoyed, it led us to some delicious bargains that paired nicely.

We tasted 26 wines, ranging from inexpensive Chianti to fruity California reds. Lean- to medium-bodied Old World wines proved the best matches. We passed on wines that were too light, too heavy or too jammy.

Our four finalists made the hunt worthwhile. Read on to learn about the impressive Mediterranean wines that complemented the lasagna, drank well on their own and delivered more bang for the buck than we expected.

Tina Danze is a Dallas freelance writer. She writes about the wine panel on the last Wednesday of every month.

THE MISSION: Find wines for less than $15 to pair with lasagna.

THE FOOD: A classic Italian-American lasagna made with meat sauce, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella (recipe below)


Paul Botamer, sommelier and wine director at Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas

Chad Houser, executive director, Cafe Momentum

Courtney Luscher, co-owner and general manager, the Grape

Jennifer Uygur, co-owner and wine director, Lucia

Sarah Blaskovich, digital entertainment editor

Tina Danze, freelance writer

Pico Maccario Lavignone Barbera D'Asti 2012, Italy

$13.89 to $14.62 Spec’s (North Central Expressway and Preston Center locations) Pogo’s Costco (West Plano location) Brian’s Fine Wine Whole Foods Market (Highland Park and Plano locations) Veritas and Cork

This wine from Italy’s Piedmont region shows ripe black cherry fruit, hints of spice, good balance and a soft, velvety texture. “It’s got more weight to it than the Chapoutier, but I like them both,” Jennifer Uygur said. “It’s good. Having more texture helps it’s got richer fruit and a spicy herb note,” Paul Botamer said. Uygur suggested that people who lean toward weightier wines such as cabs might prefer this wine.

Cune Rioja Crianza 2010, Spain

$13.99 to $15.67 Spec’s select Central Market and Whole Foods Market locations Pogo’s Dallas Fine Wines Corner Wines Brian’s Fine Wines select PK’s stores Cork Cru Wine Bar (store) and Veritas

This is a terrific value for a well-made wine that’s bottle-aged, to boot. The bright, red fruit flavors open up more if you give it some time in the glass or decanter before sipping. “Like the Chapoutier, it’s on the lighter side, but it has more fruit and a little more weight to it,” Uygur said. “The mouthfeel is more in line with the lasagna’s texture. It’s got nice acidity, and surprisingly, it’s got some length. I like it more as I drink it.” Botamer noted that the dish brought out the baked fruit quality in the wine. Chad Houser found the wine to be clean and refreshing, with flavors that complemented the dish nicely.

M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône 2013, France

$12.99 Central Market select Krogers Market Street PK’s Fine Wine and Spirits Pogo’s Spec’s Tom Thumb and Total Wine and More

This food-friendly grenache-syrah blend from the Southern Rhône is a great value from a renowned producer, and it’s even sold in mainstream supermarkets. It’s loaded with ripe fruit, laced with herb and peppery notes, and framed by a subtle earthiness. “The pretty, herbal note is nice, and the acidity and balance are lovely,” Uygur said. “It’s not complex, but it’s what you want with this dish the sweeter, darker fruit matches with the meat and tomatoes.” Courtney Luscher pointed out that the wine’s simplicity is what made it such an easy match for the dish. “Sometimes, simple is good. The wine’s acidity is the key,” she said. “The wine’s herbal note interacts well with the sweetness and acidity of the tomato,” Houser added. Uygur deemed this wine a good choice for people who like lighter reds, such as pinot noir.

Vietti Barbera D'Asti Tre Vigne 2011

$13.67 to $14.99 Eatzi’s Jimmy’s Food Store Pogo’s Spec’s on North Central Expressway and Total Wine and More

This supple, medium-body red shows more character — and quality — than you’d expect for the price. Its lush red and black fruit meld with savory spice and mineral notes on the palate refreshing acidity makes the wine especially food-friendly. Panelists gushed over the wine and hailed it a perfect pairing for the dish. “This is delicious with the lasagna and on its own. It’s kicking it! It matches the acidity of the tomato and has a nice, rich velvety texture that matches the dish,” Botamer said. “It has everything you want it has pretty black cherry fruit without being too sweet or too tart, and it has beautiful, balanced acidity,” Uygur said. Panelists were surprised that this wine sold for less than $15.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set aside. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt. Parboil (partially cook) the lasagna noodles in batches (about 4 to 6 noodles at a time), boiling for 4 minutes using tongs, remove noodles from boiling water and plunge in the ice bath to stop the cooking. Rinse noodles (this will help straighten them out after chilling) and place on clean kitchen towels to dry.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Butter or grease (with olive oil) an 8x11-inch baking pan. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange 1 layer of noodles, slightly overlapping if necessary. Using clean hands, spread one-third of the ricotta evenly over the noodles. Follow with an even sprinkling of one-fourth of the mozzarella, and one-fourth of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Repeat the layering of noodles, cheeses and meat sauce. For the third layer, layer all the remaining noodles, followed by all of the remaining ricotta, half of the remaining mozzarella, half of the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, and all of the remaining meat sauce (it should be about 2 cups), in that order. Top with an even sprinkling of the 2 remaining cheeses.

Cover pan with foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray, and bake until bubbly and hot, about 25 to 30 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

If preparing in advance, you can tightly cover and refrigerate or freeze the unbaked lasagna bring it to room temperature (thaw in refrigerator first, if it’s frozen) before baking. Alternatively, you can increase baking time for a cold lasagna (it could take about an hour to get hot and bubbly).

To make a large lasagna (12 servings): Use a 151/2x111/2-inch baking pan and double the ingredients. Depending on the dimensions of your lasagna noodles, you may end up using only 3/4 pound of pasta.

PER SERVING: Calories 857 (48% from fat), Fat 46 g (24 g sat), Cholesterol 141 mg, Sodium 2,371mg, Fiber 3 g, Carbohydrates 47 g, Protein 58 g

SOURCE: Adapted from The Italian American Cookbook, by John and Galina Mariani (Harvard Common Press, $16.95)


In a large stockpot, heat 1/2 cup of the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Season with 2 teaspoons of the salt and 3/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Push the vegetables to the side and add the garlic. Cook the garlic, stirring often, just until fragrant (but not browned), about a minute or so. Combine with vegetables and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet (nonstick type works well), heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add half of the ground chuck and cook, breaking up the clumps, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the meat to the pot with the cooked vegetables. Repeat with the remaining meat and oil.

Add the bay leaves, oregano, parsley, 1 cup water, sugar, tomatoes and their liquid, and tomato paste to the meat and vegetables. If tomatoes are still chunky, use a potato masher to break them down. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Season with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. To maintain a simmer (you don’t want to boil it), reduce the heat to medium-low or low cook for about 1 hour. Adjust the seasonings.

Best if prepared one day before serving, as the flavor improves overnight (you can warm sauce slightly before using in lasagna to avoid additional baking time). May be prepared ahead and frozen. Use as sauce for lasagna or spaghetti.

Makes about 15 cups, enough for 3 regular-size lasagnas, or one regular-size lasagna plus one large lasagna.

SOURCE: Adapted from The Italian American Cookbook

Lasagna recipe notes and preparation tips

We adapted the lasagna recipe from The Italian American Cookbook by John and Galina Mariani (Harvard Common Press, $16.95). The original recipe calls for using 1 pound of fresh pasta, which is parboiled for two minutes. One pound of fresh pasta is the equivalent of 2/3 of a pound of dried pasta, but the pan size and sauce amount were better suited to 1/2 pound of dried pasta. We also increased the sauce amount from 4 cups to 5 cups for more even coverage and better balance with the cheese and noodles this proved just enough sauce. If you prefer it saucier, add a little extra.

We used De Cecco Lasagne No. 1 noodles, which measure 6 3/4 inches long before cooking. Although the box says that the noodles may be parboiled or used raw for making baked lasagna, we strongly recommend the parboil method outlined in the recipe. It results in a better texture and ensures even baking. The no-cook noodle method is better for recipes with lots of sauce, or with cream sauces.

The recipe for Galina’s Meat Sauce makes about 15 cups. This is enough for three 8x11-inch pans of lasagna. You can freeze the remaining sauce for later use (it makes a good spaghetti topping), or assemble another lasagna or two for the freezer. We used all of the sauce to make both a single and double batch of lasagna, the latter baked in a 151/2x111/2-inch baking pan. If you do not plan on assembling the lasagna ahead of time, consider making the sauce a day ahead of time the flavor improves overnight.

If you want to freeze the lasagna, assemble it but do not bake it before freezing. Use the freshest ingredients possible. Don’t use meat that has been previously frozen, as refreezing meat can compromise its texture. Assemble the lasagna in a freezer- and oven-safe pan and wrap it tightly before freezing. Thoroughly defrost frozen lasagna in the refrigerator before baking.

Pinot Noirs to Drink Now

Williams Selyem 2017 Pinot Noir (Sonoma County) $39, 98 points. This is a perfumed and seductive wine made from a range of sites across the county. Fresh acidity is seamlessly integrated between textured layers of black cherry, forest floor and cardamom. The overall experience is balanced and undeniably beautiful. Editors’ Choice. –Virginie Boone

Roar 2017 Sierra Mar Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) $58, 97 points. Rich and ripe in aromas of red cherry, caramel and oak, this bottling is made elegant and complex from the crushed slate and stony qualities that thrive throughout. A concentrated Bing cherry flavor rings on the bone-dry palate, lifted by mint and more chiseled stone. This is amazingly ripe and delicious, yet hewn with impressive minerality. Editors’ Choice. –Matt Kettmann

Escarpment 2017 Kiwa Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (Martinborough) $60, 95 points. From 30-year-old vines in deep alluvial gravels, this is a spicy and pristine wine that’s approachable now but is also very cellar worthy. A heady perfume of blueberries, pomegranates, tobacco leaves, scrubby Mediterranean herbs, florals and crushed stones kicks it all off. Then the palate takes it all to another level, bursting with crunchy, juicy fruit, crystalline-like minerality and savory spices, all threaded together with structured ultrafine tannins. Drink now–2029. Empson USA Ltd. –Christina Pickard

Storm 2015 Vrede Pinot Noir (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley) $50, 95 points. There’s an herbal edge right upfront on the nose of this wine, with some earthy foliage, raw cocoa nib and fresh-tilled dirt aromas that are amply supported by a fruity core of red cherry flesh, plum, wild strawberry and raspberry. The bright palate offers beautiful minerality, as pristine, pure red-fruit flavors are coupled with a saline burst on the midpalate and through the close. Fine tannins lend a subtle structure. It’s well balanced, focused and precise, a gorgeous wine that is hard to resist now and should evolve well through 2028. Broadbent Selections, Inc. Editors’ Choice. –Lauren Buzzeo

Hyland 2017 Old Vine Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (McMinnville) $45, 94 points. Hyland has blended multiple clones for this Old Vine cuvée, and to good effect. A lush, tightly woven fabric of mixed berries, spicy plum and stewed cherries brings accents of bramble and underbrush. There’s a seam of graphite, and the tannins carry a hint of dark chocolate. Lovely already, or drink over the next decade. Editors’ Choice. –Paul Gregutt

Domaine Jessiaume 2017 Les Cents Vignes Premier Cru (Beaune) $47, 93 points. One of the larger premier crus at the northern end of the Beaune vineyard, Les Cents Vignes is also one of the best known. This wine’s ripe, juicy and generous fruit is a good reason why. With spice from wood aging and inspiring acidity, the wine is immediately attractive while also likely to age. MS Walker. Editors’ Choice. –Roger Voss

Beringer 2017 Founder’s Estate Pinot Noir (California) $10, 91 points. This medium- to full-bodied wine is one of the best values in Pinot today. It shows classic black and red-cherry aromas, a broad palate of dark fruits and light oak spices. Lifted acidity and moderate tannins complete the nicely composed picture. Best Buy. –Jim Gordon

Castle Rock 2017 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) $14, 89 points. Right on the heels of the 2016 comes this early release from 2017. It’s almost a twin—smooth, ripe and remarkable for the price. Flavorful berry and plum fruit with well-massaged notes of vanilla, tobacco and Bourbon combine to make this a most enjoyable everyday wine. That it’s true Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is even better. Best Buy. –P.G.


It’s been a good year for Colorado Wine.

For the first time since the repeal of Prohibition, Colorado wineries reported more than one million liters of wine to the Colorado Department of Revenue, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year. Over the past five years, production has increased 70 percent and Colorado wines’ market share, though still comparatively small, has grown 30 percent.

Mt. Garfield & the Bookcliffs Overlook the Grand Valley

Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board noted, “In the face of a small, difficult harvest in 2010 [production down one-third from 2009] and ongoing economic uncertainty, our wineries continue to expand.”

There are now 100 licensed wineries (compared to six in 1990 and 64 in 2006) in Colorado. Front Range wineries contributed 41 percent of the wine volume reported to the Department of Revenue, while the wineries in the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (along the Colorado River between Palisade and Grand Junction) accounted for 47 percent. Eighty percent of the grapes grown in Colorado come from the Grand Valley AVA, though grapes also are grown in Delta, Montrose, Montezuma, Fremont, Pueblo, Boulder, Larimer, Weld and Kit Carson counties.

"Divinity" by The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

And you can find wineries located pretty much all over the state. At last count, the Grand Valley on the Western Slope is home to 24 wineries surrounding the cities of Palisade and Grand Junction, while Delta and Montrose counties to the south, including the West Elks AVA, hosts 19 more. Surprisingly, there also are five producers further south in the state’s Four Corners area. And there are even 12 more wineries and tasting rooms scattered throughout our Rocky Mountains. On the Front Range, there are nine more wineries and tasting rooms dotted around Colorado Springs and Cañon City. Finally, in the Denver/Boulder/Ft. Collins region, wine hunters can choose from 38 wineries and tasting rooms.

Around the state there are now several well worth the trip wine festivals that offer fun opportunities to experience Colorado wines throughout the year. In the Grand Valley, the 20 th Annual Colorado Mountain Winefest, the state’s premier wine festival, was just completed. And the Mountain Winefest organizers successfully hosted the first annual Colorado Winefest held last June at The Shops at Northfield Stapleton in Denver.

A Celebration of Premier Colorado Wines was an elegant tasting event held two days earlier at the Governor’s Residence. The event featured wines given the awards from the Colorado-only wine competition judged by national and local wine experts under the auspices of the American Wine Society.

There also are two great Colorado wine festivals off the I-25 Corridor south of Denver. The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City just celebrated the 10th Annual Harvest Fest and Winemaker’s Dinner. The Ninth Annual Manitou Springs Colorado Wine Festival was held in June. In addition to excellent wine and food, these are special community events anxiously anticipated each year.

As the Colorado industry has grown into a fine adolescence, as I have heard Caskey describe it, it seems the challenge for its journey to adulthood is to find an identity. One of the most interesting things to me about the Colorado wine

Ag Commissioner John Salazar and Gov. John Hickenlooper Survey the Bounty

industry is that most growers and wineries for a long time focused on the “Big Three” French varietals – cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and chardonnay. Merlot is the most widely planted red grape in the state, with cabernet sauvignon close behind, but plantings of syrah, cabernet franc and pinot noir are increasing, as wines from these varieties show real promise. As for the whites, riesling is now the most widely grown, which makes sense to me, since I’ve long thought it made the state’s best wine. After chardonnay, there are small but significant amounts of gewürztraminer, viognier and pinot gris.

As for the future, with the diversity of soils and climate in Colorado, I expect to see further experimentation. And as vintners learn more about which grapes grow best where and about what has made other wine-producing region successful (maybe a topic for another column), I expect the already improving quality will advance even further. Finally, let’s hope more restaurants will find room on their wine lists for Colorado wines

And you can help promote Colorado wine during the fourth annual Regional Wine Week. The blog DrinkLocalWine is hosting the event from October 9 through October 15. Wine writers, bloggers and consumers are encouraged to share information about wine from what organizers call “The Other 47” states (no California, Washington or Oregon). Share a story or personal anecdote about a Colorado wine, winery, wine region, or wine event. The only catch is you have to do it in 47 words. For more information about Regional Wine Week and the contest, check out

Best Pinot Noir (for the money)

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their best pinot noir recommendations (for the money):

Finding a good, value-priced Pinot Noir—i.e., for $20 and under--has been a real challenge over the past decade, when the demand for Pinot Noir grapes has driven up the price growers charge to producers, leading to higher and higher consumer prices. Significantly lower yields in vintages like 2010 and 2011 haven’t helped either. And although a lot of Pinot Noir has been planted each year since the Sideways phenomenon made the grape the wine world’s hottest commodity, those plantings and the speed with which they get mature enough to be the source of wine (minimum three years) have still lagged behind demand.

Visiting wine country? Sniff, Swirl, Sip, and Save with The Priority Wine Pass. Save up to $150 in tastings per Day! It’s good for the year at 250 California wineries.

The best sources for Pinots at this price level in California have been La Crema (their Monterey appellation bottling is usually $20 or less) and Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley ($20 or less). The lowest priced, decent Pinot Noir I’ve tasted from the State in the last few years has been the Mark West, simply a California appellation, for about $11.

The real value source for characterful Pinot Noir these days, however, is New Zealand. They can be a bit more of a challenge to find on U.S. shelves, but are well worth the hunt, for both quality and value. Some of the best recent releases I’ve tried, that can be had for $15 to $20, are from Coopers Creek (I especially loved their Razorback bottling from Central Otago), Saint Clair, Stoneleigh, Te Kairanga and Wither Hills. You’ll find a delicacy, lightness and good acidity in these Kiwi Pinots that make their value pricing no contest when compared to similarly priced domestic Pinot. - Richard Jennings, Featured Contributor and the Founder

Mission Point’s Pinot Noir is an impressively structured wine for less than 10 bucks. Deep and rich, undoubtedly with a dash of syrah, there is a lot of blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry and a mild acidity. This is not a light delicate pinot either, nor is it burdened with too much deep fruit, but a deftly balanced wine that is almost unbelievable for the price tag. This surprisingly satisfying Pinot Noir from the California Central Coast will make you happy you spent so little for so much. - Michael Cervin, Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer

Pinot Noir is a notorious wine for several reasons. For the grower, it is difficult and finicky wine grape to grow. For the winemaker, Pinot Noir can be a fragile wine to make. The consumer’s cost for Pinot Noir – really good Pinot in particular – is often therefore greater than many other wines. So where is a really good Pinot Noir for the money? Look no further than … Germany … The Undone Pinot Noir is vibrant, fresh, and quite enjoyable. For about $10, ‘Undone’ navigates the hallmark seductive aromas and fruit of the Pinot Noir variety by fermenting the wine in stainless steel. The wine is not aged in oak, nor is it sealed with a cork. It is, in other words, the undoing of what Pinot Noir has become – a serious and costly endeavor for everyone.– Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.

Pinots tend to be painfully overpriced these days so to find a good one under $20 isn’t easy task. I’ve tasted the Lemelson Six Vineyards PN from Oregon’s Willamette Valley last week and was impressed. It was their basic cuvee as opposed to their single vineyard wines which are pricier. Elegant yet flavorful and with the alcohol level not exceeding 14% the wine makes a great food companion. I’m going to throw in another PN into the mix. Maybe not the best value for over $20 a bottle but the wine was exquisite Figge Cellars from Santa Lucia area. Luscious, rich, and sexy. Those who are not afraid of bold flavors in their wines should look it up. It’s worth it. - Cezar Kusik, IntoWine Featured Contributor

Visiting wine country? Why spend $250 per day in tasting fees when you can get the wine pass and pay less then half of that? 1 Day with the wine pass = $125+ in savings. 2 Days with the wine pass = $250+ in savings. The Priority Wine Pass

Order rib roast from butcher.

Make and refrigerate horseradish cream. Bake cake, but do not glaze wrap tightly with plastic. Set table.

Boil potatoes, toss with olive oil, cover, and refrigerate. Blanch and peel pearl onions cover, and refrigerate. Glaze cake cover well.

Start roasting brussels sprouts and parsnips remove before adding pecans. Start rib roast. Whisk batter for Yorkshire pudding cover, and refrigerate.

Remove roast from oven, and let rest. Finish roasting brussels sprouts, parsnips, and pecans. Bake Yorkshire pudding. Cook peas and pearl onions, and keep warm over low heat.

Top Prime Rib Recipes:

Most people would probably guess a red wine was the best option for a huge cut of beef like Prime Rib. But which one? In general, there are a few tips you can use to help you selected. Before we get into the details of each wine option, take a look at the general guidelines.

As with all pairings, keep in mind the flavors you are trying to pair with. In this case…Prime Rib!

Flavors in Prime Rib

Prime Rib is one of the most flavorful cuts. It has a strong beef flavor. But it is also high in fat, so there is a great deal of rich, fatty flavors too.

Best Pinot Noir Under $20 from Oregon

You can argue that Oregon is no longer an emerging wine region. Everyone knows about the excellent cool climate varietals produced in this forested state. However, good cheap wine can still be found here. These bottles of Pinot Noir are great values for the money.

You’ll notice that most of them are priced closer to $20 than $15, and that is because of the quality of the wines. Try one of these Oregon Pinot Noir wines, save some money, and enjoy your evening.