If I had a time machine, I would go back to 1981, when I was applying to colleges, and force my younger self to enroll in the University of California-Fresno’s oeneology program.
In my dream career, I’m sommelier, depending on my finely tuned palate to dole out expert advice about wines to grateful diners.
(For a short time in the early 2000s, recommending wines was part of my job when I was general manager of a casino steakhouse, but to be honest at the time I had no idea what I was talking about. Sorry, gamblers!)
In reality, I actually have very little technical training when it comes to wine. Outside of a few seminars and tastings, I’m little more than a self-taught wine enthusiast.
Having said that, I can tell you that I know what I like. If I taste a wine and I like it, I will recommend it to other people, especially when it’s affordable.
That’s why I was gratified when people who know what they are talking about apparently agreed with my opinion about Castle Rock Pinot Noir.
It’s a smooth, drinkable wine that to me tastes the way Pinot Noirs should taste: Like Canfield’s Dark Cherry Soda. Obviously, there are other flavors as well — including blackberries, raisins and even a little smoke — but as my inner South Sider would say, “I know what I like, and I like this.”
While researching this wine, I discovered that the people over at Food & Wine agreed, naming Castle Rock Pinot Noir one of the best American wines under $15.
Here’s what they said: “Castle Rock consulting winemaker August Briggs makes some of the best value Pinots around, from many of California’s top regions. In 2006, his herbal Mendocino bottling shines the brightest.”
Fortunately, this wine is well under $15, coming in at $6.79/bottle after the15% discount I got at my local wine store for buying more than 6 mixed bottles at a time. That’s well below my self-imposed $7.99/bottle limit for affordable wines.
In trying to find great-tasting affordable wines, you have to kiss a lot of toads before you find a prince. When you occasionally discover a really good, affordable wine — such as Castle Rock Pinot Noir’s delicious drinkability — it makes the search worthwhile.
On a side note: Has anybody else noticed that the overall price of wines has gone up in the past couple of months? Maybe it’s inflation or perhaps there was some sort of wine tax increase where I live, but I’m having trouble finding any wines — other than jug wines, of course — for less than $7.99/bottle anymore.
I’m considering raising my self-imposed limit to $10/bottle so that I can feature a wider variety of wines. What do you think? Does that sound like an unreasonable price for people on a budget? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!