2008 Blue Fin Pinot Noir

2008 Blue Fin Pinot NoirPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “Blue Fin Pinot Noir, a new addition to the Blue Fin family, is a vibrant, ruby-colored wine with rich, fresh berry and currant flavors and a velvety smooth finish. This wine is priced at the ridiculously low $3.99 a bottle – a perfect example of our favorite equation: quality + price = value.”

What I Think:

The counterpart to the Chardonnay this is a $4 Pinot Noir which violates my sensibilities given the struggles I have finding good Pinots under $10. But given the story line here includes Fred Franzia and Bronco Wine Co. I am intrigued to see if this could be the Two Buck Chuck of the Pinot world. In short, it might be.

My initial impression was not good. My first notes were thin, hot with a hint of fruit notes. Over the next few days the nose revealed some faint strawberry aromas and even showed the slightest hint of varietal characteristics but the heat and tannins remained. Guessing this one includes a lot of stems. That thought got me wondering; what is the minimum percentage required by law to label something as Pinot? Would including the stems make it easier to get to that number? Guessing it can’t get better than this at $4 otherwise Fred would know how. Not worth it to me, I’ll still be dropping a ten spot on the Castle Rock.

And that is how my review would have ended had it not been for so many people defending the Blue Fin both on twitter and in the comments here on the blog. Did I miss something that everyone else is getting? Was my bottle bad? This is only the 2nd time I’ve felt this way. For Exhibit 1a see: Sparkling ,Albero. Next shopping trip I’ll grab another bottle of each and give both a do over. I know Bob Dwyer is working on a review for this wine over on The Wellesley Wine Press but in the mean time here is what he had to say on Cellar Tracker:

“A very simple, straightforward and drinkable wine. Mild strawberry and cherry aromas on the nose. Perhaps limited aromatically. Really tasty on the initial attack (with a surprising amount of flavor), but fades extremely quickly and is gone in a flash (both the finish and the bottle). An intriguing play at $3.99.”

UPDATE: Bob has now posted his full review. For those interested check it our over on The Wellesley Wine Press.

Stay tuned for more on this one…

Rating: Skip It (for now)

Editor’s Note (07-Jul-2009):Updated the post to include a link to The Wellesley Wine Press review.

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36 thoughts on “2008 Blue Fin Pinot Noir

  1. The minimum percentage of grapes to be able to declare it a varietal is 75%. Stems? Don’t know much about that. Like you, if I tasted this blind, I would have a hard time picking it as a pinot. Better to call it a light, summery, everyday red. Not bad but not memorable.

  2. It’s been a mixed bag of reviews at work.
    Our resident Pinot guy drinks it like water, but I found it had a friuty start and then it went medicinal on me. Yuck!
    Don’t waste your tastebuds. Perhaps you could pick up the Merlot/Carignan blend from France at the same price and review that instead? ; )

  3. @Norman there you go indeed! Thanks for the comment

    @Joe Thanks for sharing the 75% number. Saved me from figuring it out!

    @Angela I’ll grab both, personally curious if having people challenge my take changes my perceptions. Thinking not, hoping not but curious. Also I had a hunch that this one might taste better slightly chilled. So a few experiments in work.

  4. Glad to hear you will be giving this a second chance. I do drink it slightly chilled, and find it to be extremely drinkable. I seemed to have had the opposite experience regarding this wine for I find it well balanced for the price. I’ve gone through 8 or more bottles and have no sign of stopping. If I had any complaints about this wine it would be the vanilla flavor at first sip. It isn’t bad but seems forced or added….and I mean vanilla as a flavor not “generic”. The finish to me is velvety smooth if not a tad thin compared to the high $ Pinot but I don’t get tanic at all.

  5. Pinot Noir is difficult to make, thus it is difficult to find a winemaker that does it well. Unfortunately, too many people like Fred Franzia are introducing innocent palettes to this poorly-made product and they think they are tasting the varietal called Pinot Noir. Drinking wine that is a crude representation of a varietal is like eating someone’s awful cooking. Also, for me, no matter what I’m purchasing, a cheap price can’t overcome bad craftsmanship.

  6. @Karma_lounge Stay tuned!

    @seadevi Quite a divergence in opinion on this one!

    @GirlwithaGlass Agreed on the difficulties of making Pinot, a challenging grape no doubt. It will be interesting to see if anyone can make a breakthrough Pinot in this price range. The best I have heard of to date is the Redtree Pinot Noir at $7. I have a bottle of that one waiting for me at K&L. And for the record, anyone that would let this wine turn them off to Pinot should stay far, far away.

  7. I like the stuff. It’s cheap, easy to drink, simple, fruity, and has a cool name and nice looking bottle. I know that doesn’t impress all you wine snobs, but I just enjoyed a glass and I’m about to have another, so there.

  8. @K.Singer no worries, happy you were enjoying the vino! I’m counting on you, really the greater you (yes all of you), to let me know if I get to big for my own britches. Unfortunately my mom doesn’t read my blog (or at least I don’t think so, do you mom?) so I need you all to keep me straight!

  9. Tell me more about what you mean about the stems. It’s not something I was familiar with until last weekend while tasting much more expensive and fabulous wine.

    Merry Edwards of great Pinot fame uses stems for positive reasons, as does Lize Ciolino, Montemaggiore (Syrah & Cab/Syrah). Parenthetically, I think Lize is the next Merry Edwards.

    Thanks for the link to Wellesley’s site. Liked the review although it reminded me that the 100 point system doesn’t make sense. Why don’t we drop the second 0 and just rate wines 1-10? If we did, would Blue Fin be less than a 2?

  10. @GirlwithaGlass I agree with you, stems can be used as an additive, to add balance to the fruit. That wasn’t my thought here, it was more around of they allow you to designate a wine Pinot based on 75% of the grapes being of that varietal and the stems were included in that percentage it would allow them to stretch their wine-making dollar and produce something at the $4 price point. I’m sure that is flawed on more than one level but it was my gut thinking at the time…

  11. Thanks for the explanation. Good point! I don’t like the 75% rule as a consumer. I always ask for specifics when I taste. Tasting at St Supery, they were pouring a “Cab” for our group of bloggers. We tasted, someone asked if it was 100%, I said it has Petite Verdot in it; later the host said it is 97% cab and 3% Petite Verdot. When wine is blended perfectly, I can taste the layers of the different varietals.

    • I’m with you… I like to know what it is I’m drinking and some times much to my surprise can actually detect how each grape is adding to the overall profile…

  12. Worst thing you can do is have your brother-in-law introduce you to some amazing, yet affordable wines, then come home and buy a bottle of something yourself with no wine sense at all. Thank you for the review. When I drank this wine, all I could think is “Where is the rest of the flavor?” To be fair, the girl at Trader Joe’s did warn me it wasn’t the best light, red wine in the world but it was the best they had (at our location). It wasn’t completely horrid, but it wasn’t really good either. Thanks to the wine, however, I found your blog and will enjoy choosing a better bottle of wine in the future. :D

  13. I just purchased two cases just last week. When you are entertaining and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for all your friends to drink all your good wine, Blue Fin is perfect. It is not my top Pinot, but for the price, I will drink all two cases of it.

    • Glad it works for you. On my end I have some other varietals in the $4-$5 range I prefer to drink. That said, given the current state of the economy I am looking forward to some higher quality Pinot’s at better price points in the near future…

  14. For all you supposed wine experts with your nose up in the air, get a life. It’s inexpensive (these aren’t the best of times), light without an alcohol taste and therefore easy to drink and I get a buzz. So what more do you want? K Singer was right on. I don’t care if it’s red, purple, green or whatever other color you want to call it. I bought a case and my local Trader doesn’t have another until next year. My wife and I are both Grandparents so we might have to talk with your Mom to set her straight. So Jason, what are your other $4-$5 range Pinots?

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