2007 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot Noir

2007 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Castle Rock “Our Castle Rock Pinot Noir was produced from grapes grown in Northern California’s beautiful Mendocino County, where vineyards were first planted in the early 1860’s. Here, the headwaters of the Russian River carve a fertile and rugged landscape. The warm summers, cool springs, crisp falls and wet winters make ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir grapes, in a climate similar to that of the Burgundy region of France, where the grapes were first established. This elegant and medium-bodied wine has delicate aromas of violet and rose petals, complex flavors and long silky textures, with layers of strawberry and raspberry leading into a long refined finish.”

What I Think:

This wine was first brought to my attention via a comment from Diane Diane in late October. As my experience with the ’06 wasn’t that great I wasn’t super keen to grab it. After it scored another recommendation on twitter from Big Wine Blog I decided to track it down.

And boy, am I glad I did! Delicate, floral perfumed nose. Lilacs? Rose petals? I definitely need to smell more flowers to get better at isolating these scents as floral is about as far as I can usually get. At the front of the palate nice, soft strawberries. Lingers nicely through the mid palate leading to a slightly dry finish with silky tannins and flavors of orange rind. Easily worth every cent of the $10 I paid. Slightly reminds me of all time favorite Pinot which is also from Mendocino, the Navarro I grabbed some more and am thrilled to have a go to bottle of Pinot for the near future!

Rating: Buy It+

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2006 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Our Castle Rock Pinot Noir was produced from grapes grown in Northern California’s beautiful Mendocino County, where vineyards were first planted in the early 1860’s. Here, the headwaters of the Russian River carve a fertile and rugged landscape. The warm summers, cool springs, crisp falls and wet winters make ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir grapes, in a climate similar to that of the Burgundy region of France, where the grapes were first established. This elegant and medium-bodied wine has delicate aromas of violet and rose petals, complex flavors and long silky textures, with layers of strawberry and raspberry leading into a long refined finish.”

And from the Wine Spectator, “Aromas of ripe cherry, tree bark and wild raspberry are elegant, stylish and balanced, with nice focus and a lingering finish. Drink now. 110,000 cases made.” (86 points, $12)

What I Think:

After having my friends treat me to a few bottles of the Castle Rock from Willamette and Monterrey I figured I could invest in this Mendocino on my own. Given Mendocino is the home of my beloved Navarro expectations immediately escalated and I was sure I had a winner on my hand before I even made it home…

So a few evenings later with salmon on the menu this wine found its way to the table. The bouquet showed some light fruit and floral notes on top of woody overtones. On the tongue it started with cherries and then shifted towards cola type flavors. The mid-palate had a twang (perhaps orange rind) before heading on to a smooth finish. This wine is good but not stunning. That leaves the question, at $10 is that enough for a Pinot? I am personally on the fence so will answer “sometimes”. It sure would be interesting to try all three of these side by side. Furthermore, given that I have tried three it would seem foolish not to grab the California Cuvee offering as well. Has anybody else had that one? If so, what do you think?

Rating: Pricey

2006 Castle Rock Monterrey County Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per wine.com on the 2006 Castle Rock Monterey Pinot Noir: “Our Castle Rock Pinot Noir is produced from grapes grown in Monterey County along the Central Coast of California, where the climate and soil quality provide excellent growing conditions for this Burgundian varietal. Here, the cooling air from Monterey Bay helps to produce a longer growing season for grapes, with extra grape-time on the vines leading to a characteristic depth of flavor in the wine. Our Pinot Noir is elegant and medium-bodied, offering aromas of cherry, tea and herbal spice. On the palate, the wine gives flavors of black cherry, plum and spice. It is smooth with a silky texture and mild tannins. This versatile food wine pairs well with lamb, chicken, veal, salmon and light pasta dishes.”

What I Think:

Loads of light fruit and hints of things stranger. Is this a blend ala this Mark West, it seems not. I get hints of cola and things that hint toward orange. Either way it is certainly elegant and silky. Were this a Cabernet I would likely rate it much lower but a Pinot at this price that you can enjoy is a rare find. Guessing you can spend 4x as much and still only beat this one half the time. If you are a Pinot fan grab it!

Rating: Buy It

2006 Castle Rock Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Price: $10.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Is anybody doing bargain Pinot Noir better than Castle Rock Winery? Not that I know of. Trader Joe’s has been running their wines of late, and I have been impressed by every one I have tried. Too bad this one has crept up in price one dollar compared to the previous vintage.

It seems awfully early in the day to be bringing 2007 red wines to market, but that’s part of the philosophy behind these wines. They are light, fresh, and do not see a lot of oak aging.

The 2006 Willamette Valley is clone of the 2005. Not quite as light and transparent, the wine shows smoky, earthy, and sandalwood aromas, along with bright strawberry and raspberry fruit. The palate is simple, but it’s clean, without any green or other off flavors, leading to a nice but short finish. Like the 05, the texture as a bit of silk to it. To be clear, this isn’t great – it’s just a clean, nicely made wine. Regrettably, that’s the most you can hope for at this price point, and it’s more than many producers can provide.”

What I Think:

I had been eyeing this bottle at TJ’s for some time now so when our friends brought this one over on the 4th of July I was excited. We popped it open and drank it with some good old fashioned hamburgers. Given that we had guests my notes are extremely limited. The one thing I seem to remember most about this wine is strawberries. This wine is light and delicate, almost reminding me of a rose. Perhaps the burgers were a bit much for it. I certainly don’t feel that I spent enough time focusing on this wine to pass a verdict but given my initial impressions it has certainly lost some of the mystic that it once had. Next time I see it on the shelf at TJ’s it won’t hold my glance as long, but some day it may find its way to my house again. Typically I would rate this as a “12th Bottle” but at this price point I don’t find that relevant. Faced with labeling it as “Skip It” which seems unfair I decided to bend the rules and call this one “Pricey” though it doesn’t quite meet the arbitrary $12 price barrier.

Rating: Pricey