Mark West California Pinot Noir 2005 Tasting Notes
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Mark West California Pinot Noir 2005 Tasting Notes

The Mark West Winery builds wines from the best California grape sources it can find, and they put them together at accessible prices; this Pinot Noir can be had for $10-$12. The appellation is “California,” and it appears that they have combed through the entire state for these grapes: 66% Central Coast (itself a large region), 4% Napa, 3% Mendocino and 5% from unnamed areas. Regulations allow the producer to call a wine by its varietal name if it has at least 75% of that grape; this is 85% Pinot Noir, 13% Syrah, and 2% Chardonnay. You can find these grape-type and sourcing details on the winery spec sheet, but don't look for them on the labels, front or back.

I would rather pay more and get more, but that said, you get a great deal for your modest outlay. On the nose the purple-ruby wine gives up candied cherry and sour cherry, cedar, tobacco and smoke. The wine is lighter than I want in the mouth, dry, and fairly tart. On the palate I get some raspberries and a range of cherry notes with more of the cedar and tobacco notes that I feel should keep better to the background. Purely a matter of taste, but I think there is too much oak showing in this wine (a phenomenon not unknown in California). The finish is satisfying and tends to give a good cadence to the fruit notes and acidity.


Verdict: Value
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Wine economics subsumes both supply side and demand side, combined with a fickle fashion side, a dead-serious aesthetic side, and the vagaries of human emotion. Just factor in Mother Nature and the uncertainty of world events, and there's nothing to it.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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