There are some wine styles that are rarely found for less than $20 per bottle. Most of these are pricey European classics from tightly regulated “appellations” that limit winemakers to specific grapes, like France’s famed Chassagne-Montrachet and Margaux from Burgundy and Bordeaux respectively, or Italy’s coveted Brunello di Montalcino and Amarone della Valpolicella. Our wine laws in the U.S. do not limit which grapes can be planted where, but over the last 50 years, we have seen the same pattern that occurs in Europe come to define our wine landscape, too, where one grape comes to dominate a particular vineyard region by consistently producing the finest wines.
There are a handful of regulated American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, that are so strongly associated with greatness in a specific wine style that their wines command high prices across the board. California’s Napa Valley plays this role for cabernet sauvignon and its Russian River Valley does the same for chardonnay. For pinot noir, though, the most prestigious AVA is located further north, the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Pinot noir performs best in cooler climates than those favored by most other red grapes, which helps explain why its finest wines are not usually the strongest or darkest in color. Pinot noir loses its complexity and aromatic charm when its grapes get too ripe. Few Willamette Valley pinot noirs can be found under $20, but this bargain hints at the greatness that is possible in this coastal valley south of Portland with its flavors of sour cherry and pomegranate and earthy scents of wild mushrooms and dried herbs.
Centerstone Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon
$18.99 13.2% alcohol
PLCB Item #76442
Sale price through Nov. 2 — regularly $21.99
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