It’s hard to find a good Pinot Noir under $20. Most of the ones that have entered the market in the under-$20 range since “Sideways” are Pinot Noir in name only, and display little — if any — of the grape’s pure character. Like Merlot before it, inexpensive Pinot Noirs are simple grape juice from unextraordinary grapes that have been severely manipulated with oak chips and other additives, and subjected to other winemaking techniques and modern chemistry, to produce a mass-market product.
Not that this is a bad thing … after all, there are many hundreds of thousands of people — perhaps millions — who are more than satisfied with these manipulated wines. You can’t argue with success, nor with a person’s happiness.
So where does Mark West Pinot Noir fit in?
Some may remember Mark West, the basketball player. He was a 6’10” center for Old Dominion and several NBA teams in the 1980s and 1990s. He had nothing to do with this wine … but you will notice something in this wine that could have something to do with “the hardwood” …
On the nose, this Pinot Noir is heavily perfumed, exuding strong floral aromas that overpower hints of black cherry and wild red and black berries and smoky oak. The perfume is so strong it could be mistaken for a woman’s perfume, or for a soap (I’m getting Palmolive). That’s not a bad thing … personally, I like the smell of flowers and so find this wine pleasing to my honker.
In the mouth there is a lot of juicy, ripe, jammy red and black berry fruits with enough concentration to give a perception of sweetness. All that juicy fruit upfront fades into tart, medium acidity and mild dusty tannins that become more prominent in the finish. There isn’t a whole lot of fruit in the finish, which is a bit disappointing after such a forceful first impression. What there is a lot of, from start to finish, is oak, highlighted by a toasty vanilla flavor.
I tried to match it with a few different foods, but found it most pleasing alone. It gets in the way of milder flavors, and doesn’t do much to heighten or complement stronger dishes. Consider this a wine to have at the bar, or during cocktail hour.
This is a good wine for people that are hot for $10-20 Australian Shiraz and similarly jammy, chunky, all-fruit-upfront wines. For purists seeking Pinot Noir, I suggest you take a pass.
a-8 t-7 b-7 fc-6 v-7 ~ 85 Points
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