Text Size:-+

2002 Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

I really enjoy blind tastings -- it's amazing how much a known name can really prejudice anyone's reading of a wine, even despite our best attempts at objectivity. Last night I sat down with 5 winemakers for a blind tasting of 8 California Pinot Noirs over $20. The host, a good friend of mine, threw in one "ringer" -- he wouldn't tell us what kind of ringer it was, but we were on the lookout for a different varietal or two-buck-chuck. The results after a couple hours of careful tasting? Most of us (but to be fair, not all) had gravitated to one wine which, although it was not in the style that most of us preferred for California Pinot, it was the best integrated and most drinkable wine in the group.

Which one did we pick ? The $9 ringer.

We were all floored. This little winery which buys grapes in bulk and has a consultant winemaker had leveled the competition, which included wines from names like Siduri, Dehlinger, Seasmoke, Hartford Court, and Williams-Selyem. Not only that, but some of those wines, at least one of which is going for $120ish at auction right now, tasted downright bad.

Castle Rock is a great find, and an incredible value, if you like the more fruit forward style of California Pinot, a la the Paul Hobbs I reviewed earlier in the week.

Tasting Notes:
Bright ruby in color, the wine makes a clear, bright impression in the glass with a big nose of chocolate, black cherry and cola. It feels very round in the mouth with light cranberry, bigger cherry, and hints of plum flavors. The finish is clean, albeit a little short.

Food Pairing:
All of us agreed that this was a wine that was probably better appreciated on its own, or with some soft cheeses, rather than the standard fare you might put with a Pinot. Because of its fruit you might want to treat it more like a Syrah or Zinfandel and drink it with some grilled meats or even BBQ. My recommendation for the day is beef and andouille sausage burgers with asiago cheese.

Overall Score: 9

How much?: $9

You can buy this wine at lots of places -- supermarkets (e.g. Andronicos) and online.

Comments (3)

Ryan wrote:
03.05.04 at 9:08 AM

I love blind tastings for that reason. It's amazing what your palette will tell you when you're not swayed by labels and names. You gotta love it when you find you enjoy the most least expensive of the line up! -Helps justify purchasing the expensive wines you know you enjoy... Sounded like a good time!

enoch choi wrote:
03.05.04 at 9:54 AM

a few friends loved tasting this last fall, using 2 bottles to reduce down to a truffle sauce for roasted boar tenderloin... it's available for $12 at oakville grocery (sounds like the price has dropped). i blogged it here:


Brad wrote:
03.07.04 at 1:33 PM

I love Castle Rock. I took a newspaper recommendation a few months ago and bought the Cab for a test and ended up going back for a case. Price...$8.50 a bottle.

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Tallying the Damage from the Napa Quake Vinography Images: A Sea of Blue Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 14, 2014 The Taste of Something New: Introducing Solminer Wines Vinography Images: Swift Work Social Media Answers the Question: Where Did Australian Wine Go Wrong Hourglass, Napa Valley: Current and Upcoming Releases Drought Problems? Just Have an Earthquake Vinography Images: Just One Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 1, 2014

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.