The good $15 Pinot Noir is the unicorn of the California wine industry. A mythic beast, highly sought after, no one is actually sure whether it exists or not. I'm always on the lookout myself, as it's one of the most frequent questions I get asked when people find out I review wines.
Consequently, whenever I do come across something that comes close, I feel almost obligated to share the find. It's been some time since I visited the wines made under the brand TAZ, but a couple of bottles arrived recently and went into the tasting lineup and they showed extremely well.
TAZ is one of the many wine brands that are part of wine and spirits conglomerate Fosters USA. Originally a part of the Beringer-Blass portfolio, it has been subsumed, like many others, in the wave of consolidation that has swept through the California wine world in the last five or ten years.
The wine brand is named after winegrower Bob "Taz" Steinhauer, who earned the nickname due to his resemblance to a certain cartoon character. Despite being part of one of the world's largest wine corporations, the TAZ brand is operated with a certain degree of independence. The wine continues to be made out of a winemaking cooperative in Santa Barbara, under the guidance of winemaker Natasha Boffman, who took over from the original winemaker John Priest in 2005. Boffman's prior credits include winemaking stints at Stags' Leap and Meridian Vineyards as well as some time spent down under in Australia's Coonawarra region.
The winery produces several wines from Santa Barbara County, Steinhauer's stomping grounds, with a special emphasis on Pinot Noir from several sites, including Steinhauer's most well known property, the Fiddlestix vineyard (which sites next to the well known Sanford and Benedict vineyards).
This particular wine is made from fruit from the North Canyon Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, as well as the Fiddlestix vineyard in Santa Rita Hills. After destemming and fermentation, the wine is aged in French oak barrels of which about 25% are new.
Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine has a nose of sweet cranberry fruit. In the mouth it is beautifully soft and juicy with cranberry and raspberry flavors that stay lively thanks to good acidity and very judicious oak. Not incredibly complex, but hard to dislike in all its bouncy juiciness. Delicious.
This wine showcases its fruit beautifully, and will complement anything earthy and savory I think. I'd love to drink it with mini chicken pot pies with bacon and marjoram.
Overall Score: between 8.5 and 9
How Much?: $17
This wine is available for purchase on the Internet.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
16th Annual Pinot Fest: November 22, 2014 Hang out with the World's Top Wine Writers. For Free. Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 19, 2014 Vinography Images: Divine Droplets Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets US 2014 Vintage - Early, Fast, Eventful Vinography Images: Big Shadow Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014 Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries
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 KirÃ¡lyudvar "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