Is a $20 wine always better than an $8 wine? Generally, yes, assuming that all other variables are controlled—same grape or blend, same vintage, same general region.
But is a $60 or $100 bottle guaranteed to be better than a $30 bottle? Not always. All too often, a high price reflects relative scarcity rather than objective quality.
Wine lovers and collectors are usually happy to pay more for wines perceived to be rare. Who doesn’t have more interest in the small-production, hands-on wine, even if a mass-produced bottle of comparable or superior quality is available at a similar price?
If you are truly searching for the biggest bang for your wine buck, it’s important to move past such prejudices. Small-production wines are not always the very best. If winemakers make just a couple barrels of a cuvée, their hands are tied as far as blending is concerned.
All of this is especially applicable to Pinot Noir, which seems particularly susceptible to the idea that smaller equals better. Prices for premier cru or grand cru Burgundies easily reach hundreds or thousands of dollars per bottle, and yet, even those wines come with no guarantee that they will thrill you.
This is why so many Pinot Noir lovers are turning to Oregon. In vintages like the excellent (and prolific) 2012, you will find some excellent wines priced right around $20. Less-acclaimed vintages (2011 and ’13 are good examples) offer even more exceptional values, if you do your homework.
Generally, Wine Enthusiast reviews avoid direct comments on pricing. After all, our readers may have different ideas of value than our tasters. That said, we do try to indicate particular wines that are worth your hard-earned dollars.
Wines we label Best Buys are no-brainers—value is their middle name. But that moniker applies only to wines priced $15 or less. The Editors’ Choice designation often identifies bottles that our reviewers believe offer better-than-usual value, at a wider range of prices.
All of the Oregon Pinot Noirs recommended in the sidebar meet that criterion. None of them will break the bank, and all will deliver pleasure equal to or surpassing many more expensive wines.
Best Bet Pinot Noirs from Oregon
Trinity Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir; $25, 92 points.
Dark and substantial, this is a juicy, tart, spicy wine with a whiff of chai tea, along with raspberry, black cherry and red licorice flavors.
Rex Hill 2012 Pinot Noir; $35, 91 points.
Dusty and captivating, with a wealth of berry fruits, baking spices, crushed rock and vanilla. The balance and underlying acidity is just right.
River’s Edge 2012 Barrel Select Pinot Noir; $23, 91 points.
Black fruits, coffee grounds, toast, cacao and Dr. Pepper notes are framed by grainy tannins, finishing with generous mocha, caramel and espresso streaks.
Lemelson 2012 Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir; $30, 90 points.
Complex aromas of tea, berry, baking spices, fennel and clean earth. Perfectly balanced, with pretty, supple red fruits and ripe, textured tannins.
Purple Hands 2013 Pinot Noir; $25, 90 points.
Pretty scents and raspberry fruit flavors carry a hint of citrus tang and still fainter notes of mocha and caramel.
Youngberg Hill Vineyards 2012 Cuvée Pinot Noir; $35, 90 points.
Lush cherry and strawberry fruit, pushing flavors into the realm of preserves, but showing good grip and length.