Tasting Notes: Ropiteau Pinot Noir

I'll be honest: I'm always very skeptical of "cheap" Pinot Noirs. Why? Because Pinot Noir is a very tough grape to grow and its flavors are very nuanced; therefore, I feel like the higher price you usually see for quality Pinot Noirs is justifiable. So, when I see a Pinot for under $10, I have low expectations. I definitely judge a book by its cover. But, I saw that this one was on Total Wine's list, and they're usually on point. For $10, it was definitely worth a try!

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The Facts

  • Producer: Ropiteau Freres
  • Region: France
  • Vintage: 2016
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $9.95

As soon as I poured it out, I thought, "Man, this going to be light." It was a pale ruby color*... think a transparent purple-red. There wasn't much on the nose, but then again, I wasn't using a varietal specific glass. I had this on Halloween and had to get in my last use of my jack-o-lantern wine glasses! Sometimes festivity should outweigh practical. Anyway, the wine was straight tart cherry. It was more mouth drying than I expected since I find Pinot Noirs to be more acidic than tannic, but I kept getting that mouth drying sensation. Unfortunately, my expectations were accurate. The wine was one-note, thin, and just not very fun to drink. Did it taste BAD? No, definitely not bad. I just wanted more complexity and earthiness to go with our mushroom wild rice soup (YUM!), but perhaps that's too much to expect from a wine under $10. 


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*If you've ever wondered where I get my color descriptions from, I reference the always awesome Wine Folly and their wine color chart. You can find it here

Tasting Notes: Cloud Break Pinot Noir

If you've ever been to Total Wine, you know they identify their best sellers and best values with little tags. I always like to give these a try because unless Total Wine is lying (which they very well may be, but I'd like to think they're honest), that means these bottles are crowd pleasers and it's probably what an average browser would likely lean toward when purchasing a bottle. This bottle of California Pinot happened to be one of those best values while I was at our local store. The description on the back of the bottle contains phrases like "concentrated fruit flavor", "rich texture", and "great length". Did it hold up?

The Facts

  • Producer: Cloud Break
  • Region: California
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $8.99
Cloud Break Pinot Noir
  • Eyes: The color is cherry or ruby red and the wine is almost transparent.
  • Nose: HELLO FRUIT. This wine smelled like all of the red fruits... strawberries and cherry especially. I wouldn't say it reminded me of jam, but more like a very ripe fruit, as if you just took a bite of the perfect strawberry. 
  • Mouth: Very light in body, same fruit forward flavor that I got on the nose. It was fairly one note and was very tart as well.
  • Thoughts: I first tried it before we ate and I found it to be what I expected of an $8.99 Pinot Noir... sort of weak. In my experience, Pinot Noir is one of those grapes that you really can't find a good bottle at a value price. At least I have yet to find one... if you have a recommendation, I'm all ears! We paired the wine with this delicious pork tenderloin recipe, asparagus, and some mashed red potatoes, and I thought that its fruitiness and acid went well with the meal.

    My next thought is that I was surprised there wasn't more flavor and depth to the wine. I did some research on the 2014 vintage in California and here is a brief summary of what I learned:

    Obviously California is a huge state with widely varying climates, etc, but overall, 2014 was hot and dry. The drought was raging on, although there were "well-timed" rains. More sun makes grapes riper, which usually lends itself to bolder flavor. The hot sun plus coolness of the night that comes from being a coastal state was great for Pinot Noir, and many find that 2014 was a great vintage. I even found one source that deemed 2014, "the best Pinot Noir vintage in over a decade" and had descriptors like dark fruit, deep, juicy acidity, and ripe tannin. 

    All of this research set me up to hope for a bigger Pinot Noir with more depth of flavor. If that is what you're looking for, don't buy this bottle. If you like light and acidic Pinot Noirs, then I'd give this one a try! For $8.99, it's worth a shot.


Tasting Notes: Ramey Chardonnay

Kevin bought this bottle one day after we had one of our favorite Chardonnays from a pricier winery. We love a good, crisp Chardonnay, but don't always want to spend top dollar. Now the Ramey isn't "every day" either, but it's at least significantly less and can be found easily! We had also tried out some other Ramey wines and enjoyed them, so choosing this label wasn't a total gamble.

The Facts

  • Producer: Ramey Wine Cellars
  • Region: Russian River Valley, CA
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Chardonnay
  • Where I purchased: Unknown, but it is sold at Total Wine.
  • Price: $33.99
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  • Eyes: The wine is a light, yellow-golden color. The picture above actually does a good job of accurately showing the color we saw in person. It was very pretty, and it definitely made me think it'd have a little more body than some of the other whites we've been having recently. It wasn't as dark as I expected it to be which made me hope it wouldn't be overly oaked.
  • Nose: This wine smells lovely! The main aroma that I caught was apple, which I love in wines, but there was also some other stone fruit -- pear, specifically. 
  • Mouth: The wine tasted of apple, but I actually got some tropical fruit in there like pineapple. I also found this wine to be tart, acidic, and have some mineral notes to it. I was a little surprised given this wine is oak aged and has gone through malolactic fermentation ("MLF"), but it was a good surprise since I tend to shy away from buttery and creamy Chardonnay. I suppose I shouldn't have been that thrown off given the fruit flavors present... green apples are tart and pineapple is acidic! 
  • Thoughts: I was actually really pleased with this Chardonnay! I was a little worried given the MLF, but I really didn't pick up on much vanilla/oak characteristics as I would have expected. I don't know if that was a vintage thing or if it that will hold true if we give other years a try. The flavors and acidity were overall very pleasant to drink, especially on a warmer evening. It also paired very well with our dinner, which was a recipe called Halibut Olympia. You can find variations of that recipe online, but here's the one we make from my dad. Since it's so easy and it paired wonderfully with this Chardonnay, I thought I'd go ahead and share with you all!