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Wine Pick of the Week

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2012 Pinot Noir

Crespi Ranch

Santa Maria Valley


Suggested Retail: approx. $17


“The world can use more inexpensive table wine—the kind you can afford to drink everyday. Decent wine in this category can be found in jugs and boxes. Most of it is drinkable, well made from a technical standpoint and without significant flaws. But it’s not exciting. Its virtue is a consistent mediocrity rather than excellence.

“Should you want to work with that same low-end budget, though, there are options. Trader Joe’s locations have a good selection of bottled wines well under 10 bucks. If not quite as cheap as what you’d find in a box, they offer variety and, at their modest price, might encourage you to take a chance on a variety you weren’t used to buying. Grocery Outlet, a chain of discount supermarkets on the Pacific Coast, seems to specialize in selling wines priced around $5-$7. Signage posted with most of their wines indicates a higher retail value than their presumably discounted price.  Sometimes the reason for the price is obvious, as when you find a white wine from a six or seven-year old vintage (likely over the hill or soon will be). Often the wines bear unfamiliar labels, but indicate they’re from a specific growing area, rather than just the generic ‘California’ appellation. Such was the case with this week’s Wine Pick.

“Crespi Ranch was not a brand we knew, but the label indicated that it was from the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County, which can be a very good region for Pinot Noir. Most red wines are released a year or two after the grapes are harvested. Our bottle of Crespi Ranch was a 2012—older than a current release, but not so old as to be bad. The price was $4.99. We couldn’t resist.

“The wine was excellent. True to varietal type, it exhibited cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors and showed a fairly long finish. If not extremely complex, it did have a sophistication greater than what we’d expect in a wine priced at $17-$18, which is what an internet search indicated was the going rate at several other retailers.

“Digging a little deeper via the computer we found that Crespi Ranch is a brand owned by Bronco Wine Co. (the wine company behind ‘Two Buck Chuck’). Their 2012 Pinot Noir contained some Sangiovese (10% ) and just a bit of Tannat (1% ). It was made by one of California’s most esteemed winemakers, Dr. Richard Peterson. We didn’t find references to any other vintages and assume that the wine is no longer being made, which would be a shame, because it would be a worthy entrant in that category of Pinot Noir at $20 or less. No doubt there’s a story behind how such an excellent bottle of wine becomes available for just five bucks, but to do the sleuthing necessary would be too time-consuming. We’ll just count our good fortune to have run into a deal this week.

“Taste Publications still believes your best wine shopping experience is with a retailer having a staffer on the floor to help you find the wines you will enjoy at prices you can afford. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these specialty retailers around.  If you want to experiment at a place without such knowledgeable staff, give it a try.  At $5 a bottle it may be worth a little risk.”


Editor’s note: Wines reviewed at TASTE Publications are encountered by our staff in several ways. They can be discovered at trade tastings or visits to wineries. They may also be purchased by staff members for their own tables or be those sent by wineries for possible review. This is an editorial feature, not advertising, and appearance cannot be secured by payment. More information can be had by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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