30 Second Wine Advisor: Looks generic. Tastes artisanal

Today's Sponsor

Get a $300 Wine Reward from The California Wine Club!
The California Wine Club is once again offering their "Rewards for Referrals" program!

Looks generic. Tastes artisanal

Don't judge a book by its cover. Don't judge a wine by its label. The ancient wisdom about literature works about as well for modern wine consumers, in my experience.

Consider, for example, the witty latter-day wisdom that one should never buy a wine with an animal on the label, counsel based on industrial-made, mass-market wines adorned with kangaroos and penguins and the like.

This may explain why Château Cheval Blanc leaves its namesake white horse off its old-style Bordeaux label. But follow the "no animals" advice to the letter and you'd eschew such experiences as the Piemontese reds of La Spinetta with their woodcut rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer.

As we look past the stark, generic-product label of today's wine, The Pinot Project California Pinot Noir, to find a surprisingly good and moderately priced Pinot under the cork, don’t lose sight of the fact that the adage advises us not to judge a wine by its label.

Let's decipher that brief, generic label:

* The wine comes from an outfit called The Pinot Project, which a Google search reveals to be a project of New York wine distributor Michael Skurnik wines, whose import portfolio I consistently admire.

* The Pinot Project "vinted and bottled" the wine, which means, basically, made it from purchased grapes, not grown by the producer.

* The Pinot Project is located in Calistoga, Calif., in the northern end of the fabled Napa County; but the "California" appellation on the label means that the grapes may have come from anywhere in the state, most likely not from Napa, although we don't have information to tell us more.

The back label (and the Skurnik Website) gives us the pitch: "Finding fabulous quality Pinot Noir at an affordable price. This will be an ongoing 'project' which is made possible by a) our wonderful contacts in the prime growing regions of California b) our winemaking contacts and c) the soft economy, allowing for some amazing deals in high quality grapes and juice at lower prices than we have seen in a decade or more!"

This all may very well be true. Given Skurnik's reputation - and my favorable take on the wine - it probably is. But from the consumer's standpoint, bear in mind that the vintage, production and appellation information on the front label of any wine is legally controlled. The advertising spin on the back label, not so much.

Never mind. It's a very good Pinot Noir at a very fair price, even at my local $15 toll, which is near the high end of its range. My tasting notes follow.

Today's Tasting Report

The Pinot Project 2009 California Pinot Noir ($14.99)

The Pinot Project

Very dark ruby with a clear edge. Good Pinot black cherry with a touch of clove on the nose; on the palate it's dry and mouth-watering, black plums and cherries and snappy acidity, with a distinct note of tannic astringency lingering. Simple but appealing; the tannins and acidity make it better at the table than for sipping alone, not that there's anything wrong with that.

FOOD MATCH: A versatile food wine for red meat, wild salmon, mushroom, cheese and egg dishes, such as my pick, the ridiculously easy and remarkably delicious spaghetti with garlic-scented olive oil and fried eggs, a 1999 column from Mark Bittman's "The Minimalist" column in The New York Times, fondly recalled in Bittman's final column last week.

WEB LINK: Frankly, it's a darn good Pinot value even at my $15 local price, but shop around, as Wine-Searcher.com shows it around the U.S. at prices ranging as low as $9.99.

WEB LINK: Distributor Michael Skurnik offers some basic information about The Pinot Project in this online advertising sheet.

Compare prices and locate vendors for The Pinot Project on Wine-Searcher.com.

Today's Sponsor

California Wine Club

Get a $300 Wine Reward from The California Wine Club!

The California Wine Club is once again offering their "Rewards for Referrals" program!

What is The California Wine Club?

The California Wine Club takes the guesswork out of picking wine and delivers the best wine, every time! Each monthly delivery is just $36.45 plus shipping and handling and taxes where applicable, and includes two bottles of award-winning wine and detailed 12-page publication, Uncorked. You may choose to receive wines monthly, every other month or quarterly. Visit www.cawineclub.com or call 1-800-777-4443 to become a member.

How the Rewards for Referrals program works:

1. The California Wine Club will give you a $300 wine reward for every referral you send their way who joins the The California Wine Club during their Referral Drive.

2. For every referral you send, you'll be entered into a weekly drawing for a chance to win a 3-month Premier Club membership (a $142 value), whether your referrals join or not. There will be 12 drawings during the Referral Drive!

Two easy ways to refer people:

1. Call The California Wine Club at (800) 777-4443.

2. Email The California Wine Club at info@cawineclub.com.

When your referrals join the club, make sure they mention that you referred them.

Referrals must join by April 15, 2011 for you to be eligible for the $300 reward. Reward is earned after each referral receives three paid shipments. Reward offer cannot be combined with any other promotions and cannot be applied to previously placed orders. Some restrictions apply.

Talk About Wine Online

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about today's article or wine in general, you're always welcome to drop by our online WineLovers Discussion Group, the Internet's first and still the most civil online community. To find our forums, click:

Discussions are open for public viewing, but you must register to post. Registration is free and easy; we ask only that you join following our Real Names Real Format system, using your real name in the format "John Doe" or "John D". Anonymous, cryptic or first-name-only registrations are discarded without notice.

Once your registration has been approved, which usually happens quickly, you'll be able to participate in all our online wine, food and travel forums.

To contact me by E-mail, write wine@wineloverspage.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Subscriptions and Administrivia

We're sorry if you must leave us, but simply click the "unsubscribe"
link at the bottom of your Email edition to be instantly removed from the mailing list.

Change address:
The quickest and easiest way to change your Email address is simply to register anew, using the link below. If you are keeping your old address but no longer wish to get the Wine Advisor there, click the unsubscribe link below to take it off our list; if you are closing the mailbox, you needn't take any action, as our system will delete your old address as soon as the mail to your old address starts to "bounce."

Subscribe to this Email edition (free):

WineLoversPage.com RSS Feed (free):

Wine Advisor Archives:

Sponsorship Opportunities:
For information, E-mail wine@wineloverspage.com