2011 McManis Family Vineyards California Pinot Noir
A fairly deep carmine hue. Light raspberry scent on the nose. Fairly simple, clean fruit scents but with a suggestion of vanilla. Doesn't jump out of the glass. Later develops some citrus hints. Quite tart. Has an underlying core of fruit tending toward cherries, but the fruit is masked by the rather bright acidity--at least at first. Not especially long, but has some interesting, lingering bitter almond flavors on the finish that mingle with the tartness. I decided to leave this open for while to see if it might evolve into something a little softer and more approachable. Coming back to the wine after an hour or so, the mid-palate cherries seemed laced with vanilla, but the wine still seemed mostly distinguished by its tartness. Not in any way unpleasant, but seems in no way special either. Suitable for everyday drinking, but there are other wines I'd rather spend $11 on. I'll cook with this tomorrow, but I'm not likely to buy it again for drinking. Still, this is a decent wine given the price. $10.99 at Santa Rosa Whole Foods.
2010 A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir
A medium-pale garnet color. Oak and smoky scents on the nose rather than fruit. Hints of something tropical that put me momentarily in mind of gardenia--not a scent I usually associate with Pinot Noir. Orange rind in the background and also something bitter--like Campari. Musky hints too, but not classic Burgundy barnyard either. A moderately complex, if unorthodox nose. First impression on the palate is one of tartness and little else, but quite fruity and momentarily sweet on the mid-palate before developing slightly woody, herbal flavors on the finish, which is of moderate length. The finish is marked also by a fairly strong dose of oaky vanillin. Like the McManis wine, solid but not exciting. I probably won't buy more of this one either, although it was ultimately the more interesting of the two wines. I will mostly use it in tomorrow's coq au vin. $19.99 at Santa Rosa Whole Foods.
For the record: Yes, I know it's NOT true that cooking wine can be any old wine. As many have pointed out before me, when you cook with wine, you boil off the water and the alcohol for the most part, and what you're left with is precisely what makes the difference between a good wine and an ordinary one. Thus, it makes sense to cook with the best wine you can afford to use. That said, I can't bring myself to pour an entire bottle of Gevrey Chambertin into the pot. We'll be opening old Burgundy tomorrow to drink.
(I have no financial connection with any producer or retailer of wine.)