TheWine Idiot Reviews: Buena Vista Pinot Noir Carneros, 2012 ($12.99)

TheWine Idiot Reviews: Buena Vista Pinot Noir Carneros, 2012 ($12.99)

Honestly, I wasn't gonna buy any wine. I'M SERIOUS. I am on a diet, and goddamn but there's a lot of calories in wine. So when I headed into my local TJ's, it was mainly for lemons and Light Champagne Vinaigrette dressing (25 calories per tablespoon).

But I thought heck...I should at least SEE WHAT'S IN THE WINE AISLE THIS WEEK, right??

And there it was. Cue the choir of angels. Just a couple cases of Buena Vista Pinot Noir.

Awhile back, I reviewed the Buena Vista Merlot. And I was totally upfront--I can be nothing but biased about this wine. I'm a total sucker for California history, and turns out Buena Vista is the oldest commercial winery in California. After I published that review, I found out that one of my dearest friends from high school, then Erinn Schwass, is married to the dude who MAKES the Buena Vista wines--Brian Maloney!!!! I mean...come on. How cool is that??

Incidentally, here is a YouTube video of Brian Maloney talking about THIS CARNEROS PINOT NOIR I'M ABOUT TO REVIEW (I can't watch the whole thing yet because that would break the rules of my process, but you can):

I can't handle this. This is the single greatest video ever aired on the internets. There's a man in a top hat and my friend's husband standing there talking about the wine I'M DRINKING RIGHT NOW. I just can't, you guys.

Anyway, when I picked up that Merlot, the Trader Joe's wine guy told me, "if you ever see the Buena Vista Pinot Noir, better grab a couple bottles, because that stuff goes FAST!"

....I grabbed three.


If this sounds like a bottle that's up your alley, you might wanna get to your local TJ's pronto--apparently it came in on Monday, I was there on Thursday, and my three-bottle purchase got the cashier and bagger talking about how they had to grab some bottles before they left. So, HURRY!

It's worth it. Boy, is it worth it. First of all, it's a wine that's not made-for-TJ's, which honestly are my favorite kinds of wine finds. Second, isn't it great to support the California wine industry? But, like, on a budget?? A quick Google search reveals that this seems to be a $20-25 bottle, so it's a complete steal at TJ's for only $13!!

Let's get down to the review. I have to admit, I'm pretty sure my nose is broken. Not like someone punched me. I just...I don't know. People talk about how they smell all this stuff "on the nose" of wine, but all I can ever smell is "wine," "jam," or "alcohol." So not sure if this is helpful, but I think this smells more "jammy."

It's a gorgeous color--somewhere between that deep red Bordeaux and that light red Grenache. And when I took my first sip, I emitted an audible, "Oh maaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnn!!!!!!"

I mean, this is like my FAVORITE KIND OF PINOT NOIR. It's not overly sweet, nor too thin. There's a seductive fruitiness, but an undeniable peppery/earthy flavor that keeps it from veering into the realm of a red blend or merlot. I would almost describe it as "juicy" at first, but then right before the fruit takes over, this amazing sprinkle of....pepper? spice? I honestly don't know but it's something earthy and challenging, and it just sparkles over your tongue. There's NONE of that bitter, biting-on-a-penny twinge as I swallow, and the finish just keeps going and going and going... This is absolutely the kind of wine I like to drink all by itself.

I wrote this in my tasting notes: "I would say maybe like...and I've never had this, but spiced cherry pie filling???? Is that a thing?!" If it's not a thing, it should be a thing. And I think that's probably the best I can describe this wine. OH GOD IT IS SO TASTY.

I don't want to make it sound like it's overly sweet, like actual pie. It is not. It's just the perfect balance of sweet and something more...not savory, not dirty, just more...ugh. I give up. This is why I'm not an expert, you guys. Just trust me on this. Also, it's smooth as hell. I love when wines don't make my mouth pucker, and this doesn't. At all!

Look, here's the deal: it's science that our brains actually enjoy wine better when we think it's something special. And I can't deny that I'm primed to love this wine: I love California history and it's from the oldest winery in California, it was actually crafted by someone I tangentially know, and I got a ridiculous deal on it because I snagged it at TJ's. All those caveats are preamble to my verdict: this is probably the best pinot noir I remember drinking. I'm sure there are "experts" out there who will disagree with me--I mean, there's probably a reason this is showing up at Trader Joe's. But what the hell is a wine blog for if not to geek out over certain wines that you have a particular attachment to? After all, it's all just rotting grape juice, right?


What the bottle says: "Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California's first premium winery. Located in the heart of the Carneros Appellation, wind and fog from the San Pablo Bay cool the vines allowing the grapes a longer growing season. Buena Vista's founder, the Count of Buena Vista, identified the Carneros climate and soil as the optimal location for quality grapes. Being true to our heritage, Buena Vista Winery presents to you the Carneros Pinot Noir, a well-balanced wine with aromas of strawberries, red raspberries, and a pleasant hint of earthiness."

What the Wine Idiot says: WELL. I'm super-glad Buena Vista THEMSELF couldn't identify that flavor any better than "hint of earthiness." Also, I'm guessing the guy in the top hat in the video is the Count of Buena Vista? Dude. A winery with a wine cave AND cosplay? HOW COULD THIS GET ANY COOLER?

ABV: 14.5%, making it worth every dollar.

Who's responsible for this? Cellared & Bottled by Buena Vista Winery (and Brian Maloney)

Do I need a corkscrew? Of course.

What do smarter people say about it? I don't understand why a wine like this isn't reviewed by someone important. Sonoma Magazine did call it one of its Top 100 Wines, declaring: "This wine is a steal at its price. It’s silky and substantial, with lighter tones of pomegranate, cherry and cola, and sandalwood and mushroom subtlety." MUSHROOM! Is that I was tasting?? Mmmmm...I gotta be, I don't think so.  Daniel B. on CellarTracker said, "A nice yet not complex PN with lots of warmth and fruityness and some earthly hints. Overripe strawberries, plums, cherries, red berries and a soft vanilla oaky tone."

Should I bring it to a friend's house? Oh HECK yes. And while you're there, show them the video of Brian and the Count!!!!

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