Pinot Noir is often referred to as the “heartbreak grape.” Ostensibly, this is because it is difficult to grow, thin-skinned, finicky, prone to disease.
Pinot Noir should be called the heartbreak grape because trying to find worthwhile Pinot under $15 is an exercise in one’s dewy-eyed expectations being run over by the Greyhound bus of reality.
However, you keep looking, and once in a while you get lucky. Here, without further delay—
2012 Shoofly Yarra Valley Pinot Noir ($11)
Australia’s cool Yarra Valley provides the counterargument to an ocean of super-juicy anonymous Shiraz: distinctive Pinot Noirs like this crisp, spicy, light-bodied version.
2012 Gnarly Head Pinot Noir ($12)
The Gnarly Head team sources grapes from all over the state (hence the broad “California” appellation) for this berry-rich bottling. It’s on the richer side of the Pinot spectrum.
2012 DeLoach California Pinot Noir ($13)
Bright cranberry fruit and a little sweet oak—plus enough acidity to keep the flavors lively—make this inexpensive Pinot, largely sourced from California’s Delta region, an excellent bargain.
2011 Hahn Winery Pinot Noir ($14)
Ripe and dark—but not to the point of losing its Pinot-ness—this sultry Central Coast red suggests black cherries with a touch of cola.
2011 Francis Ford Coppola Votre Santé Pinot Noir ($14)
Winemaker Corey Beck uses fruit from cooler regions like Monterey and Mendocino for this lightly peppery, aromatic Pinot