California is such a big place that it’s bound to produce a wide variety of wines — some good, some not so much. We talked before about how certain wines use the state’s geography to make their product sound better than it is. The infamous “Two-Buck Chuck,” Charles Shaw, was an example — its grapes are grown elsewhere in the state and then brought into Sonoma Valley, so that the label can list that well-known winemaking region on its label (even though the grapes aren’t grown there.) It’s a practice akin to a person earning a degree at a community college, then getting a job cutting the lawn at Harvard, just to put the words “Harvard University” on his resume.)
I”m not sure if today’s wine is an example of that. Beaulieu Vineyards are a decent winemaking outfit in Napa Valley. A quick look at its roster of wines shows that its most modest label is its Coastal Estates family, made from grapes grown “from select vineyards along California’s Central Coast.” The optimist in me says that a quality winemaking outlet like BV is just finding different grapes to put out a new, different product than its normal stock. The cynic in me worries the vineyard is buying cheap grapes and churning them out under their name to make a quick buck. The truth? I expect it’s somewhere in the middle.
How does it look? This 2010 is a translucent brick red with thin legs, leaving me to expect a light-bodied, fairly dry wine.
How does it smell? This pinot noir’s noise is floral and spicy, with a bit of mid-range berry fruit in the mix.
But how does it taste? The taste of the Coastal Estates pinot noir isn’t prominently fruity — I notice dull plum and red berry flavors, with a bit of spice. The pinot is a bit astringent, but not boozy or harsh. (We’d expect a two-year-old wine to be fairly smooth, though.) As we expected, the wine is fairly dry, but it’s easy-drinking, and finishes clean. This is a meat-and-potatoes medium-dry red wine, and while it doesn’t set the world on fire, it’ll look just fine on your table any day of the week. I can’t say I’ve ever had any of the up-label BV wines to compare to the Coastal Estates, but Beaulieu can be proud of this wine.
What should I eat with it? Roasted chicken, or maybe risotto? This wine has some interesting flavors, but there’s nothing prominent enough to pair with a specific food. The positive side of that would be that a neutral wine like this will go with almost anything.