A Washington Pinot from California?

Americans have occasionally been shown to be … shall we say “geographically challenged“. Your humble Barbarian however, always knows where he is, and normally can find just about any place on a map. Navigation to me is an enjoyable past time. I can find cardinal directions quite easily and though my travels, when judged on a global scale, have been rather modest (the number of countries I’ve visited number less than a dozen) I can still tour the world through a bottle of cheap red wine… and often do.

I saw this Pinot Noir on a grocery shelf, with a price of about $10. It proclaimed its origin from the Columbia Valley, which I know straddles both Oregon and Washington. The Washington side of the river, being on the north, which means facing south, contains the vast majority of the grape growing areas. I noted also that the winery is called “Castle Rock”. Now this is a rather common place name, especially in the western US, where I bet every state contains a town or a feature named “Castle Rock”. I know for a fact there is a town with this name in western Washington, somewhere north of Portland, where the Willamette River (whose valley produces so much excellent Pinot Noir!) flows into the Columbia. I seem to recall a place long the Colombia River as well named Castle Rock… perhaps it is a geological feature. So the grapes are from this valley in Washington state… where is the winery?

The label says Sonoma, California, and their website says Palos Verdes Estates, California.

That seems odd to me as I doubt the grapes made either a 600 or a 1200 mile journey from vineyard to winery. If so those grapes are better travelled than most of the Americans they passed on Interstate 5!

However the geographical conjecture is meaningless as the wine itself is quite good. Mrs. Barbarian and I enjoyed it with a grilled chicken caesar salad the other night. I was supposed to do the grilling. I imagined slicing the chicken breasts like filets and pounding them flat with some garlic and herbs before tossing them on the grill. But I became distracted with some chore out in the yard … and the Mrs. being hungry and an impatient type of person put one of those cast iron griddle things on the stove and started cooking. When I finally finished my manly wrench spinning, or grass chopping, or whatever it was I was doing I wandered into a smoky kitchen to find lumpy chicken and a coughing wife. I casually mentioned my idea of a filet cut, and was met by a verbal assault. If she’d been armed with a filet knife I imagine I’d be on the menu.

I beat a hasty retreat to the wine cellar and as it was the first day of summer and this was a light meal, I grabbed a Pinot. This Pinot: Castle Rock 2006 Columbia Valley Pinot Noir. Mrs. Barbarian put the food on the table and I opened the wine. Within minutes her mood improved. It could have been hunger being sated, or it could have been the wine. I’d like to think it was the latter, as it was light, refreshing, and quite tasty. Not a sophisticated Pinot, but certainly significantly better than your average low priced one. In fact I’ve paid twice as much for bad Pinots! So for the money, this is likely one of the better ones I’ve ever had. Kept me from being served as dessert.


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