I’ve been on a Pinot Noir kick of late, primarily because I find this thin-skinned grape to be a friendlier red wine during summer. And yes, while I am usually drawn to Pinot Noir from Europe, I’m finding some of the Pinot Noir coming out of California to be more pleasant this summer. Fruitier and more approachable…

So there, I’m not a European wine snob after all.

Anyway, all that aside, there are a few areas in California that are better for Pinot Noir than others. The Russian River Valley and Los Carneros in the north are very well-known. The Central Coast is also well-known and some of the more popular sub-AVA’s within that zone, like the Santa Rita Hills are well documented in these pages. Another sub-AVA that is growing in stature is Monterey County. A few years ago, I was on the Monterey Penisular and found myself knee deep in really yummy Pinot Noir. Mostly from small producers, the wines don’t make it to the east coast very often, if at all. Yes, Cuvaison is an exception and one that I have touted before, but so many others never get past the Rockies.

The ones that do make the trip are usually more commercial offerings, which often lack personality, which is why I was pleased to stumble across the Bridlewood recently. A relatively inexpensive, Pinot Noir made from Monterey County fruit that is quite nice.


Interestingly, Bridlewood is a mid-size estate in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is smack dab in the middle of the Central Coast AVA. The estate consists of approximately 105 acres of total land, of which 40 acres are “set on a high bench of ancient seabed on the eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Valley, where the vines produce an intensely rich Syrah.” The Bridlewood web site had this to say about their Pinot Noir :

Monterey County enjoys a cool, foggy climate that is ideal for Pinot Noir. Typically, bud break begins several weeks earlier and harvest ends several weeks later than other growing regions. This extra month of time on the vine allows the grapes to develop intense, complex flavors. Monterey County houses the significant Monterey AVA, which includes nine sub-regions, united by the cooling influence of Monterey Bay.

Their winemaker added :

Most of the fruit was picked at night to keep the grapes as cool as possible. The fruit was then destemmed, but not crushed, leaving a significant portion of whole berries going into the fermentor. The skins had approximately 5 – 7 days contact, and the wine was racked as needed to maintain the purity of fruit flavors in the finished wine.

Judging by what I tasted, their appraisal is not too far afield.

Another interesting fact… Bridlewood was the starting location for The Amazing Race reality show on CBS back in February of 2012…

My tasting notes:

Ripe, jammy nose with cherry, red currant and lilac hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin – good balance. Dense, fruity palate with blackberry jam, vanilla and raspberry notes. Moderate length – smooth, easy drinking. Not for aging

At an average retail cost of $16.99/bottle pre-discount, this wine is an okay value – with the special discounts my cost dropped to $12.59/bottle – at that price this wine is a better value and worthy of consideration.