Mark West California Pinot Noir 2013: Ruby color; cherry, berry, spice nose; cherry, hint of strawberry, oak; good acidity, light in the mouth, light tannin.
This is simple wine but very serviceable for what the makers intended: produce a drinkable pinot-inspired wine for around $10, what they call “wine for the people.” It is made for restaurant use, is the Marriott Hotel chain’s house pinot noir, and can be found in most supermarkets and by the palate in Sam’s Club stores. Its acidity and reserved alcohol content (13.5%) make it food friendly—reviewers sometimes note it should only be sipped with food, which seems reasonable for a restaurant wine. Constellation Brands, the makers, aim for market, not pinot aficionado praise, and that’s what they get. “Pinot in name only” is common critique, which is fair enough—to make the millions of bottles (more than 600,000 cases a few years ago, reportedly their goal now is one million cases a year—12 million bottles) means you can’t be picky about grapes, you can’t be picky about oak (Mark West uses oak staves), there is no earthiness (neophyte drinkers wouldn’t enjoy that), no assertive tannin (faint of palate would flee from that). In short, this entry-level Mark West offering (they also make higher quality pinots) is wine that can be enjoyed by mass market, it has no OMG flaws, it goes with food, and it just happens to be called pinot noir. This is go-to buy when you throw a big party, OK second bottle (even better as a third), and noteworthy accomplishment to make a wine in such volume that is affordable and drinkable. $9-11 (you will pay considerably more at the restaurant)