Vintage: 2013, 2014 and Beyond
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to review my favorite low-cost Pinot Noir from California. Today, we’re taking a deeper look at the Mark West Pinot Noir and exploring everything that makes this wine great at its particular price point. Sure, there are higher-quality Pinot’s out there, but between $8 to $13? Good luck.
First, Mark West Crafts Multiple Styles of Wine
I should point out that Mark West crafts a number of wines and several different versions of their Pinot Noir. The Mark West Pinot Noir from select vineyards in California is by far their best selling red wine. However, they do also produce a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and 5 other “appellation series” styles of Pinot Noir from Monterey County, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Russian River Valley, Carneros and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
I’m actually excited to taste their Willamette version, considering the quality of Pinot being cranked out by other Vintners throughout the region. But back to the Mark West California Pinot Noir…
What I love about Mark West are their taglines and dedication to Pinot Noir production. “Totally devoted to Pinot,” “We’re Pinot People” and “Pinot for the People” have been signature slogans and they’ve certainly achieved success through marketing. So much success, in fact, that Constellation Brands — which also owns Blackstone — bought Mark West (Purple Wine Company LLC) in 2012 for about $ 160 million.
Today, they still devote the majority of their time and energy perfecting their low-cost Pinot Noir. That’s a good thing, considering that Pinot Noir is one of the more difficult red wine grape varieties to cultivate around the world. Although, the Mark West “Pinot Noir” may receive a little bit of help from smaller concentrations of some surprising grape varieties.
The Mark West Pinot Noir Isn’t Pure Pinot Noir
Sorry to throw you under the bus, Mark West. But don’t fret, I’m not dissing you. It’s a clever way to reduce the cost of Pinot production in the U.S. while also incorporating some phenomenal flavors from Chardonnay (what?) and Syrah. This varies by vintage, however. In 2013, supposedly 2% of Oaked Chardonnay and 13% Syrah were incorporated into the Mark West Pinot Noir Blend. For the 2014 vintage, a blend of 90% Pinot Noir, 6% Syrah and 4% Petite Syrah were utilized, from what we can tell.
I want to emphasize that I don’t look at this as a bad thing. It doesn’t make the wine worse, it makes it better. Sure, the die-hard Pinot enthusiasts are going to throw a fit, but that’s why they’re free to spend upwards of $30 per bottle to get their fix.
For the rest of us, Syrah offers a sizable flavoric punch on the opening palate with rich black and blue fruit, an enhanced mouth-feel and cacao spice. The Petite Syrah helps to enhance body and intensity in the blend.
Separately, in order to cut costs further while still offering the loved oak flavors in their wines, Mark West utilized Oak Staves as opposed to New, French Oak barrels. You need new oak in order to impart oaky flavors on a wine as it ages. While these flavors are fantastic, they’re also expensive. Oak staves provide a quick solution to an expensive problem which not only cuts costs for Mark West, it allows them to sell their wine to you at a very low price. Note that grapes were sourced from a number of regions across California, predominantly coastal areas, to concoct the Mark West California Pinot Noir blend.
How to Serve the Mark West Pinot Noir
Given the youthfulness of most vintages on the shelves, it’s worth decanting or using a self-aerating wine glass — like these from Taste of Purple, use code WINEDERLUST for 10% off — to relax any acidic or tannic structure without having to wait. In addition, we recommend chilling this particular Pinot Noir blend to about 61 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 15 minutes in your average fridge.
In terms of aging — it depends on vintage — but drink within 4 years or purchase for best flavor. The Syrah actually adds a bit of longevity to the wine.
Mark West Pinot Noir Calories and Nutrition Facts
I get asked this question a lot from consumers who aren’t too familiar with classically produced red wines. And that’s fine. But I want to stress immediately that it’s not worth concerning yourself too much with these details. There’s virtually zero fat, zero sugar, a small amount of carbs (about 3.5g per 5 ounce pour) and 1 gram or protein in your entire Pinot Noir bottle. In terms of calories, expect about 125 calories per 5 ounce pour of Mark West Pinot Noir.
Mark West Pinot Noir Tasting Notes
Ah yes, now to get our drink on! In the glass, this Pinot exhibits a clear, medium-intensity cranberry-ruby-red hue with some purple indicating youth and low viscosity. The nose is full of ripe red cherry, strawberry, overripe plum and black currant.
On the opening palate, expect a refreshing hit of acidity backed by delicious hints of cassis, black cherry cola, strawberry marmalade, dried cranberries and dry violet. The mid-palate reveals hints of a diverse terroir with some gravelly tones, plum and spice box. Approaching the finish, velvety tannins balance out the red fruit and acidity with some soft astringency and notes of ripe red cherry vanilla cola, cacao, blackberry and red currant over a medium finish.
Mark West Pinot Noir Food Pairings
Given the flavor complexity and refreshing acidity present in this value wine, it’s a relatively easy wine to pair with food. Acid (and salt, too) are good friends of wine. Since we’re dealing with a blend here, it opens up our options for food pairing, but not dramatically.
I’d recommend sticking with poultry, heavy-bodied fish and or leaner meats. On the side, aim for tomato-based pasta, balsamic-based salads or fish cubes or pesto marinades to extract the wine’s spice or savory apple-maple marinated pork tenderloin.
Take a look at these other great food pairing recipes:
- Cedar Plank Salmon
- Veal Osso Buca with Mushroom Risotto
- Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken Bites (Ideal for an Appetizer)
- The Ultimate Baked Chicken Teriyaki Recipe
Mark West Breaks Away from the Stuffy Wine Industry
As someone who’s been studying wine for a couple of years now professionally, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not particularly fond of self-proclaimed “wine connoisseurs” who have maintained this hardline, exclusive stance about the world of wine. Wine should be fun and accessible to everyone.
My mindset is in-line with Mark West, and these geniuses take Pinot as far as it can go. What I mean by that is they’re not afraid to be bold and fortify a glass of Pinot Noir with some Brandy or Rum. Yes, you heard that correctly. If Mark West is comfortable with doing it, then the consumer shouldn’t be afraid to either.
It’s not the first time mixing red wine with other beverages has become a sensation. In fact, Spain has been doing it for decades with red wine and Coca Cola.
Check out this epic cocktail recipe courtesy of Mark West below:
Serving Size: 1
- 3 oz Mark West Pinot Noir
- 2 oz Cola
- 1/2 oz Brandy
- 1/4 cup blueberries and raspberries; mixed
- Muddle and strain the fruit before adding to a cocktail shaker, leaving a few berries aside for garnish
- Add remaining ingredients to your shaker
- Shake and strain into a cocktail glass over ice
- Garnish with remaining blueberries and raspberries