The search for a decent Pinot Noir under $15 has some similarities to trying to find a needle in a haystack. A year ago I was thrilled to be able to recommend one here. ([BROKEN LINK REMOVED])
I've found another one - 2001 Echelon Central Coast Pinot Noir - from California and it's even better and cheaper!
In March I was a judge in the Monterey Wine Competition. The three-judge panel I sat on blind tasted and evaluated nearly 100 Pinots from all over the world in one sitting. On the second day, we retasted the small number of wines that we had judged as Gold and Silver medalists as a control step to make sure we had been careful and consistent in our assessments. We had given this wine a Silver, and we judged it up to Gold based on this retasting. In fact, we then submitted it for consideration for Sweepstakes award as best red wine of the competition, and it beat out several other contenders in this next round of tasting but didn't quite make the final cut. I was shocked when its identity and PRICE were revealed, it had stood up very well with wines that are two to four times more expensive.
What sets this wine apart is that it actually has good depth and length, unusual for a wine in this price range. The exotic nose is almost tropical with banana and jasmine notes mingled with cherry fruit. The entry is candied black cherry fruit, then fans out with more sweet red fruit and strawberry character and notes of earth, green tea and oak spice, through a long and supple finish. It's nicely balanced and well-integrated for near term enjoyment. Tasted three times with consistent results, this is a solid 88-point wine that's just a bit shy of the complexity needed to hit the 90-point mark.
The suggested retail price is $10. Discounters in the San Francisco area are featuring it for $8. 37K cases were produced, so there's a good chance you can find it in your local markets.