Woodbridge Pinot Noir: Mediocrity Exemplified

A constant internal debate I have with wine choices on this site is whether to pick wines that are distributed widely enough that just about any reader can find them or just focus on those hidden gems that you should scoop up if you’re lucky enough to come across them.  Ultimately I try to do a bit of both, and this is an example of a widely-distributed, simple-to-find wine.  Unfortunately it is also an example of a sterile, mass produced wine that exudes no character.
The wine I’m talking about is Woodbridge Pinot Noir 2005 by Robert Mondavi.  Woodbridge Pinot Noir comes from vineyards near Limoux, in France’s Languedoc.  What is somewhat peculiar about this is that Limoux is really known for colorless wines, not Pinot Noir.  In fact, Limoux claims to be the birthplace of sparkling wine.
As far as the tasting of the Woodbridge Pinot Noir goes, it’s not a terrible wine.  It’s just kind of lame.  It has excellent affect and a nice bouquet but the palate is seriously lacking fruit.  The tannins are OK.  It’s slightly too acid in my opinion, but more than anything, it’s dull… no complexity.  It also has a rather low in alchohol level at 12.5%. 
It only cost me $7, but I can reckon of several additional wines that will treat me better for my seven bucks.  The numbers came out to an 82, which means it’s a drinkable wine but nothing special.
Wine: Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 12.5% 
Rating: 82

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Mark West Pinot Noir – Join the Revolution!

Get out your Che Guevara t-shirt, it’s time for a revolution.  Pinot for the People is the latest slogan from Mark West Winery, a companionship that is all ears on making excellent, cheap Pinot Noir.  I like this concept and I like this wine.
Cool Marketing
You may have noticed that I occasionally allusion the marketing in the rear the wines I taste.  Well… I do more than drink wine, I’m a marketing guy.  And as such, I pay particular attention to how wine producers market their products.  I have to say that in the case of Mark West, I like the product and the creative.  (I know some of you non-marketing folks reckon I just made a typo, but I didn’t.  In the marketing world we call the end result of what you see ”creative.”  It’s a noun in my world.)
I like the marketing that I’ve seen for Mark West, but that’s not to say I don’t have some critique of it.  The whole Pinot for the People revolution-esque marketing campaign is fun and fascinating, but only appears to be on their website.  The theme isn’t carried out in their packaging.  The packaging is very neutral, safe and more dignified than the website.  Perhaps they don’t want to scare people in store with a mark that’s too kitchzy.
My additional complaint is that their website seems incomplete.  Too much stuff isn’t working.  There’s no link on the logo to get you back to the Home Page.  There are several items listed below “propaganda” (bottle shots, logos, etc.) that just aren’t linked up.  It’s close, but they need to spend a few days tapering things up.
Who Is Mark West?
There doesn’t seem to be a real dude named Mark West that has anything to do with this wine.  Alex Cose and Derek Benham run the show there.  These are also the guys in the rear Rock Rabbit Winery and Avalon Winery, all below parent The Purple Wine Companionship.  Who is Mark?  It’s not a who, it’s a where.
The Mark West Winery has no vineyard, they buy grapes from various growers and have released both Californian and French versions of their Pinot Noir, so pay attention to the mark to see what you’re getting.  I’ve read fantastic reviews of the California 2005, but I can’t find it anywhere in my area (Cincinnati, OH) and it seems the distributor in this province (Wine Trends) isn’t carrying it.  The one I’ve been tasting is The Mark West Pinot Noir Vin De Corse 2005 (French).
The Tasting
The Mark West Pinot Noir Vin De Corse 2005 has nice complexity all around, starting with smoky, red raspberry and cherry aromas.  The palate is set alight and fruity with complex berry flavors. A hint of pepper, but not much. It goes down velvety-smooth with an nearly creamy mouth feel, but a rather small end. 
The weird thing is that it nearly doesn’t taste like a Pinot Noir.  It somewhat lacks varietal character, but it’s subdue excellent. 
I picked this bottle up for $10.99.  That’s a bit on the high end of cheap wine, but I’d say it’s worth the fee.  I gave it an 88.
Wine: Mark West
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Designation: Vin de Corse
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 13.2% 
Rating: 88

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Chardonnay in a Box?

Chardonnay in a Box?Try wines that the average consumer may be worried to try.  I know there are some hidden gems out there, and I want to learn them and share them with all of you.
Today I tried something new: French Rabbit Chardonnay.  French Rabbit comes in a box.  What?  You in fact drank boxed wine?  Yes, I did.  I’m not one to get hung up on stereotypes.  Most people assume that wine in a box is terrible wine, but many also believe that just because a wine has a screw top or a plastic cork that it’s terrible.  I know I’ve had some fabulous wines with screw tops and plastic corks, so why not give this boxed wine a try?  And technically this packaging isn’t a box, it’s a Tetra Pak.
French Rabbit is in fact the next generation of boxed wine… or, um… Tetra Pak wine.  It’s a bit different from the boxed wine of the 80′s and 90′s with the spigot on the box.  French Rabbit is made by a companionship named Boisset America, and their focus is environmentally friendly wine producing.  From the farming to the packaging, they strive to be ecologically friendly and I applaud them for that.
Unfortunately, while I admire their environmental aspirations, the wine didn’t win me over.  It didn’t have much flavor to it.  It had a bit of fruitiness, apple and citrus.  But it also had a slightly plasticy flavor to it (I assume this was from the packaging).  Perhaps it was a psychological thing, but I doubt it.  I was in fact really curious and was hoping that I would delight in the wine more.  The largest problem was that the flavor lacks the personality of the marketing around it.
One thing I did like is that the package is a full liter versus 750ml.  The packaging is also supposedly 100% recyclable, although if I place this into my recycling bin with a bunch of glass bottles, I would bet money that they recycling truck would take the glass bottles and leave this thing in the bin.  I don’t know if I’ll try another varietal from French Rabbit.  We’ll see.

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