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Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review

Welcome to my Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review. Every so often, it’s fun to buy a bottle of wine the way that most people do, on site, without any prior research having been done.  So I judged this bottle as worth the $10 only based on the AVA that’s on the label.  There’s really nothing else you can do.

Video Transcription:

Hi, all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. This is my Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review.  I’ll hold this up, so you can get a look at it. This is called Firefly Ridge and this is a Central Coast pinot noir. So I wanted to do this for a couple of reasons.

First, a quick review. So it’s a lighter in style pinot, priced $10 or under. Kinda of tough spot. This was drinkable, though, and not all pinot at this price point is drinkable and that’s kind of the whole point.

So I wanted to test myself and say, can we come up with any type of scenario or rules for people, “Hey walk through an aisle at a grocery store and how do you pick something that’s going to be better than the majority of stuff that’s there?”

And really, there’s not a whole lot of information on a bottle. You can look at labels, but that’s what they want you to do when there’s no real sense of place here. I’ll show you the back and so I’ll hold this up, if anybody really cares that much, and I’ll post a picture on this too.

But in essence, they’ve got this flowery language and then they’ve got some kind of pairing suggestions, and a little bit of information about the wine; but there’s really not that much there that’s usable. There’s really only one piece of information that matters here and that’s that it says Central Coast.

So most bottles of wine $10 and under from the state of California say “California” and there’s kind of one big reason why they do that, because they’re grown in the warm inland valley where you get yields that are huge. 10, 12, 15 tons per acre, whereas Napa’s like two, Sonoma’s like three to four at most. Coastal Paso Robles is like in that same range.

Generally speaking, thinking four tons per acre and under is a rarely high quality of wine grape. In any case, mostly everything says California on it and they do that to cheat, in essence. They don’t want to say, “We’re in an inland valley. This is really hot, we planted cabernet even though that’s not the best choice for this area. We planted cabernet because you’re gonna buy it because you like cabernet. And we’re gonna get a whole lot of grapes out of this same acre of land, more so than we would if we planted something that might grow better here, say syrah; but you won’t buy syrah so we planted cabernet, still. Even though it’s not the best grape for this neighborhood and temperature.”

So pinot’s especially hard because pinot likes cold climates. Central Coast is hard to pin down. If you think about what the Central Coast AVA actually looks like, it starts somewhere … say Santa Cruz, which is maybe an hour south of San Francisco, and it goes all the way down almost to Los Angeles. Which if you think about it, when I used to drive from UC Santa Barbara to my wife, girlfriend at the time, in Santa Clara, which is San Jose, it was 280 miles door to door. So that’s a huge swatch of land and there’s a kind of commiserate 25 or 30 miles, at least, inland from where the grapes start to where the grapes end.

So you get this huge swatch of California and so it doesn’t tell you all that much about it; but what, the thing it can tell us, is we know it’s not the inland valley. And really, if you’re buying $10 and under wine that should be your primary goal. Especially if it’s pinot noir. Just avoid the inland valley.

And the only way to do that is to know a little bit about the AVA system and why it’s broken. And it’s broken because even if it’s San Joaquin Valley, you don’t have to put San Joaquin Valley. You can almost put a wider AVA on it, like California. So I suspect for stuff like this, when it says Central Coast, that’s it’s going to be multiple smaller AVAs within the Central Coast and that’s just the widest … that’s the first one that they could put on there.

They could also put California; but Central Coast is a higher quality than the state of California as a whole, the way we think about it currently. Which, if you think about it, if these are secondary or thirdly in their choices it’s silly in itself; but that’s the way that the AVA system is broken. It continues to be broken, there’s no easy fix.

And so, again, this isn’t something I’d chuck in a wine of the month club; but I think it’s something that’s interesting as customers continue to buy wine outside of the wine club. I hope that you learned a little something about … if you’re gonna buy a $10 bottle of pinot, might as well buy a better on than a worse one. And so I hope that helps a little bit.

Look at the AVA, it’s the only thing on the label that really matters. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review.

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