Based on my experience two weeks ago with this venture's Shiraz-Viognier, I decided to try the 2003 Hayman & Hill Edna Valley Pinot Noir. (No link because I didn't even see a review.) Around $12, I figured it was worth a shot.
I really need a tattoo on my right hand that says "Do Not Buy Pinot Noir Under $20". Perhaps in gothic script with thorny vines going around it. I worked in graphic design for 8 years, maybe I can work up something.
As my blog shows, I'm a big fan of inexpensive (but well-made) table wines, but I don't think it's really possible with this grape. I did devote a good bit of time in the evaluation of this wine, giving it a lot of consideration. Though it's only 13.5% alcohol, the aroma is predominantly alcohol with just a touch of black cherry or plum. A garnet color, nothing surprising for a two year old Pinot. The taste is smooth on the beginning with a harsh, tannic finish. Not much fruit in the flavor, nor is there that subtle, mellow loveliness that you get from a well-balanced Pinot Noir.
I tried it alone and then with a simple but delicious dinner, roast pork/potatoes au gratin/broccoli. My dinner host had similar opinions about the wine, and I left the remaining third with him. It's a bad sign when I can't kill off a bottle of wine, but I just wasn't up to it tonight. (And yes, my nose is working fine. Had a martini earlier in the evening and had no problem picking out all of the herbal elements as well as those of the garnish.)
And where is the Edna Valley? It's in the Central Coast of California, around San Luis Obispo. Doesn't have quite the same ring as Napa or Sonoma, but I'm not willing to hold the geographic name against a wine. There's a town not far from Memphis called Bucksnort, and a friend of mine was born in the local hamlet of Frog Jump.
However, I can still vividly remember Hayman & Hill's Shiraz-Viognier, and they've bought themselves a great deal of goodwill in my book. I'm willing to give their Zinfandel a chance sometime in the near future.