Must-Try Wine of the Week: 2012 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

La Crema Winery is a large but family-owned estate in the Russian River Valley that specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay from appellations throughout California. Established in 1979, the winery has never allowed visitors, but the label gained a reputation for quality, and today is a favorite in restaurants and on retail shelves.

The Wine & Spirits Annual Restaurant Poll canvasses more than 2,500 of the most popular restaurants in America to determine the 50 most popular wine brands and wines by the glass. The 2013 Poll published in April found La Crema to be the 9th most popular brand, with the La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir among the top-10 favorites.

La Crema owes its distribution power to ownership under the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates empire. Do not be dissuaded by the very large production of La Crema wines. Yes, they’re priced in the $25 range and often discounted to less than $20, but they’re extremely good values. When friends and family that are new to wine—including my son who was invited to a dinner—ask me to suggest a pinot noir to bring the host, I often recommend La Crema because it’s a respected label you can count on.

The 2012 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is sourced from selected cool-climate vineyards in proximity to the Pacific Ocean. A blend of pinot noir clones fermented in small open-top tanks and aged in 26 percent new (98 percent French) oak barrels for six months, it’s as good or better than many costing twice as much. It offers enticing aromas of fresh cherries, berries, and souis-bois (forest floor) that soar from the glass. A delicious arsenal of flavors including dark red strawberries, cherries, cola, gregarious spice, and a dusting of oak offer excellent depth and length. Enjoy it at the holiday table with a prime rib roast or turkey and all the trimmings. It retails for $25, but is often discounted to $19.99 at hitime.net, totalwine.com, bevmo.com, and many other wine retailers and supermarkets in Orange County.