angeline pinotWhen pleasant is good enough.

A little context helps to understand this wine. Angeline is the value label of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery with an annual case production of about 45000. Martin Ray is owned by Courtney Benham, the creator of the Blackstone brand, which he and his brother sold to Constellation  in 2001 for big bucks. He knows how to build a brand. And his stated goal when he set out to make wine was to “raise the bar on everyday value wine”. This is a wine built to please—everyone—and in that it succeeds admirably. It is a resolutely middle-of-the-road wine. Not too sweet, not too tart, not quite dark fruit but not quite red fruit, a little spicy but not overly so, a touch of oak but restrained, a perfectly coiffed wine, not a hair out of place, but pleasant enough to spend an evening with.

Black cherry shares space with red raspberry capped with a candied note that is vaguely reminiscent of Red Hots if you remember that confection, but with the spice obediently subdued. Simple and pleasant but it develops a satisfying earthiness as it sits in the glass.

In the mouth there is a touch of apparent sweetness up front. It’s medium bodied with a soft midsection until acidity gathers and urges the wine forward giving it some length. The finish is nicely fruited and it stays so through its terminus, with tannins giving you a little grippiness and acidity in the end like tiny daggers.

Neither refined nor particularly subtle, and there is not much depth. Everything remains on the surface. A little generic but balanced and polite and really quite a good value. It’s a blend of Mendocino and Russian River fruit and you really can see the influence of each in this precisely made wine.

The 12 months is 40% new oak is worn well.

Trying to find a budget Pinot that gives some of the satisfaction of which this grape is capable is challenging. This one falls just outside what I call a budget wine but its one of the better values around.

Score: 88

Price: $16

Alc: 13.9%

Superficially candied but just enough dark fruit and oak to turn it slightly somber, its pop with a mood like the Gin Blossoms