Gravelly Ford 2012 Pinot Noir “Private Reserve”

Santa Lucia Highlands, CA; 13.7% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 8 Jan

IMG_1374I had avoided this wine after the ambivalent reviews of the Gravelly Ford Zinfandel and Merlot.  However, in reply to my review of the Swami 2009 Pinot Noir, Stan commented that he liked this Pinot better for a dollar less.  I agree it’s a very good Pinot for $5.

On opening, the wine shows nice, dark red cherry fruit, with a sort of hard, earthy character.  After about 1:15 – 1:45 in a decanter, the wine opens to classic CA Pinot flavors of medium to darker red cherry, orange, sap / bay leaf, and nice earthiness / Pinot funk.  I did not think it ever became as yummy as the  bottle of Swami I had, and I’d gladly spend the extra dollar on another bottle like it.  However, we’ve gotten reports of bottle variation in the Swami from Stan, Darrell, and G. L. Pease, so this GF Pinot may be a safer bet.  It’s certainly the best $5 Pinot I’ve had in a long time.

On a curious note, there was a sticker stuck on the right side of the front label that read 13.7% ABV.  You might be able to barely make it out in the photo.  Underneath the sticker, the label says 14.4%.

17 thoughts on “Gravelly Ford 2012 Pinot Noir “Private Reserve”

  1. EHL

    Bought a $6 bottle of the GF Santa Lucia Highlands PN to try after reading the comments. Upon opening and for a good while thereafter, the nose was rather tight and closed with the wine being strongly acidic, overly tart and unbalanced to taste. However, as noted by some, the wine did improve measurably after breathing for an hour and I generally agree with the notes as to the PN’s character.

    Nonetheless, this wine seemed rough and raw around the edges…and came nowhere close to matching the finesse and elegance of the Sanctuary 2011 Bien Nacido Vineyard PN that surfaced briefly in the Seattle area.

    While both PNs sold for the same amount at GO, there was a world of difference between them, perhaps reflecting the gap in pedigree along with retail price.

    1. Seedboy

      We never saw that Sanctuary in California. The price for the Gravelly Ford here is $4.99. I’ve bought four bottles of this, and got tired of the second one half way through the bottle. Oakland has more of the Cima Collina and if I’m going to buy more pinot it would be that one.

  2. lim13

    Bought a bottle to try for myself. Silverdale has only the Santa Lucia Highlands (for $5.99) and they don’t appear to have much. I like it. My notes: Brilliant medium ruby color with just a slight orange/pinkish rim; actually, perfect color for Pinot…not to light, not to dark…just right (like the three bears); typically varietal nose with great black cherry fruit, some spice and little discernible oak; acidity is perfect…tart, but not biting (which should bode well for additional aging). Flavors are full-on cherry and “sweet” fruit flavors on the front of the tongue with more cinnamon spice and dried orange peel at mid-palate. I get little in the way of funk, which is fine by me. Light on tannins, but nicely balanced; a more delicately styled PN that appears to put its emphasis on the fruit and acidity. A tad drying in the finish.

    1. BargainWhine Post author

      Hi Lim13! Thanks for trying this and sharing your notes. From yours and others’, I have been relieved to hear I wasn’t too far off. It hadn’t occurred to me, but I agree with assessments that this wine has potential to improve with a little age.

  3. inthewinecountry

    BW, I just wanted to let you know at least the bottle I had was good, I don’t remember which GO I got it at but I do remember I bought it for the Santa Lucia designation. I had it with a nice pot roast cooked in a 1/2 bottle of Gunn Estate Pinot from New Zealand I got from GO. At first I wasn’t sure about this Gravelly Ford Pinot it because it had a tart acid flavor that was not letting the fruit show through. But after about 20 minutes in the glass the fruit came to the front and the acidity went to the back.. I found it a very clean Pinot style with no funk that I find sometimes in a Pinot that I actually like and I did find the minerality that Seedboy found. I found it balanced and not one of those overly jammy Pinots.

  4. palfrey12

    Santa Lucia Highlands is a cooler and generally more premium grape area than Santa Rita which is flater and hotter. Santa Lucia Highlands chardonnay and pinot noirs IMO match Santa Barbara’s. I have had this 2012 Gravelly Ford Santa Lucia Highlands and went back to buy a few more. I think the initial roughness that my wife didn’t like will age out in a year or so to more complexity. $4.99 is a small cost for a bet on having a few nifty bottles of pinot noir in 2016. For what it’s worth, I also bought some more of the Swami 2009, which are ready to go right now and sweeter and lighter than this Gravelly Ford. GO, in these two has given us good wine at good prices.

  5. Seedboy

    Oakland has this Santa Lucia Highlands wine for $4.99. My bottle is good. Good balance, some earthy minerality, fruit is not jammy or cloying (jammy and cloying being a hallmark of SLH pinot, maybe that is why this wine was available to this negociant). Worth a repeat buy.

  6. G.L. Pease

    My one bottle was closer to Joel’s experience than to BW’s, unfortunately, though not quite as harsh. It wasn’t quite undrinkable, but didn’t find anything to make me want to come back to it. I’m not likely to give it another go.

    1. BargainWhine Post author

      Hi Joel! I had indeed forgotten you had posted this review. Thank you for the reminder. However, these may not be the same wines. You list the designation as “Santa Rita Hills” not “Santa Lucia Highlands.” So, although the areas are relatively near to each other, it may be a distinct batch. Your and PW’s descriptions sound similar, so she may have had the same bottling as you did. Or, of course, there may simply be bottle variation in this batch, too, as she suggests.

      1. permiesworld

        Oh I bet you are right (about it being Santa Rita vs. Santa Lucia). A friend bought it and I was going to review it when we had it. Tasted it, passed (both on the wine and the review). And that explains why I thought a review had already been posted. I don’t have notes though because I didn’t buy it.

  7. permiesworld

    I think there was some bottle variation on this one too. We tried it and it was super tart cherry. No earthiness or funk or anything. Just a very thin tasting tart cherry. Just FYI.

    I didn’t buy it so I didn’t write a review, but I also didn’t even go beyond a few sips. Opted to drink my water instead.


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