Great wine values: Nielson Pinot NoirSanta Barbara County, California
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Great wine values: Nielson Pinot NoirSanta Barbara County, California

Pinot noir is a natural choice when we crave lighter red wines in the summertime. This is especially true for those sourced from cool-climate vineyards that clock in below 14 percent alcohol. These two factors yield tangy and refreshing pinot noirs that make perfect partners for summer's lighter fare. But pinot noir is called the heartbreak grape for a reason — the unfortunate challenge for its fans lies in finding wines that are both well-made and reasonably priced, since so few can be found for less than $25. That's why it's worth snapping up some of this affordable example from Santa Barbara County while it's on sale this month. Nielson is a so-called "second label," a budget-minded line of wines from Byron, one of California's pinot pioneers. To keep the price accessible, Byron sources the fruit from local growers rather than from Byron's famed estate terroirs. They also use only 5 percent new French oak barrels during maturation, as compared to 35 percent for its top-tier cuvées. The result is a playful summer-weight pinot noir, with fresh-picked strawberry and raspberry flavors and an undercurrent of outdoorsy earthiness.

Nielson Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, Calif., $14.99 (regularly $18.99, sale price through July 30)  PLCB Item #3520.