The StoryThe Caretaker Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2017 is a $9.99 Trader Joe's exclusive produced for TJ's by the Central Coast Wine Warehouse. They are a full-service wine company that makes contract wine and brand wine, is a certified sustainable facility and own some of the finest vineyards in the Central Coast AVA. The Santa Maria Valley is the northernmost AVA in the Santa Barbara County AVA of Southern California. Santa Barbara is located about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and would have too hot a climate for growing Pinot Noir except for some luck with geography. Santa Barbara is situated on ground that juts out into the Pacific Ocean, so there is Ocean to the north and Ocean to the south. Santa Maria Valley has full access to the Pacific Ocean breezes which bring cool evenings and morning fog. Santa Barbara is also where the movie "Sideways" (which started a Pinot Noir craze) took place.The Central Coast Wine Warehouse has been making wine for TJ's for years, CWF reviewed a 2009 vintage of a Caretaker wine and I am sure they made other brands before that. The back label is exceptional for a contract wine (a contract wine is one that is produced specifically for a store or restaurant) it actually shows useable information. Clones are very important to Pinot Noir, and 9 different Pinot clones were used in the making of this wine, the growing season was long, late February to mid-October and French oak was used. Most contract wines offer no information, but here there are technical notes and tasting notes. The alcohol content is 13.9%.The Tasting NotesThe color is a see-thru garnet red. The nose is bright cherries, herbs, mushroom, pepper, and spice. This is a fruit-forward Pinot Noir with a velvety mouthfeel. It tastes of cherry (of course), a nice rough edge from herbs, a splash of black pepper, and soft exotic spice. The mid-palate adds raspberry, orange zest, and sour cranberry. The tannins are sweet and the acidity is well balanced. The finish is quite lengthy.The Summary * The Caretaker Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2017 is a solid value-priced Pinot. Remember when stores such as TJ's contracts a producer to make an exclusive wine, they have price advantages a retail wine does not have. A contract wine reduces the middle-man costs which can lower the price by several dollars. * The Caretaker is a fruit-forward Pinot, but not Meiomi fruit-forward and has a nice balance between soft smooth fruit and interesting rough edges.