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Small Sips of Pinot

2006 ZD Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $40. Grapes for this bottling of regular Pinot Noir came from Jim Haire’s Vineyard in Carneros (clones 115, 667, 777 and Pommard). · This beauty is a real cherry bomb. Black cherries complimented by black raspberries, vanilla wafers, and a little toast are nicely orchestrated. Supple in the mouth with plenty of finesse and a long, powerful finish.

2006 Loring Wine Company Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot

14.0% alc., 530 cases, $46, screw cap. Brian Loring’s first wine under his label from Shea Vineyard grapes (he crafted a 2005 vintage Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir for Pali). · Leads off with blackberries, pepper and oak spice in the aromatics. Darker Pinot fruits predominate, with respectable acidity, silky tannins, and a nice toasty, albeit shallow finish.

2005 Martin The Salamanaczar Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc.. A winemaker’s reserve wine from Dennis Martin who is the winemaker at Fetzer Vineyards. He also crafts small quantities of Pinot Noir under the Sanctuary label from Bien Nacido Vineyard. Fruit for this wine is 71% Solomon Hills Vineyard and 29% Bien Nacido Vineyard. · A darkly-hued, mysterious Pinot Noir that begins with a nose of dark fruit, toast, char and wet oak. Black cherry, mushroom, and cola flavors dominate. A powerful and strong-boned wine that is yet soft in the mouth.

2005 Leigh Cellars Silacci Vineyard Monterey County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $27. The label says “Produced and bottled by Arcadian,” but this is the private label of Gerry Frayer who made this wine under the tutelage of Arcadian’s Joe Davis. I believe this is Gerry’s first Pinot Noir. This is a very nicely weighted Pinot Noir whose light garnet color indicates that elegance is forthcoming. · It possesses a spice cabinet nose with a subtle hint of oak and alcohol. Juicy spiced peach and cherry flavors are followed by a citrus kick on the back end. A pretty wine that is easily approachable.

2005 Figge Cellars Paraiso Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 895 cases, $42. This wine comes from the Paraiso Vineyard located at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. Owners Rich and Claudia McFarland pioneered Monterey vineyards in the early 1970s. Son Jason now manages the 400 acres of vineyards planted primarily to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Figge accessed fruit from a block planted in 1998 to clones 115, 667 and 777. · A well-crafted middleweight style with plenty of charm. Spicy cherries, cola and a hint of fecundity in the nose. Flavors tend toward the earthy with dusted red and blue fruits and a deft touch of oak. A good acid spine backs up the pleasure.

2003 Ken Brown Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 122 cases, $45. Initially this was a very intense and heady wine resulting from scant yields (1 ton per acre) and the typically robust fruit from this vineyard. · A few years in the cellar has tamed the beast. Dark ruby in color. Complex aromatics of dark fruits, freshly baked cookies, toast and smoke. Darker Pinot fruits carry the theme to a lengthy and tangy finish. Silky in texture with gossamer tannins. An argument for aging Pinot Noir a few years before popping the cork.

2003 Littorai Thieriot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 100 cases, $60. · Appealing scents of black cherries, cinnamon, wet stone and old oak barrel. Plenty of luscious cherry and black raspberry fruit with a mineral and woodsy edge. A notable tannic backbone. Nicely composed and weighted and perfectly harmonious. An excellent wine that would charm anyone’s heart, but the 2002 version can STEAL your heart.

2002 Littorai Thieriot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 205 cases, $55. I have a few thousand bottles of Pinot Noir in my cellar (duh, what a revelation), and a Littorai wine from Ted Lemon is often my choice on special occasions. This was my Thanksgiving Day dinner wine. Ted says that the 2002 vintage was perhaps the greatest vintage at Littorai. “The Pinot grapes were as perfect as anything we have ever seen. The Pinots are a wonderful expression of perfectly ripe fruit with full but integrated tannins.” He felt the 2002 Pinot Noirs were entering adolescence and required a few more years of patience. I just couldn’t wait. · A wine that defies description. As you sip it, you just shake your head and say, “This is great.” Precise descriptors don’t do it justice. Heaven sent from start to finish with plenty of charisma that only Pinot Noir can deliver. Imagine this wine when it grows up!

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