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Small Sips of More California Pinot

2008 Forestville California Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., $3.99 (with a cork and capsule!). Sourced from Northern California vineyards. The first finished 2008 Pinot Noir I have sampled from bottle. Can it be done for $3.99? No way. · Very funky nose highly reduced with aromas of burnt match and burnt banana obscuring all fruit. Cherry and strawberry fruits on the palate that have a roasted or burnt quality. Soft and smooth, moderate tannins and a hint of citrus on the finish. About what you can expect at this price.

2007 D&L Carinalli Vineyards Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $16. Domenico Jr. and spouse Linda nurture the vineyard. Aged in French and American oak barrels. · Light garnet color. A simple, clean and delicate wine showing mainly strawberry aromas and flavors. Soft in the mouth and easy to drink. A good value wine to pair with simply prepared salmon or chicken.

2007 DeLoach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $18.50. · The nose exhibits aromas of slightly confected black cherries with floral and herbal notes (“field nose”) and noticeable dark oak. Decent fullness on the palate with flavors of strawberries and black cherries with a tang on the mildly persistent dry finish. This will work at the table.

2007 Lucas & Lewellen Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 2,096 cases, $20. Release date is August, 2009. Sourced from the Goodchild and Los Alamos estate vineyards. Several clones. Crafted by winemaker Megan McGrath. Fermentation took place in small, 1.5-ton fermenters. Aged 9 months in neutral French oak. · Very alluring aromas of strawberry jam and subtle oak toast (strawberry jam on toast) which fade a bit over time. An elegant and feminine wine which is soft and smooth with no discernible tannins. The red berry fruit flavors are substantial and pleasing and persist on the finish which is marked by refreshingly brisk acidity. This is an excellent everyday drinker with low alcohol which will perform beautifully at the dinner table. Drink up within the first two years.

2007 Melville Estate Verna’s Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $23 (sold out). Clones 2A, 667, 777 and 828. Yields were 1.9 tons per acre. 67% of fruit was de-stemmed and 33% fermented as whole clusters. Total skin and stem contact averaged 30 days. Aged in 18% new French oak. · The nose is similar to the regular Estate bottling with bit more raspberry and strawberry fruit and more persistent barnyard. Demure sweet dark red fruits with hints of tea and minty leaves. Mild dry tannins and brisk acidity on the finish. A simple wine that you don’t need to contemplate to enjoy.

2007 The Table Once Sommelier Series Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $24. 60% Oregon grapes and 40% California grapes. Cool label. · Herbed dark red fruits on the nose with barnyard in the background. Dark red plum fruit core with some loaminess. Smooth and silky with dusty tannins. A skosh flat and dilute.

2007 Melville Estate Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.3% alc., $32. 14 Pinot Noir clones. Yields were 1.7 tons per acre. 67% of fruit was de-stemmed and 33% fermented as whole clusters. Total skin and stem contact averaged 30 days. Aged in 16% new French oak. · This wine needs some time to open up in the glass. On the nose there are primarily dark red fruits with hints of oak spice and minerals. Tasty red berry fruit accented by tea and pepper drops off on the finish. Medium weighted with mild dry tannins and a good spark of acidity. Holds its alcohol well. The flavors trump the aromas at this stage.

2007 A.P. Vin Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.2% alc., $39, screw cap. · On the nose there are aromas of black cherries, roasted nuts, toasted oak and a hint of alcohol. A plush bolt of black cherry fruit attacks the palate with some oak in the background. The tannins are powdery and the dry finish is pleasing. Pretty good but not extraordinary.

2007 Lionheart Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.61% alc., 48 cases, $40. This is a small boutique winery founded by winemaker Leon C. Glover III whose goal is crafting food-friendly wines. This wine is composed of clones 115, 667, 777 and 828. · The nose displays dusty dark fruit which is a touch candied and nicely accented by herbs. Some alcohol shows up over time in the glass. Moderately rich dark red fruits on the attack with a sidecar of savory herbs. The tannins are powdery and the finish is dry and pleasing. The wine picks up intensity in the glass and grows on you over time.

2007 Vision Cellars Coster Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc, $45, screw cap. · Rather sensual scents of red cherries, spice and cola. Very tasty cherry and cranberry fruit nicely spiced. Richly flavored but not jammy. Nicely balanced, soft ripe tannins and some persistence on the finish.

2007 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $47. This vineyard is located on west-facing slopes of Sonoma Mountain, where the winds and cool fog from the Petaluma Gap are frequently evident. The vineyard is owned and farmed by Premier Pacific Vineyards. Multiple wineries source from this large vineyard of about 140 acres planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir clones are Swan, 114, 115, 667, 777 and 828 on four different rootstocks. · Really attractive nose composed of bright black cherries, red plums and a dusting of oak. Black cherry and black raspberry fruits cascade easily through the palate complimented by a vein of citric peel and vanillin. Moderately rich with good purity of flavor and a refined mouth feel. A good effort that is very well crafted.

2006 Hangtime Force Canyon Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir

13.55 alc., $15. Named for the lengthy hang time (123 days) of the grapes in this wine. · Ripe, jammy berries with hint of new oak on the nose. Thrust of ripe fruit flavors which are slightly raisiny with a touch of tea and mocha dust. Fruity and flavorful, lightly weighted but satisfying. Balanced and clean with admirable finesse. A recession buster.

2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Estate Bottled Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $20. This well known vineyard is located at the western end of the Cambria Estate on the Santa Maria Bench 17 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Named for the owner’s youngest daughter. · Deep red color. Highly nuanced nose of cherries, strawberries, oak, cinnamon and green grass. Light strawberry and cherry flavors with a touch of savory herbs and a grassy finish. Decent acidity and very soft tannins. An easy drinker which will perform well at the dinner table.

2006 Ken Brown Duncan’s Cuvee Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $25. Sourced primarily from Rio Vista Vineyard with contributions from other local vineyards. · This wine has a strange “diaper” aroma which passes through to the flavors and ruins the experience. There is a decent dark red-fruited core which is moderately sappy. The texture is rich and velvety and the tannins are well managed.

2006 Ken Brown Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $30. Primarily sourced from the Babcock Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. · The nose is a bit reserved but pleasant showing scents of black cherries and heavy oak. A fruit-driven wine propelled by dark stone fruits and accents of root beer and toasty oak. Plenty of punch and richness that picks up intensity in the glass. Very drinkable now.

2006 Sanctuary Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 1,853 cases, $30. Crafted by Fetzer winemaker Dennis Martin who has worked with the Miller family, owners of Bien Nacido Vineyard, since 1985. This is Martin’s private label produced at Fetzer’s winery in Hopland. · Moderately light garnet color. Needs air to open. Earth kissed berries and cherries which are bright and focused augmented by hints of earth, herbs, oak and petrol. Supple tannins make for pleasant drinking. Much better when re-tasted later in the day from a previously opened bottle. I would suggest decanting if you choose to pop a cork now but patience for another year or two will be aptly rewarded.

2006 Iron Horse Vineyards Estate Green Valley Pinot Noir

14.5%, $32.50. · Strawberries, cherries and good barnyard attract you to the glass. A melange of lightly weighted red berries and cherries is complimented by flavors of mocha, oak char and mushrooms. This is a wine dominated by high-voltage acidity and marked tannins which compete with the fruit. Not particularly appealing to me, this wine may be attractive to those with a palate attracted by more austere wines over intensely fruity ones.

2006 Kendric Vineyards Marin County Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $33. Third vintage from the 8.5-acre Kendric Johnson Vineyard leased to winemaker Stewart Johnson who crafts the wine at Starry Night Winery in Novato. The clones are 115, 828, 667, 777, Pommard and a mystery clone. Kendric Vineyards was established in 2001 and produces 600 cases of Pinot Noir and Syrah. · An intriguing nose that constantly changes in the glass. Many aromas surface including red berries and cherries, root beer, wet leaves and soy. Bright cherry and cranberry fruit is offered in an elegant style with crisp acidity. Some root beer and spice flavors show up. Juicy and fresh, this is a fun drink that I admire for its finesse and its uniqueness. Check out Marin County - the wines will surprise you.

2006 Paul Mathew Vineyards TNT Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $34. Crafted by owner and winemaker Mat Gustafson. Wild yeast and MLF bacteria. · Ripe aromas and flavors of black cherries and dark red berries, herbed meats and black currants. Tasty with a good acid grip and admirable balance. Would enjoy this wine more if the fruit didn’t veer to far to the ultra ripe side.

2006 Morgan Hat Trick Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $45. · Fresh and breezy aromas of plums, grapes and flowers. Darker fruited and medium-weighted with a hint of raisin and a touch of citrus and oak on the finish. Nicely balanced but the fruit doesn’t have much life in the mouth.

2006 Sand Hill Wines Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $47. Durell Vineyard is a long time acclaimed producer of Chardonnay for Kistler Vineyards. Durell Vineyard II climate. The vineyard manager is Steve Hill and the winemaker is Don Van Staaveren. 100% de-stemmed, 80% whole berry fermentation, 5 day cold soak, manual punch downs, basket-pressed and gravity-fed into tight grain, medium-plus toast French oak barrels. Aged 14-16 months in barrel and 10-12 months in bottle. · Intense aromas of black cherries, savory herbs and oak. Well-oaked light cherry fruit on the palate with a vegetal edge. Smoothly textured with supple tannins. Tasted twice on different occasions.

2006 Pessagno Four Boys Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 208 cases, $50. · Dark reddish-violet color. On the nose the fruit has a cooked profile with notes of raisin, coffee and dark chocolate. Overripe flavors of raisins, even porto, with a sour cherry edge and notable dry tannins. Not for me.

2006 Bohème Stuller Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 120 cases, $53. This vineyard is located on a ridge top 6.4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Aged 17 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Raspberry, blackberry and current aromas with slightly roasted flavors. Not as over ripe as the Taylor Ridge bottling but still a little raisiny. Huge, succulent core of dark fruits with plenty of tannins. Not a wine for sissies. Tried it with dinner and it was too hot (alcoholic) to compliment the fare. This is a sipping wine, not a table wine.

2006 Bohème Taylor Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 190 cases, $53. This vineyard is located on a bluff 5.3 miles from the Pacific Ocean at 715 feet above sea level. There is notable fog influence in late summer. This wine is sourced from a 2.7-acre plot planted to the Swan selection. Yields were 1.35 tons per acre. Kurt Beitler is the grower and winemaker. · Fragrant super ripe fruit smelling of raisins, soy and roasted nuts. The fruit was picked at an advanced stage of phenolic ripeness and the plush dark fruit tastes of raisins. Good mix of t n’ a. Well-crafted, but disappoints. Only in California!

2006 Evening Land Vineyards The Occidental Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 120 cases, $150. 3.51 acres, 15 year-old vines, yield 1.28 tons per acre of Calera clone. This wine is crafted by Sashi Moorman in Lompoc. · Very dark reddish-purple color. A shy and brooding nose which starts out with woodsy and barnyard aromas but evolves nicely revealing bright fresh berries, violets and a hint of tobacco. Rich, plush and multilayered on the palate featuring dark stone fruits and flavors of fig and cola framed by a lively edge of acidity. The texture is pillowy and the finish, which has a citrus peel note, lasts and lasts. There still are substantial tannins to shed. Decant if you drink now and pair up with substantial food. This wine will cellar very well.

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