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Pinots of Distinction

2008 Bjørnstad Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 194 cases, $40. Released 11/10. · Moderate reddish-purple color with slight haze (unfiltered) in the glass. Earthy black stone fruit and berry aromas and flavors predominate with an exotic bent. Well-mannered sinewy tannins beautifully frame the fruit and the whole package is seamless. This wine has that rugged, musky, wild appeal common to true Sonoma Coast bottlings and is a joy to drink. Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir typically takes a few years to reach its full expression and this wine should follow that theme although it is hard to resist now. Source: mailing list, website.

2008 Bjørnstad Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 175 cases, $40. Released 10/10. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Brooding nose offering shy aromas of blackberries and cassis with a touch of toasty oak. Another beautifully crafted wine with a luscious core of berry flavors, well-integrated oak, supple tannins, satiny mouth feel and a hint of savory herbs on the silky finish. Mountain Pinots can sometimes be daunting, but this one is unplugged and very charming. I suspect cellaring will bring the nose to life. Very good. Source: mailing list and website.

2009 Cartha Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $26. · Deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely scented with aromas of dark stone fruits and ollaliberries, spice and a complimentary touch of oak. Richly endowed with a striking dark fruit core accented with flavors of anise, tea and smoky oak all robed in modest tannins. The fruit really attracts your attention and the smooth mouth feel is very seductive. Very good (+).

2008 Dept C Vista Verde Vineyard San Benito County Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.55, $40. This producer crafts small lots of Pinot Noir from family farmed vineyards. Pommard clone from a vineyard block planted in 1988. 10% whole cluster. Aged in 20% new oak. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Brooding nose with demure scent of black cherry and oak. Nicely flavored with discreetly concentrated black cherry and raspberry essence supported by restrained oak. Supple tannins with a dry finish. Source: website. Good.

2009 Dept C Paraiso Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.59, $35. Clone 777, de-stemmed. Aged in second year and neutral oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red cherries and berries with a hint of toasty oak, fading in the glass over time. A delicate wine with demure flavors of cherries and strawberries and subtle oak. Decent.

2009 En Route Les Pommiers Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $60. From the partners of Far Niente. A blend of grapes from Graton Vineyard, Amber Ridge Vineyard and Manzana Vineyard and includes Pommard 5 clone, a variety of Dijon clones, and heritage selections. Andrew Delos is the winemaker. Aged 11 months in 50% new, 35% once-used and 15% twice-used French oak barrels. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Lovely array of aromas including Bing cherries, strawberry shortcake, sandalwood and vanillin. Medium weighted flavors of fresh redder cherries and berries with supportive oak in the background carrying through to the finish. A seamless and elegant wine with supple tannins and easy approachability although further cellaring will allow for better integration of the oak. Source: mailing list and retail. Very good.

2007 Eric Kent Freestone Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc.. · Moderate reddish-purple color in glass. The nose offers considerable pleasure as it emerges over time in the glass showing bright aromas of dark red stone fruits and striking spice box perfume. Very soft and smooth in the mouth with moderately intense flavors of redder fruits, offering a pleasing elegance and balanced tannins. Some aromatic persistence on the finish adds to the pleasure. Source: sold out. Very good (+).

2009 Eric Kent Small Town Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.62, 288 cases, $45. From 65% Freestone Vineyard and 35% Roberts Road Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Label photograph from Rofe Horn. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy but very pleasant perfume of dark red berries, black cherries, Asian spice and cola, becoming more expressive in the glass over time. Vigorous with dark red fruit flavor, complimented by notes of sassafras and spice including clove. Possessing plenty of character with svelte tannins and welcoming acidity on the generous finish. Really spectacular two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Best Pinot ever from Eric Kent. Source: mailing list and retail.

2008 Esterlina Cole Ranch Reserve Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pre-release. From California’s smallest appellation (253 acres) owned by the Sterling Family, proprietors of Esterlina. The appellation is located west of Ukian on Highway 253 within the Mendocino appellation. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Terrific aromas of spicy black cherry, black raspberry and rose petal. Beautiful dark berry fruit accented by notes of earth, cola and oak. Plenty of fine-grain tannins nicely support the hearty fruit core. Picks up intensity over time in the glass. A very classy wine that should improve in the cellar. Source: website. Very good.

2009 Esterlina Cole Ranch Reserve Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., prerelease. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. The aromatic profile is similar to the 2008 vintage of this wine but more reserved. Aromas of spiced black cherries and blackberries. Lovely mid palate array of fruit including black cherries and black raspberries with hints of spice and vanilla. Silky and crisp with restrained tannins and a welcoming acid lift on the fruit-filled finish. I kept coming back to this wine. Still a youngster, but already spectacular. Source: website and wine club.

2009 Fulcrum Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 154 cases, $54. Release June 16, 2011. Aged 15 months in 33% new French oak barrels and 6 months in bottle. · Moderate ruby color in the glass. This wine aims to please with aromas of dark cherries and berries, anise, and spice and similar flavors with an earthy, savory undertone. Medium weighted and moderately dense with a well-honed tannic backbone and a seductive silkiness. Much better with brighter fruit flavors the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Decant if you open now, but patience will bring more rewards. Source: mailing list and website. Very good (+).

2008 Ghostwriter Aptos Creek Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $40. · Moderately dark purple color in the glass. Perfume of plum pudding, cardamon and oak spice. Riper, sappy fruit flavors of black plums, plum sauce and blackberries in a medium to full-bodied style. Admirable finesse and smoothness on the palate with moderate tannins, complimentary oak and some persistence on the finish. Source: website and retail. Good (+).

2009 Gracianna Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 290 cases, $48. Released May 2011. From the Amador Family who have been ranching in Sonoma County for generations. Young Trini Amador, IV, began making wine at age 15 in his family garage, and went on to earn a degree in enology and viticulture. Winemaking was traditional with aging in French oak barrels for 11 months. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of red cherries and strawberries backed by complimentary oak. A lighter, elegant offering centered on cherry flavor with accents of cola, sassafras, vanilla, spice and herbs. Picks up interest over time in the glass becoming more vivid and praiseworthy. Gentle and easy to drink. Source: website. Very good.

2009 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.57, 1,113 cases, $35. Pommard 4 and Clone 777, with small amounts of 115 and 667. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, inoculated primary and secondary fermentations, aged 8 months in 60% new and 40% third fill French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Fruit-forward nose with bright aromas of black cherries, plum reduction sauce, spice and vanillin. Well-endowed with generous sweet black stone and blackberry fruit with a prominent accent of oak and a hint of brewed tea. The mouth feel is velvety and the tannins are supple. Finishes with a little alcoholic heat. Will benefit from another year in the bottle to further integrate the oak. Source: websites, tasting rooms, retail. Good.

2008 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.62, 729 cases, $60. Composed of 14 clones including old Swan vines. De-stemmed, 7-10 day cold soak, native yeast fermentations, total skin contact 14-18 days, basket pressed, aging on light to full lees for 15 months in 55% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. Winemakers Hugh Chapelle and Bibiana Gonzalez Rave; consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is very seductive with a perfume of fresh cherries and berries, spice and graham. Delicious essence of black cherry tart with hints of cola and Dr. Pepper and noticeable oak presence. Smooth on the palate with polished tannins and a lingering finish. A bold wine that is drinking beautifully now, but will last 7-10 years with proper cellaring. Source: tasting room, website, some retail. Very good.

2009 Nuggucciet Cellars Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.68. 38 cases, $25. Inaugural release from Russ and Nancy Briley. Sourced from Riverbench Vineyard. Martini clone. Name is pronounced “New ga shay,” and is a combination of the owners’ two dogs’ names: Nugget and Gucci. Vinified with consultant Mike Brown of Cantara Cellars at RNB Wineworks in Camarillo, CA. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of strawberries and rose garden. An elegant and easy drinking wine offering demure flavors of red berries and cherries with a hint of spice and sandalwood. Soft on the palate with supple but noticeable tannins, offering commendable balance. Unusually light and red fruited (not in a negative sense) for a Martini clone Pinot Noir. Source: website. Good (+).

2009 Patianna Organic Vineyards Mendocino Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $19.99, screw cap. Made from organic grapes grown in certified organic vineyards. Proprietor is Patti Ann Fetzer, the first woman in the Fetzer clan to launch her own label. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Initially the nose offers bright aromas of dark berries and black cherries with a touch of oak, fading a bit over time in the glass. Fairly intense flavors of very ripe black cherries and berries with an underpinning of oak and herbs adding a savory note. The fruit is framed by well-mannered dry tannins and supported by a solid acid backbone. Impressive persistence on the slippery finish. Source: website, retail. Good.

2009 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $42. Released September 2010. Sourced from Gap’s Crown Vineyard (Petaluma Gap) as well as fruit from growers including the Dutton Brothers, William Hill, the Martinelli family, Charlie Chenoweth and Steve Hill. Wild and cultured fermentation. Aged in 40% new Burgundian French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright aromas of black fruits including plum with complimentary oak spice. Moderately intense and tasty array of black fruits, caressed by mild grippy tannins, exhibiting a vibrancy on the generous finish. A smooth, almost milky, texture is pleasing. Seamless and well-crafted. Year in and year out (since the first Sonoma Coast release in 1995) this is a dependable Sonoma Coast bottling that is favored by sommeliers. Source: website and retail. Very good.

2007 Scherrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $32. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely appointed nose with aromas of black cherries, dried rose petals, frambiose and Moroccan spices. The aromas are strikingly fruity and become more spiced over time in the glass. Rich core of black cherries, dark strawberries, black raspberries, with baking spice and herbs in the background, framed by supple tannins. The flamboyant finish clings to the palate. A voluptuous wine from a superb vintage that has staying power in the glass and is hard to resist. Source: website, mailing list, retail. Very good.

2008 Schug Carneros Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $24. · Moderately light ruby color in the glass. The nose is dominated by aromas of oak, smoke and herbs with cherries and berries in the background. A darker fruited wine that is more savory than fruity with prominent smoky oak initially. Much better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle showing more vibrant fruit and less oak. Very “Burgundian” in style. A silky texture makes for easy drinking and the bright acidity lifts the finish. Good.

2009 Valerie’s Vineyard One Acre Carneros Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 75 cases, $40. From a small vineyard in the southern Sonoma Valley farmed by three families. Produced and bottled at B.R. Cohn Winery. Aged 18 months in new and twice-used French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Lovely aromas of ripe cherries, red plums and Provencal herbs. Moderately light in weight with “crunchy” red cherry and red raspberry flavors and a sidecar of savory herbs, cola, raisin and vanillin. Picks up character and intensity in the glass over time but veers a little to the raisiny, porto side. Admirable finesse and a zippy lift of acid on the refreshing finish. A lighter weighted, redder-fruited vintage for this vineyard. Source: website and Hi-Time Cellars in Costa Mesa, CA. Good.

2009 Waxwing Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 82 cases, $30. Released April 2011. A blend of two Sonoma Coast vineyards: Toboni and Flocchini. Clones are Pommard, 115 and Swan. Aged 14 months in once-used French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely composed array of aromas including black cherries, baking spices and sandalwood. Mouth watering cherry and raspberry fruits accented with the slightest oak spice and vanillin finishing bright and crisp with a mineral note. Elegant with silky fine-grain tannins. This is a very easy drinking, food-friendly wine that I could drink all night long. Best yet from owner and proprietor Scott Sisemore who is shifting his focus from Russian River Valley to Sonoma Coast fruit. Source: website.

2009 Windsor Sonoma Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 496 cases, $30. · Medium garnet color in the glass. Lovely and complex nose offering bright scents of black cherries, black raspberries, spice, pine and sandalwood. A blast of cherries saturates the mid palate maintaining an impressive intensity on the long finish. A touch of cola, pine, oak and roasted nut flavors add interest. Moderate intensity with fine dry tannins. Plenty of Pinot pleasure at the right price. Source: website and retail. Very good.

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