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2012 California Pinot Noir All-Americans First Team

2009 Alysian Floodgate Vineyard Rock Hill Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.40,TA 0.71, 159 cases, $55. From an estate property in a sub appellation of the Russian River Valley known as the Middle Reach. Rock Hill is a tiny block planted on one of the rockiest knolls on the property. Dijon clone 777. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is a fruit wonderland. Intense fragrance of spiced Bing cherries, raspberries and plums. Richly flavored but light on its feet, with alluring flavors of black cherries, black raspberries, herbs and spice. So good you want to bite into it. Refreshing acid spine, gossamer tannins and a memorable finish of uncommon length. Crazy good.

2010 Drew Morning Dew Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.66, 165 cases, $47. Second release from this vineyard. Owner is Burt Williams of Williams Selyem fame. Includes Rochioli selection, a suitcase DRC selection and clone 828. 50% whole cluster fermentation. 50% native fermentation. Aged 11 months in 30% new and 70% seasoned French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Reserve but pleasing aromas of fresh dark cherries and Pinot Noir must with exotic spice highlights. Delicious core of dark cherries and raspberries with a subtle floral note and complimentary oak features. Very complex, offering different flavor angles with each sip. Lighter weighted and elegant and soft in the mouth with mild tannins and a good cut of acidity on the finish. A world apart.

2009 Donum Estate Grown West Slope Carneros Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.64, 250 cases, $85. From a west-sloping block in the 5.5-acre site at Donum Ranch. Roederer selection. A barrel selection from this single block as a stand-alone wine. 100% de-stemmed, 6-day cold soak, inoculated with RC212, four punch downs per day, extended maceration (total maceration time was three weeks. Aged 16 months in 70% new French oak barrels. Best barrels selected and blended in the summer of 2009. Aged in 70% new French oak (Francois Frerès, Billon and Ermitage). · Dark reddish-purple robe. Intriguing aromas of dark cherries and berries, compost, soil, hops and rose petals. Wow! Hits the mid palate with strikingly plush, spicy dark red and black fruits buffered with ideal oak integration and perfectly balanced tannins and acidity. Ridiculously long and memorable finish. Offers something different with each sip. Like Drew Barrymore - very successful at a young age (much more approachable than previous vintage). Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. An amazing wine that is California Pinot at its best and flat out one of the finest Pinots (along with the Donum Thomas) I have reviewed so far this year. Wine Spectator trumpets “94,” I claim “98.” Did I say long finish?

2010 Kosta Browne 4-Barrel California Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 351 cases, $78. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Demure, pretty aromas of exotic berries with a complimentary hint of vanilla and spice. Exceptional fruit flavor and the most polished wine in the KB lineup. An ephemeral blend of black raspberry and boysenberry flavors with an underpinning of nutmeg spice. Great purity of fruit. Supple tannins, a beguiling satiny texture and endless length on the finish. Not the biggest wine, but a complete and sophisticated wine. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Consider yourself very lucky if you are able to snag a bottle or two of this gem.

2011 Kutch McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 345 cases, $55. Release August 2013. 7-day cold soak, native fermentations, 50% de-stemmed and 50% whole cluster, all fruit crushed and punched down by foot, aged sur lie for 10 months without racking in 50% new and 50% used French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Striking nose offering extroverted scents of black cherries, spice, briar and rose petal. Mouth watering flavors of ripe black cherries and dark red berry jam, with a joyful hint of spice. Very soft and smooth, almost ephemeral, but with eye-opening fruit intensity. There is an extra depth of flavor on the finish that keeps rolling along just when you think it must be finally done. I was really taken by this wine, and as I sat in my chair, I kept looking at the glass and shaking my head in wonderment. Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Similar in some ways to the great 2009 vintage of this wine, but more approachable and elegant in style.

2009 Maggy Hawk Unforgettable Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.51, 235 cases, $66. From 2.64-acre Block 5, clone 667. Aged 15 months in 35% new French oak barrels. · Very interesting woodsy nose offering aromas of black cherries, spice and mushrooms on the grill. Delicious core of fresh black raspberry and blackberry fruit, nicely spiced. A veritable iron fist in a velvet glove wine with rich, strikingly intense flavor, countered with seductive elegance and silkiness. Flat-out great the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. The name of this wine is very appropriate.

2010 Paul Lato “Suerte” Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 150 cases, $70. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is brooding initially, opening over time to reveal very appealing aromas of spiced berry cake, forest floor and cedary oak. Moderately rich core of dark cherry, berry and plum flavors with a hint of oak vanillin. Think sweet blackberries with fresh cream. Gathers intensity and interest over time in the glass, reaching a state of flamboyance that is striking. Seamless, with well-managed fine grain tannins and integrated acidity. Finishes long and scented. Tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was even better, continuing to pump out the pleasure at a welcome pace. My favorite by a hair among the six stunning 2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir wines tasted.

2007 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Swan Terrace Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $59. From a 1.5-acre section of Alpine Vineyard planted to a Swan field blend. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Another aromatic wonderland with scents of berry jam, spice, and an exotic floral note. Better and better over time in the glass. Would love to make a perfume like this. Amazingly fresh flavors of alpine strawberries with an interesting candied and edible flower note. I have never tasted anything quite like this in a California Pinot Noir. The wine displays healthy tannins, but they are better integrated in this wine and nicely balanced by the lively acidity. Filled with verve and intrigue, this is a wine to savor. Flat-out great the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.

2010 Twomey Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.61, 1,853 cases, $46. Sourced from Ferrington, Savoy and Monument Tree vineyards. Aged 15 months sur lies in 45% new and 55% once-used French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Muted, but pleasing aromas of fresh strawberries, raspberries, dried rose petals and sandalwood. Delicious core of raspberry flavor elevated by brisk acidity, draped in well-proportioned tannins, underlain with a complimentary note of oak and savory herbs, and finishing with a vivid riff of cherry fruit which lingers for a remarkably long time. A seamless wine that is uncommonly refreshing. Tasted against several very good Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs, this was the clear standout. Re-tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine had become more aromatic and generous in flavor. Irresistible.

2009 WesMar Balletto Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 195 cases, $40. Pommard clone. Eighth vintage from this vineyard. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Beguiling aromas of spiced cherries and berries with an exotic floral and musk element. Veers to the darker fruit side and clearly the most intensely flavored wine in the lineup. Long in the mouth, endowed with plush black cherry and fresh plum flavors, and an underpinning of cola and spice. Very impressive persistence on the flamboyant peacock finish. Even better later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and still better two days later. The Williams Selyem legacy lives on in this wine.

2008 Windy Oaks Estate Special Burgundy Clone Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $75. Very limited. From a special half-acre section of the vineyard that is carefully hand-tended exclusively by Jim Schultze. The clone is a rarely propagated French Pinot Noir clone not available in the United States. Aged 27 months in 100% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A very polished and sophisticated offering that reminds me of a Frédéric Mugnier wine from Chambolle-Musigny. Deep cherry and spice aromas and flavors that take on an extraordinary appeal over extended time, seemingly partnering with the glass. Comforting and silky with soft tannins and beautifully integrated oak. Very food friendly (try roast chicken). My wife was impressed and that is saying something. Still great the next day when we finished the bottle. Truly in a class by itself.

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