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Sips of Pinot Noir Tasted Recently

2011 Byron Nielson Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $36. From Santa Barbara’s first commercial vineyard. Clones 114, 667 and Pommard. Small yields. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The aromatics are captivating with a complex array of black raspberry, blackberry, spice and floral aromas which hold up well over time in the glass. The dark red and black berry fruits are perfectly ripe and bright. There is a complimentary accent of spice and oak with an earthy undertow. This wine offers impressive clarity and tension and is very easy to drink now. I liked it increasingly over time. Score: 93

2011 CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $32. Native and select yeasts. Aged 11 months in 10% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Ripe fruit profile on the nose featuring black cherry and raspberry with a hint of spice and charred oak. Soft in the mouth and easy to drink, with a flavorful mix of black cherry and black raspberry fruit. Nicely balanced with supple tannins and a complimentary note of oak in the background. Not particularly complex, but could be a workhorse at the nightly dinner table. Score: 86

2010 Dehlinger Altamont Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 570 cases, $60. Yields on the estate’s 16 acres were very low in 2010. A combination of 20-year-old and 30-year-old vines. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of fresh crushed Bing cherries and baking spices draw you into the glass. Remarkable fullness of sappy, black cherry flavor on the middle palate with hints of cola and spice, carrying over to a generous, fruit-filled finish. Despite its concentration and structural bones, the wine is light on its feet and a delight to drink. The velvety soft texture is of the type that drives Pinot lovers mad. Beautifully composed and seamless in every way. Score: 96

2009 Fiddlehead Cellars Seven Twenty Eight Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $42. Named for mile marker 728 on Santa Rosa Road. A cuvée of grapes from multiple parts of the vineyard. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose delivers a pleasing message of fresh dark berries and spice. Very tasty essence of dark berry jam and plum reduction sauce on the palate complimented by new oak in the background. Nicely composed with balanced tannins and acidity, a seamless character, and a good finish. Ready to drink now. Score: 89

2011 La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.60, 536 cases,$ 40. Dijon 777, 114 and Swan clones grown in the Sangiacomo Vineyard located on Robert’s Road in the Petaluma Gap. Indigenous yeast, fermented in open-top, modified dairy tanks. Aged 10 months in French oak. · Medium garnet color in the glass. Deep cherry aromas with a note of savory herbs and prominent oak presence. Lovely core of dark cherry fruit with a touch of spice and plenty of oak. The wine is juicy, with soft tannins and some finishing intensity. Tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine had transformed showing more fruit expression with much better integration of oak. I would decant this wine if you plan to drink now, or preferably, cellar it for another year to allow the oak to mitigate and the appealing fruit to elevate. Score: 90

2011 Morlet Family Vineyards Coteaux Nobles Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $59. From a hillside vineyard (Coteau) on an eastern slope (Cote) on the second ridge from the Pacific Ocean (Eaux). The Nobles family have farmed this land for four generations. The name then is Nobles Hillsides or Coteaux Nobles. Luc Morlet winemaker and proprietor. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Highly aromatic, offering inspirational aromas of fresh boysenberries and seasoned oak. Reasonably concentrated and quite delicious, with virile flavors of black cherries, black cherries and boysenberries. Beautifully put together with silky tannins and a lingering finish. Highly charming on the palate now, but could use more time in bottle for the aromas to catch up to the flavors. Score: 95

2011 Shea Wine Cellars Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $37. An overall glimpse of the entire 200-acre vineyard including Pommard, Wädenswil and several Dijon clones. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Highly aromatic, picking up interest over time in the glass, offering aromas of Bing cherries, dark red cranberries and raspberries, with hints of spice, briar and oak. Delicate flavors echo the aromas. Some earthiness, but overall lacks nuance. Balanced tannins and a short, gentle finish. Pretty ordinary in this vintage. Score: 87

2010 Walter Hansel The South Slope Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $39. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Bing cherry aromas and flavors really jump out in this wine which has plenty of spice and cola to add interest. Soft in the mouth with plenty of typical rich, plush Russian River Valley fruit. Oak stays in the background and the tannins are nicely integrated. More body and spice than Tyra Banks on a Victoria’s Secret runway. Score: 92

2011 ZD Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $36. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A challenge to pull any fruit from the nose which is dominated by oak-driven tobacco aromas. Relatively full-bodied and seductively textured, with a core of sappy black fruits currently buried in oak. The tannins are well integrated and their is a flash of appealing fruit on the lasting finish. This wine needs a year or two in bottle to integrate the oak. Score: 86

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