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2013 California Pinot Noir First Team All-Americans

2011 Bluxome Street Winery Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 175 cases, $45. Produced by a popular urban winery on Bluxome Street in San Francisco’s SOMA district. The winemaker is Webster Marquez. Medium garnet color in the glass. The nose is really enticing, offering scents of brier, red cherry and violets, but the flavors are remarkable. Red and black cherries, red plums, brewed tea and spice coat the mouth and finish with a peacock tail of glorious note. The finish lasts at least a minute, returning several times for an encore. In addition, the wine is seductively soft and smooth on the palate with a good cut of underlying mineral-driven acidity. The whole package.

2011 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.55, 300 cases, $55. I have been a long time fan of the Castalia Pinot Noirs produced from Rochioli Vineyard fruit by winemaker Terry Bering, the cellarmaster at Rochioli. This wine is 50% Rochioli Riverblock fruit and 50% from a 20-year-old block of Rochioli West Block selection planted in another vineyard on Westside Road incorporated into J. Rochioli Russian River Valley Estate wine. Aged 15 months in 20% new French oak barrels. The Castalia wines typically need time to evolve and I found this wine proved that dictum. I first tasted the wine last February and thought it was very good but not extraordinary then. My recent tasting in October 2013 found the wine had blossomed into something very special. Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring aromas of Bing cherries, strawberries, spice and musk literally jump out of the glass over time. The flavor of cherry syrup caresses the palate complimented by notes of spice and vanilla. The classy, lush fruit is perfectly buffered by ripe tannins and brought to life by bright acidity. The lengthy finish is simply gorgeous. Quintessential Russian River Valley richness, yet sleek, balanced and refined.

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-yearold 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.

2012 Dutton-Goldfield Fox Den Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 383 cases, pH 3.56, TA 0.62, 383 cases, $58. This 8-acre vineyard is located at the far western edge of the Green Valley on Stoetz Ridge. Low vigor soil and tiny crop. Clones are 667, lesser amounts of 777 and a touch of 115. Aged 17 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Medium garnet color in the glass. Terrific nose that draws you into the glass with bright aromas of wild berries, black cherries, tea leaf and spice. Super delicious and captivating, with layers of enticing flavors including black cherry, black raspberry, plum reduction sauce, vanilla and spice. The depth of flavor really sets this wine apart. The oak is complimentary, the mouth feel is creamy, and the lengthy finish offers a refreshing grip. A scintillating wine.

2010 Hanzell Sessions Vineyard Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.59, 99 cases, $95. Harvest began September 14, a full three weeks later than usual. Coastal fog led to a leisure harvest and picking concluding four days later. Dijon 667 and 777 clones and Swan selection planted on 3309 rootstock were chosen for the fruit qualities that distinguish the Sessions Vineyard. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 18 months in 75% new French oak barrels.Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. High-spirited aromatics of black cherries, black raspberries, cedary oak and spice lead to a mouth coating palate featuring dense flavors of black cherry infused cola, dark plum and exotic spice. The fruit is perfectly ripe and flat-out delicious, making a statement on entry and an impression on the finish which is of uncommon length. The wine is structured but not hard, and the acidity is beautifully integrated. A very special wine that stands out even at this young age. Even better on the nose and palate the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, indicating it will benefit from further cellaring. One of the best Pinots California has to offer in this vintage.

2010 Joseph Phelps Pastorale Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.60, 550 cases, $75. This 34.5-acre vineyard surrounds the Freestone winery facility and is 8 miles from the Pacific coast. Aged in 70% new and 30% two and three-year-old French oak barrels. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of dark cherries and blackberries with subtle spice and oak highlights. Impressive concentration without weight, offering earthbound flavors of dark red and black fruits including purple grapes with a hint of spice and tobacco-laced oak. Impeccable balance and a finish that hangs on tenaciously. The next day when sampled from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine had blossomed further, becoming an “Oh my God” wine.

2010 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $70. A special vineyard with a strong maritime-influenced terroir located near the town of Occidental across the street from Summa Vineyard. Touched daily by morning fog and light wind, the soils are ocean floor-derived sandy loam. Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine has one of those noses that brings you to your knees. Profuse aromas of perfectly ripe cherries and berries with an exotic spice and floral accent. Delicious middleweight flavors of cherry pie glaze, dark red berry jam, cola, spice and complimentary oak, finishing with impressive power and persistence. A very polished wine with everything in balance. Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Thieriot Vineyard Pinot Noir is what first hooked me on Littorai years ago, and I relish the addiction. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

2009 Morning Dew Ranch Jan’s Cuvée Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $75. Sourced from Burt Williams’ estate vineyard planted to cuttings from the Rochioli Vineyard, DRC suitcase selections, clone 23 and Dijon clones 115, 777 and “828.” Modest whole cluster, aged in new and used Francois Fréres French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. Last Pinot Noir crafted by Burt Williams. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring aromas of black cherries, spice, white pepper and sweet pipe smoke. Waves and waves of savory fruit, offering tantalizing flavors of brandied black cherries, black raspberries, anise and tar. Very polished with balanced tannins and well-honed acidity. The unbelievably long finish lasts over a minute and I am not exaggerating. The more you taste, the more you like this special wine. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Williams Selyem Pinot Noir of the early 1990s De Ja Vu. Burt is a modest soul, but calls this, “A wine apart.”

2011 Siduri Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 235 cases, $48. Adjacent Garys’ Vineyard but rows are oriented differently so the winds pass through the vineyard more evenly and because it is more fertile, the vines are planted closer together. Fourth leaf. Pisoni selection and Dijon 667. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark currants, ripe plum and brandied raisins. Delicious and harmonious, with gorgeous flavors of black plum and blackberries with a note of spice and citrus in the background. The fruit really sparkles in this wine and lasts and lasts on the finish that offers a teasing hint of spice and mocha. Spectacular the following day from a previously opened and closed bottle showing an Elvis on velvet mouth feel. A complete wine that is very refined and sophisticated and clearly the jewel of this vintage for Siduri.

2011 Soliste L’Ambroisie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., 29 cases, $100. 100% clone ”828” from Guidicci Vineyard (MonoClone®). One site, one clone, one cooperage. Rigorous cluster selection, very low yields, 30% whole cluster, aged 16 months in 20% new French oak barrels. Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. This is a wine that benefits greatly from decanting now. Wonderful aromas of black cherries, forest floor and spice. Layered flavors of black cherries, plums and black raspberries with an earthy, savory and spicy undertone. A touch of smoky, vanillin oak adds interest. Surprisingly concentrated and robust at such a low alcohol percentage. Supple tannins make for a seductively silky mouth feel and bright acidity leaves the finish clean and vivid. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and still pumping out pleasure two days later. Tremendous aging potential. A kick-ass California Pinot that is powerfully flavored, yet elegant.

2011 Thomas Fogarty Rapley Trail Vineyard Henry Ayrton’s Block Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.62, 50 cases, $80. 6-acre vineyard planted in 1981. Henry Ayrton’s Block was formerly known as the B Block. Martini clone planted in well-drained, very shallow fractured shale soil. 30% whole cluster, spontaneous fermentation. Aged 18 months in once filled 3-year-old air-dried, tight-grained French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is reserved, offering delicate aromas of spiced berries. Delicious entry and exit featuring middleweight array of blue and black berries with a welcome accent of oak in the background. Impressive weight and persistence. Not fully giving yet and definitely needs time in the cellar. The fruit really opened up and sang the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and was the best wine of the three terrific wines from the 2011 Rapley Trail stable.

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