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2013 California Pinot Noir Second Team All-Americans

2010 Donum Estate 10th Anniversary Black Label Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 100 cases, $120. A best barrel blend from Donum Ranch crus. Aged in 25% new French oak barrels. Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of fresh black cherries, strawberries, spice and complimentary oak vanillin. A little richer and more structured than the 2010 Estate Gold Label bottling. The wine offers layers of flavor including very ripe black cherry, black currant, dark chocolate, grilled meat, and tantalizing oak. Much better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle showing better integration of oak, effusive aromas that jumped out of the glass, and a finish to die for. Exceptional.

2009 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 287 cases, $55. 40th anniversary of Joseph Swan Vineyards and the 30th anniversary of Rod Berglund’s first year of making wine. Aged in 66% new French oak. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The most expressive nose in the lineup showing vibrant aromas of black cherries, dark plums, mushroom, cardamom spice and a hint of vanilla. Delicious earth-kissed core of dark cherries, raspberries and plums. Rich and full-bodied, with balanced tannins and acidity making the wine quite approachable now. Great the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Could drink now because the tannins are not aggressive, but best to hold for at least another five years.

2011 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.59, 211 cases, $78. Vineyard is located in the Sebastopol Hills, an area featuring morning and evening fog, breezy afternoons, and bright, mild afternoon sun. Cooler temperatures lead to a longer hang time and this vineyard is usually the last to be harvested. Clones 115, 667 and Pommard. Yields 2.1 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Tighten your seat belt when you open this one. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. With a nose you could drink, and a core of liquid magic that you can drink, this is one great wine. Aromas of dark red berries sprinkled with vanilla cream lead to sumptuous flavors of black cherries, blue and dark red berries, spice and dark chocolate. Power without weight, juicy without being cloying, this beautifully balanced wine is soft in the mouth and finishes with length and opulence. The pick of the litter.

2011 Lucienne Smith Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.66, 438 cases, $50. Released June 2013. One of the first vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands and one of the original vineyards of Hahn Estate. It is the southernmost of the vineyards of Lucienne and located at the highest elevation, with the least influence from marine fog. Clones are Mt. Eden, Jardini, Pommard 5 and 2A. 100% de-stemmed, 3-day cold soak, proprietary yeast, aged 13 months in 42% new and 58% neutral French oak barrels. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of fresh black cherries, dark red berries, cardamom spice and a hint of toasty oak. Discreetly concentrated flavors of dark cherries and berries with a complimentary riff of spice and oak. Outstanding harmony, very smooth and sensual, with an appealing cherry tang on the juicy and lengthy finish. The wine continues to pick up charm over time in the glass. Very easy to drink now, but should get even better with another year in bottle. Very impressive, even extraordinary.

2011 Masút Estate Vineyard Block 1 Mendocino County Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 115 cases, $55. From a 1.86-acre block of 1690 vines of clone 115 planted in 1997 on 104-14 rootstock. Aged 11 months in 100% new Cadus French oak. Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of earthy dark red fruits with a touch of red rose floral scent in the background. Impressive attack of mouth coating, silky and well-spiced cherry fruit complimented by perfect oak integration and supple tannins. A dreamy wine of great flavor that displays impeccable balance. Clone 115 is one of the few Dijon clones that can make a great stand-alone wine.

2010 Rocking K Vineyard Single Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 128 cases, $55. Pommard clone. 100% de-stemmed and aged in 33% new French oak. Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of fresh Bing cherries, ripe strawberries and cardamom spice which maintain over time. Delicious middleweight core of dark cherry flavor with accents of cola, anise and spice. Enticing finesse and supple, well-balanced tannins. Ready to drink now but the balance will keep this wine fresh for years. Like cherry pie day at cooking school: cherries, baking spices and very interesting results. Will work beautifully at the table, complementing rather than fighting with food.

2010 Salamandre Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., $36. Sourced from Meadowridge Vineyard in Corralitos blended with a small amount of 2010 Pinot Noir from another Santa Cruz Mountain vineyard. Dijon clones. Harvested before early autumn rains. Flavor ripeness was achieved at modest sugar levels. Extended barrel time. Moderately deep purple color in the glass. Lovely perfume of dark berries, fresh picked plums and spice. The aromas are captivating. My notes say WOW on entry. Really delicious, moderately intense flavors of dark berries, black cherries and plum with a hint of spice. The fruit reaches every nook and cranny in the mouth, expanding to finish with unbelievable length and aromatic focus. A complete, harmonious wine of exceptional quality from a little known but experienced garagiste producer in Aptos.

2011 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyard San Louis Obispo County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 143 cases, $40. This 12-acre vineyard is south of Laetitia Winery on the eastern side of Highway 101. Primarily 667 with a small amount of 777. 33% whole cluster. 50% inoculated and 50% native fermentation. Aged 17 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Dark purple color in the glass. Scent of loganberry jam, raw beef, and roasted plum. Deep plum flavor with a subtle sidecar of spice, dark chocolate and citrus. Very seductive velvety mouth feel with a robust, long, long finish. Beautiful integration of oak. This wine can be a ball buster, but it is a chiseled ballerina in this vintage that is oozing charm. Always a terroir-driven wine of distinction, but more giving in this vintage.

2011 Sojourn Cellars Ridgetop Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.55, 275 cases, $59. Release fall 2013. This vineyard is owned and managed by Thomas Rivers Brown and Fred Schrader and farmed by Ulises Valdez. Located in the remote coastal mountains near Annapolis, it is surrounded by redwoods at 1100 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Yields are minuscule with concentrated flavors. Clones 115, 667 and 777. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. The perfume draws you into the glass with aromas of darker plum and berry with notes of balsam and salt air. Delicious middleweight core of vibrant plum, black cherry, berry and cola flavors clothed in soft, lacy tannins, finishing with a lingering memory of cherry liquor. Very smooth in the mouth and discreetly sappy, this wine displays impeccable balance. Memorable.

2011 Twomey Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.56, $46 (Magnums too, $90). Released April 27, 2013. Sourced from the estate Monument Tree Vineyard and Ferrington Vineyard. Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Glorious aromas of fresh black raspberry jam, potpourri and spice. I just love that smell. Really delicious marriage of dark berries and cherries with a subtle mocha note. The ripe fruit really pops, reaching every corner of the mouth, and finishing strong and satisfying. There is an appealing tension and focus to this wine and the satiny texture is captivating. An incredible effort in a difficult vintage and my kudos to winemaker Ben Cane. Still great the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle when my family polished it off.

2010 Williams Selyem Burt Williams’ Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.66, $75. Released Fall 2012. 13 acres of Pinot Noir planted in 2000 by iconic Russian River Valley winemaker Burt Williams. Aged 17 months in 59% new and 41% 1-year-old French oak barrels. Moderately light in color with a reddish tinge. Generous aromas of dark red fruits, bark and maple syrup. Light and elegant in style, but not wimpy in pleasure, infused with rocket-powered flavors of red cherries and berries, blueberries, and tantalizing baking spices. The fruit is invigorated by lively acidity, framed by fine-grain tannins and full of vibrancy on the refreshing finish. I can’t say enough good things about this gorgeous wine.

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