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Tasting Sonoma County Harvest Fair Best of Class & Double Gold Pinot Noirs

The 2014 Sonoma County Harvest Professional Wine Competition was held in October. Three of the highest levels of award are of special interest. The Double Gold award reflects an unanimous decision of the judging panel. The Best of Class award is selected from all the Gold Medal award winners in every class. I was curious to taste some of the top award-winning wines. It was revealing that quality correlated very closely with price. With Pinot Noir, you get what you pay for!

Best of Class ($25-$39.99)

2012 MacMurray Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $28 ($20 at some retailers). · Moderately dark ruby hue in the glass. The rather shy and dull nose offers hints of cherry and oak. A gentle, shallow wine that is pleasant but not exciting, featuring a discreet weighted core of cherry fruit with a touch of floral and oak accents and well-endowed backing tannins. Score: 86

Double Gold

2012 D&L Carinalli Vineyards Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

15.0% alc., $25. Family owned vineyard and winery. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, strawberry, oak spice and a hint of wintergreen. A very serviceable wine with mid weight flavors of black cherry and ripe strawberry with a compliment of toasty oak in the background. The fine grain tannins are modest in proportion and the finish has a little length. Score: 87

2013 Thirty-Seven Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 420 cases, $26. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A little volatile acidity initially blows off over time. Hi flying aromas of boysenberry, black raspberry and spice. A forward drinking and expressive middleweight wine featuring a core of purple berries and spice with complimentary toasty oak in the background. Very soft on the palate with balanced tannins and some finishing verve. A flashy wine that would show well in competition. Score: 88

2012 DRNK Cavers Cuvée Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 196 cases, $32. Saralee’s, Hallberg Ranch and Sweetwater Ranch vineyards. Ryan R. Kunde is the winemaker. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Inviting aromas of cherry, raspberry and sandalwood. Easy to like with thirst-quenching flavors of cherry syrup and raspberry coulis with a hint of spice. Nicely balanced with good oak management. Score: 89

2012 Davis Bynum Winery Jane’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir $35. 2011 vintage previously reviewed in November 2013. (89)

2013 Fogline Vineyards Sun Chase Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $42 2012 vintage previously reviewed in August 2014. (92)

2013 Balletto Sexton Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.58, 608 cases, $42. Harvest Brix 23.7º and 25.3º. Sourced from an estate vineyard southwest of Sebastopol. Grower is John Balletto and winemaker is Anthony Beckman. Clones are Calera (95%) and Swan (5%). · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely, exuberant aromas of Bing cherries and baking spices. Juicy mid weight flavors of Bing cherries, raspberries and boysenberries. Ideal balance with plenty of finishing fruit goodness and length on the dry finish. A forward-drinking crowd pleaser. Score: 91

2012 Davis Family Vineyards Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $55. This is an expression of the Green Valley and is composed of Pommard and Dijon clones. This is one of the coolest climate sites in the Russian River Valley. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The glorious nose is deep and inspired, with vivid aromas of fresh cherries, spice, Prada leather coat and rose petal. A cherry bombast on the palate that really made me sit up and take notice. Discreetly concentrated with added accents of spice, raspberry and plum with a complimentary note of smoky oak. An absolutely delicious and harmonious wine that floods the mouth with flavor. Score: 94

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