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En Garde Winery: Consistently Excellent North Coast Pinot Noir

En Garde Winery is not your typical California Pinot Noir producer. The proprietor and winemaker is Csaba Szakál, a former computer programmer and a fourth-generation winemaker from Hungary. This eastern European country has a rich history of wine dating back to at least Roman times and is most renowned here in the states for Tokaji. Many of the En Garde Winery accolades in the winepress and wine competitions have focused on the winery’s Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon selections, but the Pinot Noir lineup is deserving of accolades as well.

The tasting room is located in Kenwood and the wines are crafted in Sonoma Valley, atypical for Pinot Noir production compared to other parts of Sonoma County. That said, the wines are crafted from superb vineyard sources on the North Coast of Sonoma County.

Csaba told me, “We enjoyed a beautiful growing season in 2019. The harvest was generous and of high quality at the same time.” All wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The following wines will be released in March and April 2022. Visit the website at Tasting is available at the Tasting Room in Kenwood and private tastings can be arranged by appointment.

2019 En Garde Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 125 cases, $65. Clone 777 and 667 Harvest Brix 24.0º. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Light garnet color in the glass. The nose is aromatically forward showing scents of cherry, strawberry and bark. Mid-weight in style, offering flavors of red fruits and spice with a hint of oak and a savory herbal undertone. Ripe and forward, with gracious tannins and a modest but satisfying finish. Score: 91

2019 En Garde Los Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 98 cases, $65. Clone 115 and 777. Harvest Brix 24.0º. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of spiced cherry, pastry and wine cellar. Forward and easy to cozy up to in a middleweight style with discretely robust flavors of black cherry, cola and baking spices. Nicely composed with civil tannins and a finish with very good cherry-driven length. Score: 93

2019 En Garde Pleasant Hill Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 114 cases, $65. Clone 115, 777, and Pommard. Harvest Brix 25.0º. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A complex nose soars with the perfume of Bing cherry juice, ripe strawberry, rose petal, musk and a hint of ginger. Plenty of black cherry, strawberry, and cola flavors embrace the palate and carry over to a lengthy and beautifully aromatic finish. Impeccably balanced in a mid-weight plus style with an admirable touch of oak compliment. Very forward but even better when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 94

2019 En Garde Passion De La Reine Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 131 cases, $80. Clone 777, 115, faux 828 and Pommard. A selection of barrels. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Somewhat muted aromatically with demure aromas of black cherry pie, bakery, and toast. Lighter in weight than the Pleasant Hill bottling but with inviting elegance, polish, and more underlying acidity that shows up on the lip-smacking but modest finish. Still a bit tight on this occasion and I would drink the Pleasant Hill while this wine spends some time in the cellar when it should become more expressive. Score: 93

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