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Pinots from the Edge

Pinot Noir is a fussy grape that thrives in areas heavily influenced by the ocean. Although Pinot Noir grows in at least twenty-three counties in California, the majority of the planted Pinot Noir is “living on the edge,” that is, growing in the dramatically cool western part of Sonoma County known as the Sonoma Coast. The cold environment of the western reaches of Sonoma County is a relatively new frontier for viticulture. The obstacles are many. Vines take more time to develop, even up to six years to produce fruit contrasted with a typical three years in most other regions. Wet weather is ever present. A wet spring can interfere with bloom and create the perfect environment for botryitis. In the fall, encroaching rains threaten harvest. Due to close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, nighttime temperatures are often in the 40s and daytime highs rarely exceed the low 70s. Cold spring temperatures can result in poor vine nutrition at bloom and lead to poor fruit set. Yields are ridiculously low, typically 1 to 2 tons per acre and in some vintages, so little fruit is produced, viticulture costs cannot be reclaimed. Animals such as deer, gophers, wild hogs, and birds are ever present. Gophers can destroy as much as 20 percent of new vines. It almost seems like madness to attempt to farm Pinot Noir in these environs and many have called the winegrowers here the “mad men of West County.” When the weather cooperates and everything goes well, the resultant tiny Pinot Noir clusters with a high juice-to-skin ratio are worth the trouble and the wines can have remarkably mature tannins and flavors at lower Brix with a high-acid profile. Noted wine writer, Matt Kramer, has said, “Sonoma County West is an extraordinary location for Pinot Noir. It has the capacity, although not yet the achievement, of someday creating America’s grand cru Pinot Noir.”

The Sonoma Coast AVA (American Vineyard Appellation), is the largest AVA in Sonoma County, incorporating 750 square miles. This cumbersome AVA was formed in 1987 primarily for the purpose of allowing certain wineries to include all of their major vineyards within one boundary so they could use the “estate bottled” designation on their wine labels. The AVA is also a distinctive climatic region based on coolness with no more than 2,800 degree days of heat during the growing season (low Region II) . This AVA extends nearly throughout the Sonoma Coast from the Sonoma County borders with Napa in Carneros to the east, Marin County to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Russian River Valley AVA boundary in the north. (map page 2). The Sonoma Coast AVA actually over-laps five other appellations - the Sonoma part of Carneros, a sliver of Sonoma Valley, the western part of Chalk Hill, all of Green Valley, and most of the Russian River Valley. As a result, the words “Sonoma Coast” on a wine label can indicate a wine from a vastly diverse geographic area from Annapolis in the north to Petaluma in the south. The Sonoma Coast has been unofficially subdivided into the “true” Sonoma Coast (what Kramer referred to as Sonoma County West) and the “real” Sonoma Coast. The true Sonoma Coast is roughly from Jenner on the coast in the south where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean to Annapolis in the north and from the beaches of the Pacific Ocean to 5 to 6 miles inland including the first two ridges of the coastal range of mountains and the western slope of the third ridge. Besides Annapolis and Jenner, Occidental and Freestone are usually included, although both are south of Jenner. Some have even further subdivided the true Sonoma Coast, separating out the “extreme” Sonoma Coast, located southwest of the Russian River Valley and stretching around the town of Freestone, a mere 4.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean. There are numerous microclimates and soil types in the true Sonoma Coast, but three things are a constant everywhere: fog, ocean breezes and coolness.

Although the Sonoma Coast AVA is 517,000 acres and almost half the size of Sonoma County, only 7,000 acres are planted to vineyards. About fifty growers and six wineries are located within the true Sonoma Coast AVA’s borders. The vineyards are situated above the fog line or in lower reaches where the wind blows off the fog early in the morning (see photo page 3 of Ft Ross Vineyard). Most of the vineyards are quite isolated, and only in recent years have vineyard management companies allotted workers to the area full-time. The price of prime land is at least $20,000 an acre now. This price is misleading and actually much more expensive than you realize because the landscape does not lend itself to farming and you might have to purchase 50 acres to get 10 acres that are suitable for grape growing. Much of the area is essentially a wilderness and too steep for grapevines.

What is distinctive about Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs? The very small berries have a high juice-to-skin and juice-to-seed ratio resulting in very concentrated flavors and amplified tannins. The wines can be bold, dense, earthy and powerful. Ted Lemon (Littorai) has characterized Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir as follows: “Muscle and sinew, grit, structure, more backbone and tannins than the Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, peppery in leaner years with sage and savory as the prominent spices. Dan Goldfield (Dutton-Goldfield) feels that what sets Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir apart is “the mineral element and very focused tannins compared with the Russian River Valley sweet fruit and floral elements.”

Over the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to sample Pinot Noirs from all parts of the Sonoma Coast AVA and a report on nearly fifty wines follows. Ripeness can be challenging in many areas and green flavors can result. A number of the wines are quite muscular and need cellaring to soften tannins and/or decanting to open up. Good acidity seems to be a constant. Styles are all over the board and it is impossible to make significant generalizations from such a diverse region.

Three Fog Horns

2006 Alcina Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $45. · Beautiful aromas of black cherry, herbs and barnyard. Flavors of spiced cherry, brown sugar, cookie dough. Soft in texture, light on its feet, with finely-tuned tannins, and clean finish. A very nice elegant package.

2006 De La Montanya Flying Rooster Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 100 cases, $36. · Dazzling aromas of red cherry, concord grape and cocoa. On the palate, there is a lovely potpourri of cherries, strawberries, black raspberries and a subtle sidecar of oak. The finish is clean and dry. Medium-bodied and fruit-forward, I like this wine for its finesse and pinotypicity.

2006 Kasuari Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $30. · Wilted red roses and red cherries in the nose and a dazzling dose of strawberry and cherry fruit which lingers on the finish for over ten seconds. No tannin in sight. Ready now for prime time. What Pinot Noir should be, but so often isn’t.

2004 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Balistreri Family Vineyard Freestone View Block Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.37% alc., 454 six-bottle cases, $100. The original 4-acre Freestone View Block of the Balistreri Family Vineyard was planted to a range of Pinot Noir Dijon clones in 1999. The 1- acre Alessio Block was added in 2005, two additional blocks were planted to Pinot Noir: Salmon Creek (3.4 acres) and the Bodega Ridge (4.2 acres). The southern-facing property is quite special, situated one mile west of Freestone and a mere four and half miles from the Pacific Ocean. Owned by Jack and Kathy Balistreri, this vineyard is one of the coldest vineyards on the extreme Sonoma Coast. High density planting of five Dijon clones (114, 115, 667, 777, 828). Yields are less than one ton per acre. 25% whole cluster. 10-day cold soak after clones blended together. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak (36-month air dried barrels. Sonoma Coast Vineyards plans to build a winery on the Balistreri property in the near future. · Deep reddish-purple robe. Aromatic profile is complex with intense dark plum fruit, forest floor, steak char, roses and a little good funk. Attractive wild berry core with herbal overtones. Velvety texture and plenty of snappy acidity at end. Still relatively young and shy, cellaring for one to two years will reward the patient.

2004 WesMar Balletto Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $37. · Starting with the first whiff of this one, fresh raspberry jam immediately comes to mind. I kept saying WOW! out loud. The raspberry theme carries over from the attack to the finish. There is some croissant notes for good measure. A flawless wine with admirable acidity and fine tannins, I could drink this one all night long.

2005 Williams Selyem Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $72. · Deep ruby color. A big and sappy fruit attack featuring black berries complimented by exotic woods leading to a delicate finish with lingering dark cherry notes. Nicely crafted, smooth in the mouth, with lively and refreshing acidity.

Two Fog Horns

2006 Benovia Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $45. It has been a couple of years of anticipation and Benovia has finally released this wine, its first Pinot Noir. Benovia has recently purchased two properties which will eventually increase the estate vineyards to 75 acres. The first is a 40-acre parcel adjacent to the winery property on the north side. New plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir here will come into production in 2013. An old house on the property will be renovated to offer a reception center for wine tastings and dinners. The second property is a cool site for Pinot Noir located on Falstaff Road near Freestone, 3.5 miles north of the Petaluma wind gap. 12 acres of Pinot Noir will be planted and will come into production in 2013 as well. These new properties will allow Benovia to eventually reach 5.000 case production. In the Fall, a Cohn Vineyard Pinot Noir and Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir will be released. I have tasted both of these a couple times out of barrel and the Savoy recently after bottling and can tell you these wines are gorgeous, sexy Pinot Noirs. The Benovia Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Rosé are outstanding wines in their own right. This is a cult producer in the making and I would advise you join the mailing list asap. · Plenty of berry, earth, game and shroom on the nose. Rich and ripe plum and blueberry flavors with hints of raisin, accented by toasty oak. The fruit driven finish is lengthy and tangy.

2006 B Vineyards & Habitat Green Valley/Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 336 cases, $55. The organically-grown fruit for this wine was hand-picked over six mornings within a 2½ week span. After de-stemming, a 3-5 day cold soak ensued. Sulfur additions were kept to the bare minimum even after MLF. The bottled wines contain less than 100 ppm total sulfur - below the maximum allowed for organically certified wines. A proprietor’s select Pinot Noir, “Sera,” less than 150 cases, is also produced (I will report on this in a future issue). · Charming demure aromas of red berries with a touch of barnyard. Solid core of black raspberry and cherry fruit with a woodsy bent. Soft and smooth with elegance to spare. Still weighted-down by noticeable, but gentle tannins, and still a bit closed. Outstanding potential, but not ready for prime time for another 6-12 months.

2006 De La Montanya De La Cain “Chanconne” Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 50 cases, $55 (approx). (Sampled from unlabelled bottle, originally labeled Sonoma Coast but RRV fruit included as well). A top-of-the-line reserve type bottling. · The aromatics are brooding and shy with dark fruits and spice lurking. Very plush blackberry and black raspberry fruit which needs time in the glass to blossom. Nicely spiced oak flavors as well. Velveteen texture, beautifully balanced. Plenty of potential, but needs time to come out of its shell.

2006 Felta Creek Vineyards Flying Rooster Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 95 cases, $24. Vinified at Laetitia Winery in Arroyo Grande for De La Montanya. · Very enticing aromas of crushed black cherries, herbs, and oak char. On the palate, the attack of dark berry and dark stone fruits is lipsmacking and the soft texture is alluring. The tannins are noticeable but reigned-in.

2005 Freeman Akiko’s Cuvée Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc.. · Light ruby in color. Very charming scents of red fruits including wild strawberries, with floral notes (violets) as well. A graceful wine driven by flavors of red Pinot fruits with herbal accents. The finish is marred by a touch of woodiness which disappears when the wine is accompanied by food.

2004 Kistler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 1,328 cases, $60. · Deep purple color. Lovely perfume of black cherries, lavender and damp oak. The flavors are driven by firm, dark fruits accentuated with Asian spice, and dark chocolate. Nicely weighted and oaked, complex and interesting. Appealing soft texture in the mouth, and lively acidity on the ending which is moderately long.

2004 Marimar Estate Dona Margarita Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $36. This wine comes from a 20-acre high-density planting (2,340 vines/acre) in western Sonoma County at 600 feet. Located in the Freestone Valley between Freestone and Occidental, it is only six miles east of the Pacific Ocean. Soils are Goldridge type. Clones are Pommard and 115. · This wine has a “Burgundy” bent. Nutty, earthy nose, and dense black raspberry, smoky, earthy and woodsy flavors. Some drying tannins still persist on the finish. Quite enjoyable for its distinctive sauvage character.

2006 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $34. · This wine is all about black cherry and black raspberry fruit with a healthy dose of oak. It is an in-your-face gulp of fruit that will appeal to lovers of this style. There are still some unresolved tannins (the wine is quite young and one of the first wines released each vintage - rushed to the market because of the huge demand). This is a wine you can count on for consistency year in and year out.

2004 Ridgeway Family Vineyards Two Pisces Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 295 cases, $26. Crafted by winemaker Dan Goldfield. · Still nice with another year of bottle aging. Charming aromas of black cherry, nutmeg and smoke. Plenty of red and black fruits to delight with a slight tobacco edge. Balanced beautifully, nice acid backbone, fine tannins and a lingering finish.

2005 Ridgeway Family Vineyards Two Pisces Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 425 cases, $30. The Two Pisces Vineyard is located in southwest Petaluma. The winemaker is Dan Goldfield (Dutton-Goldfield). · Very complex aromas of berries, vanilla, mushroom and flowers with a hint of ethyl acetate. Terrific berry and cherry flavors nicely spiced with a touch of oak. Well-crafted and easy to drink because of suede-like tannins. There is something special about this vineyard.

2004 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.23% alc., 1,043 cases, $60. From seven vineyards in the extreme Sonoma Coast. Clones are Dijon 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, 828, and Pommard 3. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak. · Deep ruby robe. Intense and rich but reticent nose of dark berries and allspice. Big plush fruit offers a fullness on the palate with notes of lavender, dark chocolate and herbs. Always changing in the glass. This wine reminds me more of Burgundy than most California Pinot Noirs. Obvious sophisticated breeding and winemaking. Needs more time to fully appreciate.

2005 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Peterson Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 760 six bottle cases, Unreleased. Clones 115, 667 from the Peterson Vineyard. Aged 50% in new French oak for 10 months. This wine is offered for earlier drinking than the Sonoma Coast Vineyards and Balistreri Family Vineyard Pinot Noirs. · Lighter violet in color than the Balistreri. Ripe strawberries, black cherry and tar compose the aromas. Elegant presentation of pure and well-defined red berry and cranberry fruit with a touch of mint. Brisk acidity and a pillowy softness in the mouth. Ready for enjoyment now.

2006 W.H. Smith Marimar Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $48. Note: with first pass, the W.H. Smith Pinot Noirs from the 2006 vintage were disappointing to me. I re-corked the bottles and re-tasted the next day. What a difference! This was a lesson in wine tasting and a realization that wine is almost a living, breathing organism. All of the wines were different and much better the next day, showing a softer and smoother side with fruit more front and center. I think the lesson to be learned here is that if you don't particularly like a wine at first, try it later or even the next day and sometimes you will be surprised. That said, the W.H. Smith Pinot Noirs are endowed with plenty of fruit and tannin, and are structured in a California Neuvo style that may not appeal to everyone. Ex-Cab drinkers will probably find the wines quite attractive. (Smith formerly produced Cabernet-based wines at La Jota). · The nose is closed down but with coaxing there is a hint of black cherries, spices and forest floor . The flavors shine with very nice raspberry, black cherry and plum fruit with deft oak highlights. Well-balanced with reserved tannins and lively acidity. The best of the 2006 W.H. Smith Pinot Noir lineup.

2005 Williams Selyem Peay Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $54. · Dark as the night. A lovely elegant wine with black raspberries highlighted by earth and cinnamon spice. No tannins in and a lengthy fruity finish. This wine is all about fruit.

One Fog Horn

2005 Alesia Falstaff Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., $62. Ron and Judy Loughred farm this vineyard on the extreme Sonoma Coast. This is the second label of Rhys vineyards and features several bottlings from purchased fruit. · Dark violet-red in color. Aromas start off with barnyard and diaper and evolve to cherry, root beer, hay and oak. Woody, earthy, and meaty at heart. With air, the flavors evolve with more black cherry charm. Tannins are well-integrated and the texture is reasonably soft. The finish is a touch sour.

2004 Alesia Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $39. Two bottles sampled - the two were completely different. · One bottle showed nice black raspberry, tobacco smoke and oak char scents with a healthy fruit core of blackberries, raspberries and a hint of herbs and wood. Silky in texture and clean on the finish. The second bottle showed a similar aromatic profile but oak char dominated the flavors and the finish was sour and unpleasant. Oh, the trials and tribulations of tasting wine.

2006 Auteur Sonoma Stage Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 146 cases, $50. The Auteur wines have been highly touted in the wine press and are sold by meager allocations through a mailing list. · An earthy aromatic profile featuring forest floor and a little oak char with fruit lingering in the background. Earthy on the palate as well, with dark fruits featured. The fruit is pent-up and flat at present. Soft in the mouth with fine-grained tannins and tangy acidity and prominent oak. This is a wine waiting to get out.

2006 Brogan Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $45. · Light reddish-purple in color. Some grassy and barnyard accents to the red fruit. Tasty red cherry flavors with the grassy theme carrying through to the finish. Light and more feminine than many Brogan Pinot Noirs, it is well-balanced and easy to drink. Not winemaker Margi’s best wine, but still quite decent.

2004 Clouds Rest Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

$100. This unique one and three-quarter-acre vineyard is actually on Sonoma Mountain but carries the Sonoma Coast appellation. Frequent fog drifts in from the ocean forming a billowy blanket about 50 feet below the vineyard fence. The Clouds Rest Vineyard is situated at 1250 feet and is the most intensely planted vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA and may be the most difficult and expensive to farm. The vines are planted 3 ft x 3 ft (an arm’s length apart) in volcanic soils and farmed completely by hand. The planted clones are Pommard 3 and 115, 667, and 777. The wines are aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak and bottle aged an additional 18 months to 3 years. The noted winemaker is Anthony Austin. I also sampled the 2003 vintage (dark in color, woodsy, earthy, pruney in flavor) and the 2005 vintage (excellent aromatics of black raspberry and spice, pepper accents, soft texture, toned-down from previous vintages and showing a refinement lacking in other years). · The aromatics benefit considerably from decanting. A blackberry bombast. Fruit-driven style with gobs of plush ripe fruit and a mountain-inspired earthy influence. Big, bold and definitely Caliesque in style

2005 De La Montanya Sonoma Coast Pinot Meunier

13.4% alc., $34. One of the few wineries in California that bottles this varietal as a stand-alone wine. I tasted this in barrel last year and like it and it is really showing beautifully now. A great wine to stump your wine geek friends with. fruits delicately spice. Straight forward, soft, clean and easy to drink. · Very nice aromatics of wild berries, oak spice, buttered toast and new-mown hay. Very juicy darker fruits delicately spice. Straight forward, soft, clean and easy to drink.

2004 Hamel Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

$31. The 2006 vintage has been released. · A reliable source of restrained, nicely-crafted Pinot Noir. The nose is composed of toast, black cherry, roasted nuts and a hint of alcohol. Very gentle and soft red cherry flavors with a clean finish. An easy drinker.

2005 Hartford Court Land’s Edge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $30. Primarily sourced from Annapolis Vineyard with several other coastal vineyards. · Unusual aromas of BBQ smoke, green olive along with strawberry and cherry notes. The smoke continues through on the palate highlighting the darktoned fruits. The tannins are gossamer creating a silky feel in the mouth. The flavors trump the nose.

2006 Kutch McDougall Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 90 cases, $48 The McDougall plantings are 3.4 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean at 935 feet. 25% whole cluster. Aged on the lees for 16 months with no new oak. · Moderately light in color. Red cherries and brown spices on the nose. Lighter-styled, with red fruit profile, herbal notes and graham. Lively acidity. Still reserved from bottling.

2004 Littorai The Haven Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $75. · Darkly colored, this wine offers a very unique aromatic profile of sweet smoke, tar, herbs, char and hay. The brooding fruit is darkly colored and there is a curious whiskey taste. Full-bodied, plenty of woodsy notes, soft tannins, and a lingering fruity finish.

2004 MacPhail Goodin Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 325 cases, $54. Clones 115, 777. · Red fruits, sawdust and green aromas. Nicely composed red fruits with plenty of bright fruit flavor. A hint of greenness carries through.

2004 MacPhail Pratt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 250 cases, $54. Clones 2A, 23, 114 and 777. · Wine-soaked wet oak, dark cherry and musky notes on the nose. Really delicious black raspberry and graham flavors which make you sit up straight. As it opens, the flavors veer toward raisin. Nice tang, grip, length and finish.

2006 Landmark Vineyards Grand Detour Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $35. · There is an oak bent to the nose and flavors. Cherry driven with plenty of oak spice. Sexy cherry kiss on the finish. An elegant styled wine that is quite charming. A Sicilian pizza tamed the oak tendencies.

2003 Peay Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 575 cases, $45. · Slight orange tinge to the rim. Initially there are captivating aromas of cherries, anise and dried roses. Over time, the nose takes on notes of prune and cigar box. Tart cherry flavors veering toward raisin with staunch acidity, and a clean, dry finish.

2005 Sonoma Cutrer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Darkly fruited from start to finish with plenty of oak and char throughout. Blackberries and boysenberries saturate the palate. Attractive farmyard and herbal accents. Very clean finish. Still some tannins to shed.

2006 Stephen Vincent Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $18. Sourced from the Four Sisters Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. · Light in color, light in the mouth, and very silky. Flavors of red fruits, primarily cherry, with a grassy edge. Kept wanting more, but can’t complain for the price.

2006 W.H. Smith Maritime Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $54. No website. 707-965-9726. See notes on Marimar Torres Pinot Noir. · A woody bent to the nose and flavors. Shy red fruits a medicinal note in the aromatics followed by black cherry, earth and iodine flavors. After drinking this, I said, “What’s the fuss about?” This was a reference to the generous scores this wine received in past. Not so fast! The next day from a re-corked bottle, the wine was quite good with deep dark showy fruit and exotic wood accents. The medicinal note had completely resolved. The mouth feel was pure velvet and the wine was quite enjoyable.

2006 W.H. Smith Umino Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $48. See notes on Marimar Estate Pinot Noir. · Upon early sampling the nose featured spiced dark fruits which carried over on the palate. Finishes with plenty of fruit energy. The next day from the re-corked bottle the fruit was more integrated with a nice smoky accent and the texture had softened. Much more appealing the following day.

Other wines tasted but lacking a foghorn

2005 Alesia Chileno Valley Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $58. · Aromas of strawberry, juniper berry and sandalwood are appealing, but a woody and herbal greenness overwhelms the fruit. Like sucking on a wood branch. The green flavors could resolve to some degree with bottle age.

2005 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $19. · Not particularly appealing forest floor and green tomato aromas. Heavily weighed down by a green vegetable tone throughout. Smooth, viscous texture with fine tannins.

2006 MacMurray Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $19. · Smoke, tar and confected cherry aromas lead to oak-infused dark fruits with a herbaceous edge. Soft but notable tannins. Drink with grilled meats.

2003 MacPhail Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 120 cases,$40. · Wet oak is overwhelming on the nose with an added unpleasant gasoline station smell. Smooth, plush darktoned fruits which are trumped by the oak and woodshed flavors. Taste better than it smells.

2005 Marimar Estate Don Miguel Vineyard Green Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $33. · A very earthy Pinot with oak, truffle and woody tannins running through. The black cherry fruit core is flavorful.

2004 Peay Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $45. · Bizarre aromas of celery stalk and sweet cookie dough. Nice cherry, raspberry core with persistent, drying tannins.

2006 Siduri Terra De Promissoi Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $37. · Big stewed tomato and heavily oak spiced nose. Fruit intensity is lacking on the palate with green flavors and oak most prominent. Light in body, soft in texture with plenty of brisk acidity.

2003 Wild Hog Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

16.1% alc., $25. I tasted the 2005 vintage of this wine as well and it was very similar in style albeit with more refined tannins. · Dark ruby in color. Scents of earth, tobacco, pencil shavings and grass lead off. There is a strong attack of potent ripe fruit tending toward raisin. Aggressive tannins. For fans of big tannic zinfandel-like wines.