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Small Sips of California Pinot

2007 Beauregard Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

15.0% alc., 400 cases, $35. Aged 27 months in French and American oak barrels. From a family winery that has been farming vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains since 1949. Beauregard now farms over 100 acres. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, raspberries, cassis, spice, and barbecue. Tasty juice with moderately intense flavors of dark cherries, berries and pomegranates with a hint of earthiness. Soft in the mouth with enough tannin and acidity to balance the alcohol. A husky wine that shows some charm. Good.

2007 Beauregard Bald Mountain Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 220 cases, $45. Aged 27 months in French and American oak barrels. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Darkly fruited on the nose and palate with some toasty oak in the background. Added notes of dark rose petals on the nose add interest. Restrained tannins and a pleasing core of fruit that has some persistence on the finish. An herbal oak flavor detracts. Good.

2007 Beauregard Beauregard Ranch Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 75 cases, Unreleased. Aged 27 months in French and American oak barrels. · Very shy, perfumed nose featuring dark fruits, forest floor, spice and cut flowers. Discreetly composed core of black cherry and berry fruit flavors with impeccable integration of oak. Well muscled and structured with fine grain tannins and a welcoming grip of acidity. Still a young and unevolved wine that has great potential. Very good.

2008 Kanzler Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $48. Kanzler Vineyard is located in the coastal hills between Bodega Bay and Sebastopol and is farmed by Stephen and Linda Kanzler. The winemaker is Greg Stach. Aged 15 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Pommard and Dijon 115 and 667 clones. · Intense aromas of black raspberry coulees, cardamon and red roses. Delicious berry melange which is really a mouthful but there is an appealing roundness and litheness that tames the fruit. Light on its feet and velvety in the mouth, leaving a bit of warmth on the pleasing and persistent finish. Outstanding example of a hedonistic, lush style.

2007 Keller Estate La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.49, 510 cases, $44. From the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast. Harvested, vinified and bottled on site. Multiple clones including Pommard, Dijon 115, 123, 667, 777, 828 and Swan selection. The fruit was de-stemmed and fermentations were driven by native yeast. Only free-run wine was included. Aged 10 months in 35% new French oak barrels. · Marvelous nose with complex aromas including strawberries, raspberries, savory spice, and oak vanillin. A medium-bodied wine that is gentle and soft in the mouth with flavorful red cherry and berry fruits enhanced by loamy accents and a tangy finish of moderate length. Drinking perfectly now. Very good.

2007 Keller Estate El Coro Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.45, 309 cases, $52. Released in December 2009. The inaugural El Coro bottling. the name “El Coro,” translates to “the choir” in Spanish and refers to a set of sandstone sculptures of a choir that sing at the foot of the vineyard. This 20-acre block is on a ridge top exposed to winds and has thin loamy and clay soil with a volcanic subsoil. Clones include Dijon 667, 777, 828, suitcase and Swan selections. · This is a more masculine expression of the Keller Estate. Lovely perfume of crushed berries, spiced plums, dark roses and tea. Darkly fruited with many layers of interesting flavors including notes of savory herbs, earth, minerals and citrus peel. Structured with ripe tannins and well balanced acidity. A more serious and more complex offering than the Estate bottling that will reward cellaring. Drink the Keller Estate Pinot Noir while this one gains in charm over time.

2008 Morlet Family Vineyards Joli Coeur Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $85. Sourced from the best section of the Coteaux Nobles hillside vineyard on the second ridge from the Pacific Ocean. The name refers to a beautiful (Joli) plot art the center of the ranch or its heart (Coeur). · Deep and intense aromas of black cherries, black raspberries and rose petals with a hint of smoke. Discreetly concentrated core of dark stone and berry fruits with an underlying mineral and smoky edge. The velvety texture is quite alluring. The smoky note tends to dissipate with time in the glass. Good.

2008 Morlet Family Vineyards Coteaux Nobles Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $75. · Deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of spiced plums, plum sauce, spice, sweet smoke and lacquered wood. Soft in the mouth with a moderately rich core of darker stone and berry fruits with a smoky edge. Beautifully crafted with very pretty fruit, but the smokiness, although tending to dissipate over time in the glass, spoils the experience. One bottle tasted was Decent. One bottle tasted was Good.

2008 Morlet Family Vineyards En Famille Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $85. This bottling is dedicated to grandparents, parents and relatives. · Moderately dark reddish-purple in the glass. Complex array of scents including black cherries, raspberries, spice fennel, redwood, smoke, ash and cigar box. The most delicate of the three bottlings with a demure sweet-fruited palate with a satiny mouth feel. Subtle flavors of smoke, tobacco and burnt rubber. Tasted twice. Decent.

Note: A well-known winemaker crafting Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir spoke to me about the smoke taint issue recently. He told me no one completely escaped smoke in the 2008 vintage on the North Coast. It all comes down to how the smoke affected the wines. Many producers have been reluctant to talk about it because any mention of it comes as an indictment of the wine and the winery that decided to release it. Some wine show elevated levels of smoke relative to clean years, but the result can be complimentary and contribute to the complexity of the wine. I feel that the 2008 Morlet Pinot Noirs have a subtle smoky edge which may be more apparent to a wine critic like myself. Some consumers may find the wines very enjoyable, especially those that prefer oak-derived flavors in wine.

2008 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.80, 1,593 cases, $29. 50% estate vineyard and 50% six other Santa Cruz Mountain vineyards. · Shy but pleasant aromas of berries, Herbs de Provence, and the slightest oak and mint. Flavors veer to the red/blue fruit spectrum including strawberries, cranberries and blueberries with a hint of herbs in the background. Balancing t n ‘a. A solid wine that will perform well at the dinner table. Good.

2007 Thomas Fogarty Rapley Trail Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 125 cases, $48. The first Rapley Trail Pinot Noir since 2004. Aged in 43% new French oak barrels for 18 months and was bottled unfiltered. · Opens slowly in the glass, revealing shy scents of berry compote and oak. Vivid, fresh fruit saturates the palate showing red and black cherries and berries with a lingering berry and citrus tang on the finish. Terrific finesse and very soft in the mouth. A well structured and harmonious wine that is entirely seductive, but needs time for the aromatics to catch up to the flavors. Very good (+)

2008 Thomas Fogarty Rapley Trail Vineyard Block B Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., <50 cases, $68. First B Block since 2004. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. · Very expressive aromas of wild berries, violets, brioche, graham and a hint of smoky oak. A delicious panoply of fruit flavors that really stick to your mouth. Dark red berries and strawberries in abundance with undertones of savory herbs and forest floor. Everything is proportioned and singing in harmony. This wine’s character supersedes the delicious fruit. Brilliantly crafted and flatout great. The impeccable balance predicts a long life ahead.

Note: At Thomas Fogarty winemakers Michael Martella and Nathan Kandler ferment all the Pinot Noirs in small lots, including between 25% and 50% whole clusters and using indigenous yeast fermentations. The press fraction is kept separate allowing a later decision on its inclusion. The wines are aged in 3-year air-dried French oak barrels. The Rapley Trail Vineyard was planted in 1981 and has long been the backbone of the “Estate Reserve” Pinot Noir. Beginning in 2002, portions of the vineyard have been bottled separately.

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