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Sips of Pinot Noir

2008 Esoterica by Kent Rasmussen Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $17. · Moderately dark reddish-purple in the glass. Ripe to overripe dark fruits on the nose with tones of earth, sap and red hard candy. Moderately rich and savory on the palate with a generous offering of earth-kissed plum and black currant fruit with a slight roasted and herbal quality. Very soft in the mouth and easy to drink. Good.

2008 Cep Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $24. A second label from Peay Vineyards. · Initially the nose is attractive with aromas of fresh berries, but as the wine sits in the glass, a subtle smokiness comes out. The medium-weighted core of berry fruit has underpinnings of tar and ash. Silky smooth and tries to please, but the smoke affectation detracts. Good (-)

2008 Gary Farrell Carneros Selection Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.41, 933 cases, $32. Released February 2010. Sourced from unique blocks at Ramal Vineyard. Barrel fermented in 33% new French oak barrels for 7 months. · Clear and straw colored in the glass. Austere aromas of lemon juice and fresh cut grass. Well-endowed with moderately rich flavors of canned peaches, honeydew and roasted nuts which linger on the finish. Nothing out of place. Good.

2008 Navarro Vineyards Deep End Blend Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $38 (futures price). · Moderately dark ruby color in the glass. Nice fruity aromas of plums and blackberry jam with a hint of herbal oak and smoke. Tasty darker fruit core with a tarry, smoky, ash edge. Nicely crafted with lively acidity and some grape tannins to shed. One of the better smoke affected 08s from Anderson Valley. Decent. Note: Navarro made the welcome gesture of sending out a bottle of this wine free to all buyers of previous vintages (including myself) to allow them to evaluate it and decide if they wanted to buy the wine despite the vintage challenges.

2008 Cloud’s Rest “Femme Fatale” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $40. Estate grown. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is tres Pinot with fresh black cherry and dark berry aromas. Generous dark red cherry and berry fruit with a lovely spice accent. The fruit really brings the palate to attention and persists on the finish. Bright acidity adds to the drinkability. This wine will find wide appeal. Very good (+).

2008 Guarachi Family Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $40. One of the heaviest bottles I have ever lifted! · Moderately dark garnet color. Alluring perfume of spiced fresh berries with a minty garnish. Tasty and smooth in the mouth with plenty of dark cherry and berry intensity and a touch of cola, all wrapped in modest sinewy tannins. The wine’s sensual texture speaks Pinot. Very good.

2008 Gary Farrell Carneros Selection Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.50, 932 cases, $45. Released April 2010. Sourced from Ramal Vineyard in Carneros. Aged in 44% new French oak barrels for 9 months. Clones 667, Pommard 5, 828, 115, Swan. · Needs time in the glass to unfold, revealing attractive scents of black cherries and blackberries with a well mannered touch of smoky oak. Earthy, herbal and flush with dark berry fruits, this silky wine aims to please with a seamless backbone of restrained tannins and a proper grip of acid. Very good.

2008 Peay Pomarium Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $53. The name refers to “apple orchard” and is pronounced “po-mare-ee-um,” as a nod to the days when the hill where the vineyard sits was planted to apples. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely composed aromatics with plenty of fresh cherries and mixed berries accented by forest floor and mountain air. Hearty and fairly bold attack of berry and black cherry fruit augmented by oak. Earthy and savory with a faint aftertaste of smoke on the persistent finish. Still has some tannins to shed and should improve over time, assuming the smoke affect doesn’t become accentuated. Very good.

2007 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Ontario Canada Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $17. Imported by Beck Wines & Spirits, San Francisco, CA. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Starts out with marked sulfur notes of rotten eggs, obscuring the underlying aromas of dark fruits, pine tar and oak char. Robust black cherry fruit with an underlying earthy note, wrapped in flamboyant sandy tannins. Seems over-sulfured. Unsatisfactory. This winery was a featured winery at this year’s IPNC, so I suspect this was not a representative bottle.

2007 Clairborne & Churchill Edna Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $20. From a family winery established in 1983, specializing in Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. · Moderately intense garnet color. Darker fruits are featured on the nose along with notes of cherry cola, picking up more oak and funkiness with time in the glass. Tasty fruit but oak permeates this wine and takes away from the experience for me. Otherwise it is fine, with good acidity and a tangy persistence of citrus peel on the back end. Decent.

2007 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $30. · Minty, oaky aromas with alcohol peaking out. Rich and full on the palate with delicious flavors of black cherries, plums, oak toast and a hint of white pepper. A disjointed wine now with the flavors trumping the aromas. Worth visiting in another year. Good (+).

2007 Heart O’ The Mountain Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.56, 490 cases, $48. Clones 777, 667 and Pommard. Aged 18 months in French oak. · Medium garnet color. Deep, dark, very ripe fruit perfume with hints of forest floor and sawdust. A big gulp of purple fruit (black plums, elderberries, blackberries) that dances lightly on the palate, drinking easily by virtue of mild fine-grain tannins. The sweet, velvety mouthful of fruit will find appeal. A faint hint of alcohol peaks out on the finish. Very good.

2007 August West Graham Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $50. · Medium garnet color in the glass. Charming scent of red cherries accented by gentle oak toast. Fruity and tasty with a pleasing fullness on the palate. Harmonious with gossamer tannins and a good grip of acidity. A solid, but not emoting wine now but should improve over time. Good (+).

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