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2011 California Pinot Noir All-Americans First Team


2008 Alysian Hallberg Crossroads Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.2% alc., 160 cases, $55. Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Really impressive fruity nose offering vibrant aromas of ripe cherries and strawberries with hints of graham, BBQ and sandalwood. Mid-weight essence of fresh cherries and red berries with a subtle note of roasted nuts in the background from oak. Dry, fine-grain tannins provide support for this pretty wine that exudes charm. Very Russian River Valley in character, exhibiting a more restrained interpretation of this vineyard source, and a wine of exemplary pinotosity. Available at www.alysianwines.com.



2008 Calera Wine Company Jensen Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir 14.7% alc., 829 cases, $70. Moderately light in color with mainly reddish tones. Subdued but seductive aromas of dark red cherries and berries, charcoal and spice. Lighter in weight than the other single-vineyard Calera offerings in this vintage and unusually light for Jensen. Flavors of ripe strawberries, pie cherries and red raspberries with an appealing spice box accent, enrobed in well-proportioned dusty tannins which peak out on the dry and persistently aromatic finish. Very creamy and soft in texture. Calera’s signature Pinot Noir, deserving of all the accolades one can muster for this vintage. Available at www.calerawine.com.



2008 Cobb Jack Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 13.5% alc., 215 cases, $68. Demure aromas of cherry and berry fruits nicely spiced and accented by underbrush. Absolutely delicious melange of fresh cherries and berries with complimentary hints of spice, oak and minerality. Juicy, with impressive persistence on the finish. A lighter-bodied wine with gossamer tannins that has a very appealing and seductive gentleness. Available only through a mailing list that closed in 2011 (I warned you).



2009 Husch Nash Mill Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 14.3% alc., 18 cases, $40. Moderately light in color in the glass. Embracing aromas of black cherries, black raspberries and woodshed picking up intensity over time in the glass. An hi-collared wine with crisp and bright flavors of dark cherries, dark red berries, cola, baking spice and Hoison sauce, wrapped in ripe, grainy tannins, finishing with an amazing persistence rarely experienced with California Pinot Noir. Beautiful interplay between fruit and tannin. Class in the glass that will thoroughly please Pinot connoisseurs. Available at www.klwines.com.



2007 J. Rochioli West Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.5% alc., $90. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Muted aromas of dark cherries and berries, rose petals, oak cask and vanilla pod which unfold slowly in the glass. Incredible, mouth coating dark stone and berry fruit, balanced with soft, sturdy tannins, lingering appealingly on the aromatic finish. The wine is still tight, but it is clearly, evident that the fruit is perfectly ripe and the oak is properly integrated. This is an amazing, off-the-charts Pinot Noir that in five to ten years will be the star of your cellar. Figure out a way to get your hands on a few bottles of this beauty. Spectacular later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Available through secondary marketplace only (mailing list full).



2009 Kutch Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 13.8% alc., 264 cases, $48. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Subdued aromas of black fruits, forest floor, vanilla and graham. A silky body of earthy, spicy boysenberry and plum brings the mid palate to attention. Beautifully balanced with lively acidity, ripe tannins and moderately rich flavors acting in harmony, capped by impressive persistence of fruit flavors on the generous finish. The pedigree of the fruit really comes through. Still great the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Will definitely benefit from a few years in the cellar, but can be approached now with decanting. A wine to contemplate. Available through secondary marketplace only (sold only through a mailing list).



2008 Paul Lato Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir14.7% alc., 125 cases, $70. Gorgeous aromas of black cherries and Grandma’s fresh berry preserves with a hint of spice box including cardamom. The showy dark berry and plum fruit really sings on the palate. A man’s Pinot with plenty of sinewy tannin framing the lush fruit, but not at all foreboding. The finish has plenty of length. Softer and even more expressive the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. I have three words for this wine: delicious, seductive and beguiling. Available only through a mailing list and now sold out.



2008 Pisoni Vineyards & Winery Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 14.2% alc., $60. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of dark plums, boysenberries and sassafras with some nuanced floral and spice elements dancing in and out. Righteous juice that charms with its perfectly ripe, sappy fruit flavors and soft, silky mouth feel. Seamless with unbelievable persistence on the superbly intense finish. Descriptors cannot do this wine justice. One of the greatest California Pinot Noirs I have ever had the good fortune to drink. Available through secondary marketplace only (sold only through a mailing list and sold out).



2008 Tantara Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 14.5% alc., 387 cases, $52. Opens slowly in the glass, seducing you gradually. Enticing aromas of dark cherries with a hint of dark chocolate and spice. Amazingly persistent on the palate and through the lengthy finish. The flavors of plum and black cherry are intense and vivid, yet the wine retains a charming, silky finesse. Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Angelina Jolie in dark red velvet. Available at www.tantarawinery.com.



2008 Thomas George Estates Baker Ridge Backbone Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.5% alc., 60 cases, $65. Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. The wine offers a bright array of aromas with staying power in the glass including scents of berry jam, spice and complimentary oak. Charming core of perfectly ripened cherry and berry fruits with a hint of brown spice set off by bright acidity and caressed by firm, but abiding tannins. Impeccable balance for the long haul. Very classy juice. Available only to winery Pioneer Club members (all eight 2008 TGE Pinot Noirs are sold out).



2008 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.2% alc., 198 cases, $60. Brooding aromas of cherries, spice and oak vanillin. Delicious fruit bombast featuring perfectly ripe flavors of black cherries and black raspberries, with notes of sassafras, cola and exotic spices. Very broad in the mouth and distinctive, leaving a lovely cherry kiss on the lingering finish. Harmonious in every way. I guarantee you're going to love this wine. Last vintage for this venerable vineyard due to phylloxera. Available at www.woodenheadwine.com.


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