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More Sips of California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

2011 Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $44. Released October 2012. Own-rooted Martini clone planted in 1972. Aged 9 months in French oak barrels. Dark violet color in the glass. 100% de-stemmed, extended cold soak, aged 9 months in 60% new French oak barrels. · Plenty to like on the nose with hi-tone aromas of spicy black plums, fresh blackberries and vanilla cream. A big gulp of exotically spiced plum and dark berry fruit is front and center, very seductive, expanding in the mouth, permeating every nook and cranny, and finishing with power, length and a velvety appeal. The creme soda-laced oak and cinnamon and clove spice flavors are complimentary. Similar to the 2010 version which was an “All-American.” This wine has something unique and recognizable to me. Not even close to classic or Old World traditional Pinot Noir, but it tastes great and drinks seamlessly. Cool package too.

Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house in Carneros. After five years of specializing only in sparkling wine and inspired by the character of the estate fruit, the winery began crafting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir still wines in 1991. The winemaking team has dozens of interesting clones to draw on including Colmar 538, Martini (UCD 13), Wente, Wädenswil (2A), Dijon 115 and Pommard 4 from the 335 acres of estate vines. The clones have been carefully matched to soil types. Visit the tasting room open daily at 23555 Hwy. 121 in Sonoma or the website at www.gloriaferrer.com.

2010 Gloria Ferrer Estate Grown and Bottled Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.61, $18. Nineteenth Carneros Pinot Noir produced. 100% de-stemmed, partially crushed, exclusively free run juice, barrel aged 9 months in 33% new French oak barrels and bottled unfined. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Inviting aromas of oak-infused black cherries and a hint of dried herbs. Mid weight core of dark red cherry fruit with complimentary oak. A real cherry bomb that makes an impression on the mid palate and finishes intense and long. A very soothing, easy drinking wine and an incredible value. Very good.

2008 Gloria Ferrer Estate Jose S. Ferrer Selection Carneros Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.83, TA 0.58, 538 cases, $40. A barrel selection from the most exceptional blocks in the estate vineyard. Primarily Dijon 115, Colmar 538, Trefethan/Wente, and Martini. 100% de-stemmed, aged for 9 months in 38% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Approach this wine with patience as it needs time to open in the glass, gradually becoming more expressive. Aromas of dark berries and cherries, spice and old wine cellar. Dense and dark, featuring earthbound flavors of black cherries, blackberries, black plum, mushroom and tar. Firm, balanced tannins and a very long finish. A brooding wine on day one, but two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was transformed, becoming alive aromatically and more giving on the palate. Suggest decanting if you open this wine now. Very good.

2007 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $80. 200- acre estate with 42 acres of vineyards planted to heritage clones. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Fresh aromas of dark berry tart, cassis, dark chocolate, and anise-laced oak. Very earthy and somewhat brooding with bruising tannins. Moderately richly flavored with dark berries, black cherries and anise. Much better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and especially good with beef that counteracts the tannins. This wine needs more time to integrate and soften the tannins but has a special rugged mountain character that is appealing. Very good.

2010 James Family Cellars Estate Grown Stony Point Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $36. Best of Class and Double Gold 2012 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing aromas of ripe Bing cherry pie glaze, cola and spice with oak that becomes more noticeable over time. Middleweight core of ripe cherries with hints of nutmeg and cherry cola, framed by silky, balanced tannins. A cherry bombast that has a little more oak topcoat than I prefer, but as indicated by the exalted competition award, this wine will definitely find fans. Good.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard is located on Highway 246, 11 miles west of Buellton in the cool northwestern section of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Planted in 2005 by winegrower and winemaker Dan Kessler and his wife Ellen Haak (“hawk”) Kessler, the 30-acre vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A few select wineries also source grapes from the vineyard. The website is www.kesslerhaakwine.com.

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Pali Wine Co. launched a series of appellation Pinot Noirs beginning with the 2007 vintage that are moderately priced ($21 to $29). Five wines are offered in the 2011 vintage. The winemakers are Aaron Walker and consultant Kenneth Juhasz. The winery is located in Lompoc, but a tasting room opened in downtown Santa Barbara in the fall of 2012. The website is www.paliwineco.com.

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Tuck Beckstoffer is well known for the many notable Napa Valley vineyards that bear his family name. Tuck is a lover of Burgundy and makes a small amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast under the Semper label. The consulting winemaker is Kenneth Juhasz (Auteur). Honestly, these wines are not my preferred style of Pinot Noir. They have oodles of flashy fruit, and are unabashedly macho, akin to Syrah without the tannins. That said, they will find fans among those who like big-fruited wines that have “Made in California” stamped all over them.

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