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Small Sips of Pinot

J. Keverson Wines This is about four guys who got together often to play bocce ball and had so much fun sharing food and wine afterwards that they started their own label. They began in a garage, found out they could make pretty good wine and took it from there. The biggest challenge was finding a name for their wines that wasn’t already taken. The result was J. Keverson, a figment of their imagination representing a combination of all of their names - John Hazlewood (winemaker), Kevin Tompkins, Scott Broome, and Eric Ulicny. Their first two releases, a 2005 Zinfandel and Sangiovese, were medal winners. I was given a bottle of their 2006 Pinot Noir to taste while recently in Sebastopol.

2006 J. Keverson Labyrinth Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 210 cases, $38. · The wine leads off with sweet oak, blackberry jam, a leafiness and a hint of alcohol. Blackberries, dark cherries, tar, blood orange and vanilla carry the medium-weighted and noticeably oaked flavors. The textural impression is soft and clean and the finish has zingy acidity. I thought it was just decent, but my wife like it a lot.

J. Keverson website is www.jkeverson.com. The phone is 707-484- 3083. The Pinot Noir is not available on the website as yet but I am assuming it will be released soon.

Martelletto Wines Greg Martelletto owns a wine distribution company based in San Diego. Driven by his Italian wine heritage, he has started his boutique label, Martelletto Wines. He sent me a bottle of his latest effort to sample and I was quite impressed. I should not have been surprised, however, since he is a fellow Stanford alum and those guys are talented!

2005 Martelletto Gaia Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.6% alc.. Aged 17 months in French oak. · Very appealing aromas of bright fresh red cherries with a complimentary touch of oak. Delicious dark red stone fruits with a sidecar of Asian spice. Noticeable but dusty tannins and a protracted fruity finish. The wine has an elegant bent which I like and avoids the ponderous and showy fruit that some Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs exhibit. A very nice effort.

Martelletto Wines website is www.martelletto.com. Not much information as yet but check back. The phone is 619-269-0874. Greg also leads tours to the Guadalupe Valley wine country in Baja. I visited Baja not too long ago and I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of wines emerging from this region (no Pinot though as it is too warm).

Brown-Forman Wines Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Brown-Forman Wines sells 5.5 million cases of wine annually. Most of the Pinot Noirs in the lineup fit into the “value” supermarket category and will not appeal to hard-core Pinot geeks. The exceptions are the Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noirs which are more high-end, limited release bottlings intended primarily for the restaurant market.

2004 Sonoma Cutrer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $40. Sourced from Sonoma Cutrer’s Vine Hill Vineyard, Owsley Vineyard, Les Pierres Vineyard and The Cutrer Vineyard and include a “market basket” of clones including Pommard, 667, 777 and 828. The wine is crafted with care typically given to small lot boutique Pinot Noir producers. Terry Adams is the winemaker. · Vibrant wild berry fruit on the nose with oak and green tea notes. Tasty cherry fruit enhanced with oak and herbs. Full in the mouth with soft texture and refined acidity.

2005 Sonoma Cutrer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $40. · Oak and char dominate the aromas. Rich dark fruit attack followed by oak and herbal notes that last to the clean finish. Still has some unresolved tannins. More oak driven than the 2004 vintage.

2006 Gala Rouge Pinot Noir Vin De Pays D’OC

12.5%, $10. Vintage poster on the label which touts the wine for bunco, poker and weddings. · Plenty of garnet color. Smoky dark fruits from start to finish with very silky tannins. Soft, smooth and easy to drink with simple black fruit flavors. More Syrah than Pinot in flavor and character (must be other red varietals added to this Pinot Noir). Very similar to the Fetzer bottling but with less tannin.

2005 Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Pinot Noir Vin De Pays D’OC

12.5% alc., $9. Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Dennis Martin is the winemaker. · Candied fruit (JuJu B’s) and violet aromas. Flavors of black raspberry, licorice, game and tar with plenty of tannin. A hardy drink with substantial structure. Little resemblance to Pinot Noir.

2006 Jekel Vineyards Monterey County Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $17. A more serious bottling sourced primarily from Central Coast vineyards with a little Sonoma Coast fruit added in. Fermented in stainless, MLF in barrel and aged in French oak, 39% new or once-used barrels. · Initially the aromas are strongly herbal and oakey but with air pleasing cherry fruit emerges and the oak fades to the background. On the palate there is rich dark cherry fruit with a hint of spice, a touch of cola, tea and oak and a fine herbal influence. Easy to drink, true to the varietal, and a good value.

2006 Bolla Provincia Di Pavia Italy Pinot Noir

12.0% alc., 30,000 cases. 100% Pinot Noir from northern Italy. Fermented in stainless steel and aged without oak. Imported by Brown- Forman. · Light in color. Confected red fruit (tutti-fruiti) on the nose. Thin , watered-down fruit with a bitter and green edge.

2005 Michel Picard Bourgogne

12.5% alc., screw cap. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. · One sniff and you know this is French with a tell-tale barnyard, gamey and Bretty aroma. Simple, light red fruits with an iodine note and substantial tannins

Brown-Forman wines are widely distributed. The portfolio also includes Five Rivers Pinot Noir sourced from Central Coast fruit . I recently sampled a current release and it was quite a good value wine. A very limited amount of Sanctuary Pinot Noir is released by Fetzer’s winemaker, Dennis Martin.

Vino V WinesM Michael Meagher is one of the young turks crafting wine from vineyards in Santa Barbara County. His first release in 2004 consisted of 200 cases. These are boutique wines crafted with love. As Michael says, “All wines are truly made by hand employing only the laws of gravity (and good beer) for moving and bottled by a group of friends and relatives.

2005 Vino V Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 112 cases, $45. 18 months in barrel (20% new). · The aromas are a little funky and earthy with notes of wild red berries, black cherry, hay, and oak. Soft red fruit and green tea flavors finish with tangy raspberry notes. Alcohol peaks out on the nose and finish.

2005 Vino V Confundido Santa Barbara County

14.5% alc., 120 cases, $28. 80% Syrah and 20% Pinot Noir. · Dark ruby in color. Attractive scents of rich, dark fruits with cardamom and vanilla. A solid fruit core with notes of anise and tar. A bit tangy and chippy on the finish. I am not usually a fan of blending Pinot Noir with anything, but this is quite decent.

2004 Vino V White Hawk Vineyard Santa Barbara County Syrah

14.5% alc., 75 cases, $42. Released last year but really reaching its stride now. Estrella River clone of Syrah. 21 months in barrel (33% new). · Deep, dark purple. Plumy, dark stone fruits with oak and exotic spices on the pleasing nose. Plush dark fruits with well-integrated oak and soft, drying tannins. A very nice black raspberry kiss on the finish. The healthy acidic backbone is refreshing. I like this.

Vino V Wines website is www.vinovwines.com. The phone is 805-207-7426. The wines are available on the website.

ZD Wines The founder of ZD wines, Norman deLeuze, passed away last October at the age of 75. deLeuze was employed by Optical Coatings Laboratory in the 1960s when he formed a partnership with another aerospace engineer to begin making wine commercially. By 1978, he was working at ZD Wines in the Napa Valley full-time. He was an advocate of non-toxic treatment of diseases and had an ongoing relationship with the University California Davis Oncology Department. ZD wines has a long history of consistently excellent Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons. The winery is still family run and Robert and Brandon deLeuze carry on the winemaking duties with Chris Pisani.

2005 ZD Wines Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 950 cases, $50.. Sourced from the 7-acre deLeuze Family Vineyard in Carneros planted entirely to the Hanzell clone. · A hearty and satisfying nose brimming with dark fruits, toast and barnyard. Full-bodied mélange of dark stone fruit preserves with plenty of oak and herbal influence. Nicely balanced with a strong presence. I previous reviewed the regular bottling which was quite good as well, but this is truly a reserve with more intensity and punch.

ZD Wines is located at 8383 Silverado Trail, Napa. The wines are distributed to fine wine retail stores and are available on the website at www.zdwines.com. Tours of this 30,000 case per year winery are by appointment at 707-433-1385. The tasting room is open daily from 10-4:30.

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