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Small Sips of Pinot

2007 Aquinas Napa Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.52, 24,000 cases, $15, released October 2008. This wine is named for St. Thomas Aquinas who was a 13th century scholar who used the laws of science to support his belief in the existence of the Almighty. · Moderately deep ruby color. Burnt match and oak char on the nose. The juicy dark fruits play second fiddle to the woody vein that runs through to the finish. Softly textured with mild dry tannins. I have admired the value-priced Pinot Noirs from Don Sebastiani & Sons, but this one is not my cup of tea.

2007 Lafond Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 2,800 cases, $20. · Deep, dark reddish-purple color. Attractive purity of black cherry fruit on the nose with a hint of smoke. Moderately rich and fruit driven with flavors of black cherries and plum and an edge of oak. Silky textured with soft tannins and a little heat on the finish. Loses appeal in the glass over time.

2007 Trinitas Cellars Carneros Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., $27. Trinitas is the Latin word for Trinity, the fundamental principal of Christianity. Proprietors are Tim and Steph Busch. · Deep reddish-purple color. Aromas of confected berries and smoky oak. Muscular, Syrah-like wine spotlighting pie-filling plum, raspberry and black cherry flavors with gripping tannins and plenty of smoky oak. Everything about this wine is big.

2007 DXG (Daryl’s Great Discovery) Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.85% alc., 100 cases, $36. Sourced from the Rochioli Allen Vineyard, North Hill, Pommard 4 clone. Label reads, “DXG represents small lots of high-quality wine ‘finds’ to share with wine lovers.” Daryl Groom is winemaker. Piaceri Wines. Redder-toned color. All oak char and tobacco on the nose. Tasty and vivid Bing · Redder-toned color. All oak char and tobacco on the nose. Tasty and vivid Bing cherries on the palate with a hint of mocha and some oak char in the background. Soft in the mouth with an elegant bent.

2007 Jack Creek Cellars Kruse Vineyards Estate Reserve Central Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $42. The Kruse Vineyard is located at the South end of the Santa Lucia Highlands Mountain range in Templeton. · The big nose features black fruits, spice, white pepper, wood box and a hint of alcohol. Beefy core of blackberry, raspberry and bruised plum fruit with oak in the background. Very big and Caliesque. Heavy-handed with a jolt of tannin and alcohol.

2007 Foxen Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

15.2% alc., $45. Unfined, unfiltered. · Deep color. Oak char and ash dominate the aromas. Impenetrable prodigious black fruits with a vein of citrus in the background and flamboyant dry tannins on the finish. This wine will need another 2 to 3 years at least to emerge, but will always be a big wine.

2006 Chronicle Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $35. Vinified by noted winemaker Ted Lemon (Littorai). · Plenty of strawberries on the nose with hints of balsa wood and oak. Pleasing berry and red current flavors with a touch of herbal oak on the dry finish. Soft and elegant with supple tannins. Lacks nuance and nothing really stands out.

2005 Capiaux Cellars Chimera Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $29. · Black grapes, wood shed, char and plenty of oak on the nose. Monolithic dark fruits with a sidecar of seasoned oak. Lacks nuance.

2005 Capiaux Cellars Widdoes Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $37. · Slightly porto aromas overshadow pleasing scents of berry jam, spiced plum and fresh-baked cookies. Overripe flavors of currents, raisins and cola with prominent toasted oak. Decent acidity but it can’t match up with the aggressive tannins.

2005 Capiaux Cellars Freestone Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $40. · Interesting aromas that change in the glass consisting of fresh berries, forest floor, pine, smoke and mint. Juicy black cherry and dark red berry core with finegrained tannins. The oak is reigned in nicely. The lightest weighted of the 2005 Capiaux wines tasted and my favorite.

2005 Capiaux Cellars Garys‘ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $52. · Lovely aromas of ripe, dark cherries and strawberries. Full-bodied and a bit rustic with very ripe dark fruit flavors of berries, root beer and brown spice. A solid fruit core but a touch too ripe for my taste. Balance is spot on.

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