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Small Sips of Pinot

2007 Alysian Starr Ridge Vineyard East Terrace Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.44, 231 cases, $55. This vineyard is owned and farmed by Gary and Debbie Farrell and consists of 23 acres planted to Dijon and Pommard clones. This wine is composed of Dijon 115 and Pommard 4 clones. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 14 months in 45% new French oak barrels. · Deeply colored. Beautiful black cherry fruit on the nose with Provencal herbs in the background. Vivid black cherry, raspberry and pomegranate flavors with a hint of iodine. A lively lift of acidity sparks the refreshing finish. Good.

2007 Alysian Rochioli Vineyard Allen-Rochioli Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.40, 171 cases, $65. Pommard 4 clone from Rochioli Vineyard and Allen Vineyard (farmed by Rochioli). 100% de-stemmed. Aged 14 months in 45% new French oak barrels. · Savory aromas of green herbs and cigar box with restrained fruit scents. Moderately rich but very tight, opening a little over time in the glass. Linear fruit flavors of cherries, berries and plums with a slight oak underpinning and a persistent citrus tang on the finish. I expect significantly more will be forthcoming from this wine with time in the bottle. Good.

2007 Alysian Hallberg Vineyard Crossroads Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.41, 230 cases, $55. Hallberg Vineyard is located in the Green Valley AVA. This vineyard was developed in 2000 by Kirk Lokka, a skilled viticulturist. Dijon clones 777 and 828. 100% destemmed. Aged 14 months in 45% new French oak barrels. · Shy dark stone fruit aromas emerge slowly in the glass offset by scents of oak and toasted brioche. With patient swirling, a tasty array of earth-infused blackberry and plum fruit emerges backed by a hint of lemon zest most evident on the crisp finish. A big-boned wine balanced nicely by lively acidity and very silky in the mouth. Tasted much better 8 hours later from a previously opened and recorked bottle.

Note: All three of Gary Farrell’s Alysian Pinot Noirs sampled are well-crafted, moderately rich wines with restrained tannins and good acidity. They should age quite well. Only released in the spring of 2010, I believe these wines need at least another year in bottle to begin to reveal their best side.

2008 Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $46. This Green Valley vineyard is farmed by Ron Black and Stephen Bessone. · Aromas of green garden, green olive, and wild berries. Redder fruit is the focus with a green tea note underlying the fruit flavors. Zingy acidity brings up the finish which is a bit flat. Decent.

2008 Anthill Farms Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $42. This vineyard has been farmed by Randy Peters and his father-in-law, Tom Mukaida, for over 20 years. A mix of Dijon 777 and Pommard clones. · Moderately light in color. Reserved aromas of dark red berries, tea and oak. Dilute and tart on the palate with spiced red cherry and red berry flavors. A lean wine that needs food. Good.

2008 Anthill Farms Comptche Ridge Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., $42. From a remote and dry-farmed 2-acre vineyard north of Navarro managed organically by the Weir family. Exclusively Swan selection. Yields were only one ton per acre. · Darker fruits are featured on the nose with a heavy dose of toasted oak and a hint of smoke. Moderately intense core of black raspberry and plum fruit with a smoky undertone. The finish has a good grip of acidity and admirable persistence. Best of the three 2008 Anthill Farms Pinot Noirs tasted. Good.

Note: I have been a big fan of Anthill Farms Pinot Noirs over the last few years but these three offerings from the 2008 vintage are disappointing and not up to par. Winemaker Webster Marquez told me there were many challenges in the vineyards in 2008 in California and I believe the wines reflect the difficulties encountered. Due to the problems with the 2008 vintage in Anderson Valley, grapes from the Abbey-Harris Vineyard and Demuth Vineyard were not up to their usual standards and were blended into a larger Anderson Valley bottling.

2008 Bruliam Doctor’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.64, $52, sold out. Inaugural release from this new producer who donates 100% of profits from sales to a charitable foundation. 100% destemmed. Primarily Dijon clone 115 and Calera selection with smaller amounts of 667, 2A and Swan. Barreled as 70% free run juice and 30% press fraction. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddishpurple color in the glass. Brooding aromas of blackberries, ripe strawberries and a hint of oak sap and toast. A fruit-driven wine displaying charming and generous flavors of plums, dark berries and quince. Thick and bold, but not jammy, with supple tannins leaving a bit of heat in its wake on the finish. Very typical of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Good.

2005 Copeland Creek Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $30. From a vineyard adjacent Gap’s Crown Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Last vintage for this wine crafted by Don Baumhefner. · Moderate color, veering toward the red spectrum. Delicate and pleasing aromas of strawberries, red cherries, sandalwood and oak spice with a cut flower scent developing with time in the glass. Tasty red fruits including cranberries. An elegant, food-friendly wine that is silky smooth and easy to drink. Still available from the producer. Very good.

2007 Crinella Vineyards Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $40. Winemaker is Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan Vineyards. · Moderately light in color. Aromas of dark cherries, raisins, sawdust and oak. Ripe, slightly roasted red fruit flavors that are on the lighter side enrobed by healthy tannins. Soft and clean but flavors don’t excite. Decent.

2008 Desmond Estate Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.69, 80 cases, $36. From an estate vineyard located on Starr Road planted to a blend of Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels. Winemaker is Bill Robbins whose background is in construction but decided a few years back to try his hand at winemaking. He sold his Harley to buy a tractor for his vineyard. · Darkly colored. Enticing perfume of Bing cherries, rose petals and spice. Richly satisfying on the palate with vibrant flavors of black cherries and black raspberries. Fine-grain tannins contribute to a satiny mouth feel and a respectable grip of acidity on the finish leaves a refreshing impression. Very good (+).

2008 D&L Carinalli Vineyards Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $25. · Moderately light in color. Subdued aromas of cherries, alpine strawberries and pine pitch. Soft and light in style with ephemeral flavors of dried cherries and herbal oak. Decent.

2007 Domaine Carneros Carneros Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.50, $35. Estate produced and bottled. 100% de-stemmed, whole berry fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels. Winemaker TJ Evans. · Lovely perfume which explodes out of the glass offering aromas of black raspberries, black cherries, spice, anise and cedar. Mediumbodied black cherry core which is enhanced by notes of herbs, oak and earth. Beautifully proportioned and balanced, silky in the mouth, and very easy to drink. This wine will find wide appeal. Very good.

2007 Freestone Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $55. Released January 2010. 100% estate grown from Pastorale, Quarter Moon and Ferguson Vineyards. Aged 15 months in 65% new and 35% seasoned French oak barrels. Winemakers Damian Parker and Theresa Heredia. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Remarkably enticing aromas of black cherry, berry, tea and spice box which build in intensity over time in the glass. Very tasty Moroccan spiced berry core with a saturating mid palate attack that carries over on the intense and lengthy finish. An admirable acid spine predicts longevity. A very classy wine for spice lovers.

2007 Graton Ridge Cellars Estate Paul Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $36. · A very charming wine with alluring aromas of Bing cherry and fresh picked strawberries. Delectable and vivid red fruit with up front appeal. Accents of spice and cola add interest. Very RRVish. Juicy, smooth in the mouth and a perfect summer refreshment. Red Sweepstakes winner at the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This wine will find many fans.

2008 Hartford Court Fog Dance Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.69, 443 cases, $55. Estate vineyard. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of black raspberries, rose petals and oak char. Tasty flavors of berries, black cherries, graham, dark coffee and mocha. Smoothly textured and easy to drink. Too much oak-derived flavors for my taste. Good.

2007 J Vineyards & Winery Barrel 16 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.82, 300 cases, $70. Released in October 2009. 16 special barrels chosen by the winemaker, George Bursick. 100% destemmed. Aged 12 months in 30% new French oak barrels and 3 additional months after blending. · Nicely composed array of aromas including red berries and cherries, sassafras and oak spices. Wow! Delicious berry melange nicely spiced with hints of mocha, sassafras and melon. Almost a spiced muffin flavor. A unique wine of modest intensity with a silky smooth texture, mild fine-grain tannins and admirable finesse. Decant if you pop the cork now. A special occasion Pinot Noir.

2009 J Vineyards & Winery California Pinot Gris

14.4% alc., pH 3.46, 20,000 cases, $15, screw cap. Sourced from the Russian River Valley, Monterey County and the Sacramento River Delta region. Fermented in stainless steel tanks with no MLF. Winemaker George Bursick. · Slight frizz upon pouring. Attractive aromas of tropical fruits, bananas, and lemon meringue tart. Bright and tasty with crisp flavors of yuzu, lemon curd, lychee, pear and pineapple. Very creamy in the mouth with a slightly tart finish. A superb food wine and the best example of Pinot Gris produced in California.

2007 Joseph Jewell Wines Appian Way Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.51, 50 cases, $45. From a 2-acre vineyard planted to 60% 115, 20% 777, and 20% Pommard 4 and 5 clones. Goldridge sandy loam. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 14 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of spiced plums, cherries, and green herbs. An unusual bottling from the Russian River Valley offering flavors of red plums, cherry skins, pomegranate, and even white peaches with a hint of citrus and chocolate truffle. Delicate and zingy in style with a dry, tangy finish. Good.

2008 Lucky Star California Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $7.50, Diam closure. No, the price is not a misprint. · Initially the aromas are quite charming featuring black cherries, raspberries and leather hide. With time in the glass the charm fades, and the wine becomes stinky with notes of pine pitch and weeds. Simple and direct, with flavors of black cherries, cola, strawberries, sassafras and an underlying vegetal vein. Definitely Pinot Noir and an exceptional value, although it will not excite Pinot aficionados. Decent.

2008 Olivia Brion Heron Lake Vineyard Wild Horse Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 680 cases, $37. John Neumeyer is the proprietor and D. Mahaffey is the winemaker. Wild Horse Valley is located in the mountains east of the town of Napa and is the coolest growing area in the Napa region. The vineyard was planted in 1980 and produced its first wine in 1985. Reserve wines are bottled under the Olivia Brion label beginning in 2003. Olivia Brion was a suffragette and descendent of a great French wine family. Her many paramours included Warren Harding, Paul Gauguin, and Charles Chaplin. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 14 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy initially, but opens with time in the glass. More savory than fruity, with aromas of ripe, darker berry fruit, violets and the slightest hint of mint. An interesting wine driven by exotic spices, dark berry fruit and cola. The wine really shines with time in the glass, bringing together healthy tannins, zingy acidity, uplifting minerality and hearty fruit into a very enjoyable drink. This is one of those little known and little touted labels that surprises with a very unique and lovable Pinot Noir.

2008 Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $36. · Deep reddish purple color in the glass. Nicely aromatic profile of dark fruits, cut flowers, toffee and herbs. The core of sweet dark stone fruits packs a wallop. Very tasty, smooth in the mouth, with soft tannins. Needs a big lamb chop. Currently, the most drinkable Pinot Noir in the 2008 Red Car lineup. Not as refined as the other 2008 Red Car wines but more giving. Very good (-).

2008 Red Car The Aphorist Bartolomei Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $60. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Opens reluctantly in the glass but with coaxing reveals pleasing aromas of black raspberries, black cherries, Jolly Rancher reds and pine pitch. Pretty core of dark red berry, blueberry and pomegranate fruit with a sidecar of citrus. Zippered up like a tight corset. The tannins are restrained and there is respectable persistence on the fruit-filled finish. Very good.

2008 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Boheme Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $60. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy but very enticing perfume of wild strawberries, black cherries and exotic woods. Delicious attack of full-bodied and ripe strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruit glides to the finish. The most tannic of the Red Car wines in this vintage, but the tannins are slippery. Impressive juice that will benefit from another year or two in the cellar.

2008 Red Car Dreamland Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $60. · Moderately deep color in the glass. Very shy initially, opening slowly to reveal lovely scents of plums, berries, sandalwood and spice. Very soft, even ephemeral, dark berry and plum fruit which lightly coats the mouth building to a generous and lengthy finish. This wine seduces you slowly, finishing you off with a big and memorable climax.

Note: The 2008 Red Car vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs were released in April 2010. These are young puppies and very difficult to evaluate at this stage. These are amazingly fruited wines, all reluctantly offering hedonistic pleasure now. Definitely decant these wines if you choose to pop a cork now. Patience will be rewarded. I did not find any signs of smoke taint in the wines. The Red Car labels continue to be among the best in the business. Red Car is opening a tasting room this summer in Graton adjacent the Dutton-Goldfield tasting room at the corner of Graton Road and Highway 116. As for now, the wines are sold exclusively through an allocated mailing list.

2007 Three Sticks Winery Durrell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.60, 375 cases, $55. The proprietor of Durell Vineyard selects the finest blocks from the 130 acres of Durell Vineyard he owns to produce this wine. Clones 115 and 777. Aged 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Alluring perfume of red fruits, grapes and roasted nuts. The discreetly concentrated sweet red berry core has an underpinning of earthiness and smoky oak. Soft and velvety on the palate, this charmer flaunts Pinot’s sensual side. A very Caliesque offering that will find many fans. Very good.

2007 Twin Oaks Cellars La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $42. Proprietor and winemaker is Mark Weiner. · Starts off nicely with alluring aromas of black cherries and sage fading a bit over time in the glass. Bright and juicy with tasty flavors of dark cherries, plums and lavender. An enjoyable drink that is nicely balanced, soft in the mouth and easy to cozy up to. Very good.

2007 Twin Oaks Cellars Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $42. · Aromas of ripe dark stone fruits, vanillin, green garden and fennel. Moderately rich flavors of black currants, cassis and cola with a hint of citrus peel on the crisp finish. Supple tannins and a silky mouth feel add to the appeal. Good.

2009 Twomey Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

13.9% alc., $25, screw cap. Sourced primarily from the estate vineyard surrounding the Twomey winery on Dunaweal Lane just south of Calistoga. Very attractive stately clear bottle. · Clear color in the glass. Aromas of lemon curd, eucalyptus, pineapple and banana. Flavors of golden apple, lemon, Kumquat zest and grass. A delicate wine that is bright with acidity yet slightly creamy on the palate. Put a little chill on this and take it along as a perfect summer picnic companion. Good.

2008 Twomey Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.58, $50. Sourced from four vineyards including McDougall Ranch, Putnam, Gap’s Crown and Rodgers Creek. Whole clusters added to open-top fermenters. 7-day cold soak. Each clone was fermented separately. Aged 13 months on the lees in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of fresh wild berries and plum tart with a hint of smoke and sagebrush. Medium-weighted flavors of strawberries, raspberries and an underbody of citrus. A hint of smoke surfaces in the glass. Lacks mid palate impact and seems awkward, although it improves some in the glass indicating it will benefit from further aging in the bottle. Good.

2008 Twomey Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.56, $50. Sourced from Ferrington Vineyard, Savoy Vineyard and Monument Tree Vineyard. Whole clusters added to the open-top fermenters. 7-day cold soak. Clones were fermented separately. Juice rested on the skins 5 days post fermentation. Aged 6 months on the lees and 6 months off the lees in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light in color. Restrained aromas of red berries, cedar and barnyard. Light in body with flavors of strawberries, Red Vines, dried cherries and game. Supple tannins and easy drinkability but lacks interest. Good.

2008 Twomey Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.62, $50. Sourced from the estate West Pin Vineyard and Crinella Vineyard. Whole clusters were added to open top fermenters. Aged 13 months on the lees in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light in color. Aromas of black cherries, red hots and sawn oak. Tasty cherry cola core without much added nuance. Tannins are restrained and there is lively acidity on the bright finish. This wine is understated but charming. Very good.

2008 Twomey Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., pH 3.57, $50. Sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Whole clusters added to open-top fermenters. 7-day cold soak. Post fermentation maceration. Aged 12 months on the lees in 40% new French oak barrels. · Scents of plums, underbrush and oak char. Middle weight flavors of dark fruits and blueberries with an earthy undertone. Pleasant and easy to drink with a silky mouth feel. Good.

Note: The 2008 Twomey Pinot Noirs all show admirable finesse and balance. They are lighter-styled and appealing but somewhat generic. I would compare them to the Honda Civic automobile: well-made, likable, dependable, reliable, but lack excitement. I plan to re-taste the wines in 6 months.

2008 Waits-Mast Amber Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 25 cases, $44. Released April 2010. Clones 115, 667 and 777. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 12 months in 33% new French oak. · Unusual aromatics starting off with scents of wine cave and oak toast progressing to aromas of gingerbread and roasted tomato without any fruit evident. Tasty core of dark ripe cherries and cassis with a brown spice and roasted fruit tone. Smooth in the mouth with supple tannins. Big discrepancy between the nose and flavors may resolve with more time in the bottle. Decent.

2007 Willowbrook JCO Limited Russian River Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $25. is Joseph Otos. · Rich, showy berry jam aromas with the slightest oak initially fading a bit in the glass revealing more oak and oily pavement scents. Medium-bodied cherry and berry fruit which is slightly confected. A forward, easy drinking wine which is light on its feet offering a pleasing cherry cola note on the lingering finish. Good.

2007 Woodenhead Humboldt County Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $40. Unfined and unfiltered. · A fruity nose featuring fresh plums and boysenberries picking up intensity in the glass with oak dancing in and out along the way. Earth bound dark stone fruits with a wild quality. Nicely integrated oak with a hint of citric peel in the background. The tannins are well-structured and supple. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Humboldt County - who knew?

2007 Woodenhead Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $40. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of oak-infused cherry and berry fruits. Tasty cherry and berry essence with cola and oak in the background. Elegant with soft tannins and easy drinkability. A nice little wine for daily drinking. Good.

2007 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $57. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose needs some time to express itself, offering aromas of black cherries, spice box and herbs. Charming essence of cherries and sassafras with a good dose of baking spice and juicy fruit flavors. This wine has a way of drawing you in to its charms. This bottle did not show quite as well as the one that won the Pinot Cup at this year’s Pigs and Pinot event in Healdsburg. Very good.

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