2011 Pinot on the River: Delicious Sonoma Pinot Noirs

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2011 PINOT ON THE RIVER – Town Square, Healdsburg, California (10/23/2011)

This eighth annual edition of Pinot on the River was a very fun event, with lots of great wines. Most of the producers come from Sonoma County, but Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot was the focus of the event’s morning seminar. The location and weather proved ideal for the grand tasting portion of the event this year, with cool, sunny skies on the square in Healdsburg. I tasted a total of 147 wines from 65 producers, which was nearly everything on hand, including 91 from the supple and generally delicious 2009 vintage (and 17 from the, so far, underwhelming 2010 vintage).

Ten winemakers/owners, representing 11 producers, were on hand for the morning seminar devoted to Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Unfortunately the temperature at that hour of the morning in the outdoor location where the tasting was held was not ideal for tasting, as it was really too cold, hovering around 58 degrees, for the wines to be fully expressive. It was great to hear from the winemakers, however, especially regarding the challenges of growing wine in the relatively cool SCM climate. For more on that seminar, see below.

My average score for the day was 89.27 points, which is a high score for me on a large-scale tasting of this kind. I was very familiar with most of the producers, which include many that I taste and visit on a regular basis, but there were a few that were new to me: Bluxome Street, Bruliam, St. Rose and VML.

Pinots rated 89 points and higher below were very good and enjoyable. The very top producers at this tasting, for me, responsible for one or more wines I rated 92 points or higher, were Balletto, Benovia, Big Basin, Keefer Ranch, Littorai, Mount Eden, Small Vines, Sojourn and Windy Oaks. The following are the wines I rated 92 points or higher:

2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Winery Block – 92 points
2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir BCD – 92 points
2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Cohn Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una – 93 points
2009 Benovia Pinot Noir La Pommeraie – 93 points
2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – 92 points
2008 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – 92+ points
2009 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – 92+ points
2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate – 92+ points
2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Russian River – 92+ points
2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard – 93+ points
2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard – 93 points
2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast – 93 points
2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast – 92+ points
2008 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard – 92 points

For the complete tasting notes, and additional comments on particular producers, see below.

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Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Morning Seminar

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from left, Jeffrey Patterson of Mount Eden, Jim Schultze of Windy Oaks, Bradley Brown of Big Basin, and Prudy Foxx, President of the Santa Cruz Mountains Viticulture Association

As mentioned above, at 10 am when this seminar started, it was too chilly for these wines to show properly. My tasting notes for this seminar are really based on not only what I was able to get out of the icy glass, warming it as best I could, but also deciphering the wine underneath the ice, based on my prior experiences with the wine or winery.

Santa Cruz Mountains is my home wine country. It was officially designated an appellation in 1981, becoming the first appellation recognized for its mountainous terrain, with vineyards up to 2600 feet. The typical vineyard size, given the terrain, is also quite small compared to other appellations. About a quarter of the appellation is planted to Pinot Noir, another quarter to Chardonnay, a third quarter to Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest to other grapes. The climate is cool and often foggy and cloudy in spots, favoring Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which crave cool growing conditions.

Prudy Foxx summarized the 2011 SCM vintage as being “nature’s reaction against high alcohol wines.” At most, grapes got to 23-24 brix, versus the 25-27 range in warmer years. The Spring rains also washed off pollen, stopping grapes from setting in a lot of rows and vineyards. There was also a lot of “shatter,” i.e., flowers that never formed berries. Tonnage was about half as much as usual. On the other hand, Prudy claimed, it was an opportunity to pull flavors from SCM grapes that they haven’t seen for years.

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  • 2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Bottled – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; reticent cherry, black cherry, baking spice nose; baking spice, tart cherry, tart raspberry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium cherry red with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; rhubarb, light French oak, graham cracker nose; tight, tart cherry, rhubarb, graham cracker palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (30% whole cluster, 34-day fermentation; 70% new French oak; 24 mos. in barrel; oldest block, very steep) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark ruby color; intense, tart cherry, black cherry, floral nose; creamy textured, tart cherry, black cherry, subtle spice palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Alfaro Family Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark ruby color; ripe black cherry, wild berry nose; tight, tart raspberry, tart black cherry, wild berry palate with good acidity; medium finish 90+ points (clones 667 & 777) (90 pts.)
  • 2001 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Bottled Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Slightly bricking medium ruby color with pale meniscus; mature, dried berry, sweet tobacco, tart cherry nose; mature, tart raspberry, tart red fruit palate with medium acidity; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Vine Hill Winery Pinot Noir Cumbre of Vine Hill Raffaelli Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark ruby color; baked cherry, baking spice, rhubarb nose; tight, baking spice, baked cherry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (667, 777 and Pommard) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, baked raspberry, brown sugar, black cherry, nutmeg nose; tight, tart black cherry,k black raspberry, nutmeg palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (clones 114, 115, 667 and 777) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Burrell School Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Very dark ruby color; brett, tart berry nose; tight, tart berry, baked berry, brett palate; medium finish (planted in 1991; Pommard 05 & 3 Dijon clones) (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Beauregard Vineyards Pinot Noir Bald Mountain Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark ruby color; spicy, baked cherry, baked berry, American oak nose; ripe raspberry, black raspberry, vanilla palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Estate Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium cherry red color; sandalwood, black cherry nose; tight, black cherry, sandalwood, soy sauce palate; medium finish (Martini clone; 3 yr old air dried French oak) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Rhys Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, San Mateo County
    Dark ruby color; stems, savory, green bean, green bean casserole nose; tight, stemmy, thin tart red fruit palate with firm tannins; needs 7 years; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Alysian

  • 2008 Alysian Wines (Gary Farrell) Pinot Noir Floodgate Vineyards Rock Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; ripe cherry, cinnamon nose; cinnamon, ripe cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Alysian Wines (Gary Farrell) Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard, Allen-Rochioli Blocks – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice tart cherry, floral nose; tasty, poised, tart cherry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Auteur

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  • 2009 Auteur Pinot Noir Sonoma Stage Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; nice cherry, baked cherry, red fruit nose; tasty, silky textured, baked cherry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Auteur Pinot Noir Back Block Shea Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, French oak nose; baked cherry, French oak palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Bailiwick

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Bailiwick was launched in 2009 by brothers Bryan and Paul Vais. They’ve been making wine as hobbyists since the ’80s. Their inaugural 2009 releases are quite impressive.

  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Borderline – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Marin County
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; floral, hibiscus, tart cherry nose; soft, tart cherry, floral palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (inaugural release; Swan selection, Dijon and Pommard clones; 16 mos. in French oak, 50% new) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; tart cherry, hibiscus nose; tasty, tart cherry, hibiscus palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Silver Pines Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
    Medium red color; tart cherry, light incense, herbal nose; tasty, herbal, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (100% clone 115) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Michaud – USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, sandalwood nose; tart cherry, tart red fruit palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Balletto

I was very impressed with this Balletto lineup. They’ve progressed a lot since I first tasted Balletto’s Pinots two years ago. The Ballettos own about 500 acres of vines in the cool, southern part of the Russian River AVA, planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. They sell most of their grapes to other wineries, selecting about 10% of what they grow for their own wines. Anthony Beckman, formerly with Peay, is the winemaker. There is clearly delicious fruit here, which is generally complimented by the winemaking.

  • 2010 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; strawberry pie, raspberry nose; tasty, strawberry pie, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Winery Block – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; graham cracker, cherry nose; ripe cherry, ripe raspberry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir BCD – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; ripe cherry, raspberry, floral nose; tasty, poised, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Burnside Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice cherry, baked cherry, cola nose; cola, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Benovia

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I’m a big fan of Benovia’s Pinots. Their Chardonnays are quite good too. The owners are Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane, along with co-owner and winemaker Mike Sullivan. They have 71 acres of estate vineyards, including the Cohn Vineyard. The Pommeraie Vineyard is owned by the Martinellis. The Bella Una is a blend of grapes from two Russian River vineyards, Martinelli and Dutton Manzana, consisting of Dijon clones 115 and 828.

  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, cranberry nose; rich, tart cherry, cranberry, tart raspberry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; spicy, tart cherry, tart raspberry, baking spice nose; tight, tart strawberry, tart raspberry palate with a touch of brett; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Cohn Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, hibiscus, tart strawberry nose; tasty, poised, tart cherry, tart red fruit palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (planted in 1970) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; appealing, focused, rich cherry, black raspberry nose; tasty, rich but poised, tart cherry, black cherry palate with subtle spice and good acidity; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir La Pommeraie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark ruby color; tart cherry, ripe raspberry, French oak nose; tasty, poised, tart cherry, raspberry palate with integrating oak; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Berridge

  • 2009 Berridge Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, graham cracker, oak nose; tart cherry, French oak palate; needs 2 years; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Berridge Wines Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, oak, pie crust nose; tight, tart cherry, pie crust palate; medium-plus finish (mostly Londer fruit) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Berridge Wines Pinot Noir Mendocino – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium dark red color; tart cherry, light floral nose; tart cherry, tart berry, floral palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Big Basin

  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Coastview Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Medium dark cherry red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; tart berry, tart cherry nose; tart black cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Floral, tart cherry, hibiscus nose; tart cherry, floral, hibiscus palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry nose; appealing, tart cherry, floral palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Woodruff Family Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; focused, berry, black cherry nose; berry, black cherry, raspberry palate; medium finish (91 pts.)

Black Kite

  • 2009 Black Kite Pinot Noir Kite’s Rest – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, light brett nose; tart cherry, light brett palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Black Kite Pinot Noir River Turn – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; baked raspberry, cherry pie filling nose; soft, baked raspberry, cherry pie filling palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Bluxome Street

  • 2009 Bluxome Street Winery Pinot Noir Thorn Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; brett, tart red fruit nose; soft, brett, tart raspberry palate; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Bluxome Street Winery Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark red color; reticent, cinnamon, light smoke nose; light smoke, tart baked cherry palate; medium finish (83 pts.)
  • 2010 Bluxome Street Winery Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark red color; oak, tart cherry, baking spice nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry, baking spice palate; medium finish 87+ points (87 pts.)

Breggo

  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; pie crust, lightly spicy cherry nose; soft, spicy cherry, pie crust palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, baked rhubarb nose; soft, tart cherry, baked rhubarb palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Donnelly Creek – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, cherry pie, graham cracker nose; tight, cherry pie filling, graham cracker palate; medium finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Bruliam

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  • 2009 Bruliam Pinot Noir Doctor’s Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, baked cherry, pie crust nose; tasty, baked cherry, pie crust palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bruliam Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    (Pre-release: Jan. 2012 release) Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cherry pie filling, herbal nose; soft, cherry, pie filling, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bruliam Pinot Noir Deer Meadows Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color; tart cherry, spicy nose; soft, spicy cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bruliam Zinfandel Rocky Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile
    Dark cherry red color; deep berry, violet nose; violet, berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Burrell School

  • 2006 Burrell School Vineyards Pinot Noir Principal’s Choice Estate Reserve – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; maturing, tart red fruit, baked berry nose; tart black cherry, baked berry palate with firm tannins; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Calstar

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  • 2009 Calstar Cellars Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart berry nose; tasty, tart berry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Calstar Cellars Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked raspberry, cherry nose; tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Calstar Cellars Pinot Noir Londer Estate Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart black cherry nose; black cherry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Canihan Family

  • 2007 Canihan Family Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; minty, chocolate nose; chocolate, cherry, mint palate; medium finish (French oak for 23 mos.) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Canihan Family Pinot Noir Exuberance Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, raspberry nose; tight, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Canihan Family Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; red fruit, light mint nose; light brett, red fruit, mint palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Cartograph

  • 2009 Cartograph Pinot Noir Floodgate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color; ripe cherry, French oak nose; tasty, tart cherry, French oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Cartograph Pinot Noir Perli Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino Ridge
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, vanilla, French oak nose; tart cherry, vanilla, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Claypool

  • 2009 Claypool Cellars Pinot Noir Purple Pachyderm Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; smoke, tart cherry nose; odd, smoke, tart cherry palate with no acidity; medium finish (82 pts.)

Couloir

  • 2010 Couloir Wines Pinot Noir Londer – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Pre-release – dark cherry red color; tart black cherry, tart berry nose; tasty, tart cherry, tart black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Demuth Family

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  • 2006 Demuth Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Demuth Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Light medium orange red color with pale meniscus; nice, baked blood orange nose; tasty, mature, blood orange, caramel palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Demuth Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Demuth Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; cherry, raspberry nose; tart cherry, oak, graham cracker palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

De Novo

  • 2010 De Novo Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; intense, dried cherry nose; dried cherry, oak palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 De Novo Pinot Noir Destein Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Bennett Valley
    Light medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; odd, dried berry nose; dried berry, fig palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)
  • 2007 De Novo Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; dried fig nose; dried fig, orange palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Desmond

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I like the floral quality and relative lightness of these Desmond Pinot Noirs. Bill and Danette Robbins’s five acres are planted to Dijon clones 115, 667, 777 and 828. I think they’re doing a terrific job.

  • 2008 Desmond Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe raspberry, subtle French oak, floral nose; raspberry, baked raspberry, floral palate; medium finish (clones 115, 667 & 777) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Desmond Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; hibiscus, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, hibiscus palate with good acidity; medium finish (clones 115, 667 & 777; 11 mos in 40% new French oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Desmond Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; light strawberry, floral nose; tasty, tart strawberry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Donatiello

  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; spicy, tart cherry nose; ripe raspberry, spicy cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Hervey Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; rich berry, cherry nose; rich cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Maddie’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, black fruit nose; tight, tart cherry, black fruit palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Tina Marie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart black cherry, black fruit nose; tight, tart black cherry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Block 15 Floodgate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; ripe raspberry, floral, tart cherry nose; ripe raspberry, floral, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Donum

  • 2009 Donum Pinot Noir Estate Grown Carneros – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Pre-release – medium red color with pale meniscus; focused cherry, cherry pie filling nose; tasty, focused, tart cherry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Foursight

  • 2009 Foursight Pinot Noir Zero Charles Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, rhubarb nose; tart cherry, rhubarb palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Foursight Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (20% new oak) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Foursight Pinot Noir Clone 05 Charles Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry, savory nose; tart cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, savory palate; medium-plus finish (100% Pommard 05 clone; 50% new oak) (90 pts.)

Freestone

  • 2008 Freestone Pinot Noir Fogdog Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry, roses nose; tasty, tart cherry, roses, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Gundlach Bundschu

  • 2008 Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir Pommard and Dijon Clones Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cinnamon nose; tart cherry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Hahn/Lucienne/Chef’s Table

  • 2009 Lucienne Pinot Noir Doctor’s Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, vanilla nose; baked cherry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Chef’s Table (Hahn) Pinot Noir SLH – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, black cherry nose; spicy, black cherry, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Handley

  • 2009 Handley Pinot Noir RSM Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, spice nose; tart cherry, cinnamon, spice palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Handley Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; vanilla, berry nose; vanilla, red berry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Keefer Ranch

  • 2009 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe cherry, baked cherry nose; tasty, poised, ripe cherry, baked cherry, light pie crust palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Ketcham

  • 2009 Ketcham Estate Pinot Noir Ketcham Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, light brett nose; tart cherry, light brett, sour cream palate; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Ketcham Estate Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, sour cream nose; tart cherry, sour cream palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Landmark

  • 2009 Landmark Pinot Noir Grand Detour – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, tart cherry, smoke nose; smoke, tart cherry, blood orange palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

La Rochelle

  • 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Light orange pink color; tart cranberry nose; tasty, tart cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Meunier Four Sisters Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intriguing, intense, baked raspberry, baked strawberry nose; tasty, baked strawberry, raspberry, apple, earthy palate; medium finish 90-91 points (100% Pinot Meunier) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; nice, strawberry pie nose; tasty, richly flavored but light-medium bodied, strawberry pie, graham cracker palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2008 La Rochelle Pinot Noir Block A Sleepy Hollow Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; rich, cherry pie filling nose; tasty, cherry pie filling, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Landy Family

  • 2009 Landy Family Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; French oak, tart cherry nose; baked cherry, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Littorai

Ted Lemon founded Littorai in ’93, and his Chards and Pinots are benchmarks for more Burgundian (for lack of a better term) Chards and Pinots in California. The Hirsch Vineyard bottling was particularly delicious in this lineup, although it could benefit from a few years of bottle age.

  • 2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, focused, tart cherry, cinnamon, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; brett, tart red fruit nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, ripe cherry, ripe raspberry nose; tasty, tight, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Lost Canyon

  • 2009 Lost Canyon Pinot Noir Morelli Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; herbal, tart cherry, black cherry nose; tart black cherry, light herb palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Lost Canyon Pinot Noir Saralee’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; baked cherry, baked raspberry nose; baked cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium finish (88 pts.)

MacPhail

  • 2009 MacPhail Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, floral nose; floral, baked cherry, forest floor palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 MacPhail Pinot Noir Wildcat Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; reduction, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, reduction palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

MacRostie

  • 2009 MacRostie Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice tart cherry, floral, raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, floral, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 MacRostie Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; tart baked cherry, smoke nose; tart baked cherry, smoke palate; medium finish (87 pts.)

Mahoney

  • 2007 Mahoney Vineyards Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; intense, brown sugar, berry nose; soft, berry, brown sugar palate; medium-plus finish (good value at under $20) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Mahoney Vineyards Pinot Noir Las Brisas Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; berry, ripe cherry nose; soft, tart berry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Mahoney Vineyards Pinot Noir Mahoney Ranch – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, floral nose; tasty, tart cherry, floral, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Martin Ray

  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir Angeline – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart berry, cherry nose; simple, tart berry palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, black cherry nose; tart cherry, black cherry palate; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Very dark cherry red color; pie crust, vanilla, black cherry nose; black cherry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir Reserve Los Carneros – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; oak, berry nose; tight, oak, berry palate; medium-plus finish (84 pts.)

Masút

  • 2009 Masút Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, sour cream nose; soft, tart cherry, sour cream palate; medium finish (87 pts.)

Matrix

  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Buoncristiani – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intense, baked cherry, hibiscus nose; soft, baked cherry, hibiscus palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Bacigalupi – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; floral, tart cherry nose; unusual, focused, tart cherry, floral palate; medium-plus finish 89+ points (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Nûnes Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; oak, hibiscus, odd nose; odd, tart cherry, oak, hibiscus palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Reserve Bacigalupi – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry oak nose; tart cherry, oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Reserve Nûnes Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice baked cherry nose; odd, tart cherry, oak, green herb palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Reserve Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, pie crust nose; soft, tart baked cherry, pie crust palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Merryvale

  • 2009 Merryvale Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice raspberry, baked raspberry, cherry nose; soft, raspberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Merryvale Pinot Noir Stanly Ranch Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; nice cherry, baked cherry nose; soft, poised, baked cherry, ripe cherry palate; medium finish (89 pts.)

Orsi Papale

  • 2009 Orsi Papale Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark red color with pale meniscus; baked raspberry, oak nose; tight, baked raspberry, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Patz & Hall

  • 2009 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Chenoweth Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark ruby color; ripe raspberry, spicy cherry nose; rich, ripe raspberry, spicy cherry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Hyde Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry nose; soft, baked cherry, tart black cherry palate; needs 1-2 years; medium finish (90 pts.)

Phillips Hill

  • 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Hinterlands 50% Manchester Ridge, 50% Oppenlander – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; oak, tart cherry, baked cherry nose; oak, tart cherry, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Wiley Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Light-medium red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; light, tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, lightly spicy cherry, French oak palate; medium finish (88 pts.)

Portalupi

  • 2009 Portalupi Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; black cherry, berry, French oak nose; ripe black cherry, French oak palate; medium finish (from Rochioli East Block) (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Portalupi Pinot Noir Russell Family Ranch – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark cherry red color; black cherry, berry, French oak nose; soft, tart black cherry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points (87 pts.)

Red Car

  • 2010 Red Car Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intense, cherry candy, berry nose; soft, tart cherry palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Red Car Pinot Noir The Aphorist Bartolomei Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; simple, red berry palate; short-medium finish (85 pts.)

Small Vines

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My post from last year regarding this producer, and the winemaker/owner’s Burgundian approach to high density plantings, can be found here. Paul is making wonderfully complex and expressive wines, and these 2009s showed particularly well.

  • 2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, black cherry, tart berry, raspberry nose; tasty, rich, tart berry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; raspberry, cherry pie filling, floral nose; tasty, silky textured, raspberry, tart cherry, lightly savory palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; rich, aromatic, ripe berry, ripe cherry, berry liqueur nose; lush but poised, ripe raspberry, berry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Sojourn

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I’ve written a number of times here about Sojourn’s wines, both the Pinots and the very tasting Cabernets, and owners Craig Haserot and his partner/winemaker Erich Bradley are friends of mine. The wines are consistently good, and expressive of the vineyard sources. The 2009 Rodgers Creek showed particularly well.

  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe cherry, cherry pie filling, pie crust nose; poised, juicy, tart cherry, pie crust, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; nice, tart raspberry, tart cherry, pie crust nose; tasty, silky textured, tart cherry, tart raspberry plate; medium-plus finish (80% Pommard clone) (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Wohler Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, dried cherry nose; baked cherry, cherry pie filling, pie crust palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • >2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe raspberry, spicy, berry nose; sexy, ripe berry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

St. Rose

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  • 2009 St. Rose Pinot Noir Nunes – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; roses, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart red fruit, blood orange, roses palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (clone 777, planted 1998) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 St. Rose Pinot Noir Ten Block Nunes – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; black cherry, brown sugar nose; tasty, tart black cherry, brown sugar palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Taz

  • 2007 Taz Pinot Noir Fiddlestix – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills
    Medium dark cherry red color; oak, tart cherry, orange nose; oak, tart cherry, orange palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Terlato

  • 2008 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, tart plum nose; tart cherry, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Thumbprint

  • 2007 Thumbprint Cellars Pinot Noir Pratt Vineyards – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, berry, VA nose; tart cherry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish (Martini clone) (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Thumbprint Cellars Pinot Noir Schneider Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, lightly smoky nose; tart cherry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish (Pommard clone) (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Thumbprint Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve Nugent Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, oak nose; oak, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

TR Elliott

  • 2007 TR Elliott Pinot Noir Burgonet – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; oak, tart cherry nose; oak, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 TR Elliott Pinot Noir Queste – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; oak, tart cherry, raspberry nose; oak, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

VML

  • 2010 VML Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; black cherry, oak nose; black cherry, oak, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 VML Wines Pinot Noir ivywood – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, oak nose; tart cherry, oak, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2010 VML Wines Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Select – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, oak, black cherry nose; tart cherry, oak, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Waits-Mast Family

  • 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Amber Ridge – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; brett, tart red fruit nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Hayley Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, raspberry nose; baked cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Deer Meadows Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, baked cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, baked cherry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Wind Gap

  • 2010 Wind Gap Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; stems, green bean nose; tart cherry, stems, light green bean palate; medium finish (60% whole cluster) (89 pts.)
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