Anglim Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard 2007

SANTA RITA HILLS | CALIFORNIA | $45
Mature cherry fruit accented with pomegranate and red plum, plus notes of violets, cedar, allspice and bay, and hints of graphite and orange. Exotic and complex, light-medium bodied with a pleasant natural acidity. Expansive flavors, velvety mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish. Oh, not your everyday purveyor of fine goods, this milliner’s wares range from the respectable to that chapeau suitable for one’s inner Carmen Miranda, and her shop provides an entertaining escape and sanctum to rest a weary mind. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 2/22/14)

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Filed under $21 to $50, California, Pinot Noir

Clendenen Nebbiolo ‘The Pip’ 2007

SANTA MARIA VALLEY | CALIFORNIA | $25
Fresh flavors of raspberry and tart cherry with notes grapefruit, cilantro and stone minerals. Light bodied, focused with bright acidity and a pucker on the finish. It’s a bouncy wine, full of life far more vivacious than its age might suggest. Like one of those fellows that harmonizes with Gladys, this one is smooth and skilled, but the upper range alone has its limits. A good wine. (Reviewed 3/2/14)

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Filed under $21 to $50, California, Italian Varietals

Chateau Margene Pinot Noir 2006

PASO ROBLES | CALIFORNIA | $48
Soft raspberry and strawberry with savory flavors of cedar, tobacco and coriander, plus hints of rhubarb and chalk. Light-medium bodied, complex and well integrated with refreshing acidity and a lingering finish. Lots of flavorful mid-notes here to chew on, and visually stunning, too, with exceptional clarity and a gorgeous garnet color. Beauty and substance, substance and beauty — she’s the perfect girl to bring home to mom. A very good wine. (Reviewed 1/18/14)

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Filed under $21 to $50, California, Pinot Noir

Sea Smoke Pinot Noir ‘Botella’ 2006

SANTA RITA HILLS | CALIFORNIA | $39
Medium-bodied raspberry and red cherry with notes of rhubarb, bay, cola and orange peel. Nicely weighted on the palate with a silky smooth texture and tart-cherry finish. Bottle age has no doubt tamed the fruit and elevated savory flavors to reveal a wine of attractive proportions. A bit tight-fisted initially, but easily opened up with glass time or a gentle decanting. Given time to breathe, this young-vine bottling will reward. A child returning from parent-inflicted solitude, this one needs some time to acclimate and engage pleasantly. A very good wine. (Reviewed 12/26/13)

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Filed under $21 to $50, California, Pinot Noir

Ken Brown Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard 2009

SANTA RITA HILLS | CALIFORNIA | $65
Ripe black cherry and wild berries with sublime notes of forest floor, dried porcini, orange zest and cardamom. Medium bodied with a suede-like texture and a slight tooth, well integrated and equally fruit-soil balanced — an earthy wine providing considerable character and complexity. A thoughtful chap, good natured and warm, as quick to enlighten as to entertain, but never to overshadow. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 11/19/13)

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Filed under $51 to $100, California, Pinot Noir

L’Aventure ‘Cote a Cote’ 2007

PASO ROBLES | CALIFORNIA | $80
Cedar and violets on the nose yielding to concentrated blackberry and black currant fruit with notes of tobacco, chalk and tar. Forward fruit with plenty of savory flavors for balance. A complex and powerful wine (15.9% alcohol!) with massive flavor and character. Inky opaque to the eye, silky smooth on the palate and rewardingly lingering at the finish. He’s a grand character, robust in size and manner, nearly large enough to possess gravitational force, and impeccably tailored, too — he fills a room, and yet in dialogue, he causes others to feel they are the center of it all. 40% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 1/20/14)

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Filed under $51 to $100, California, Syrah/Shiraz | Grenache | Mourvedre

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir ‘Knox Alexander’ 2009

SANTA MARIA VALLEY | CALIFORNIA | $45
Raspberries, young cherries and cranberries with Meyer lemon and herbal flavors of bay and file gumbo. Medium-light bodied, quenching, with a Burgundian natural fruit acidity that compliments a meal. Wonderfully moderate 13.5% alcohol. A lively wine, perhaps precocious; yet this is no impish youngster poised to initiate grand-scale disruption — rather we have a boyish adult, ready with a quip, easily eliciting a smile. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 1/3/14)

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Filed under $21 to $50, California, Pinot Noir

Babcock Pinot Noir ‘Ocean’s Ghost’ 2005

SANTA RITA HILLS | CALIFORNIA | $50
Deep purple in the glass with notes of barnyard on the nose, flavors of mature blackberry, black cherry and plum glaze, with cigar box, sage and a hint of citrus pith. Nicely integrated and complex. Medium bodied, meaning a full-throated Pinot, this. Pretty, big and forward. And more brassy than voluptuous — age having its effect. Some compare racy Pinots to Pamela Anderson; here we have Bette Midler. A very good wine. (Reviewed 10/26/13)

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Filed under $21 to $50, California, Pinot Noir

Clendenen Pinot Noir ‘Le Bon Climat’ 2008

SANTA MARIA VALLEY | CALIFORNIA | $60
Beautifully translucent, agile on the palate, full of fruit and earth flavors. Deep plum, bright cherry and a hint of mango well-integrated with forest floor, dried mushroom, cedar, bay and fennel seed. Present but tame acidity, medium-light bodied with a satin texture and some tooth. Restrained, in a Burgundian style, showing nice fruit-soil balance. Gracefully executed, she’s more ballerina than gymnast. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 10/19/13)

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Filed under $51 to $100, California, Pinot Noir

Linne Calodo ‘Problem Child’ 2006

PASO ROBLES | CALIFORNIA | $60
Concentrated blackberry, roasted plum and black cherry with complimentary notes of forest floor, sage, bay, chalk and a faint wisp of camphor. Shows deep, nearly opaque purple color and long legs in the glass. Full bodied, but somehow not full on the palate, with a velvety, luxe texture and a lingering finish that shows no end. A powerful wine, yet wisely crafted and beautifully integrated showing a near-perfect fruit-savory balance — no fruit bomb, this. For those who count, and apparently this reviewer does, it’s a massive 15.7% alcohol, but still, it shows no heat. This rambunctious tot is all grown up. 77% Zinfandel, 12% Syrah, 11% Mourvedre. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 10/12/11)

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Filed under $51 to $100, California, Zinfandel