Chehalem Pinot Noir Stoller Vineyards 2010

DUNDEE HILLS | OREGON | $50

Red cherry, raspberry and dark plum fruit with flavors of damp earth, rhubarb, anise and orange peel. Light-medium bodied with nicely focused fruit accompanied by complex savory notes; sinewy with a luxe suede texture, firm tannins and a long finish. No heavyweight quaff this; we’re in a the leaner weight division — taught muscles, superb timing and a great reach — a wine not unlike Sugar Ray Leonard (a “Dundee product,” also — his trainer was trainer Angelo Dundee). A very good, near excellent wine. (Reviewed 1/2/15)

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

Iron Horse ‘Russian Cuvee’ 2009

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY | CALIFORNIA | $42

Golden Delicious apple, Bartlett pear and Meyer lemon with vanilla creme and blanched almonds. Bold flavors, broad on the palate with pin-prick effervescence and a so-pleasant sweet-tart finish. A beautifully balanced sparkler, apropos of a wine originally crafted for the Regan-Gorbachev Summit ending the Cold War. Ah, detent! Perhaps these times call for another bottle. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 12/31/14)

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Filed under $21 to $50, California, Sparkling Wine

Ken Brown Pinot Noir Rancho La Vina Vineyard 2010

SANTA RITA HILLS | CALIFORNIA | $60

Deep blackberry and purple plum with a touch of black cherry and savory notes of cedar, bay, coriander and orange peel. Beautifully forward fruit, yet superbly balanced; a full-flavored Pinot, bold and daring. Substantive, a touch weighted, with a satiny mouthfeel and a lingering finish. Be ready for this belle — she’ll match your witty repartee with racy barb or two that’ll have you struggling to ebb your blush. A very good wine. (Reviewed 12/28/14)

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

Thomas George Pinot Noir Lancel Creek Vineyard 2010

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY | CALIFORNIA | $55
Deep black cherry, Mission fig and dried mulberry with earthy flavors of allspice, Ceylon cinnamon, molasses and bay. Seriously complex, slightly fruit forward and decidedly on the grander side of medium bodied — no austere wine, this. A perk of acidity adds a tenor voice; otherwise, it’s all baritone. No Three Tenors here. For a better match, check iTunes for Morphine (the band, please). A very good wine. (Reviewed 12/20/14)

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

Idella Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

NAPA VALLEY | CALIFORNIA | $95
Full-bodied boysenberry fruit masterfully balanced with complex flavors of licorice, violets, black cardamom, cacao and tar. A big, muscular wine, inky deep ruby-red, with forward fruit, savory mid-notes and firm, chewy tannins. Grand proportions, indeed, yet presented with a satin-smooth texture and a refreshing counterpoint of delicate natural-fruit acidity. We have not merely a symphony; we have a grand symphony; we have The Choral — LVB’s Symphony No. 9. A very good wine. Wine provided by Idella Wines. (Reviewed 11/16/14)

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Filed under $51 to $100, Cabernet Sauvignon, California

Idella Syrah 2010

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY | CALIFORNIA | $65
Easy blackberry with roasted plum and orange peel, plus notes of clove, crème de cassis, leather and forest floor. A satisfying and exceptionally balanced wine, medium-full bodied, superbly integrated, with complex flavors coaxed gently on the palate by a luxurious, soft-grain texture. I’d suggest this a Syrah for Cabernet lovers — really — absent the glossy, fruit-forward nature common in Central Coast Syrahs, this wine shows excellent fruit-savory proportions that allow organic notes to sing to the heavens. 93% Syrah, 5% Grenache, 2% Petit Sirah. An excellent wine. Wine provided by Idella Wines. (Reviewed 11/8/14)

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

Idella Pinot Noir Mendocino Ridge Vineyard 2012

MENDOCINO RIDGE | CALIFORNIA | $55

Lush strawberry fruit with ripe red cherry, watermelon and rhubarb, plus notes of wet clay, leather, cacao and grapefruit pith, notably on the finish, with just a hint of allspice. A sublime balance of well-integrated fruit and savory flavors — complex, yet easily approachable. Beautifully translucent in the glass, medium-light on the palate, silky texture with a bare whisper of grain. She’s gentle, quiet, soft-spoken, wicked smart — doubt her not; in the dimmest of light, she knows where your eyes are looking. A very good wine. Wine provided by Idella Wines. (Reviewed 11/1/14)

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

Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Elsbree Vineyard 2010

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY | CALIFORNIA | $56

Raspberries and strawberries, rhubarb, cardamom, camphor. Aah. Forrest floor, cola and citrus zest. Aah. Fruit, savory, earth and sour. Aah, indeed. An incredible wine that is a story in a glass. A wandering tale with convenient roadside rest stops. Beautiful fresh fruit up front, backed by an organic-savory structure, and finishing with a pleasant perk of acidity that sings on the palate seemingly forever. Time in the glass or a gentle decant will reward. There are books, there are novels, there are epic tales — we have the later. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 10/25/14)

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

Chock Rock Pinot Noir Chock Rock Vineyard 2011

MONTEREY COUNTY | CALIFORNIA | $32

Red plum, strawberry and cherry with rhubarb, cardamom, leather, tobacco and orange peel. A medium-bodied Pinot with well-integrated, complex flavors stimulate the palate and the mind. Finishes long with a pleasant acidic perk of sour cherry. There’s a freshness here, with a seeming lack of heavy-handed manipulation that can yield an overwrought wine. Instead, a beautiful hand-hewn quality prevails. The expressiveness of a lone, breathy saxophone prevails over the sterile polyphony of layers of synthesizer upon synthesizer. A very good wine. (Reviewed 9/10/14)

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

Roar Pinot Noir 2012

SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS | CALIFORNIA | $40

Deep cherry fruit with plum, dried strawberry and blackberry, and earthy flavors of leather, redwood and cola, plus hints of violets and orange pith. Evolves nicely on the palate from subdued dark fruit, to savory umami flavors, to aromatic floral and dried-fruit notes. Complex, well structured, massaging chamois-smooth texture. A blockbuster wine, superior to many in the royalty box. She sits quietly at the table — dark, brooding, observing — reluctant at first, but soon to open — terse, then loquacious — and then there it is, a smile. An excellent wine. (Reviewed 10/25/14)

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