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Bottle Rockets: 3 Pinot Noirs you should know about

Except for bubbles, there’s no single wine that suits all occasions, no Everyman bottle that will excite a wine connoisseur, delight a sommelier and unpucker your inlaws at the same time. But good American Pinot Noir comes close, and that generally means Pinot from cooler regions on the West Coast. Elegant, earthy, effusive, with aromas of ripe bing cherries, rose petals and baking spices, a good American Pinot goes well with everything from turkey to trotter. I love Pinot, and I especially love the ones that taste like they’ve holding some cool morning fog and a few river stones captive in their bottles. A mashup of I Dream of Jeannie and My Year in Provence, sprinkled with grape skins and crushed whole berries. Wines with enough spark and substance to pique my attention from the first sip and hold it through the last swirl. Old Pinot Noir from Burgandy does this, but so does well-made Pinot from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, California’s Central Coast, Carneros or Sonoma.

Fortunately, I’ve recently stumbled upon three producers who’s Pinots stopped me in my tracks.

Three Sticks Winery’s 2009 Durrell Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60), which was just released, is a stunner, a brooding Pinot with a bright ruby color and deep, concentrated flavors of blueberries and cherries, as if a whole cluster of grapes was used to make a single bottle– which isn’t far from the truth, given that the vineyard yields only two tons per acre. Only 253 cases were made. The Durrell vineyard is one of the premier sources of Sonoma Pinot, and this Three Sticks wine (made entirely from Dijon Pinot Noir clones) shows why. “Big nose, even bigger taste,” I wrote in my tasting notes. Even a few drops perfumed the glass.

Drew Wines, with vineyards in California’s Anderson Valley and Mendocino, is another terrific, boutique Pinot producer. All of their Pinots are made in exceptionally small quantities, but they’re worth seeking out. I especially love Drew’s Valenti vineyard bottling ($40, 72 cases made) and their Morning Dew Pinot ($43, 250 cases made), the more concentrated, fruit forward of the two. If you like a Pinot that reminds you of roses, cherries and blueberries but with fluffy soft tannins and enough acidity to go well with just about any dish, this is your Pinot.

Kazmer and Blaise ($52), from the Primo’s Hill vineyard, will remind you of mixed berry jam: ripe red and blue fruits balanced by fresh lemon acidity and medium tannins that give the wine weight without astringency. The vineyard sits at the top of one of Carneros’ mountains rather than in its valleys, so the grapes mature later at the cooler elevation. I especially like the light toasty notes of caramel and vanilla that come form K&B’s use of  Hungarian oak barrels.

When I last checked, you could find all these wines at Sigels Elite stores, but their supplies were low. Nevertheless, these are bottles worth seeking out.



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