Pinot Noir $15-$20

2010 Praxis Pinot Noir Monterey County 13.5% $19

A touch dull on the nose with meaty base notes, spicy blackberry pie fruit and hints of pine and raspberry emerging with air. This enters the mouth with real polish and more freshness than the nose promises. The fruit has a lovely woodsy edge to it, slightly brambly blackberry with an undercurrent of strawberry and lovely, nuanced herb and spice notes. The oak becomes a touch more apparent with time but never dominates the palate, which shows complex flashes of cherry pit fruit, some slate minerality, a touch of blue fruit on the back end and a really nice fresh yet firm finish. 90pts

2009 Brophy Clark Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 13.5% $20

There's a lot going on in the glass here, with sweetness from candied black cherry fruit meeting a little beefy edge and showing off integrated notes of earth, white mushroom and candied citrus zest. Quite refined in the mouth, this doesn't show much in the way of acid or tannin, but it does fill the mouth with almost tactile intensity. The fruit is complex with a medicinal base note, some floral extract notes and bitter black cherry all coming together to deliver subtle complexity. The finish is a touch short but it does have a lovely melange of beetroot and medicinal spice notes. This is a little outside the box for Pinot as it is a bit tougher in some ways with an unusual flavor profile, but it is quite interesting and a pleasure to drink. 90pts

2010 Talbott Pinot Noir Kali Hart Monterey 14.2% $17    

Very fruity and fresh on the nose. Strong strawberry fruit is set off by hints of roasted rhubarb and raw beef, topped with a subtle hint of vanilla wood spice. Smooth in the mouth, this is well integrated and shows pretty intense flavors of blackberry and black cherry fruit that's full of nuanced, bitter and medicinal herb and vegetal notes. The back end firms up a bit and the structure adds nice energy to the moderately long finish, which shows wonderful sliced plum and blackberry fruit. There's a hint of heat here but it doesn't detract too much. 89pts

2010 Barra of Mendocino Pinot Noir Mendocino 14% $20
Made with organic grapes

Reticent on the nose with plug tobacco and forest floor notes that are joined by floral accents, a hint of truffle and lively red cherry, strawberry, lime and violet aromas. There's a touch of coffee early on the palate, then this pops open to reveal plenty of nuanced strawberry, blueberry and earth-inflected fruit flavors. This has an open knit yet transparent texture with a faint creaminess around the edges and gentle suggestions of lightly creamy oak spice. The finish shows a bit of heat but also reveals a light mineral nuance, some fine earthy herb base notes and slightly candied strawberry fruit. Lovely texture and restrain here. 89pts

2010 Valley of the Moon Pinot Noir Carneros 13.5% $20

A bit low key on the nose with layers of vanilla, berries, a bit of Bovril brothiness, and a base of black currant fruit. If it weren't for the fact that this has plenty of acid and its intense fruit isn't sweet, I might be tempted to call it a fruit bomb. There's a ton of fruit here, with dry wild blackberry and lightly gamy blueberry wrapped in a subtle layer of wood spice and dried mushrooms. The tannins show themselves on the finish and while they are noticeable, they really aren't pronounced, allowing the dried mushroom and huckleberry fruit to extend over the modest finish. The texture is the most appealing part: focused, a bit edgy and with palate-saturating flavor yet no sticky weight. This just needs a bit more elegance to make it complete. 89pts

2010 Don & Sons Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 13.9% $17

Tight on the nose and vaguely chalky early on with emerging notes of used briarwood pipe, beetroot and strawberry rhubarb pie. Rather well behaved in the mouth, this shows nice restraint to the medicinal-toned black cherry and dusty beetroot flavors. There's a bit of mineral that pops on the back end, along with hints of strawberry pie and dried herbs that gain a bit of root beer on the moderately long and very gently spicy finish. There's a nice purity to this. The fruit flavor profile is not typical Pinot, being more minty and medicinal, but it is well presented. 88pts

2009 Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast 14.3% $20

Nicely stemmy and lightly vegetal on the nose with aromas that recall strawberry and carrot tops. There's a lovely hint of spicy wood here that really sets off the lightly smoky raspberry and strawberry fruit. A bit chunky early on, this is soft and broad in the mouth with faint mocha accents to the rather intense blackberry and black plum skin fruit of the mid-palate. There's impressive intensity to the fruit and the wine remains firm and focused in the mouth with nice cut on the back end and right through the lightly mineral, dry fruited finish. Not complex but intense and decisive in the mouth, with lovely freshness to the tannins. 88pts

2010 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 13.5% $20

This is oaky and spicy on the nose with a deep nutty element and steely accents to the wooly, wild berry frutti del bosco core. This is deceptively structured. It is nicely lightweight yet bright and tannic. There's a lovely streak of wild cherry and strawberry fruit early on the palate that's joined by well measured wood spice on the mid-palate. The tannin builds up a bit on the finish, cutting it a bit short. There's a bit too much oak on the nose and finish, but the texture and underlying wine are lovely. A year in the cellar might be rewarding. 88pts

2010 Kramer Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Yamhill-Carlton District 13.5% $20

Not very aromatic, this builds up in the glass with classic raspberry and sage aromas associated with Oregon Pinot. It's fairly spicy in a floral/herbal way and has a lovely note of arugula at its core. This enters the mouth showing excellent integration with a sweet edged ribbon of black cherry and lingonberry fruit opening on the mid-palate, but then the tannins become more obvious and a touch aggressive. The fruit is lovely and has hints of stones, earth and blueberries adding complexity before the tannins add a touch of woodiness to the earthy finish. This could come around nicely with another year in the bottle, but today it needs some fatty food. 88pts