Pinot Noir $20-$30


2010 Nautilus Pinot Noir Marlborough 14% $28    

Lightly smoky and stemmy, this shows hints of oak and dried herbs over red berry fruit. Fruity on entry with mineral-laced red cherry flavors that pick up some nutty oak on the mid-palate and hints of herbs and a touch of beetroot on the back end. This is rather vivid and decidedly fruit driven, though it does pick up a touch of noticeable oak on the long finish along with a wash of savory tannins that serve as contrast to the fruit of the palate. That fruit, succulent and bright sour cherries and raspberries, does outlast the oak right through to the bright finale. Yummy. 92pts    

2010 Dobbes Family Estate Pinot Noir Grand Assemblage Willamette Valley 13.5% $24

Sandy soil and lightly loamy aromas greet the nose followed by hints of sage and cardamom over light yet fragrant wild berry fruits. This is deceptively lightweight in the mouth with terrific intensity of flavors that are supported by vibrant acids and soft, ripe tannins. The flavors are intense yet somehow a touch ephemeral with layers of blueberry skins, wild raspberry, cranberry, licorice, violet extract, a touch of India ink and some lovely mineral and pollen notes on the moderately long, zesty finish. This really lovely and would probably show even better with the right food. I love the structure here, firm but not intrusive in any way. 91pts

2010 Lange Estate Winery Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 13.2% $24

Woodsy, autumnal and lightly chalky on the nose with hints of woodsmoke, hung game and herbs wrapping a core of raspberry and black raspberry fruit. This is fairly zesty with acidity on entry, then the fruit quickly fills out on the palate with lightly gamy edges and handfuls of earthy herb mixed in with a core of pure and lively raspberry and sour cherry fruit. This is ripe yet dry and a bit nervy with a long, apricot-laced raspberry coulis finish that ends with a pop of spice on the finale. Lovely complexity and balance. 91pts

2010 Carabella Winery Pinot Noir Plowbuster Willamette Valley 13% $ 22

Mineral and rusty notes greet the nose followed by gently spicy nettle notes and fine raspberry and wild strawberry fruit, all topped with a hint of woodsmoke. This enters the mouth with a fine combination of elegant richness and vibrancy. The fruit is shaded towards the black end of the spectrum; lightly black cherry and black raspberry are underpinned by nice mineral notes and slightly savory tannins. A real mineral note on the back end drives onto the intense finish with layers of fresh berry fruit and subtle shavings of bitter chocolate with a hint of cinnamon spice on the finale. This throws a party in your mouth, the kind of Pinot a smokey salmon might love. 90pts

2010 Pali Pinot Noir Huntington Santa Barbara County 14.6% $22


Herbal, spicy and gently astringent on the nose, this offers up cedary oak with spicy plum fruit topped with violet notes. Round and a bit plummy yet firm in the mouth, there's a lot of flavor to be found here. Rich, earthy blueberry and blackcurrant fruit flavors cover herb, mushroom and cola flavors. The wine turns really focused and quite tight on the back end and through the long finish, which shows lovely intensity and freshness to the fruit. The oak adds nice perfumes in the mouth but otherwise is quite discrete. A rather sophisticated Pinot that will benefit from a year or two in the cellar. 89pts

2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 14.5% $25

This is a little tight on the nose with clean, focused oak aromas balanced by cut plum and black cherry fruit. There's a lot of wine here, though it's not at all heavy. Gentle mocha shadings greet the palate with a nicely integrated structural elements supporting the black cherry and lightly plummy fruit on the palate. There are some strawberry yogurt notes on the back end along with some peppery wood spice that draws out the strawberry candy and black cherry-toned finish. Not rustic but perhaps a bit of a throw back style. Has its appeal, though. 89pts

2010 Stoller Pinot Noir JV Estate Dundee Hills $25    

This is lovely on the nose with perfumes of candied raspberries and light background spice notes all wrapped up in a lightly earthy blanket, with flashes of subtle wood spice adding further detail. This has a nice roundness to it in the mouth, though it remains vibrant and fairly tense. The cherry fruit has a lovely bitter/sweet thing going on and gains nuances of older wood, earth and gentle spice notes with air. This turns more tender in the mouth with a bit more oak on the back end and through the finish, where the fruit shows off beetroot and cranberry notes. This is a real crowd pleaser, novices and enthusiasts alike will enjoy it. 89pts

2011 Decoy Pinot Noir Sonoma County 13.9% $22    

This shows off a little cherry Lifesaver on the nose over attractive blueberry, roasted herb and well judged cedar wood spice aromas. Round and lush in the mouth, this offers up bitter chocolate and licorice-nuanced bitter black cherry fruit on the palate. The texture is rather fine and supple, certainly very attractive, and the fruit is well presented if a little simple. This does drop a bit on the finish. 88pts

2010 Pali Pinot Noir Alphabets Willamette Valley 13.5%    $22


Fragrant notes of raspberry fruit, chalk, astringent root vegetables and minty green herb greet the nose. This enters the mouth with lovely herbal nuances followed by fresh, tart raspberry flavors and a gentle hint of old wood. This is tense and nervous in the mouth yet with an incipient smoothness. It's a classic blend of ripe fruit and herbal complexity in a lightly spicy, medium-bodied package. 88pts

2009 Brophy Clark Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 14.2% $23


A little tight on the nose, this shows a fairly significant oak influence though the wood isn't spicy or particularly toasty. There's some lurking black fruit and licorice base notes as well. Supple and broad in the mouth, this retains nice transparency on the palate without being particularly bright and delivers a nice blend of blackberry, cherry, mint and licorice flavors that pick up more green herb and light woody notes on the back end. The finish shows a nice sweetness to the black cherry fruit, balancing out the slightly bitter, licorice flavors and wood tannins. Would be better with food. 88pts