2010 Darcie Kent Vineyards Pinot Noir Rava Blackjack Vineyard Monterey 14.5% $24


This is pungent and focused if a bit on the candied side of the aromatic spectrum, with sweet vanilla and creme caramel notes wrapped in spicy oak, candied cherry and wild blackberry fruit. Round and intense on entry, this delivers terrific blueberry fruit right up front with a nice base of spicy wood and tannins that remain mostly covered in the mouth. There's some strawberry vanilla ice cream notes on the back end that lead into a somewhat spicy finish, which shows a touch of heat. A pretty big wine that remains fairly fresh with intense flavors that are ultimately a bit simple. 88pts

2010 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros 14.5% $27

This is fairly oaky on the nose and obviously so, with nice cherry fruit under the oak along with a hint of river stone and some vanilla bean. Smooth and understated, though with a certain richness in the mouth. This builds quickly, showing off dark cherry fruit backed up with noticeable tannins and creamy, toasty oak. The fruit takes on flashes of raspberry on the mid-palate and the spice integrates well then returns along with a wash of wood tannin on the moderately long, slightly sticky and hot finish. This will prove to be very popular but it's a touch clumsy with the oak for me. 88pts

2009 Torii Mor Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Select Dundee Hills OR 13.9% $27

Earth and forest floor on the nose with a nuance of oak and some small, red berry fruit. Rather light on entry, this is smooth with a nice underlay of dusty if fine grained tannins. The fruit is a bit shy, earthy and raspberry toned with a nice rusty edge. The finish is quite mineral-driven with minty inner mouth perfumes and decent length. This is subtle and rather elegant with good freshness and perfumes in the mouth, though it is a bit shy in the fruit department today. 88pts

2010 Schug Pinot Noir Carneros 13.5% $28

Oaky and herbal on the nose with attractive bitter almond nuances and some smokey, almost meaty top notes over stony cranberry and raspberry fruit. Very smooth and supple in the mouth, this is soft and round with lovely cherry, red currant and raspberry fruit flavors backed up by well judged oak spice and a nice hint of wild herbs. The finish reveals a hint of tannin adding a touch of texture, but is otherwise long and driven by cranberry, apple and raspberry fruit that shows a hint of minerality. Finishes with a bit of spice and sweet red cherry fruit. 88pts

2010 La Crema Pinot Noir Monterey County 13.5% $21    

Lightly briary blackberry fruits greet the nose along with hints of flowers, blueberries and some cigar wrapper tobacco. This is a plump little wine with earthy and bacon fat-framed flavors of raspberry and plum on the palate. The tannins are fine grained and offer gentle support to the fruit, which turns earthier and a little spicy on the back end before finishing with a wash of plum skin and charcoal. Shows a little heat on the finish. 87pts

2010 Pali Pinot Noir Bluffs Russian River Valley 15.3% $22


Fairly intense aromatic of balsamic- and cola-tinted blackberry and blueberry fruits dominates the nose early on, joined by milk chocolate and toasty oak aromas with some air. This is velvety smooth in the mouth with integrated structural elements that support chocolate- and mocha-toned blackberry fruits on the palate. This is a fairly big wine and the acidity is a touch low, making it a little matte in the mouth. There's also some noticeable heat on the finish, but this does have nice, ripe flavors of chocolate and black fruit with a hint of ivy. 87pts

2010 Talbott Pinot Noir Logan Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Ca 14.9% $22


A touch of tobacco adds a fragrant top note over notes of shaved chocolate, lightly peppery spice, plum and wild strawberry fruit. Light and a bit soft in the mouth, this offers up a smooth, easy going texture that is broad on the palate and delivers deep plummy fruit with hints of wild blackberry and gentle wood spice tones. The fruit is a touch simple but nicely presented, fading a bit abruptly on the relatively modest finish. 87pts

2010 Ponzi Pinot Noir Tavola Willamette Valley 13.5% $24


Light if pure raspberry fruit greets the nose along with smoky hints of dried herbs, candied root vegetables and a hint of peppery spice. This is a touch chunky and shows some heft on its modest frame. There's actually a lot of fruit here that gives the impression of being slightly sweet, yet the bright acidity and gently raspy tannins keep this feeling dry and even a bit on the rustic side. The tannins pop a bit on the finish as well, with a woody dryness to them that accentuates the hint of spice on the fairly modest finish. 87pts

2009 Scott Family Estate Pinot Noir Dijon Clone Arroyo Seco 14.9% $25


Lots of crushed blackberries and clay greet the nose followed by some spicy oak and barbecue sauce nuances. Pretty bright and fresh on entry with very fine-grained, stiff tannins underpinning a rather big if slightly blousey core of blueberry fruit. This shows off a bit of spice on the mid-palate, which remains quite dry and firm. Gains some cashew nut nuances on the back end that melt into oak and red currant fruit on the moderately long, slightly hot finish. A big, fairly simple wine but a little hollow in the mouth. 87pts

2010 Pali Pinot Noir Summit Santa Rita Hills 15.5% $27


A bit inky on the nose with some earthy, oaky base notes and smoky herbs under hard mineral and black fruit aromas. This is intense. It's soft, creamy and a bit heavy in the mouth with a base of oak drenched in slightly tarry, raisin, black cherry and dried blackberry fruit. There's a nice brambly array of inner mouth perfumes here on the mid-palate along with late arriving strawberry preserves and herb flavors that bring a hint of heat as well. This is smooth and powerful but doesn't really have much of a finish other than a bit of alcoholic burn, with hints of clove and allspice. 87pts