2010 Hop Kiln Pinot Noir HK Russian River Valley Ca 14.4% $34

This is decidedly tight on the nose with a base of earthy oak, upon which are layered notes of pollen, beetroot, black cherry fruit, burnt toast and violet floral top notes. Lush on entry and fairly large scaled, if well balanced and not heavy. There's a rush of sweetness from oak here along with caramel and coffee undertones to the black cherry fruit of the palate. The tannins build up a bit to add some density and the flavors get more complex on the back end, showing off hints of vanilla and slightly minty medicinal spice. Yields to black cherry and toasty oak-laden finish that's pretty long. Well done in its style. 90pts

2010 Willakenzie Pinot Noir Estate Cuvee Willamette Valley 13.5% $30

Very aromatic if a bit on the stemmy side with light Rainier cherry aromas and a hint of Vosne-like spice. This dances across the palate. Lightweight and wonderfully balanced, it delivers sweet cherry fruit that's framed with hints of herbs and a gentle green spice note. The finish shows more cherry fruit, perhaps with a suggestion of vanilla. The acidity here refreshes the palate and the tannins float by like ghosts, making this joyously fun to drink. It's not terribly complex but it is pretty. And that texture, oh that texture! 89pts

2011 Cross Barn Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 14.5% $35

Coffee bean, vanilla and smoky herb notes top the slightly oaky core of strawberry and tart cherry fruit that shows a hint of orange oil. This is smooth and polished in the mouth with nice tension. Even though the acidity and tannins are firm, the wine is rather soft and suave with a hint of sweetness, perhaps from the oak. That sweetness helps to buffer the structure and supports bright blackberry and cherry fruit on the palate. The finish tightens up a bit and becomes more tannic and sharp from the acidity as the fruit fades from center stage. This is young and tough today. While it's noticeably oaky, time should soften the edges and allow the core of fruit to become more expressive. Shows some heat on the finish. 88pts

2009 Ponzi Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 13.6% $32

A hint of stem greets the nose along with peppery floral notes and flecks of almost flinty minerality. This is bright and juicy in the mouth with slightly creamy flavors of cranberry and raspberry that are streaked with sharp mineral notes and lightly stemmy tannins that add a bit of dried herb character. There's a real pop of fruit on the back end, with the tannins serving to keep everything balanced. The finish is long and slightly tacky with all the fruit. Very easy to drink but a bit simple. Still, this should be very popular. 88pts

2009 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Meredith Mitchell Vineyard McMinnville 14% $38

Crazy on the nose with early notes of horseradish, beetroot, sweet black raspberry fruit and loads of peppery spice along with intense green tea and chamomile aromas. This shows more fruit on the palate though it remains edged in an earthy, slightly spicy and almost vegetal filigree. The tannins are a bit aggressive on the mid-palate with juicy acidity helping the wild blackberry fruit to pop on the otherwise earthy mid-palate. Shows hints of mineral and shiitake on the back end and over onto the moderately long finish. The tannins are a bit forceful on the finish but the fruit sticks around. A divisive wine with funky aromas and a certain rusticity or honesty in the mouth. This is a love or hate wine. 88pts

2010 Talbott Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands CA 14.9% $35

A bit spicy and tarry on the nose with hints of poppy seeds and violets over deep plum, strawberry and pomegranate fruit. This is rather large scaled on entry, though it does expand in the mouth to gain a lighter feel. There's some chocolate and a vaguely toasty nuance early on the palate followed by jammy strawberry fruit. This is a bit simple and a touch tannic at the moment, but it does have some cut to it and finishes with decent length to the strawberry and cedar flavors. 87pts

2009 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, Mendocino Ca 14.1% $36

Fairly fragrant and yet steely on the nose with mineral, floral and gentle oak nuances framing red cherry fruit with a touch of framing spice. Smooth and small scaled on entry, this shows some nice richness on the mid-palate along with a touch of heat. The alcohol accentuates the spicy wood elements here, which help to frame the burnished cherry and raspberry fruit along with some chocolate edges. While fairly well integrated, this lacks some depth. Alcohol and spice notes dominate the fruit on the moderately long finish. Maybe this just needs some time, but it's certainly not doing it for me today. 86pts