When I wrote the post called “Tasting Every Damn Chardonnay in the Wine Fridge” (here), I dissed (sometimes strenuously) a number of chardonnays, especially from California, but tried to ease the pain somewhat by mentioning that I liked some of the red wines from the producers in question. Today, I’ll go back to the pinot noirs of 2009 and 2008 from La Crema Winery, because, however much I dislike the winery’s chardonnays and the manner of their making, I pretty much adore the pinots.

This line-up seems to represent most of the pinot noirs from La Crema for 2008 and 2009. Winemaker was Melissa Stackhouse, who recently left La Crema to take the position of vice president of winemaking at J Vineyards and Winery. Her replacement at La Crema is Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, who had been associate winemaker under Stackhouse. La Crema is one of the Jackson Family Wines.
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La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast, and La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Monterey County. Carrying broad designations, Sonoma Coast and Monterey, these are the winery’s entry-level pinot noirs; both are reliable, well-made pinots that are appealing and satisfying without reaching ecstatic heights. The oak influence is wisely kept to a minimum; the Sonoma Coast Pinot 09 ages seven and a half months in French oak, 26 percent new barrels, while the Monterey Pinot 09 ages seven months in French oak, 29 percent new barrels. La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 09 is a lovely expression of the grape that offers aromas of red and black currants and plums with hints of cranberry, cola and cloves; the texture is smooth and satiny, and the overall impression is of balance, integration and authentic tone. 13.8 percent alcohol. La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir 09 takes the character of its stable-mate and intensifies and concentrates it into a wine that’s darker, literally and metaphorically, and spicier and whose emphasis is more on black and blue fruit scents and flavors rather than black and red. There’s a bit more weight and substance here too, a little more velvet than satin. 13.9 percent alcohol. Both of these highly drinkable pinot noirs should perform nicely through 2013 or ’14. Both rate Very Good+. About $24.

La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, and La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley. With the narrower regional focus, the ante goes up for the Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley; the oak regimen is a little more strict: nine months for Anderson, 36 percent new French oak, 10 months for RRV, 51 percent new French oak; the alcohol contents are slightly higher, 14.4 and 14.6 percent respectively; and there is, not surprisingly, a heightened level of resonance and concentration. The color of La Crema RRV Pinot 09 is medium ruby with a blue/magenta overlay; the generous bouquet is expansive with sweet red and black cherry scents, cranberry, cola and cloves and undertones of briers and brambles; smooth and supple, yes, but with marked intensity and vibrancy in ripeness, in spice and in density; a polished wine that’s beautiful in balance, tone and integration. Excellent. About $40. La Crema Anderson Valley Pinot 09 is a shade darker in its ruby color, definitely spicier and deeper in its slightly macerated and roasted aromas and flavors of black and red fruit; it’s also just a bit heftier and more tannic — you feel this suggestion of weight, this slightly acerb quality especially from mid-palate back through the foresty finish. Also Excellent. About $50. The production was 5,800 cases for the RRV, 2,700 cases for the Anderson. Both of these pinot noirs will reward another year’s aging and then drinking through 2015 to ’16.
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La Crema Pinot Noir 2008, Sonoma Coast, and La Crema Pinot Noir 2008, Monterey County. So, here we are at the vintage of one year earlier. The oak treatment is the same except that in the case of the Monterey pinot the barrels are 30 percent new rather than 29 percent as with the 2009 version; how much difference this detail makes I’m not sure, but I assume the idea is to allow the vintage to express itself rather than any abrupt alterations in winery methodology. The color of the Monterey Pinot 08 is a beguilingly limpid medium ruby with a faint blue cast; classic aromas of black cherry and plum are imbued with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder and hints of leather and sassafras. The texture is seductively satiny; the ripe yet spare black cherry and plum flavors unfold to touches of mulberry and cranberry, and after a few minutes — I mean 20 or 30 minutes — you feel the slight tug of briery tannins and polished oak through the finish. Just freakin’ lovely. 13.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $24. La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot 08 feels cooler, a little more spare, more mineral-influenced, less spicy, more floral: rose petals, shale, cranberry and cola; lavender and licorice; a texture as dense as satin drapery yet with vibrant acidity that cuts a swath on the palate; again, you feel the oak and tannin creeping up through the finish, but boy this is good. 13.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $24.

La Crema Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley, is certainly a satisfying pinot noir, but given the choice and considering the price, I would go with the Sonoma Coast Pinot 08. Still, this is a pinot noir that touches all the authentic bases of dimension and detail with earthy, smoky black cherry and plum scents and flavors, hints of leather and slightly briery underbrush and barnyard elements, supple tannins and a dense, satiny texture. Drink through 2013 or ’14. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Very Good+. About $40.
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