An overall satisfying, even in some instances great group of pinot noir wines, examples touching the winemaking borders limits of California, from Anderson Valley in the north to Santa Maria Valley in the south. Different interpretations, assuredly, diverse approaches to the notoriously difficult grape, but all feeling authentic and legitimate, though my taste runs to the more refined and elegant; and, blessedly, though the use of oak, of course, varies, none of these is burdened with or buried by too much wood. As usual in the Friday Wine Sips, I dispense with the minutiae of technical, historical and geographical data in order to deliver to my readers incisive and provocative yet thoughtful reviews, though I admit that a couple of these run a tad longer than I intend for this space, but then, come on, it’s pinot noir I’m writing about. With one exception, these were samples for review. The order is alphabetical. I’m posting this fairly late at night, but it’s still Friday in the USA.

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Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. 14.4% alc. Elegant and sophisticated at first, but becomes more intense and concentrated, a real mouthful of smoky black cherry and rhubarb, violets and lilac, hints of briers and brambles, sassafras, roots and moss, i.e., quite earthy and then quite spicy; deeply satiny texture, lithe and supple too, flows coolly through the mouth; but you feel the tug of oak from mid-palate through the finish. For those who like a muscular pinot noir. Now through 2014 or ’15. Excellent. About $35.
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Foley Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey. 14.3% alc. Medium ruby color with a tinge of magenta; incredible perfume: beet-root and root beer, rose hips and strawberry leaf, violets and sandalwood, black cherry and red currants, and then a gentle surge of austerity in brambles and forest floor and finely-honed graphite; in the mouth, more serious than you might think, deeply earthy, multi-dimensioned, yet suave, sleek, supple, satiny; black tea with cloves and cinnamon, orange zest; black and red fruit flavors, a beautifully burnished, balanced, transparent finish. Beautiful. Now through 2014 or ’15. Excellent. About $40.
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Foursight “Zero” Pinot Noir 2009, Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino. 13.5% alc. “Zero” does not mean no oak but second-year and older barrels. Gosh, what a lovely gentle delicate yet darkly radiant sifting of finely-meshed, cloud-like tannins; ripe and slightly macerated red currants, plums and mulberries; earthy briers, brambles and leather; and baskets of dried flowers and spices. A model of pinot noir purity and intensity. Perfect with a roasted chicken; I could drink it every day. 360 cases and Worth a Search. Excellent. About $38.
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Foursight Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley, Mendocino. 13.9 % alc. So, how is the “regular” Foursight Pinot Noir ’09 different from its stablemate mentioned above? This is also quite alluring and exhibits similar purity and intensity of expression and character; fruit falls into the range of red and black cherries and cranberries with more emphasis on spice than flowers and just a haze of smoky (but not toasty) oak. As with the previous wine, balance and integration of all elements feel inextricable, tightly woven yet generous and expansive, a touch lithe and sinewy yet with a seductive satiny drape. Now through 2015 or ’16. 405 cases and also Worth a Search. Excellent. About $46.
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MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey. 14.5% alc. Riveting purity and intensity; vivid yet somehow transparent or at least infinitely delicate black cherry and mulberry scents and flavors highlighted by subtle notes of sassafras and lightly toasted Asian spices; sleek, supple and a little spare, with flavors partaking more of plums as moments pass; a real dreamboat of a pinot noir with an understanding of its darker nature. Now through 2013 or ’14. 600 six-pack cases produced. Excellent. About $35.
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MacMurray Ranch Winemaker’s Block Selection Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley. 14.5% alc. Loads of presence and tone yet ineffable balance and integration; lots going on, plums and more plums, with black and red cherries and hints of mulberry and rhubarb, undertones of cola and cloves, but it doesn’t feel fussy or overdone, all is smooth and finely-meshed; dense texture, satin transmuting to velvet but held in check by the ballast of earthy underbrush and a bit of foresty austerity. I like rather more reticence in pinot noir (as in the previous wine and the two Foursights), but this reveals thoughtful wine-making. Now through 2014 to ’16. Production was 600 six-pack cases. Excellent. About $60.
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MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006, Sonoma Coast. 14.2% alc. Perfection. Medium ruby color with a touch of garnet; deep nose of baking spice, barnyard earthiness, smoky black cherry and mulberry; a combination of beautiful restraint with upfront fruit and spice and the verve and play of keen acidity; a texture of seductive, almost lascivious satiny drape; a little fleshy, spiced and macerated cherries and plums; ultimately achieves elegance and a touch of austerity. Now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $43. (Not a sample; & I paid more.)
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Molnar Family Pinor Noir 2008, Carneros, Napa Valley. 14.2% alc. A deeply and darkly spicy and savory pinot, with macerated red currant, red cherry and cranberry scents and flavors, that elevating delicacy woven with a silky, supple texture atop the sterner foundations of briers and underbrush and a hint of moss and woody spices. Exhilarating and a bit unusual. Now through 2013 or ’14. 1,454 cases. Excellent. About $26.
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Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey. 13.9% alc. Lovely medium ruby color with mulberry rim; pure raspberry and blueberry with notes of rhubarb, cola and cloves, a bit fleshy and meaty; leather and black tea, fruit tending more black, as in currants and plums, spicy and lively, graceful, agile texture, delicately nuanced but with undertones of earthy brambles and forest floor. Drinks like a charm. Excellent. About $32.
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Rodney Strong Pinot Noir 2010, Russian River Valley. 14.5% alc. Dark ruby color with a mulberry tinge; a deep reserve of leather, briers and brambles buoys seething aromas of smoky black cherry and pomegranate, rose petals and graphite with hints of baking spice and sassafras; fills the mouth with subtle detail and nuance of spicy black and red fruit flavors and slightly toasty oak, all wrapped in a sleek, silky texture; the finish turns more serious, more earthy and tannic. Drink now through 2014. Very Good+. About $20, representing Good Value.
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Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley. 15% alc. Sensuous and serious; dense and chewy, you feel the oak; fleshy and macerated black cherry with touches of pomegranate and cola, violets and leather; a dark and brooding pinot noir, with harmonious but slightly grainy tannins, altogether a little more solid than exciting. Give it a year. Very Good+. About $40.
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SCV Freestone Hills Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast. 14.3% alc. (SCV = Sonoma Coast Vineyards) A packed pinot, dense and svelte with smoke and fairly exotic spices, ripe black cherry, black currant and plum flavors; quite full-bodied, a bit syrah-like in intensity and earthiness but recognizably pinot noir made in the big fashion; almost succulent but reined in by vibrant acidity and a slightly brooding quality. Now through 2014 or ’15. Very Good+. About $40.
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