Part of the portfolio of Jackson Family Wines, Carmel Road was founded in 1997 to exploit the possibilities for pinot noir in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco AVA in the Salinas Valley, where the 415-acre Panorama Vineyard perches on the east side under the Pinnacles. The valley is subjected to the fogs and chilly winds of the Blue Grand Canyon, a stupendous geological formation and weather-generator under Monterey Bay that encompasses 60 miles in length and 10,00 feet in depth. Winemaker at Carmel Road is Kris Kato, who brings to the fashioning of these wines a light touch with new oak and what seems to be a profound understanding of the pinot noir grape. I enjoyed these wines a great deal, a feeling reflected, I’m sure, in the notes that follow.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Carmel Road Pinot Noir 2015, Monterey County, aged 9 months in French oak, only 16 percent new barrels, resulting in an oak influence that’s almost subliminal in its shaping factor. The color is transparent medium ruby fading to an invisible rim; pert aromas and flavors of black and red cherries and currants are touched with notes of pomegranate and plum highlighted by hints of black tea, loam and sassafras. The wine is satiny smooth on the palate but enlivened by bright acidity that cuts a swath through to a finish lightly wrapped in graphite-tinged tannin. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Attractive and expressive. Very Good+. About $25.
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As one would expect for a single-vineyard wine, the Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, received more wood treatment than did its more generalized stablemate, in this case 13 months in French oak, 24 percent new barrels. The color is a hypnotic limpid medium ruby of utter transparency; the bouquet is an irresistible amalgam of black and red cherry compote heightened by notes of sandalwood, cloves and sassafras, rhubarb and pomegranate, with high tones of smoke, loam and cigarette paper. The wine is lithe, sleek and supple on the palate, spare, muscular and moderately tannic, those tannins folded around dusty velvet. The whole package is deftly balanced and integrated. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $35, marking Good Value.
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The Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard “First Row” Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, received 13 months aging in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. A wholly transparent medium ruby hue with an ephemeral rim leads to a heady melange of cloves and sandalwood, rose petals and crushed violets, red and black cherries and currants with notes of cranberry and pomegranate, cola, loam and cherry pit; the wine is sleek and suave on the palate, with satiny drape on the tongue and delicious berry fruit for the taste-buds, all energized by bracing acidity and a hint of flinty minerality. 14.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $55.
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The Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard “North Crest” Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, offers a muscular rendition of the grape, though the color, a lucent medium ruby-magenta with an diaphanous rim, might suggest otherwise. Yes, the same 13 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. Vivacious and fleshy notes of black currants and cherries with a red undertone unfold hints of loam, beetroot and rhubarb, cloves, sandalwood and ground cumin; a few minutes in the glass unfurl touches of pomegranate and cranberry. This is dense and chewy and fairly intense, and its silky texture feels slightly roughened, as if by very fine sandpaper; it gets increasingly loamy as the moments pass, though keen acidity keeps it dynamic and enticing. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $55.
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The Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard “South Crest” Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, is a bit more opulent than its cousins also reviewed in this post, and since it received the same oak treatment — 13 months, 20 percent new French oak — I would attribute the difference to the location of these blocks in the vineyard. A totally limpid and transparent medium ruby hue precedes a wine richly laved with loam and exotic spices, crushed and macerated black and red currants and cherries with a hint of plum; a few moments in the glass add notes of cranberry and pomegranate, sour cherry and cherry pit, with a background of briers and brambles. In this wine, you feel the luxury of which the pinot noir grape is capable, though leavened by coursing acidity and a bit of cheeky tartness. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $55.
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