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California Pinot Noir, A Mirror for Terroir


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The movie ‘Sideways’ put Santa Barbara Pinot Noir prominently on the map, shoving aside blanket-blank Merlot! This most finicky of red grapes is thriving enthusiastically in California terroirs as varied as cool Fort Ross Seaview, Sonoma Coast’s expanse, Russian River’s warmer zone, sunny coastal Monterey and Santa Lucia Highlands, wind-swept Carneros, hilly San Benito and the southern coast’s Pacific kissed Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Valleys. We’ll taste prime examples ranging from the subtle Burgundian style, to darker, more muscular expressions, to exuberant uber-ripe fruity ones. Capricious Pinot Noir may be the biggest challenge to grow, but producers such as David Bruce, Talley, Au Bon Climat, Fossil Point, Davis Bynum and Ojai are victors, inspired by sublime Burgundy. The one thing California Pinot consistently bests Burgundy on is utter youthful charm. Nothing beats that sensual fragrance…