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robert sinskey A bitter person is never a pretty sight, but a sunny personality with no hint of sardonic wit or playful pessimism, oblivious to the persistent possibility of crushing defeat, may be more dangerous. Flannery O’Connor, always alive to the interdependence of grace and brutality, wrote, in a letter to a friend,  “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

Such is the metaphysics of this Pinot Noir from the fine Napa producer Robert Sinskey.

Unless you’re accustomed to drinking the distinctive achievements from Valpolicella, you probably think bitter doesn’t belong in quality wine, especially not in an elegant Pinot from Carneros. But like a personality, wine without the dimension that bitterness often provides can be shallow and false.

Red current jam shows right out of the bottle, accented by hints of dried roses, with wisps of wet leaves staying well in the background. But with time in the glass, earth and mint aromas become much more prominent. The spice character is more herbal than sweet; the wood restrained; the jam a fleeting chimera. The wine evolves; a good sign.

The palate flavors lack intensity but a slight creaminess gives it an impression of weight and  the classic silkiness of this grape shows nicely. The tannins are refined and the finish starts to tail off in typical fashion…but wait…wait…like a film that lingers lovingly over the hero’s last rites, the mystifying charm of bitter herbs draws out the conclusion, holds your attention, demands to be tasted and pondered.

When a wine surprises like that it redeems all the swill you have to drink to find it.

Graceful, discrete, and classy this wine lacks the power and profundity to be great. But with one foot in the old world, and a distinctive flavor profile it is worth a savor. Will age 4-5 years, perhaps more. Opened 4/2013.

Alcohol: 13.4%

Score: 90/100

Price: $40