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saintsbury-lee-vineyard-carneros-pinot-noir__41165_1394458841_1280_1280Saintsbury is one of the classic Carneros producers releasing their first Pinot Noir in 1981. Today they make several cuvees, some single vineyard along with luscious Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Their lineup of Pinot Noir at the winery showed several distinct flavor profiles from various locations in Carneros and Sonoma but this one from Lee Vineyard was my favorite. Made from a mix of Pommard, Swan and Dijon 115 clones, it has plenty of that renowned Carneros funk and the spice notes that distinguish it from Russian River.

The nose is sensational. Layers of black cherry, dried leaves with mushroom hints,  subtle smoke laced with herb, and a tincture of stony minerality make for a heady, complex nose. Tea develops with aeration.

But on the palate, that broad dimensionality retreats. The fruit hesitates to show itself underneath the coffee notes. Just as the midpalate viscosity begins its languorous caress, the bright, lifted acidity takes over leaving a citric impression throughout its length. The fleshiness passes fleetingly like it can’t wait to reach for a cigarette. The tannins are very fine, quite lovely in fact, but allow the tart acidity to quickly assert itself.

Aged for 10 months in 25% new, 28% one year old, 47% neutral French oak barrels.

More sinewy than voluptuous, there is nevertheless an attractive, brooding quality to this wine in poised tension with its vivacity. It’s not a sunny wine but it loves life.

The reflective but hopeful Coming Home by Lizz Wright captures that tension and adds lush presence to the midpalate.

Score: 90 Pts.

Price: $50

Alc: 14.5%

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