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alma rosaDuring a recent stopover in the Santa Barbara area, I had a chance to visit one of my favorite Pinot producers, Alma Rosa Winery. Richard Sanford, the iconic Santa Barbara winemaker responsible for introducing Pinot Noir to the region in the 1970’s, sold his stake in Sanford Winery to Terlato in 2005. He then opened Alma Rosa to be the home of these gorgeous vineyard and clonal-designated wines.

The La Encantada Vineyard bottling is consistently my favorite. It is as pretty as a wine can be, graceful and charming, but with soul-stirring hidden depths. Since I reviewed the 2010 La Encantada a few years ago, on this occasion I’ll focus on a bottling featuring the 116 clone from that same vineyard. The 116 clone is probably the most widely planted of the Pinot clones because of its consistent yields and rich structure.

Robust red cherry on the nose is delicately threaded with a thrilling mushroom note. Dried herbs and traces of cinnamon make this more spicy than floral.

On the palate it’s rich and round but still supple and full of finesse, with seamless transitions and a broad, satin-like midpalate that builds in intensity forging into a finish showing beautiful pure fruit that persists even as it performs its slow fade. Just on the heavier side of medium body, the tannins are very refined and the acidity not especially prominent.

The earthiness and feminine quality give the wine an old world demeanor although it lacks the acidity of a Burgundian style and the rich, pure fruit is pure California.

These wines from La Encantada are more feminine than is typical of California Pinot Noir. Wines sourced from their estate vineyard El Jabali tend to be bigger with more vigorous tannins. Their new tasting room in Buellton now features a tasting menu that includes fine Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay as well as small batches of sparkling wine.

Score: 92

Price: $55

Alc: 14.1%

No one captures earthy, resolute femininity better than Joan Armatrading. I saw her perform Love and Affection in 1980; like wine she gets better with age. The way the bass leads and anchors the musical phrases seems to focus attention of the purity of the fruit.

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