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Taking stock of South Bay pinot noir for the holidays

We’re rapidly approaching Thanksgiving, and some have already scored their birds, be they turkeys or the less traditional game hens or duck. Some are planning on slow-roasted pork shoulders, cooked at low heat for hours, with root vegetables. All of these dishes are perfect for pinot noir, and we happen to have a plethora of them in the Santa Clara Valley.

For a pinot that’s more “noir” than light and bright, check out the 2013 and 2014 vintages from Kings Mountain Vineyards. These are well endowed with the sweetness derived from new French oak as it mellows and imparts its caramel toastiness. If you prefer a lighter, more red-fruited style, their 2019 releases are on task.

Kings Mountain will be pouring, along with many other local wineries—including Lago Lomita Vineyards, Madson Wines, Mindego Ridge, Neely, Saison, Thomas Fogarty, Windy Oaks and Wrights Station—at the Menlo Park Wine Walk on Dec. 3. Kings Mountain Vineyards will also be pouring at the Saratoga Holiday Wine Stroll on Nov. 25.

Neely and Wrights Station pinots are also in the “noir” category, emphasizing the darker spectrum of fruit, while Madson, Mindego and Thomas Fogarty ride that knife edge of acid a bit more closely and hew toward red raspberry and strawberry.

I absolutely love 2017 Fogarty Rapley Trail pinot noir, grown on a southeast-facing ridge above the valley, built for aging yet approachable now.

Somewhere in the middle of the road are pinots with good fruit, nice acid and not too much of any one thing: they tend to be crowd pleasers. I’d put the current releases from Sarah’s Vineyard in Gilroy in that bucket. Both the 2020 estate pinot noir and chardonnay aim to please. Similarly, the 2020 Ferrari Ranch chardonnay and pinot noir from Corralitos are in that camp. Certainly, Windy Oaks Estate 2020 pinot noir is also in that category: a breezy, fruity yet nicely rounded wine.

Another crowd pleaser is the new 2021 Cinnabar pinot noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains, which hails from Bailey’s Vineyard above Scotts Valley. It’s really plush and pleasing, with almost no overt oak influence.  Another local producer showing pinot promise is Roberts Ranch out of Ben Lomond. The 2019 estate is truly lovely, with a broad beam of savory and fruity and plenty of depth.

If you prefer your pinot on the opaque side, John Benedetti of Sante Arcangeli has a tasting room in Aptos, near Mentone, and a seasonal one at Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero.

In this same camp is another well-known and long-loved label, Windy Oaks, doing the Santa Cruz Mountains proud with wines inspired by the many trips to Burgundy that proprietors Jim and Judy Schultze have enjoyed for decades. Translucent and divinely perfumed, the 2019 Deux Grand Crus is a combination of two clones, SBC (Special Burgundy Clone) and Chambertin, both grown at their estate vineyard.

The 2020 Windy Oaks Wild Yeast and the 2019 Proprietor’s Reserve both have an earthy quality. The latter combines the winemaker’s favorite barrels to achieve aromatics of orange peel and perfume.

For all these wines, the aging potential is huge, but their enjoyment factor right now is enormous. Unlike wines that need to be laid down, these are standing up and ready to be uncorked.

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