The SFChron recommends some 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noirs
2008 Alma Rosa La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($43)
Richard Sanford, one of Santa Barbara's wine pioneers (Sanford & Benedict), continues to set a standard for the region with his Alma Rosa label. His 2008s, made by Christian Roguenant, are wonderfully nuanced, and this gorgeous estate bottling is deeply aromatic and mineral-edged, with tobacco and nutmeg, and a balance of delicate dark blue fruit and tangy wild strawberry.
Talk about a classic Santa Barbara matchup: winemaker Jim Clendenen with the historic Sanford & Benedict site. A smoky cola-edged, nuanced take, with lots of robust dark cherry and dried moss; a mineral edge that lifts the finish. It's opulent, layered Sta. Rita Pinot with a serious pedigree.
2008 Byron Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($40):
Byron turned out a solid lineup for 2008, but Bien Nacido particularly left an impression. A darker, loamier profile, with a subtle musk amid generous, rich plum and blackberry fruit. That deeper, earth-driven style could use some time to reach its full potential, but it's a compelling expression.
2008 Dragonette Cellars Cargasacchi-Jalama Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($38):
This young label founded by Steve and John Dragonette and Brandon Sparks-Gillis has access to some of Santa Barbara's best vineyards, including this colder site southwest of the Sta. Rita Hills. Landing at just 13.3 percent alcohol and aged in neutral oak, it's impressively nuanced, with roasted orange highlights and a warm mace spice and musk, plus radiant raspberry and cherry.
Bruce McGuire mixed estate grapes with fruit from the Arita Hills and Kick On Ranch sites for this accessible Sta. Rita cuvee. The nose has an earthy presence, with damp soil and nutmeg that accent tangy strawberry fruit. The vibrancy isn't all red fruit, though, with some black-fruit flavors adding a core of weight.
2008 Longoria Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($45)
Rick Longoria found a terrific tension in this benchmark Sta. Rita site, with scents that are slightly sanguine and tightly wound. It's a weightier style, with lift and delicacy from an interplay of bright, brilliant strawberry and deeper huckleberry jam flavors.
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