Decided to take a break from my endless tasting of under-$15 American wines for our April issue to taste a few Pinots, mostly from the Anderson Valley, also the home of one of my favorite beers, the utterly delightful Poleeko Gold Pale Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. But enough about fizzy gold liquids, and on to the red, still ones. Note that these are all small production wines, and the best way to get hold of them is probably to contact the winery.
2006 Greenwood Ridge Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir ($27) A sort of Audrey Hepburn approach to Pinot, graceful, light and very pretty. I liked the sweet raspberry-strawberry fruit (sweet but not sugary or overripe at all), and the complex spiciness on the nose.
2006 Toulouse Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($39) I didn't know much about Toulouse before tasting this wine, but curiosity afterward—because it's really lovely Pinot, transparent ruby in color with buoyant cherry fruit and herbal grace notes—led me to this handy-dandy profile on Appellation America (a site worth knowing about regardless).
2006 Elke Vineyards Blue Diamond Donnelly Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir ($38) I was impressed the last time I tasted Mary Elke's wines, and this vintage is no less appealing. This, her top-of-the-line Pinot, has a silky/creamy texture that recalls Russian River Pinot more than Anderson, but the berry flavors and earthiness put it back in Anderson (where it belongs, of course).
2006 Mary Elke Anderson Valley-Mendocino Pinot Noir ($26) Though this bottling is less expensive, in some ways I preferred it to the above wine—the floral aroma and streamlined, juicy raspberry flavor is so pure and luxurious that it's hard not to love. I doubt the wine will last as long as the Donnelly Creek, or develop as much over time, but it's seriously delicious right now.
and, leaving Anderson and heading south...
2005 Kutch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($38) I suspect this is sold out, because it took me forever to get around to tasting it (and for no good reason—my apologies to the producer) and in the meantime it's been raved about in various corners of the wine press. But regardless: This is luscious, dense, velvety Russian River Pinot, with deep, dark black cherry/pomegranate fruit mingling with clove and other spice notes. At the moment it's showing a fair amount of wood, but I suspect the wine will suck that back up at some point in the future—certainly there's enough fruit to sustain that prospect. Anyway, it's impressive enough that getting in touch with the winery about upcoming vintages would be a mighty good idea.