Here are a few mid-range Pinots that seem inexplicably appropriate for a late Wednesday afternoon—perhaps because they offer more hedonistic than intellectual pleasure, and by this time of day (6PM here in NYC), everyone I know has a tired brain and just wants an appealing glass of wine that won't make them think too much.
2005 Lane Tanner Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($24.50) A lot of the Central Coast Pinot I tasted for the column were weighed down by too much alcohol, too much fruit—a galumphing style of Pinot that has never worked for me, though there unquestionably are fans of it out there. This Lane Tanner wine had the sweet ripeness Santa Barbara can offer, but balanced the almost confectionary cherry fruit with tangy acidity and black pepper notes. Fun to drink, from (given the splash page—literally—on the website) a fun-loving winemaker.
2004 MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($29) I preferred the Sonoma Coast bottling by a hair during the tastings for the March column, largely because of that bright, zippy Sonoma Coast acidity it has, but on a cold blustery day like this one the coffee and lush black raspberry notes in this bottling seem like just the right thing.
2005 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Olivet Lane Pinot Noir ($30) The Olivet Lane vineyard has long been a source of top-notch Russian River fruit (Merry Edwards also makes a terrific O.L. bottling), and this wine's translucent pinky-red color belies the richness of the sweet (but not too sweet) strawberry-cherry fruit. It sort of wraps itself around your tongue in a friendly but not cloying way. An interesting note: the wine was aged in a combo of French and eastern European (probably Hungarian) oak. Not a strategy I've run into much in the Russian River Valley, at least as yet.