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Best of the West Coast Pinots $12-$20

Northside Staff Tasters: Dana Malley, ed., Dave Marrano, Jon Wentworth, Alice Peters, Kelley O'Neill, Jason Wentworth, Dave Pohl, Alan White, and Eric Jenes

The hit film Sideways (2004), with its emphasis on wine—Pinot Noir in particular—sparked a surge of Pinot Noir sales unprecedented in the U.S. And why not? At its best, whether in the form of red Burgundy from France or varietally-labeled renditions from the New World, Pinot Noir offers an incomparably hedonistic experience for the wine drinker.

Naturally, in the lingering wake of the vinous brouhaha generated by the film, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits conducted a Pinot Noir tasting. No fewer than 46, all from the U.S. west coast and all priced $12 to $20, were tasted blind over a two day period late in September.

Among those finishing at the top was the $15 a bottle 2004 Sebastiani Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), which beguiled tasters with its "black-purple" color, "blueberry pie" aromas, "deep, concentrated" flavors augmented by deftly imparted oak accents, and a long finish.

"2004 was a wonderful Pinot Noir Vintage," states the back label, "characterized by low yields and warm harvest weather." This youngster, which claimed the tasting's second spot, should only get better in the coming months. Try it with duck, goose, grilled Portabellas, or cheeses such as Brie and Camembert.

Kudos also go to the inky, third-place 2003 Hahn (Monterey), about $15, for its brawny, powerful, oak-laden style. Alas, the first-place 2003 Night Owl (Monterey County) has all but disappeared from the market place, and is virtually unobtainable.

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 10/17/05

Northside Wine & Spirits is located at the Ithaca Shopping Plaza on Elmira Road.


Phone 607-273-7500


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