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2000 Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir, Chamisal Vineyard, Edna Valley

Edna Valley has been quietly establishing itself over the last decade as a place that can turn out fantastic wines, especially Pinot Noirs. It is now home to wineries whose names turn heads: Laetitia, Nichols, Stephen Ross, Alban, among others.

Before all of these arrived, though, there was a vineyard called Chamisal. Planted in 1972 with Chardonnay, but now owned and operated by Domaine Alfred, this vineyard is still growing grapes cloned from the original vines planted nearly 30 years ago.

In addition, owner and sometimes winemaker Terry Speizer started turning out wines in 1998 from this vineyard to the acclaim of many. In 2000 Terry was joined by winemaker Mike Sinor from Byron Winery and together they continue to create gorgeous wines that have cemented Edna Valley as the current and future home of some of the best Pinot growing in California.

I first had this wine at a blind tasting of Pinot Noirs and it was one of the top wines on everyone's list. Since then a friend has visited their estate and has come back raving about their entire portfolio, saying without a doubt that they offer the highest quality for the lowest price in California.

Tasting Notes:
The color of cinnabar, this wine explodes out of the glass with a huge nose of strawberries, dried apricots, and floral notes. In the mouth it is heavy, and extracted, with a smooth mouthfeel that contains flavors of cherries and cranberries which taper to an elegant finish laced with spices. The heavy fruit of the wine is complemented by a nice acidity, however it could be more balanced.

Food Pairing:
Not many people talk about pairing Pinot with cheese, but I've been really pleased with the combination of a Pinot like this with cheeses and mixed artisan meats like this prosciutto-wrapped gorgonzola with arugula.

Overall Score: 8.5

How Much?: $18-20

As the 2001 has already been released (with a 5 star rating from Decanter magazine), the 2000 can be hard to find these days. There seem to be a few around on the Internet. Try Wine Searcher.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud