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Marvelous Cherry Fruit in a Pinot


1989 Lane Tanner Pinot Noir, Benedict Vineyard ($25)--A lot of money for a "first release" wine, but Tanner is no newcomer to great Pinot. She was the brains behind the Pinot Noirs bottled for the famous Casmalia steak house, the Hitching Post.

This wine is made from grapes off the highly regarded Benedict Vineyard near Buellton, and it has marvelous cherry fruit with a complex spice note that hints at cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. "I like Pinot Noir better than other red grapes because it's so much more feminine," Tanner said. "It shows more of what you put into it." There is deep richness in this wine and it should age for at least a decade. There is also a small amount of a Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir at $18 a bottle that's worth trying.

1990 Folie a Deux Muscat a Deux ($9)--Dry Muscat wines are about as hard to sell as snowshoes in June, but they can be delightful accompaniments to a wide variety of foods. Folie a Deux made this wine with just a trace of residual sugar. It is amazingly fresh, light in texture and loaded with flavor. It goes well with spicy cuisines such as Sichuan, Mandarin or Southwestern and even some Thai dishes.

1990 Au Bon Climat Pinot Blanc ($12)--Those who like fuller, richer Chardonnay should try this wine. It has the unmistakable ABC stamp of lush flavors and texture from barrel aging, as well as superb tropical fruit. A bit limited in supply, but savvy wine specialty shops are carrying it.

1989 Vichon Chardonnay ($15)--Lemon and apple scents in a crisp, delicate wine more reminiscent of Chablis than of the broader, fatter styles of Chardonnay. It goes well with grilled fish and has the acidity to age for a few years too.

1989 Hogue Cellars Dry Riesling Reserve ($15)--A muted, almost underripe pear aroma and a very lean, austere taste mark this interesting wine bottled in a dramatic black and silver package. The wine is good for matching with food, but the flavors are a bit lean for a wine this expensive.

1990 Dry Creek Chenin Blanc ($6.50)--Delicate leafy elements not unlike a shy Sauvignon Blanc, but with melon and pear scents in the background. The wine is almost dry, and the existing residual sugar is balanced by good acidity. An attractive wine for summer sipping, picnics or pairing with grilled fish.

Wine of the Week

1987 Clos du Val Semillon ($10)-- This wine would have been a strong contender for the top spot in a recent Semillon tasting I staged, but it wasn't released until April 1. Wine maker Krimo Souilah traditionally does well with this underrated white grape typical of Bordeaux. The wine has a wonderful muted fig-and-apricot character with a hint of nutmeg or clove in the background. There is also a creamy texture, less evident when the wine is too cold. It matches beautifully with lightly prepared seafood and chicken using sage, tarragon, dill or summer savory as herbal seasonings.

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