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Wine of the week: Saint Gregory 2009 Mendocino County Pinot Noir

Greg Graziano has one pet peeve about pinot noir. He doesn't like posers.

"I dislike pinot noirs which don't look like, smell like or taste like pinot noir," he said.

Graziano is the vintner/winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner -- the Saint Gregory, 2009 Mendocino County Pinot Noir, a steal at $19.

And his pinot is no poser.

The Saint Gregory is a tangy pinot with bright acid and notes of black cherry, herbs and spice. It's crisp and it has good lift.

"Under the Saint Gregory label we produce the greatest range of varieties in the industry from the pinot family, pinot blanc, pinotage, pinot meunier and pinot noir," Graziano said.

While the Mendocino winemaker finds pinot noir a challenging grape, he said he doesn't try to make peace with Mother Nature.

"I just try to control what she gives me," Graziano said. "It takes a lifetime of learning to deal with this grape. It is one of the most difficult grapes to grow and difficult wines to make. Only Nebbiolo is harder."

Graziano spends most of his 10 to 12-hour work days multi-tasting, tending to four brands and more than 35 different grape varietals at his winery, Graziano Family of Wines.

In addition to the Saint Gregory brand, the Enotria focuses on the varieties that are traditionally from Piemonte, Italy, the Monte Volpe explores varieties that are from the rest of Italy, and the Graziano brand delves into traditional and old Mendocino varieties.

Graziano offers a sampling of these brands at his Hopland tasting room.

"I work almost every day," said Graziano, who holds multiple titles - winemaker, general manager and national sales manager. "I travel at least 10 weeks a year selling our wines and I spend time in our vineyards pruning, a job I love."

"I love almost every aspect of this business. Those who know me call me a control freak. I would agree."

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5310.

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