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Greg Bjornstad made a paradigm shift in his pinot noir, opting for the dark and brooding version found in this Pfendler Vineyards wine.

Bjornstad is the winemaker behind our brooding wine-of-the-week winner — the Pfendler, 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. The tasty bottling edged out other top-scoring contenders of high-end pinot with its budget-savvy price of $45.

This pinot is layered with tasty notes of blackberry, bright rhubarb, tobacco and tea. Its range makes it a smart choice.

"In the 1990s, I remember Saintsbury (winery) being my gold standard for pinot noir, with delicious strawberry fruit and creamy vanilla flavors and textures," Bjornstad said. "Then I took the vineyard manager/assistant winemaker job at Flowers Vineyard and Winery in 1997 and my entire pinot and chardonnay paradigm shifted with this 'revolutionary' Sonoma Coast profile. The wines were powerful, deep, dark and brooding."

After Bjornstad's tenure at Flowers, he continued with the same kind of vineyard and winemaking philosophies at Tandem Winery and with his own label, Bjornstad Cellars.

"I bring all of those experiences to play at Pfendler, striving to craft balanced, elegant wines that have strength and presence, yet are approachable and rich," said Bjornstad. "These are not usually showy, headliner wines, but intended to be wines that pique your interest and draw you in, and draw you back for another sip, to see what's going on now!"

The Pfendler brand is produced at Vinify Wine Services in Santa Rosa, with most of of its vineyards in Petaluma.

Bjornstad said what the uninitiated don't know about pinot noir is that it takes some doing to find good ones.

"I think the movie 'Sideways' helped to bring the pinot noir varietal into public awareness," he said. "I also believe that finding a really good pinot noir takes some effort, and some money. There are lots of indifferent wines out there, at lower prices that could be deflating the reputation of fine wines in general. A person could try one of those bottles and might be unimpressed and disinclined to pay more money next time to continue their education."

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

<strong>Wine of the Week: Scouting for the tastiest pinot noirs</strong>

Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of pinot noirs, a solid flight with pinots from lean to lush. Our wine-of-the-week winner is the Pfendler, 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, edging out other high-scoring contenders with its budget-savvy price of $45.

<strong>TOP PICK: Pfendler</strong>

<strong>Pfendler, 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.4 percent alcohol, $45. **** This pinot is layered with tasty notes of blackberry, bright rhubarb, tobacco and tea. Its range is what makes it a smart pick for the price.

<em><strong>Other impressive wines:</strong></em>

<strong>Merry Edwards, 2011 Klopp Ranch, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.4 percent, $57. ****1/2 Gorgeous, concentrated berry flavors, with notes of black currant and cracked black pepper. Crisp acid. Bright and lively. A standout.

<strong>Joseph Phelps, Freestone Vineyards, 2012 Sonoma Coast,</strong> 14.5 percent, $55. ***1/2 Delicious tangy fruit, herbs and white pepper. Great acid, with a crisp finish. Striking.

<strong>J Vineyards, 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.3 percent, $37. ***1/2 This pinot has crisp acidity, a silky texture and rich black fruit. Great balance. Nimble.

<strong>Sebastiani, 2012 Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.9 percent, $19. ***1/2 This is a lovely pinot noir with tangy cherry, herbs and a hint of caramel. Good acidity. Ripe tannins. Nice length.