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A good background for cool-weather wines


Elizabeth Grant-Douglas was just a kid when she was bewitched by winemaking. Her parents had a vineyard behind their home in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and they groomed the grapes grown there to make wine in their basement.

Grant-Douglas is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the La Crema, 2012 Los Carneros Pinot Noir at $40.

This is a pinot that turns heads. It's slightly earthy with a great concentration of cherry fruit, and it has layered flavors of herbs and spice. It's also has that signature bright acidity of the Carneros, and all of the above makes for a lovely pinot noir.

Grant-Douglas was always fascinated by the challenges of making wine from grapes grown in cooler climates, and she began her career working in several Canadian wineries including Inniskillin Winery, Chateau des Charmes Wines and 13th Street Winery, before heading to Washington and, finally, the Sonoma Coast.

The cooler regions here in Sonoma — namely the Carneros and the Sonoma Coast — are a natural fit for Grant-Douglas, given her unique insight on the rigors of grape growing in cool regions.

In 2001, she joined La Crema as an enologist and was named winemaker in 2010. In 2013, she was promoted to director of winemaking.

In addition to Grant-Douglas' pinot, others in the flight proved to be impressive as well.

The Foursight, 2011 Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir at $47 had a slightly higher score than the La Crema pinot but it didn't win wine-of-the-week status because it's pricier. That said, this pinot is gorgeous with exceptional fruit — cherry and raspberry. It also has some enticing briary notes, but it's the high-toned fruit and great acid that make this pinot so compelling.

The Marimar Estate, 2011 Dona Margarita Vineyard, Mas Cavalls Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir at $44 is also a gem. It's a very tasty pinot with concentrated wild berry fruit. It also has great structure and it's delightfully layered with notes of anise and clove.

<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 pinots that showed themselves beautifully blind. Our wine-of-the-week winner is the La Crema, 2012 Los Carneros Pinot Noir at $40.

<strong>TOP PICK</strong>

<strong>La Crema, 2012 Los Carneros Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.5 percent alcohol, $40. **** A pinot that turns heads. Slightly earthy with ripe cherry fruit and bright acidity. Well integrated, with a great concentration of fruit. Lovely.

<strong>Other impressive wines:</strong>

<strong>Foursight, 2011 Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.5 percent, $47. **** 1/2 A gorgeous pinot with exceptional fruit — cherry and raspberry. It also has some enticing briary notes, but it's the high-toned fruit and great acid that make this pinot so compelling. Bravo.

<strong>Marimar Estate, 2011 Dona Margarita Vineyard, Mas Cavalls Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.5 percent, $44. **** A very tasty pinot with concentrated wild berry fruit. It's also delightfully layered with notes of anise and clove. Firm tannins. Great structure. A gem.

<strong>Goldeneye, 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.5 percent, $55. *** 1/2 A layered pinot with a lot going on. Notes of raspberry, blackberry, clove and anise. A touch earthy. It works!

<strong>St. Gregory, 2010 Mendocino County Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.5 percent, $19. *** 1/2 A standout with layered flavors of bright cherry and toast. Nice acidity. Balanced. Juicy. A tasty value.