Our wine-of-the-week winner is a bombshell, a pinot noir with explosive fruit.

The Loring, 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir was the striking standout in a flight of wines. Tasting it blind, it was gorgeous with generous fruit and a lush texture. It has deep cherry flavors with notes of herbs, spice and a hint of caramel in the finish. And as for $32, it's a steal for the quality.

A sun-kissed pinot like this teases the most fruit out of the grapes as possible.

"Our wines end up being on the 'bigger' side for pinots, but with softer tannins that make them drinkable early," said Brian Loring, who doubles as vintner and winemaker. "No one should feel the need to hold onto our wines for years before drinking them."

Loring became a wine geek when he was 17, working in wine shops during high school and college. But, he said, "falling in love with Burgundy in the early 1980s" is what made him choose wine as a profession after trying his hand at a couple of others.

Initially, Loring expected to be pampering patients rather than pinot noir.

"I went to college thinking I wanted to be a doctor," he said. "But after getting my biology and chemistry degrees, I decide medicine wasn't for me. It was stupid to take that long to figure it out. But then I got a computer science degree and ended up working for various aerospace companies, writing software that launched missiles and torpedoes."

Loring said he doesn't have a formal winemaking education. He just learned the nuts and bolts of it by helping with harvest at Cottonwood Canyon in Santa Maria.

The hands-on scientist said he's proud that the 2012s are his ninth vintage using screw caps instead of corks.

"Coming from an engineering background, I couldn't in good conscience produce a product with a 5- to 8-percent failure rate," Loring said. "What's been especially gratifying is that we've seen our wines age well under screw cap. ... Screw caps rule!"

<strong>Wine of the Week</strong>

<strong>Scouting for the tastiest pinot noirs</strong> - Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of pinot noirs, from keepers to quaffers. Our wine-of-the-week winner is the Loring, 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir at $32. It's a steal price for this class act pinot with such generous fruit.

<strong>TOP PICK</strong>

<strong>Loring, 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.7 percent alcohol, $32. ****: A gorgeous pinot noir with generous fruit and a lush texture. Deep cherry flavors with notes of herbs, spice and a hint of caramel in the finish. A great price for the quality. Bravo.

<strong>Others worth mentioning:</strong>

<strong>Trione, 2010 Sonoma County Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.2 percent, $35. ****: A classy pinot with depth. Layered flavors of cherry, anise and white pepper. A touch earthy. Lovely.

<strong>MacMurray Ranch, 2011 Central Coast Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.3 percent, $23. ****: A crisp pinot noir with high-toned fruit and a kick of spice. Bright acidity works its magic here. Notes of cherry, a hint of cranberry and cracked black pepper. First rate.

<strong>Husch, 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.3 percent, $23. ****: An earthy pinot with bright fruit and a long finish. Aromas and flavors of cherry, mushroom and rosemary. Complex.

<strong>Healdsburg Ranches, 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.6 percent, $20. ***?: A lively pinot with layered flavors. Notes of cherry, vanilla and toast. Nice length.

<strong>McManis, 2012 California Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.5 percent, $11. ***?: A pinot that's slightly sweet with cherry, berry flavors. A bit one dimensional, but a good quaffer for the price.