A buyer's market? You bet.

That's what led to the new $22 price point for our wine of the week winner — the Gloria Ferrer, 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir. The pinot was sold for $28 in the winery's tasting room until May.

"The new price was dictated by the realities of the market of late," according to winemaker Bob Iantosca. The economic downturn has people looking for bargains, yes, even bargain pinot.

How can the winery afford the new price tag?

"We are fortunate to have our own established vineyards as well as our own in-house vineyard crew which allows us to produce high quality fruit at a reasonable cost," Iantosca said. The winery also has the benefit of scale, with a production level of 15,000 to 20,000 cases of pinot noir, he added.

As for the house style of the pinot, research led the way. An in-house study looked at 13 selections of pinot noir and the quality they made as sparkling wines. The researchers then posed the question: What do these same grapes offer when they're made as red wines? They found the cr?e de la cr?e and then went to Champagne, brought back new selections and repeated the process.

"Short version, we have unique and diverse selections of pinot noir that produce elegant wines," Iantosca said.

The pinot has intense, high-toned cherry fruit, ripe tannins and a good acid backbone.

Iantosca is at home traipsing through the vineyards, tasting and bottling berries. He considered dabbling in fine art, but decided making it a career would be challenging.

"I wanted to focus on something that I thought I would actually look forward to getting up each day and doing," he said. "I was exposed to wine at a young age by my grandfather who made wine for the family in his basement in east Boston and decided that I would try to find a job in the industry."

Iantosca began his winemaking odyssey in 1975, working in the vineyards of Buena Vista, followed by other Sonoma wineries Dry Creek Vineyards, Dehlinger and Mark West Vineyards, before putting his anchor out at Gloria Ferrer in 1984.

"I think that experience allows things to slow down a little and perhaps also allows the benefit of perspective when the going gets tough," Iantosca said. "The one place that I feel experience gives an edge is in blending and given the fact that our wines are blends of a few to fifty different components, having 30-plus years of history blending wines is a big advantage."

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

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