Wine of the week: Emeritus Vineyards, 2016 Pinot Hill East Pinot Noir

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This week's blind tasting

Gorgeous Pinot Noirs

TOP PICK

Emeritus Vineyards

Emeritus Vineyards, 2016 Pinot Hill East, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 13% alcohol, $75. ★★★★½

What makes this an outstanding pinot is the purity of its fruit coupled with its savory notes. It has bright and tangy red fruit — cherry, currant and a hint of pomegranate. Herbs and white pepper are also in the mix — all riding on a breeze of crisp acid.

Tasty Alternatives

Gary Farrell, 2016 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 13%, $45. ★★★★: A complex pinot with layered notes of cherry, a hint of high-toned pomegranate, forest floor and spice. The pinot is buoyed by bright acidity and has racy spice on the crisp finish. Impressive.

Goldeneye, 2016 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $58. ★★★★: This is a pretty pinot with dark berry fruit and a lush texture. Notes of black cherry, with just a hint of black plum, ride on an undercurrent of spice. Balanced. Well crafted.

Merry Edwards, 2017 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $51. ★★★★: An intense pinot with complex aromas and flavors. Notes of cherry, a hint of currant and anise. It has a supple texture, with a gorgeous melding of flavors. This delicious pinot ends with a savory note. Spot on.

Sonoma Loeb, 2017 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 14.5%, $40. ★★★½: A lovely pinot with bright fruit along with some savory notes. It has a seamless texture, bright acid and full throttle flavors of raspberry, black cherry and blackberry. Smart.

Pinot noir is a wine of grace and elegance. It requires a bit of patience to fully appreciate its beauty. Bigger wines, while often delicious and gratifying, can be obvious to the point of requiring no imagination. Pinot noir practices the art of the slow reveal, and when it’s done right, it’s unforgettable.

This is how Dave Lattin describes the enigma of pinot noir. The winemaker of Sebastopol’s Emeritus Vineyards is behind our wine of the week winner –– Emeritus Vineyards 2016 Pinot Hill East, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir at $75. What makes this an outstanding pinot is the purity of its fruit coupled with its savory notes. It has bright and tangy red fruit –– cherry, currant and a hint of pomegranate. Herbs and white pepper are also in the mix –– all riding on a breeze of crisp acid.

“Our vineyard manager and full-time vineyard crew of 16 do a fantastic job on Pinot Hill East, a very challenging site,” Lattin said. “Estate grown with a full-time crew –– that’s the real ‘behind the scenes’ secret of this pinot.”

Crafting pinot is clearly something this winemaker fancies.

“I love to eat foods and drink wines that taste like they come from a specific place,” he said. “Pinot noir can express this perhaps better than any other variety. I’d like to think that my palate can separate ‘winemaking’ flavors from those peculiar to where and how the grapes were grown. I look for this in every wine that I try.”

The long hours winemaking requires doesn’t faze Lattin because he meets his muse in the cellar.

“Winemaking feels like play to me,” Lattin said. “I love the physical work because it’s healthy and sensually gratifying. I have an active imagination that lets me see the end result that I hope to achieve and the science background and experience to understand how I might get there. I readily admit, however, that many of my most successful wines have been happy accidents!”

Lattin, 59, earned his bachelor’s degree in microbiology with a minor in German from Oregon State and a master’s degree in enology from UC Davis.

“I’ve never really considered myself a scientist, “ Lattin joked. “I turn 60 next month but feel like a kid trapped in an adult body, thanks to the profession I stumbled into.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week's blind tasting

Gorgeous Pinot Noirs

TOP PICK

Emeritus Vineyards

Emeritus Vineyards, 2016 Pinot Hill East, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 13% alcohol, $75. ★★★★½

What makes this an outstanding pinot is the purity of its fruit coupled with its savory notes. It has bright and tangy red fruit — cherry, currant and a hint of pomegranate. Herbs and white pepper are also in the mix — all riding on a breeze of crisp acid.

Tasty Alternatives

Gary Farrell, 2016 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 13%, $45. ★★★★: A complex pinot with layered notes of cherry, a hint of high-toned pomegranate, forest floor and spice. The pinot is buoyed by bright acidity and has racy spice on the crisp finish. Impressive.

Goldeneye, 2016 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $58. ★★★★: This is a pretty pinot with dark berry fruit and a lush texture. Notes of black cherry, with just a hint of black plum, ride on an undercurrent of spice. Balanced. Well crafted.

Merry Edwards, 2017 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $51. ★★★★: An intense pinot with complex aromas and flavors. Notes of cherry, a hint of currant and anise. It has a supple texture, with a gorgeous melding of flavors. This delicious pinot ends with a savory note. Spot on.

Sonoma Loeb, 2017 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 14.5%, $40. ★★★½: A lovely pinot with bright fruit along with some savory notes. It has a seamless texture, bright acid and full throttle flavors of raspberry, black cherry and blackberry. Smart.

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