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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2005 Carmel Road Winery Pinot Noir***
carmelroadPN.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Monterey, CA $16 Private Tasting 3/14/08
Medium garnet in color with a bright and youthful nose of cherry and strawberry with hints of spice and earth. The barely medium palate continues the ripe red fruit and sweet spice flavors with light tannins, good acidity and noticeable alcohol which blew off as it opened. The medium length finish has notes of violets and smoke that linger nicely. A complex pinot for a very affordable price. Tasted blind and thought it came from a warmer climate and was at least in the $20-$30 range.

2005 Casa Cassara Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills**
2005CasaPinot.jpg Region Price Purchased Date
Santa Barbara, CA $34 @ the Winery 2/17/08
The nose opens with red fruits, earth, herbal notes and hints of oaky vanilla. On the palate bright and crisp raspberry and cherry notes are accented by cooked tomato on the back end. The finish was filled with ripe fruit and spice. A bit alcoholic and acidic upon opening. Not as elegant and integrated as I expected for the price. Should soften a bit as it ages. Might be better with another year in the bottle.

2005 Fess Parker Pinot Noir**
fessPN05.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $28 @ the Winery 10/26/08
A medium, ruby-colored wine with a nose of cherry, strawberry, and cedar mingle with a touch of somke, sweet spice and earth. The flavors of cranberry, cola, ripe cherries and spice unite nicely on the medium-bodied palate with some notes of earth and tobacco on the moderate finish. Was a bit acidic to start, but rounded out after a half hour in the glass. A pleasant, flavorful, ripe and fruity pinot.

2005 Labyrinth Bien Nacido Pinot Noir***
labyrinthPN.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Santa Barbara, CA $32 Tastes of the Valley 5/4/08
A pale, ruby-colored wine with an aromatic nose and intense mouthfeel that belies its color. The nose and palate are full of ripe strawberry, plum and cherry flavors with smoke, earth and sweet spice adding complexity to the fruit flavors. The wine is well-structured with good acidity and balance and a lingering, spice-filled finish. You can rarely go wrong with a pinot from the Bien Nacido vineyard and at this price, if you can find this wine, buy it.

2005 Lafond Winery Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills**
lafond-clone777-05.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Santa Barbara, CA $24 @ the Winery 11/24/07
The bright nose is filled with ripe red fruits and hints of pepper that follow through wonderfully on the palate. Crisp, elegant and lush despite being fairly light-bodied. The bit of new French Oak adds notes of smoke and vanilla. An expressive and enjoyable wine for the price that's ready to drink.

2005 Lafond Winery Pinot Noir, Vineyard Clone 113**
lafond-clone777-05.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Santa Barbara, CA $38 @ the Winery 11/24/07
Deep, dark and dusty, this wine is 180 degrees different from Clone 777. The nose is full of earth, spice, smoke and a hint of tar which come together with dark fruits on the palate. This wine needs at least another 2 years in the bottle to do it justice. Once the flavors integrate, will most likely be a 3-star wine, it's just too tannic right know to be more than enjoyable. Not your typical CA Pinot to be sure.

2005 Lafond Winery PInot Noir, Vineyard Clone 777***
lafond-clone777-05.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Santa Barbara, CA $38 @ the Winery 11/24/07
This wine has all the characteristics of their SRH release (see above) but with a greater concentration of flavors, more tannin and structure. Already fairly well-integrated, this wine is showing wonderfully now with a long spice and vanilla-filled finish. Has more ripeness and red fruit flavors than their Clone 113. Another year or two in the bottle will make this a real beauty.

2005 Lincourt Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills**
lincourt.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $30 @ the Winery 11/24/07
Intense color and flavor, the bouquet exudes aromas of raspberry, boysenberry, blueberry and cherry mingle with hints of vanilla and baking spices. Dark ruby in color, the body is plush with rich integrated tannins, spicy red berry flavors and firm acidity. Their best wine, but not the best for the price I tasted that day.

2005 Melville Pinot Noir, Verna's Vineyard**
Vernas_Syrah_2005.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $22 @ the Winery 11/22/07
Ruby red in color, this wine exudes pretty blue and red fruits of blueberry, raspberry and cherry. Delicate nuances of violets, lilacs and cinnamon stick also linger in the background along with spice and earth scents. Definitely needs more time in the bottle. Is better than its' showing. Currently too tight and not yet fully integrated.

2005 McKeon-Phillips Reserve Pinot Noir***
McKeonReservePinotNoir.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $32 @ the Winery 3/26/09
A pale garnet colored wine with an expressive nose of raspberry, cherry and earth with notes of herbs, cola and white pepper. The palate is light-bodied but with a complex mix of earth, cherry, stramberry, sweet spice and hints of mushroom and more pepper on the lingering finish. Elegant, intense and well-structured with enough acid to keep this wine going for at least another few years. Glad I have another bottle and worth seeking out for those who want more than just fruit in their Pinot. Went really well with our mustard, mushroom chicken dinner.

2005 Pezzi King Pinot Noir**
pezziPN05.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Sonoma, CA $26 Private Event 10/28/08
A medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine with bright aromas of raspberry, blackberry, earth and smoke with a hint, as the wine opens of licorice. The palate was medium-bodied, with nicely inegrated tannins and acidity, creating a soft mouthfeel with cherry, blackberry, smoke and licorice flavors with spice and vanilla on the solid finish. Definitely a cool climate Pinot with good fruit, but more on the savory/earthy side. A well-structured and complex wine for the price.

2005 Soter Vineyards Beacon Hill Pinot Noir***
soterPN05.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Willamette Valley, OR $48 Private Dinner 4/23/08
A medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine with an expresive nose filled with earth, spice and berry fruit that expands on the palate. Already well-integrated, this wine could still use a few years to refine its' intense flavors of raspberries and blackberries, sweet spice, smoke and earth. It has a lovely structure and a lingering finish with notes of pepper and vanilla. A wine with complex flavors, as well as ripe fruit. Much more interesting than many Californians in the same price range.

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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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