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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2005 Summerland Winery Pinot Noir, Odyssey-Thurleston Vineyard***
summerlandOT.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $40 @ the winery 1/24/09
A pale, garnet-colored wine with a nose that jumps out of the glass full of red fruit, earth and smoke. The palate is light-bodied, yet intense with bright acidity and a smooth finish with flavors of red cherry, strawberry, earthy minerality and hints of sweet spice and smoke. Well-balanced and elegant with a depth of flavor that makes Pinot so good. Not as complex as the 2002 version, but worth every penny. Would give it another 6mos to a year, but I don't think it will be getting much better. Re-tasted 11/15/09: While a bit more earthy and smoky, the previous notes still apply. While it still has enough life to hold for at least another year, it didn't really get any better so there's not much point. Pop and pour.

2005 Wild Earth Pinot Noir**
wildearth.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Central Otago, New Zealand $23 The Wine House 4/14/08
A pale ruby with youthful aromas of strawberry, cherry, plum, sweet spice, earth and vanilla. The light-bodied palate is soft and bright with the same flavors found on the nose with additional notes of smoke and pepper on the smooth and lengthy finish. A little more body would have pushed this wine into 3 Star territory. As it stands, it's a lovely bottle for the price, especially considering NZ pinots are hard to come by in the US.

2003 Fiddlehead Cellars Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix Vineyard***
Fiddlehead728PN.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $40 @ the winery 11/25/10
A medium, garnet-colored wine with a moderately intense nose of cherry, earth, herbs, plum, spice and hints of cola. The palate was medium-bodied and lush with well-balanced acidity. The flavors mirrored the nose with additional notes of cedar and leather on the lengthy finish. Pinots that come from this vineyard are always a lovely blend of the masculine and feminine aspects of Pinot Noir and winemaker Kathy Joseph walks that fine line wonderfully here with just the right amount of earth and oak to balance the intense fruit flavors. While still a classy and well-constructed wine, the fruit is definitely on its way out. Sort of wish I had cracked this open last year, though it is still drinking beautifully. (14.1% abv)

2002 Miura Carneros Hudson Vineyard Pinot Noir***
miura.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Napa Valley, CA $45 Gift 1/17/09
A medium, garnet-colored wine with a complex nose of red fruit, earth, spice, herbs and hints of cola as the wine opened up. Still had good acidity, integrated tannins and an intense flavor though it is somewhat light in body. The palate has fruit upfront – raspberry, strawberry, a bit of cherry – but then unites those with the earthiness and sweet spice found on the nose with a nice, lingering finish that had notes of smoke and cola. I was worried that this wine might be at or past its prime, but it's nowhere near done developing. Could go at least another year before it hits its peak.

2002 Summerland Winery Pinot Noir, Odyssey-Thurleston Vineyard****
summerlandOT.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $40 Gift 11/21/07
A truly expressive and floral nose full of dried rose petal, clove and forest floor makes you want to just dive right into the glass. Though light-bodied, the palate packs a punch of ripe red fruit and spice flavors that are lush and elegant. The finish is persistant, filled with hints of vanilla and smoke. The time in the bottle made this wine worth the wait. It's drinking beautifully right now. Thankfully, I have another bottle. Worth every penny.

Retasted 2/15/08: When we went to the winery in December and mentioned how good this wine was, they told us it was peaking and to drink it up. They were right. It's still lovely, but not as smooth and integrated. If you've got any, open it tonight before it's too late and you miss out on something special. Now 3 Stars.

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