Each issue Wine & Spirits focuses on one variety or group of related wines and selects the best wines in that category for the year.

April 2006

Over the last twelve months,
Wine & Spirits tasted 453 American Pinot Noirs.

The following 17 wines received the strongest praise from our critics. Subscribers can download a complete list of all American pinot noirs tasted, with the recommended wines highlighted, at

Pinot Noir
96 I Flowers $50
2003 Sonoma Coast Frances Thompson Vineyard Pinot Noir

Grown within sight of the Pacific Ocean, the pinot noir at Frances Thompson benefits from its position on the hills above the fog. In '03, these young vines ripened their fruit to a firm roundness, to sophisticated layers of red fruit and earth that last in harmony. Extremely young and already completely fulfilling, this wine will age beautifully over the next ten years. (446 cases) Flowers Vineyard & Winery, Cazadero, CA

95 I Flowers $44
2003 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

This blends the brisk, earthy spice of far coast fruit with deeper fraise de bois and raspberry flavors from Russian River Valley grapes. The flavors last in a cool and generous finish. A classic, oceanic pinot noir. (4,400 cases) (W&S 4/06) Flowers Vineyard & Winery, Cazadero, CA

94 I Lynmar $45
2003 Russian River Valley Quail Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir

The fog incursions from the sea seem to have left a ghosting in the wine itself, the cool feel of thin-skinned pinot, delicately extracted. It's the juice of tiny pinot noir berries, the flavor of fraise de bois and roses. To drink with roast quail. (990 cases) (W&S 4/06) Lynmar Winery, Sebastopol, CA

94 I Merry Edwards $54
2003 Russian River Valley Olivet Lane Pinot Noir

The Pellegrinis planted pinot noir here in 1973; Edwards used that fruit to build a massive wine in 2003. Its intensity melds fruit with oak, tasting like cherries grilled over charcoal. This is built for age, or for glazed black cod. (680 cases) (W&S 10/05) Merry Edwards Wines, Forestville, CA

93 I Domaine Drouhin $60
2002 Dundee Hills Laurene Drouhin Family Estate Pinot Noir

The supple Burgundian texture, and its long, austere finish feel very French, yet Oregon shows through in a Dundee red earth minerality and a scent more floral than fruity. Decant; then serve with roast duck. (2,150 cases) (W&S 4/06) Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee, OR

93 I Domaine Serene $75
2002 Willamette Valley Mark Bradford Vineyard Pinot Noir

Decant this and it growns plush and elegant, its dark scents giving way to aromas of plum and sea air, its flavors opening into smooth black cherry and black earth. It should develop more complexity with a dozen years of cellar time. (382 cases) (W&S 2/06) Domaine Serene, Carlton, OR

93 I Dutton Estate $40
2003 Russian River Vly. Dutton Ranch Thomas Road Vyd. Pinot Noir

The tannins that the rocky soils at Thomas Road built into these grapes are generous and firm, making an elegant, chocolate-rich backdrop for the cherry flavors. (147 cases) (W&S 10/05) Dutton Estate Winery, Sebastopol, CA

93 I Gary Farrell $60
2003 Russian River Valley Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir

Impressive for its delicacy and fresh perfume, this has an ocean air briskness that keeps it light. The tannins feel refined, adding a chocolate bass note to the bright cherry and spice flavor. Drink now or age another five years. (322 cases) (W&S 12/05) Gary Farrell, Healdsburg, CA

93 I Hartford Court $50
2003 Sonoma Coast Seascape Vineyard Pinot Noir

Fresh strawberry flavors build their fragrance into a midpalate punch of brightness. This grows increasingly generous, the red fruit lasting into a finish that contrasts saline tannins with the chocolate richness of oak. Cool, clean, luxurious. (310 cases) (W&S 4/06) Hartford Family Winery, Forestville, CA

93 I Lost Canyon $38
2003 Russian River Vly. Dutton Ranch Morelli Lane Vyd. Pinot Noir

This wine hits the cool, forest berry flavors of ripe Russian River Valley pinot noir. The initial scent of wild spring herbs is layered with earthy tannins. Tightly built, this feels lifted and clean. For roasemary-roasted lamb. (220 cases) (W&S 8/05) Lost Canyon Winery, Oakland, CA

93 I Migration $28
2003 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

The second label from Goldeneye, Migration is a beauty in 2003. Fresh and lithe with a light Rainier cherry scent, it has a clarity to the savory fruit and a stemminess underneath to support it. Serve it with wild Pacific salmon, grilled rare. (2,800 cases) (W&S 10/05) Goldeneye, Philo, CA

93 I Raptor Ridge $29
2003 Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot Noir

A wine of great poise and delicacy, this develops from rose and violet scents to the fragrance of macerated cherries. It's concentrated yet gentle, with a firmness that is more about precision than strength. Cellar a year or more, then serve with duck. (330 cases) (W&S 6/05) Raptor Ridge Winery, Scholls, OR

93 I Raptor Ridge $20
2004 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Oregon made its reputation on graceful, gentle wines like this. Its fresh, bright kirschwasser scent is grounded by a fine, humus-like character; its fruit cushioned by oak, with just enough acid to keep it lifted. A lovely accompaniment to duck confit. (509 cases) (W&S 4/06) Raptor Ridge Winery, Scholls, OR

93 I Rex Hill $75
2003 Dundee Hills Maresh Vineyard-Loie's Block Pinot Noir

Maresh-Loie's is always one of Rex Hill's prettiest, most delicate single-vineyard wines. Its flavors are classic Dundee: dusty red cherry, light oak, and an assertive umami mushroom flavor. For salmon. (43 cases) (W&S 4/06) Rex Hill Vineyards, Newberg, OR

93 I Testarossa $54
2004 Santa Rita Hills Sanford & Benedict Vyd. Pinot Noir

This wine's beauty lies in its color and in the rustic spice of its red fruit. It contrasts the cool, supple freshness of that fruit with warmer tannins, both peppery and saline, the combination lasting with remarkable finesse. (444 cases) (W&S 4/06) Testarossa Vineyards, Los Gatos, CA

93 I Truchard $28
2002 Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir

Bright and fresh from beginning to end, this elegant Carneros pinot balances its full, luscious texture with pointed acidity. The flavor that lasts is red, more vinous than directly fruity. Serve it with roasted John Dory. (3,693 cases) (W&S 2/06) Truchard Vineyards, Napa, CA

93 I Williams Selyem $38
2003 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Concentrated and firmly built, this masterful pinot noir has a delicacy and a gentle exposition to its flavors. There's a lovely raspberry freshness, as well as a ghosting of tannin, as if drinking in the coastal fog. Completely satisfying. (W&S 10/05) Williams Selyem Winery, Healdsburg, CA