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2011 Jekel Vineyards Pinot Noir 

Santa Barbara County, California

Retail $19

Bill Jekel was a pioneering winemaker in the Monterey Peninsula when he opened his winery along the California coast in 1972. Over the years, his wines earned an excellent reputation and he expanded to an emerging growing area near Santa Barbara, California, which was hospitable to pinot noir. While the vineyards and the American Viticultural Area (AVA) for Santa Barbara are located north of the coastal city, they enjoy similar maritime influences, rainfall, abundant sunshine and temperature swings. A thin-skinned grape, pinot noir is upset easily by sunburn, excessive moisture and short ripening seasons, but none of those conditions are prevalent in Santa Barbara. This allows the grapes to mature slowly, with plenty of time on the vine before the onset of winter rains. 2011 offered a cool but not damp season, leaving the clusters in a dry state with excellent swings between high daytime temperatures and cooler nights. After harvest the wine was fermented in stainless steel followed by aging in neutral oak. In the glass, it offers ripe red berry aromas and hints of dried herbs. The wine's acid level is ideal and one tastes cherry, strawberry, dried fruits, some spice and smooth tannins. Open for 20 minutes before serving. Drink it with seared tuna, smoked salmon, rosemary chicken, roasted vegetables, mushroom risotto and cheeses like Gouda and Comte. Buy it at: Rouses Market in Mid-City. Drink it at: Katie's Restaurant & Bar; The Court of Two Sisters; Pie, Pizza & Pastas in the Warehouse District; Ralph and Kacoo's and Palmettos on the Bayou. ­— BRENDA MAITLAND

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