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God, We Love Yummy Pinots

Especially from California's Central Coast.

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There are few things better in life than a light and flavorful pinot, particularly if it's relatively inexpensive and sustainably grown. Call it "a four-fer." You get to enjoy one hell of a good wine, support a California independent business, and minimize your carbon footprint all at the same time — without going broke doing it.

Look no further than the Carmel Road 2007 Pinot Noir $17.99 (at Berkeley Bowl). It bursts with an aroma of melons, apples, blackberries, and cherries. And it comes with a sweet and lightly acidic, yet smooth taste that only manages to become sweeter and smoother as it breathes. Plus, like many great pinots, it comes from the California Central Coast. In particular, the cool, moist Salinas Valley that many had thought would be too cold for good pinots, but has turned out to be the wine's true home away from home.

Founded in 1997, Carmel Road is all about its hand-made wines and the terroir of the Monterey area. For its pinots, the award-winning winery employs open-tank fermentation and ages the wine in French oak barrels. The 2007 pinot has won accolades from the around the country. WineReviewOnline.com awarded it 88 points, and it won a gold medal at the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Our wine-tasting team simply loved this pinot, especially for the price. It exquisitely complemented our meal of grilled vegetables and chicken, and it would do well with grilled fish, steak, or lamb. We gave it an eight, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest. And for its price, we would give a nearly perfect nine.

Our second selection was a Kali Hart 2007 Pinot Noir $17.99 (also at Berkeley Bowl). Although not as flavorful as the Carmel Road, it's still a good, solid wine with a nose full of blueberries and cherries and a hint of cinnamon. It's also more tannicky than the Carmel Road, with a dry, oaky aftertaste. It mellowed as it breathed, but lost none of its nose.

Kali Hart is made by Talbott vineyard of Monterey County, and named after Robb Talbott's daughter. Robb Talbott not only runs the family business, the Robert Talbott Tie Company, but he also is the hands-on proprietor of the winery he began in 1982.

This fresh, bright pinot is from the Santa Lucia Highlands, and it's hand-sorted and pressed before spending several months in French oak barrels, too. We liked it, but it didn't spoil us like the Carmel Road. There are other better pinots our there at this price. We gave it a six.

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