For me, the best Pinot Noirs are relatively lean wines, bright and balanced with subtle use of oak and moderate levels of alcohol — wines that make you anticipate the next sip, and the one after that. You can find these wines in Burgundy, of course, and, with more effort, in Oregon and California.
One that embraces this style is the 2017 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from Amici Cellars. Amici is a Napa-based winery that does not grow its own grapes but sources them instead from well-known vineyards in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, with an emphasis on Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Sonoma Pinot Noir.
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At $40, the Russian River Pinot Noir delivers excellent value in a wine that is simply delicious. The fruit has the trademark ripeness of Sonoma Pinot Noir but is not over-extracted or cloying. Alcohol is listed at 14.1 percent, which is still within what I consider the reasonable range.
Aging for 13 months in French oak is just right and is balanced by ample acidity. The tastes call to mind black cherry and blueberry with accents of cinnamon and other baking spices. With a slight chill, try serving it with grilled chicken or salmon or vegetable risottos.
This is a wine marked more by elegance than power, which too many West Coast Pinot Noir producers still appear to be striving for. Amici seems to have the right idea when it comes to the grape.
Amici is owned by Bob and Celia Shepard and John Harris, the three friends (amici in Italian) who started it back in 1991.