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Recommended wines from California's Santa Rita Hills

The climate of Santa Barbara County has helped vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills flourish.
The climate of Santa Barbara County has helped vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills flourish. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir 2008
***
Santa Rita Hills, Calif., $40

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Brewer-Clifton makes two pinot noir wines that are available in the Washington area: this regional blend and a single-vineyard bottling named Mount Carmel. Both are terrific, with the Mount Carmel (***, $60) being more intense (but also a smaller-production wine and harder to find). The wines are beautifully balanced, with a hint of earthiness from whole-cluster fermentation, a technique rarely used in California pinot. Luckily, more of the Santa Rita Hills bottling is available with the 2008 than in previous vintages.

Bacchus: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Wine Specialist, Wide World of Wines; on the list at Eola, Seasons, Oyamel. Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, Wine Merchant in Lutherville, and Graul's Wine & Spirits, Wine Market and Wine Source in Baltimore.

Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay, 2008
** 1/2
Santa Rita Hills, Calif., $40

Greg Brewer sources his fruit for this regional blend from six vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills: four along Route 246, where sandier soils yield voluptuous character, and two from the hillsides along Santa Rosa Road, which lend firmness and structure. The single-vineyard Mount Carmel (***, $60) adds a whiff of mineral and smoke from its hillside site.

Bacchus: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, Wide World of Wines, Wine Specialist; on the list at Corduroy, Proof, Seasons. Available in Maryland at Bin 201 Wine sellers in Annapolis, DiWine Spirits in Pikesville, Wine Merchant in Lutherville, Bin 604 Wine Sellers in Baltimore.

Alma Rosa Winery Pinot Blanc 2006
**
Santa Rita Hills, Calif., $18

Exotic tropical flavors and a whiff of peach blossoms grace this wine, which drinks beautifully by itself or with light seafood dishes. The 2007, tasted at the winery, is even better. Alma Rosa wines are farmed organically.

Monument Fine Wines/Republic National: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, S&R Liquors, Watergate Wine & Beverage. Available in Maryland at the Potomac Dispensary in Potomac and the Wine Source in Baltimore.

Alma Rosa Winery Pinot Noir 2007
**
Santa Rita Hills, Calif., $33

I liked this wine when I tasted it in January even more than when I initially tried it last summer. The extra time in bottle has allowed the wine to stretch a bit and become more harmonious, without losing a scintilla of its focus. This is textbook Santa Rita Hills pinot noir.

Monument Fine Wines/Republic National: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, S&R Liquors, Watergate Wine & Beverage. Available in Maryland at the Potomac Dispensary in Potomac and the Wine Source in Baltimore.


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