Danville Express

Living - August 10, 2007

The Wine Guy: 2005 Paraiso Vineyards Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County) (Bella Vino - Danville, $25.99)

by Gregory Peebles

Paraiso's new release gives consumers plenty to ponder. Show the initial foresight and patience to stash away several bottles for eight or 10 months and chances are good you can be uncorking a sultry beauty for several years afterward.

Color extraction is vital to all wines, especially Pinot Noirs in the "luxury" price category. Winemaker David Fleming hits the mark: A clean, pure spectrum of crimson, ruby and purple.

The nose is slightly indicative of Pinot Noir in a young, awkward stage. Demure aromas of cherry and rose petal climb over the glass. Its aromas are complimented by a multi-layered bouquet of mushroom, clove and graham cracker.

Round, fleshy textured notes of tart cherry, plum and pomegranate greet the palate. The very firm tannin-acid structure provides a strong foundation for cellaring.

A long finish of red fruit, vanilla and light touch of Syrah-like black licorice completes the picture. This is serious wine.

Richard Smith's 400-acre estate is indeed paradise ("paraiso" in Spanish) for Pinot Noir and he pioneered what is now a supremely popular appellation. The Smith's are currently surrounded by several other highly prized vineyards: Mer Soleil, Pisoni, Garys', Rosella's and Talbott's "Sleepy Hollow." For fans of Monopoly who also fancy heavenly Pinot Noirs, only three or four growing districts in California deserve "Boardwalk" or "Park Place" status. The Santa Lucia Highlands region is undoubtedly among this select group.

Hungry? Pair this varietal with its classic partners. Roast game bird, duck, grilled salmon or lamb combine beautifully with Paraiso's powerful and sophisticated Pinot Noir. As always, learn to trust your palate and decide for yourselves!

Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at caledoniawine@sbcglobal.net.

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