- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Byron, Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, 2003, $25

This has been the year of American pinot noir, the year in which this prestigious but persnickety grape variety proved that it could yield distinctively delicious American wines on more than an occasional basis. The momentum had been building for a while, but 2005 is when pinot in the United States finally came of age.

Some of the finest pinot noirs these days hail from California’s Santa Barbara County, where the east-west orientation of the coastal valleys allows chilly ocean air to sweep across the vineyards. More than most red grapes, pinot needs that cooling effect in order to maintain the proper balance of sugar and acid, so that the resulting wines will taste harmonious rather than heavy or hot.

Byron’s 2003 pinot noir from the Santa Maria Valley does just that. Though marked by bright cherry fruit, it also displays a spicy, slightly earthy undertone, so it seems multilayered and sumptuous.

Good pinot noir is a wonderfully versatile dinner companion. Substantial enough to pair with many meat dishes, it also is sufficiently soft to work with lighter fare. That versatility makes it an excellent Thanksgiving choice. Given the recent improvement in the quality of so much American pinot, lifting a glass and offering a toast of thanks this year makes good sense.



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