This month was a repeat of the October 2010 tasting, highlighting the vast growing area along California's central coast, where cool ocean air collides with warmth to produce prime spots for Pinot Noir. We sampled six bottles from four different appellations, and our results indeed showed a great deal of diversity, from darker, richer versions to lighter wines and higher acidity. All were from recent vintages.

Ali's winner was a fantastic bargain from Monterey County at only $15, receiving the highest ranking from almost everyone, while the second place wine was a value bottling made by famed producer Etude. All entries received at least a few points.

First Place: Wild Brush Pinot Noir 2014 (Monterey County). The nose started out with some sour cream notes, plus flowers, milk chocolate, and crème brûlée. Mark described "milk in the fridge a little too long", while Cathy found "tiger lily." Less fruit and more floral in tone. The palate was more about fruit and a dark profile, however with notions of plum, blackberry, and black olives. Cloves on the finish. Good tannin and acidity. Cathy pointed out how well this went with the food. Everyone's favorite except for David, for a total of 33 points. Ali's Bottle. About $15.

Second Place: Etude Pinot Noir Lyric 2015 (Santa Barbara County). Perhaps unfiltered. Tasters found scents of dirty dishwater, funk, wet wool, cedar, burning wood, and toasted brown sugar. Darker in profile compared to some others, with lower acidity and darker fruit flavors, plus prune, molasses, and coffee. Long finish. Andy felt that it was "kind of chewy a little bit." Tasted much better than it smelled. David's favorite bottle. Received 19 points. David's bottle. About $19.

Third Place: MacMurray Pinot Noir 2014 (Central Coast). Richer nose that included acetone, prunes, anisette, walnuts, and sage. Ali noted "licorice liqueur, both the licorice and the liqueur", while Andy decided on "black Twizzlers." Relatively tannic, with more licorice in the mouth, but a short finish. This was front-loaded, leading Ali to wonder, "Did I drink wine?", and Cathy commenting, "Yeah, in the beginning, and then...what the heck?" Some plum, cherry and coffee notes. We all wish it would last longer, but it also improved with air. Received 11 points. Cathy's bottle. About $22.

Domaine de la Côte Pinot Noir 2014 (Sta. Rita Hills). More light and vibrant than the others in color, like raspberry, then salmon on the edges. Fruity smell, not unlike Fruit Stripes gum, and almost candied, plus scents of flowers, fresh laundry, and fabric softener. Smells happy. Ali described it as "almost perky", and compared it to "Princess Poppy", while David strangely found a hint of "kim chi." Also had a saline, oceanic quality to the aromatics that were echoed on the palate, where flavors of seaweed, salty sea air, and brine were evident. Dryer and more acidic than most others, with a slightly shorter finish. Cathy described an "almost fishy taste." Received 10 points. Andy's bottle. About $40.

Joseph Carr Pinot Noir Josh 2016 (Central Coast). Tasters found aromas of cherries, autumn wet leaves, nail polish remover, cranberry, evergreen, Pine Sol, rocks, and wet earth hinting at decay. Cathy said that it was a "deep, hit me in the back of the throat kind of smell." Smooth palate, with plenty of acidity, but also balanced, with cherry on the attack, then violets and blueberry on the short finish. Some freshly brewed coffee notes. Ali noted "Red Hots" and "finished like Jell-O", while Mark responded with "I never thought of Jell-O as finishing." Received 6 points. Kristin's bottle. About $19.

Seaglass Pinot Noir 2015 (Santa Barbara County). Showed a richer, bluer red color, with scents reminiscent of provolone cheese, plastic wrap, cinnamon, and Red Hots. Andy was reminded of shoe insoles.  Smooth texture, with a fruity profile of cherry flavors, then an acidic finish. It's doing its thing really well, but it's also not complex. Kristin felt that it tastes like it's a little more industrial in production. Received 5 points. Mark's bottle. About $10.

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