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Picton Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir

Wine: Picton Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir

Grape: Pinot noir

Region: Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand

Vintage: 2008

Price: $7.99

In the glass: Picton Bay Pinot Noir is a vibrant semitranslucent garnet color with a firm, deeply colored core going out into a fine, slightly tinged light red rim definition with medium-high viscosity.

On the nose: There are good amounts of crushed red plums, cranberry juice, cherries jubilee, milk chocolate and licorice root, then bright red flowers, hints of warm berry cobbler and fruit-driven minerals round out the layered, toasty nose.

On the palate: The wine is very approachable and although there’s a small amount of volatile acidity coming through at first, this dissipates within minutes of the bottle being opened. There are again fresh, bright crushed red berries, cherry Jolly Rancher, red plum skins, raspberry coulis, cranberry fondant and copious amounts of fruity minerals with underlying hints of fruit roll-ups and ground licorice. The midpalate seems rich and forward with good amounts of balance between fruit and acidity, as well as good, if light, tannin structure that reflects the relative cool climate the wine is coming from. The finish is very fine with hints of candied cranberries and faint oak references.

Odds and ends: Marlborough may be the finest appellation in New Zealand, producing not only top notch sauvignon blanc and chardonnays, but now also great pinots. While Picton Bay is not a large producer, it has captured what New Zealand pinot noirs are all about. Fresh, bright and easy drinking are the qualities that come to mind, along with a reasonable price, available exclusively at Trader Joe’s. This is a versatile food-pairing wine, and in general pinot noir is the go-to choice for reds if you don’t know what else to serve with the dinner, just the same way rieslings are for white wines. Drink it now through 2012, and serve with veal chops, or pepper-dusted grilled fillet of salmon.

Gil Lempert-Schwarz’s wine column appears Wednesdays. Write him at P.O. Box 50749, Henderson, NV 89016-0749, or e-mail him at gil@winevegas.com.

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