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updated: 1/11/2011 10:59 AM

Pinot still peaking after all these years

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It's no surprise that Hollywood would try and try again to cash in on wine's romance, especially with vineyards ripening just outside the studio lot. But what has surprised and delighted worldwide oenophiles since 2004 is how wine capitalized, and is still capitalizing, on Hollywood since the 2004 release of "Sideways."

Seemingly overnight, the movie's catch-phrase -- "I am NOT drinking any @#$%^ Merlot!" [--] rallied disgruntled drinkers to dump overproduced Merlot (the sales leader since the 1970s) and fill their glasses with that shy, cantankerous but beloved variety, Pinot Noir. The "Sideways Effect" still attracts new money to Pinot Noir with the much of that money being thrown at bottles in the $20 to $40 range.

The craze has yielded knock-offs, the most prevalent con to add a (legal) 25 percent dose of easy-to-grow but hard-to-sell Syrah to the Pinot vat. But with righteous Pinots, including the ones below, finally reaching a wide audience, it will be some time before we hear "I am NOT drinking any @#$%^ Pinot Noir!"

Au Bon Climat "Santa Barbara County": Still silky after all these years, 'ABC' resists the trend toward overblown Pinot with a delicate balance of berry and plum flavor and bright acidity. ($21)

Meiomi (by Bell Glos Wines): The newly released 2009 is saturated with dark cherry and cranberry flavors accented with earthiness and Asian spices. For silken texture and charm, look for 2008. ($25)

Sanford "La Rinconada Vineyard": Flavors of berries, forest floor and caramelized meat that entice both the appetite and the imagination. ($50)

Talbott "Kali Hart": A muscle-y push-back in texture, and meaty flavor that reminds this palate of Burgundy, all assuaged with pure California-ripened cherry and mulberry flavor. ($21)

Pinot Noir's silky texture marries with rich poultry and light red meats, (filet not T-bone). Berry flavors enhance entrees with fruit sauce (duck a l'orange, turkey with cranberries) while accents compared to Asian spices complement rich Asian dishes. (I enjoyed "Ross' choice" with beef pho, a richly seasoned noodle soup from my local Vietnamese take-out.)

• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Write her at