Medium ruby core with wide garnet edges. Leathered perfume, still a crisp bite but massaged and sultry into raspberry leaf tea, cacao nibs and a twinge of Maraschino. The cedar box and match-head are acidic memories, polished smoothly into plum nectar and ripe strawberry dreams with a little pine tree and cardboard.

Tantarra’s one of those quiet cult-producers in Santa Maria Valley I had never heard of until I moved here. Paul Lato, Greg Linn, Rick Hill–none of these had ever pinged my radar until I started snooping around the central coast. Then suddenly these pillars are everywhere in conversation, and if you haven’t heard of them, there is no shame–I hadn’t either–but you owe it to yourself to look them up.

In the mouth, loungy vibes. No flashing lights. Dark and padded–voluptuous and embracing–you sink in softly as all the worn leather and crushed velvet envelopes and softly lingers at places you didn’t think wine could go. A long sigh of caramel arches its back, spiked with acid and as contrastingly un-flabby as the nose and entry can slightly be. The middle swells, filling your mouth with warm contrasts, spicy jam and savory saltwater rasp, tannins still-throbbing, their bitter sweaty heavings quietly and gradually stilled by the soothing post-caress of the still-eager fruit.

This guy makes, like, 20 Pinots from every possible name-dropping vineyard site in Santa Barbara county. Picking your favorite is always a challenge. Having a tough time deciding? You can’t go wrong with Bien Nacido.

2010 TANTARA Pinot Noir ‘Corral’ Bien Nacido Santa Maria Valley (but not in) Santa Barbara County 14.8


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