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Pinot Perfection

Three pinot noirs for your consideration

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If you're looking for the perfect red wine for the upcoming celebratory season, you need look no further than pinot noir. When done right, these wines are elegant and voluptuous, with silky fruit flavors, soft tannins and long finishes. Pinot noir is lovely on its own and equally at home paired with holiday fare. Unfortunately, the grape can be both difficult to grow and to transform into wine. Quality comes at a price, so while you can find decent pinot for less than $20, really good bottles sell for considerably more. Here are three contenders for a spot at your holiday table.

2011 Ayres Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir, $34

This wine's complex aromas build slowly, starting with earthy bing cherry, blackberry and plum backed by nuances of leather, game, vanilla and lightly toasted oak. In the mouth, it's a burst of creamy fruit flavors, including black cherry and sweet raspberry perfectly balanced by racy acidity. The velvety finish, with its fine tannins and red fruit flavors, lingers on and on.

2010 J.K. Carriere Vespidae Pinot Noir, $40

Though this wine opens with opulent dark berry and cherry aromas backed by leather and licorice, there's also a light touch of Brettanomyces, the yeast so prevalent in Belgian beers. In small doses, as here, it adds spice and an intriguing bit of earthy funk. The palate is beautifully balanced, filled with ripe plum and soft cherry that carries through on the silky finish.

2009 Lange Three Hills Cuvee Pinot Noir, $40

Sweet strawberry aromas explode from the glass, colored by enticing touches of smoke, mineral and mint. This wine is definitely the richest of the three, with candied cherry flavors up front that turn slightly crisp and tart on the finish. The fruit is matched by a medley of spicy cinnamon and clove with touches of black tea and anise. Stylistically, it's a real crowd-pleaser.