Finally, a big fully expressed pinot noir at a price we can live with. The 2007 Cambria "Julia's Vineyard" Pinot Noir from California's Santa Maria Valley near Santa Barbara is a superb value at about $21 and can be found at wine savvy markets, wine shops and big-box stores.
This is an unusually concentrated pinot noir, a dark purple in the bottle, with an alluring ripe black cherry aroma that kept our noses in our glasses a bit longer than usual. We couldn't linger forever, of course, and our first sips were as illuminating as our first sniffs. Brambly cherry and ripe black fruit leapt to the fore and were quickly brightened by highlights we eventually identified as light vanilla and strawberry. At mid-palate a hint of warm cinnamon asserted itself before giving way to a smooth, lingering finish set off by a suggestion of toast and raisins at the back. Wow.
Because this is a particularly lush example of pinot noir, we wouldn't hesitate to veer from the lighter meats, sauces and cheeses we usually think of first for pairing, although those are still good bets. With this voluptuous beauty be bold: Bring on the boeuf bourguignon!
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelancer specializing in food, wine and travel.