Oregon Pinot Noir 

It's a supply and demand thing. First, pinot noir isn't the easiest grape to grow. Second, good pinot means low yields in the vineyard, which translates to high prices. And third, although it's been a few years since it first came out, the Sideways effect is still pushing sales of pinot. While that movie was extolling the virtues of wines from California, the popularity of Oregon wines was also boosted. Add to that a run of nine outstanding vintages from that state, and it's no wonder that Oregon pinot commands a high price. Thirty to 40 bucks will score you a good bottle, but there's not much out there in the $20 range. That was our goal—to find a good $20 Oregon pinot noir, and we were impressed with most all the wines we tasted. Here are this week's top picks:

2006 A to Z Pinot Noir, $20

Opens with lush plum and strawberry fruit aromas backed by rose petal, spice, anise, fresh thyme and a bit of game and earth. Round and lush in the mouth as well, where sweet blackberry fruit plays against tart cherry. Lovely sweet rhubarb, chocolate, licorice and spice keep things interesting in this well integrated wine that has good persistence of flavor from start to finish.

2006 Duck Pond Pinot Noir, $21

Heady dark berry and plum aromas give way to ripe strawberry mingled with spicy creme brulee. Big, bold cherry and deep berry flavors dominate, but they are nicely balanced by a smooth hit of acidity. There's a very appealing creamy quality to the fruit-driven finish with fresh, ripe strawberry laced with appealing hints of red licorice and dark chocolate.

2006 Iris Pinot Noir, $18.99

A bit closed in at first, but it really opens up with time in the glass. Elegantly structured raspberry fruit aromas with light touches of toast, hazelnut, tobacco, fresh dill and mint. Richly textured on the palate with enticingly flavorful ripe cherry and berry fruit. Very well-balanced with a subtle complexity that reveals layers of oak, caramel and anise along with an appealing woodsy quality. Sweet cranberry and very smooth tannins come through on the finish.

This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Leslie Young Boise Co-op Wine Shop.

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