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FrontRunners: From The Robb Cellar

Seduction, a Bordeaux-style blend from O’Brien Family Vineyard, derives its name from one of the English language’s more treacherous verbs, a word that combines a sense of peril with a powerful allure. The wine justifies its moniker on a number of levels, beginning with its black box, which bears a letter “O” that suggests a lipstick smudge or a pleasurable exclamation. The carnal red interior of the box tantalizes further, as does the bottle itself, which is wrapped in a red Circean veil that makes opening this wine something of a striptease. Yet the amorous play begins in earnest when the O’Brien Family Vineyard Seduction 2004 is uncorked and the rich black-purple wine offers up its sultry scents of blackberry, vanilla, and earthy wet granite. The palate is as luscious as a French kiss, in which blackberry, black cherry, hints of tobacco leaf, and creamy vanilla flavors embrace the taste buds, while the wine’s silky texture coats the mouth enticingly. This blend should satisfy the lustiest appetites, but beware: As with any proper seduction, it will leave you wanting more. ($36) www.obrienfamilyvineyard.com

On the subject of seduction, winemaker Merry Edwards was, in her words, “seduced by Pinot” 30 years ago, when she was the winemaker at Mount Eden Vineyards, a historic winery in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. The challenges of producing wine from this finicky grape, Edwards maintains, gave her a unique perspective on the importance of growing wine over making it. In the latter case—the modus operandi of the California wine industry in the mid-seventies—the emphasis is placed on manipulation of the wine in the winery and cellar; in the former, selection of the vineyard site and appropriate varietals, as well as attention to the health of the vines and fruit, determines the character of the finished product. It is no understatement to say that Edwards has mastered this art. Like Michelangelo, who was fond of saying that he merely revealed in a block of marble the ideal shape that already existed within it, Edwards coaxes from her vineyards their ideal expressions of place. The inherent expression in the Olivet Lane Vineyard is powerfully feminine, and the Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Olivet Lane 2004 in particular exhibits intense aromas of red and black cherries, mocha, and fragrant wildflowers. The texture is rich, and the tannins, while sturdy enough to give this wine aging potential, are polished. As with most of Edwards’ wines, the fruit—predominantly cherry in this case—is concentrated, while coffee, chocolate, tobacco, and toast contribute to a stunning overall complexity. ($57) www.merryedwards.com

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