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Oregon, says Brown, offers the "earthy, Burgundian style" of Pinot that he prefers -- and he says this even as we make our way towards the bottom of the Sea Smoke, a true Santa Rita Hills fruit grenade, so extracted as to resemble Syrah at first approach. "I find that my palate is all over the place," he grants. So he buys from here and there, usually in lots of one to three bottles, stashing the gems in his friend's cellar. "I've got 87 bottles, and that's more than I can even think about drinking right now. I don't want to get much bigger than that. I only buy cases when I'm on lists -- stuff like Sea Smoke that's hard to find." There, the risk is minimized, "because -- and I hate to say it -- I know that if I don't like it, I can sell it." And if he does decide to sell, the board will be waiting.

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