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Santa Rita Hills Ripeness

Santa Rita Hills Ripeness

In my prior blog “Santa Barbara wine Tasting Experience” I previewed wines we tasted on this trip during the 2015 vintage. The Tyler tasting notes are in the prior blog, but for completeness, I have copied them here.

We hit the winery with the lowest alcohol levels first up at around 11.00AM on top of the toothpaste. The wines were stunning and plenty ripe, with superb balance.

This is the style of wine I prefer, lower alcohols, more acidity and more suitable for drinking with food. Pinot is all about mouth feel. It’s supposed to be feminine with good acidity and near term cellar potential.

Ripeness is a wine making decision and in most cases it’s not an accident… the exception being a sudden heat-wave that can shoot Brix (sugar concentration in the fruit) through the roof and drop acidity in the wine overnight.

Most winemakers will have a minimum Brix threshold that must be achieved before they pick.

What this means is that most wineries and wines labels will exhibit a characteristic alcohol range clustered tightly around the preferred ripeness of the winemaker.

This colored bar is my way of grouping regional wines by specific label or winemaker around the typical ripeness of the finished wines.

For wine consumers, ripeness is a personal preference. What I may find over the top, may be right in your wheelhouse. My tasting notes reflect this personal preference.

If you have not been to the Santa Rita Hills, you are missing some of this country’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay… and a lot of it is still relatively affordable.

 

Tyler

Tyler Pinot Noir

Tyler La Encantada Pinot Noir 2012

This winery is in Lompoc, near the Wine Ghetto. I’d never heard of this label, but so glad we visited Tyler first up. If you read my prior post, A Balancing Act, you will know that I value balance in wine above full-throttle flavor. Tyler wines were all around 13% alcohol and had wonderful balance, lively acidity and drinkability, with potential to age. My new favorite wines in Santa Barbara County.

2013 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 13%

Pale green tinge on this blend of SRH and Santa Maria Valley fruit. Nose showing melon and apples flowing onto palate, minerality, and a fine oak, acid balance. An amazing wine first up on top of the toothpaste and a serious food wine. $36.

 

2013 Zodovitch SRH Chardonnay 13.3%

Again, a green tinge to pale straw color. Riper than the SBC, some citrus, melon and bracing acidity. A fantastic chardonnay with a really long finish and a great food wine.

$45.

2013 SBC Pinot Noir 13.3%

Light Garnet color, lovely aromatics of strawberry, raspberry and some cracked pepper. Palate showing minerality and lovely Burgundian complexity and understated fruit and oak in balance with lively acidity. This wine needs time and reminded me a lot of a very good Cote de Nuits. $40

2013 Bien Nacido SMV Pinot Noir 13%

A cracking wine, again light in color showing complex aromatics of strawberry, violets, cherries and pepper. Much richer and more forward than the SBC, lovely round, elegant and long, a delightful wine. $50

2013 Dierberg Block 5 SMV Pinot Noir 13%

Wow, highly perfumed nose with floral, cherry and spice notes. Darker, slightly more extracted, but in no way bitter or over-done, with more intensity on the finish, but still perfectly balanced with lovely acidity.

2013 La Enacantada SRH Pinot Noir 13.1%

Darker than the Dierberg and showing lovely spicy dark berries, cherries and a palate that won’t quit. Some earthiness, cherries and spices follow onto a balanced and a gorgeous mouth feel. Too good to spit out.  $56

These are fantastic, feminine Pinot’s, made the way that expresses terroir and the quality of the fruit… not the hand of the winemaker. I can’t say I’ve had a more surprising and pleasant tasting of California Pinot and Chardonnay.

 

Brewer Clifton

Brewer Clifton has been making wines in the Santa Rita Hills for 20 years. In February this year, they announced the sale of 70% of the company to a Chicago based investment company. We were the only ones in the tasting room at 12.00 that day and were well hosted by sommelier, Mike Smith. Physiological ripeness is part of the winemaking creed at Brewer Clifton and we expected ripeness. This was the opposite extreme to our prior tasting at Tyler. Amazingly, despite the alcohol they still had acidity to balance them out and did not seem hot.

Blanc de Blanc 13% $60

Lovely apples and bakers yeast on nose, lively mousse, lovely acidity and quality fruit.  A true method-champenoise sparkling wine and a great lead off to a strong line-up.

2013 Gnesa Chardonnay 14.5% $60

Ripe, sweet fruit, some pineapple, a little hot in the mouth, lovely to drink.

2006 Mt Carmel Chardonnay 15.9%

Pineapple, tropical fruit nose, hints of green color, lovely rich, sweet and delicious, with still a few years life in it. A real surprise that it had any acidity at this level of alcohol.

2013 SRH Chardonnay 14.5%

Ripe, tropical fruit, almost candied orange peel on nose, palate long and plenty of acidity.

2013 SRH Chardonnay 15.3%

Dark color, nose of black cherries and ripe candied fruit. Palate sweet, long with dark cherries and a touch of heat.

2013 Hapgood Pinot Noir 15.9%

Earthy nose with mushrooms, (I like this in a pinot), raisins (I don’t like) and cherries. Dark cherries on the palate, sweet and long. Did not taste out of balance despite high alcohol.

2013 SRH Pinot Noir 14.5%

Vibrant red color, lovely perfumed nose violets and cherries and some oak toast. Lovely to drink… delicious.

2006 Kimberley Pinot Noir 14.9%

Pale color browning at edges. Nose showing some mushrooms, spice and dark cherry. Palate spicy, ripe, lovely acidity and very much alive. Quite Burgundian.

 

Longoria

Rick Longoria

Rick Longoria, Vintage 2015

Early this year on a “Sideways” trip with my buddy Phil Layton from Australia, we visited the Longoria tasting room in Los Olivos and it was the last tasting of the day. We only tasted the Pinot and the Chardonnay and declared them the finest wines tasted during our visit. I was keen to revisit Longoria on this trip to revalidate this opinion.

2014 Albarino 12.8%

Pale straw color, lovely tropical fruit and perfumed nose, sweet, fleshy middle palate and a long finish – delicious.

2012 SRH Chardonnay 13.1%

Expensive nose, like a good top white burgundy. Mineral, apples, some toasty cinnamon on nose, long, rich, balanced, lovely. A top white burgundy style Chardonnay and one of the best wines we tasted. No lack of ripeness at 13.1% alcohol either.

2013 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 14.3%

Lighter style, cherries and dark chocolate on the nose, palate rich, intense, long and lovely. Superb.

2013 SRH Fe Ciega 14.3%

Darker fruit, riper, herbs and almost jammy black cherries on nose. Palate intense, long, sweet and showing the black cherries. Really long finish, great wine, intense lovely.

2011 Evidence Bordeaux Blend 13.5%

Medium claret color, camphor, coconut and vanilla on the nose. Cab Franc discernable on palate with characteristic capsicum and dark cherries. Medium weight, lively acidity and perfect with a pepper steak.

 

Moretti

Antonio and Jenny Moretti

Antonio and Jenny Moretti

Located in the Lompoc wine Ghetto, Moretti was a surprisingly pleasant stop hosted by the charming Antonio and Jenny Moretti.

With a smaller volume of visitors, the Moretti’s keep wines under Argon to prevent them from oxidizing as it may take 3-4 days to pour a single bottle. One disadvantage to the Argon preservation is that it tends to flatten the aromatics, which of course provide 70% of the information about the wine. Wines are made by Steve Clifton – proving that he can make more food friendly wines as evidenced here.

2014 Bianchetto 12%

A blend of three Italian grape varieties, with the perfumed Tokay and tropical fruit evident on nose. Palate clean with good acidity and finishing nutty, Delicious, straight -forward style to drink now with food.

2014 Vermentino 12%

Lovely citrus on nose, palate clean, long also citrusy. Delicious fruity palate and long finish with crisp acidity. Drink now with cheese and nuts or delicious by itself.

2013 Kessler Haak SRH Chardonnay 13.3%

Wow, lovely rich tropical fruit nose and some minerality. Follows onto palate with lively acidity, really long balanced palate showing some candied orange. Fantastic now will improve.

2011 Machado SRH Pinot Noir 13%

From a Pommard clone, lovely cherries and strawberry nose follow onto palate with lively acidity. Still tight and evolving Burgundian in style and will reward the patient.

2010 Zotovitch SRH Pinot Noir 13%

Dijon 115 clone. Riper style, cherries and spice on nose. More tannin than Machado, lovely acidity, plenty ripe at 13%, long finish.

2013 Quinta Del Mar 13.8%

Ripe dark cherries on nose, with some mushroom, forest floor character typical of Red Burgundy. Palate is sweet and long with black cherries and lively acidity. Delicious mouth feel.

2014 Cabernet Franc 13.5%

Wow, after so many Pinot’s the Cab Franc is a stand out with more obvious tannins, herbs and spices as well as ripe dark fruit on palate. This a wine made in the Loir style with less extraction. Long and lovely, a terrific wine with a pepper steak, we bought some.

 

Melville

I have been a fan of Melville wines for years and they have been a price/quality leader from SRH and widely available in Monterey/Carmel restaurants. Wines are made by Melville have tended to be very drinkable and consistent, regardless of the seasonal variation.

2013 Viognier Vernas (Los Alamos) 14%

Orange peel and apricots on nose unfold onto a lovely lively palate. Sweet, plenty of acid. Delicious.

2014 SRH Chardonnay Inox 13%

Stainless steel, ripe tropical fruit on nose, with some minerality. Palate has plenty of acid and delicious.

2013 Estate Chardonnay 14%

Green apples and minerality on the nose, with some burnt-match character often found on good white Burgundies. Vanillan French oak evident, but in balance. Delicious and a favorite.

2013 SRH Pinot Noir 14%

Lighter color, showing strawberries, cherries and some toasted oak on nose. Follows onto palate. Some heat evident, lovely to drink.

2013 SRH Clone 113 Pinot Noir 15%

Ripe dark cherries on nose, some oak toast evident. Palate concentrated intense and not, showing any heat.

1012 SRH Pinot Noir 14.5%

Rich ripe, grapey nose with dark cherries and spice. Follows onto palate, long sweet, concentrated.

2012 Syrah 14.5%

Cigar-box, stewed dark fruit and eucalyptus on nose, with typical cracked pepper. Follows onto palate, lean chewy long and intense. Needs time to evolve.

 

Babcock

Babcock was the first SRH wine I ever tasted and we instantly joined the wine club 15 years ago. The vines were relatively young then and Brian was experimenting with all sorts of grape varieties and viticulture techniques. Today, he has demonstrated mastery over Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and is making fantastic wine.

2013 Central Coast Chardonnay 14.2%

This is a blended wine, some from Arroyo Sec, some from Babcock and some from neighboring vineyards. It’s a commercial full-throttle style. Tropical fruits and pineapple on the nose, palate sweet, lovely drinking now – a good quaffer.

2013 Top Cream SRH Chardonnay 14.5%

Ripe tropical fruit and pineapple and some new oak on the nose. Follows onto rich lively palate, sweet, long and delicious.

2012 SRH Pinot Noir 14.8%

Lighter style, strawberries and vanillin oak on nose. Follows onto typical SRH sweet long palate. Delicious and no discernable alcohol despite the 14.8%.

2013 SRH Pinot 13.9%

Darker than the 13, again strawberries and a briary old vines character. More grape tannin in this wine, lovely acidity. Will improve with a couple of years in bottle, delicious now.

2013 De ja Vu SRH Pinot Noir 14.5%

This was the first of quartet of separate SRH parcels in the Terroir series. After tasting these four wines, the question you ask is why bother with Shiraz and Cabernet… the Pinot’s are fantastic and quite expressive of their different locations in SRH.

The DejaVu is medium in color, lovely dark cherries and spice on the nose. Follows onto a long, sweet and intense palate. Lovely.

2013 Slice of Heaven 14.5% (777 clone – makes big fat wines)

Darker color, Bing cherries on the nose, some oak, sweet intense palate, lovely, just a touch of heat in the finish.

2013 Jenesais Qua 14.0%

Lighter style, from West side of the Valley. Ripe cherries on nose, palate is sweet, long and lovely balance of acidity and fruit. Lovely mouth feel – more feminine than most of Brian’s Pinots.

2013 Oceans Ghost. 13.9%

Darker in color and dark Bing cherry nose, some typical mushroom and earth that define Red Burgundy from Cote D’Or. Palate sweet, ripe, intense, lovely acidity, long finish. A great wine with staying power, but delicious now.

2012 Shiraz Santa Maria Valley 14.3%

Lighter color, not too extracted, a Northern Rhone style with some cracked pepper. Lovely acidity and length. Will improve, but good now.

2012 Cabernet Santa Ynez 14.5%

Deep dark color. Nose of ripe dark fruit, brambles and spearmint. Palate intense, sweet, lovely and long. Classy Cabernet.

 

Written By: Mark Gibson