92 points – 2010 Syrah Seven Central Coast($40) (92% syrah, 5% grenache, 2% mourvedre and 1%
viognier; 15.2% alcohol): Inky purple. Pure, vibrant aromas of raspberry, cherry and white flowers. Juicy, silky and penetrating, with excellent lift to its red berry preserve and floral pastille flavors. At once deep and vibrant, in a strikingly elegant style that’s eerily pinot-like(!). Finishes bright and persistent, with an alluringly delicate touch and no obvious tannins.
91 points – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon Of Santa Barbara($28) (85% raised in small,
older French oak barrels and the rest in small stainless steel barrels): Pale yellow. Orange and lime aromas are complemented by deeper pit fruit and honey nuances. Fleshy and smooth but energetic too, offering lively pear and orange zest flavors and notes of white flowers and anise. Shows smoky, spicy qualities on the finish, which clings with impressive tenacity.
92 points – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Grassini Family Vineyard Happy Canyon Of Santa Barbara($38): Pale gold. Pungent, mineral-driven nose evokes fresh pear, tangerine and peach,
with toasty lees, chamomile and anise qualities adding complexity. Juicy and tight, with bracing acidity and a strong floral character to its taut orchard fruit flavors. Finishes firm, spicy and very long, with the mineral element repeating.
91 points – 2010 Grenache Mourvedre Syrah Santa Barbara($38): Bright ruby-red. Aromas and
flavors of cherry compote, licorice and lavender, with smoke and herb overtones. Lush and open-knit on the palate but finishes with solid punch and silky tannins. Pretty sexy stuff and approachable now, but I wouldn’t rush to drink this one.
90 points – 2010 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills($42): Bright ruby-red. Expansive bouquet of smoky black raspberry, boysenberry and pipe tobacco; suave cola and vanilla nuances gain power with air. Sappy red and dark berry flavors stain the palate, picking up spiciness on the back end. Juicy, nicely concentrated pinot with very good finishing thrust and cling.
91 points – 2011 Pinot Noir Ampelos Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills($54): Vivid ruby. Explosively perfumed aromas of red berry preserves, incense and candied rose. Silky, palate-staining raspberry and cherry flavors show very good depth and seamless texture. Fine-grained tannins come up on the smooth, sweet, very long finish.
92 points - 2010 Pinot Noir Presidio Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills($54): Ruby-red. Black raspberry, cherry and rooty sassafras on the pungent nose. Fleshy and expansive, offering deeply pitched, smoke-accented red and dark berry flavors and a suave note of candied rose. Picks up spiciness with air and finishes on a smoky dark berry note, with very good power and length. This hefty pinot could handle richer foods with ease.
92 points – 2010 Pinot Noir Black Label Sta. Rita Hills($75): Vivid ruby-red. An exotically perfumed bouquet evokes candied red fruits, Asian spices, potpourri and cola. Pliant, sweet and light on its feet, offering intense raspberry, cherry and floral pastille flavors complicated by star anise and zesty blood orange. Finishes silky and very long, with a resonating floral nuance and excellent focus.
“Dragonette is one of the most fascinating wineries in the Central Coast. The best wines are truly world class, and I don’t use those words lightly. ” Antonio Galloni
Wine Advocate # 202 (Aug 2012):
93 Points – 2010 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon Of Santa Barbara
Crushed rocks, mint, wild flowers and herbs are some of the notes that take shape in the glass in the striking 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. Today, the 2010 comes across as quite cool, inward and tightly wound, which is surprising for a barrel-fermented Sauvignon. Nevertheless, this is a hugely impressive showing. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016.
91 Points – 2010 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley
The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley opens with a beautiful bouquet redolent of mint, peaches and apricots. This is a plush, very nicely done Sauvignon. Layers of flavors build to a creamy, delineated finish supported with notable energy. The Sauvignon was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and neutral oak barrels/puncheons. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016.
92 Points – 2010 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir Presidio
The 2010 Pinot Noir Presidio Vineyard wraps around the palate with savory herbs, dark red cherries, mint, spices and licorice, showing tons of complexity. The finish turns a bit more feminine, with bright floral notes and a hint of black pepper. Even though the fruit was fully destemmed, there is a slight suggestion of stems in the Presidio, as there is in other wines in this lineup. The Presidio is firing on all cylinders today. It is a fabulous effort from Dragonette and a beacon for the level the estate can reach with their best fruit. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016.
90 Points – 2010 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir Fiddlestix
Although a solid effort, I find less to get excited about in the 2010 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard, which comes across as austere and unyielding, especially next to the Presidio. Firm tannins frame hints of dark red fruit, smoke, tar and incense. Dragonette used 17% whole clusters on the Fiddlestix, and my impression is that the wine still needs time to integrate. Today, the Fiddlestix comes
across as a bit burly and foursquare, yet there is something fascinating about it as well. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2018.
89 Points - 2010 Dragonette Cellars Grenache / Mourvedre / Syrah
Dragonette’s 2010 Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah emerges from the glass with sweet red berries flowers, spices and herbs. This is a relatively delicate, pretty wine with good depth and concentration to match its feminine, gracious personality. The blend is 55% Grenache, 36% Mourvedre and 9% Syrah, from Thompson, McGinley and Watch Hill. This is an excellent showing from Dragonette. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2015.
Rich and ethereal, with plush, deep, dark berry, herb, mineral and exotic spices; gains depth, dimension and focus, without weight. Should only get better. Best from 2013 through 2023. 300 cases made. —J.L.
Broad-shouldered, rich and intense; well-oaked, too. The concentration and focus of the loamy earth, mineral, blackberry and wild berry character persists on the finish. Best from 2013 through 2023. 100 cases made. —J.L.
Exhibits ripe, rich, generous plum, raspberry and wild berry fruit in spades, with touches of spice and mineral, firming on the finish. Best from 2013 through 2022. 150 cases made. —J.L.
“This up-and-coming producer sources fruit from some of the Central Coast’s best vineyards and has quickly made a name for itself as one of California’s top sources for sauvignon blanc. Sparks-Gillis spent time working at Torbreck, in Australia, and also at Sine Qua Non, but the wines [they are making] at Dragonette show a more restrained personality than most of those made by those two highly lauded producers.”
Joshua Raynolds, November/December 2011
92 Points – 2010 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon
Bright gold. Musky, lees-accented aromas and flavors of orange pith, pear and nectarine, with sexy oak spice and honey nuances adding complexity. Juicy and broad but quite lively, with noteworthy intensity to its oak-spiced orchard and citrus fruit flavors. The spicy quality carries through the long, gently smoky, precise finish. Emphatically in the white Bordeaux school, with the depth and heft to handle rich foods.
91 Points – 2010 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley
Light, bright gold. Potent aromas of lemon gelato, green cardamom, mint and white flowers. Offers a suave mix of plump orchard fruit and bitter citrus qualities, with a spicy top note. Finishes tight and clean, with excellent clarity, refreshing bitterness and a lingering note of candied lime.
92 Points – 2009 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir Hilliard Bruce Vineyard
Vivid ruby-red. Pungent aromas of cherry, black raspberry, cola and Asian spices, with a touch of vanillin oak. Deeply pitched but impressively energetic red and dark berry flavors show very good clarity, with notes of anise, allspice and sassafras adding nuance. The red berry and spice elements repeat on the long, sappy, seamless finish. Very sexy and drinking well now, especially with some aeration.
92 Points – 2009 Dragonette Cellars Syrah SEVEN Central Coast
Opaque ruby. Complex, intensely perfumed bouquet of dark berry preserves, olive tapenade, fresh violet and an exotic touch of black cardamom. Spicy and penetrating, with very good depth to its sweet blackberry and mulberry flavors. Juicy acidity gives this wine good spine. Picks up smokiness with air and finishes with impressive clarity and length. With aeration, this wine drinks very well now.
92(+?) Points – 2008 Dragonette Cellars Proprietary Blend MJM California
Glass-staining ruby. Pungent, oak-spiced aromas of dark berries, cola, violet and incense, with a smoky overtone. Deeply pitched and chewy in texture, with impressive freshness to its black raspberry and boysenberry flavors. Gains spiciness with air and picks up a suggestion of palate-numbing white pepper. Finishes on a sweet note of vanilla bean, with gripping tannins and excellent length. This is still a baby.
“This is an impressive set of wines from Dragonette Cellars. Sauvignon Blanc is unusual in the Central Coast, where most regions are too warm for this aromatic grape, but no one does it better than Dragonette.” Antonio Galloni, August 2011
Reviews from issue #196, August 2011:
92 Points – 2009 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard
The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Vogelzang Vineyard is the richest and deepest of these 2009 Sauvignons. It spent 16 months in French oak (47%) new, on its lees. Lemon peel, white peaches and jasmine are some of the nuances that emerge from this dazzling Sauvignon. Pointed mineral notes add energy, texture and balance. This is a striking effort. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2016.
91 Points – 2009 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
The 2009 Pinot Noir fleshes out nicely on the palate with black cherries, cola, spices and flowers. This is a beautifully balanced wine with no hard edges, tons of harmony and plenty of personality.
92 Points – 2009 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir, Presidio Vineyard
The 2009 Pinot Noir Presidio shows wonderful delineation and nuance. Sweet dark fruit, tobacco, crushed flowers, spices and herbs come together nicely in this subtle, elegant Pinot. The refined finish is impressive.
92 Points – 2008 Dragonette Cellars Syrah
Black pepper, blackberries and creme de cassis are some of the notes that emerge from the 2008 Syrah. This is a beautifully ripe, sensual Syrah loaded with character and personality. Mint, flowers and crushed rocks linger on the understated, classy finish
92 Points – 2008 Dragonette Cellars MJM
The 2008 MJM is a plush, dark wine bursting with black fruits, sweet spices, vanillin and licorice. It shows gorgeous textural richness and volume, but is slightly marked by the oak, in both the flavors and the slightly drying tannins that emerge on the finish. With air, though, the wine comes together quite nicely. MJM is 92% Syrah, 6% Grenache, 1% Mourvedre and 1% Viognier that spent 26 months in French oak barrels, 86% new. The Syrah was sourced from three vineyards; Shadow Canyon, Los Tres Burros and Paderewski. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.
“Dragonette Cellars is pushing the boundaries of the Sauvignon Blanc Frontier in the Happy Canyon district of Santa Barbara County … The new names on this year’s list of top-scorers include … Dragonette.” MaryAnn Worobiec, Aug 2011
90 Points – 2009 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Vogelzang Vineyard
There’s terrific intensity to this smoky, toasty version, with plenty of fruit flavors of nectarine, peach, marmalade and pineapple to create balance. Richly textured, with a juicy, lemony finish.
91 Points – 2008 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard
A rich, smoky, exotic style, brimming with flavor, this shows tiers of plum, wild berry, blueberry and spice. Full-bodied and persistent, with a black licorice aftertaste.
91 Points – 2011 Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley
August 2012 issue
92 Points – Dragonette Cellars 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley)
A terrific Sauvignon Blanc, pure and bright in citrus and tropical fruit, mineral and honeysuckle flavors, finished with a little bit of creamy oak.Finishes sweet in fruity essence, yet clean and dry. Shows how compatible the Sauvignon Blanc grape is with the valley’s climate and soils. Editors’ Choice.
92 Points – Dragonette Cellars 2008 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard
A first-class Pinot from this great vineyard, in the heart of the southern Santa Rita Hills. The wine is dry and silky and super-complex, offering waves of raspberry tart, cherry pie, cola, sweet oak and dusty Asian spice flavors. For all the richness, it’s dry and crisp in acidity. Now–2014.
92 Points – Dragonette Cellars 2008 Syrah
Here’s a rich, savory Syrah, made Northern Rhône-style. Dense and full-bodied, it displays complex flavors of blackberries, dark unsweetened chocolate, plums, tobacco, leather and black pepper. The tannins are robust, but very finely ground.
“A dramatic new chapter for Santa Rita Hills” Jon Bonne, March 2012
2009 Dragonette Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($42, 13.7%): This taps sites nearly everywhere in the hills – north-facing Encantada, nearby Cargasacchi-Jalama, the new Kessler-Haak near Clos Pepe in the north valley and a touch of Fiddlestix. Proper delicacy amid a whack of new oak, and if the mix of sites doesn’t clarify things, it does bring a tension and compelling raspberry fruit and brooding earth notes.
TOP 100 WINES OF 2010
2008 Dragonette Cellars Cargasacchi-Jalama Vineyard Pinot Noir
This young label founded by Steve and John Dragonette and Brandon Sparks-Gillis is tapping into some of Santa Barbara’s best vineyards. This effort from a colder site southwest of the Santa Rita Hills, aged in neutral oak, landed at just 13.3 percent alcohol – and with that has come remarkable depth and refinement – roasted orange highlights and a warm mace spice and musk, plus radiant raspberry and cherry.
2008 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills, Fiddlestix Vineyard
A great example of a handcrafted pinot. Still tasting very young, it took some time to open but was well balanced. The wine showed bright cherry and raspberry fruits with a spicy finish and some herbaceous notes. The texture was wonderful.
92 Points – 2009 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
I really enjoy the blackberry and ripe plum character to this with a cocoa and light cream character. Full body, with silky tannins and a delicious finish. A very fine wine indeed. Best in 2013, but who can wait?