2013 Fall Release
Dragonette Cellars Fall Release: 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Grassini Family Vineyard, 2011 Grenache, 2011 Seven, and the 2009 MJM
Greetings from Santa Ynez:
It has been a grueling six weeks, but 2013 harvest appears to be on track to be an exceptional one. The lack of winter rains, early set and unrelenting heat of the summer allowed for early and even ripening across varietals. In most cases we saw great phenolic ripeness combined with good sugars and acids. And, as Labor Day approached, we saw a steady diet of days in the high 80’s to low 90’s in Happy Canyon and mid 80s’s in Santa Rita Hills. We began picking Sauvignon Blanc on August 26 and finished by September 7, a record for us. From there it was straight into Pinot Noir without pause, while Syrah similarly marched toward a historically early harvest. As of press time, we have started picking some Syrah, with Grenache close behind. Quality looks excellent so far, and we will keep our fingers crossed for the rest of the season.
We are thrilled to make our final release of 2013. This release includes our 2012 version of the reserve, single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Grassini, along with the 2011 Grenache, 2011 Syrah based Seven, and the 2009 MJM. As usual these wines are handcrafted in tiny quantities, with great care and attention to detail. Each will go fast, as initial comments are extremely encouraging and our wholesale accounts are already clamoring for these wines. Order online or visit us in the tasting room to try and buy these terrific wines. Don’t wait for the reviews; the wines are never around when those are published. Here they are:
2012 Sauvignon Blanc Grassini Family Vineyard ($38 retail)
Grassini is an amazing site in Happy Canyon, and in 2012 we were able to work with two blocks of Sauvignon Blanc hand harvested meticulously in multiple, selective, picks. The 2012 vintage was aged on the lees (with minimal stirring) for 11 months in a combination of 20% stainless steel and 80% neutral barrel. This wine is a strict selection of our favorite barrels of Grassini, and it features the distinct minerality, lovely floral aromatics, and green-tinged citrus and tropical fruits that are the signature of this great vineyard. For those that care about these things, the ’11 vintage was just scored 92 by Jeb Dunnik of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Extremely limited. 170 cases made.
Our Tasting Note: Aromas of pear, stone fruits (peach, apricot) ripe honeydew, with gentle baking spices (star anise and clove), notes of granite and sea shells, and a touch of fresh herbal notes (pine and thyme). On the palate, the wine delivers an explosive jolt of apple, kiwi fruit, sweet summer nectarines and crenshaw melon, with hints of tart wild strawberry and cranberry fruits, lifted by energetic citrus (key lime, orange peel) and stony minerals. Light to medium bodied, but complex and expressive, the wine has a smooth velvety texture and clean, refreshing acidity which deliver length and an excellent finish. The wine would be terrific with meaty fish, shellfish, roasted poultry, goat cheese and pasta with lighter cream sauces.
2011 Grenache, Santa Barbara County ($40 retail)
After five years of patiently watching the newly planted vines grow, 2011 marks the debut vintage for our custom planted Grenache at John Sebastiano Vineyard. Our Grenache block sits just east of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation on a gentle slope featuring two distinct soil types (sand and clay loam). This cool climate location allows the grapes to develop full phenolic maturity and layers of delicious flavors at very modest natural alcohol levels which results in truly balanced wines. The 2011 Grenache also features Grenache from older vines at the famed Thompson Vineyard in Los Alamos. Thompson provides Grenache with riper, rich round flavors and solid structure. For complexity we added some Mourvedre from Jack McGinley (red fruits, spice and tar) and Shadow Canyon Syrah (intense, ripe red berries and baking spices). Very Limited. Only 275 cases made.
Our Tasting Note: Aromas of raspberry, dusty plum, fresh cranberry sauce and sour cherry along with fresh mint, anise, camphor, leather and hints of citrus peel. On the palate, the wine features a complex array of red fruit notes (dried cherry, raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate) along with sweet dried herbs (thyme, bay leaf), and tangy, energetic notes of round citrus (ripe valencia orange, sweet texas red grapefruit), which are concentrated within a lithe, medium bodied frame. The wine has a lovely, silky texture, followed by present smooth tannins that provide structure for a long finish and solid aging potential.
2011 Seven, Central Coast (95% Syrah, 3% Grenache, 2% Mourvedre) ($40 retail)
This wine is a Syrah-based blend originating from Seven renowned and exceptional vineyards in cooler regions of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. We have worked with each of these vineyards for several years and have selected these sites and clones to add complexity and balance to the eventual blend. The wine is comprised of late ripening Syrah from steep slopes in the cool, windy John Sebastiano vineyard on the edge of the Santa Rita Hills; spicy exuberant red fruited Syrah from the rocky slopes of Shadow Canyon in far west Paso Robles, meaty, dark and deep Syrah from Stolpman and Harrison Clarke in Ballard Canyon and remarkable blue fruited, well structured Syrah from Thompson and Watch Hill in Los Alamos Valley. We add small amounts of Grenache and Mourvedre for additional complexity. The wine was aged in oak barrels (17% new) for 18 months. The wine was bottled without filtration. Although an infant, it is already starting to show off its aromatics (black fruits, meat and effusive floral notes) in a velvety textured, medium bodied frame, providing depth and concentration without undue weight.
Our Tasting Note: Explosive aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and grape jam, framed by deeply pitched, higher toned notes of asphalt, leather, and tar with fresh and dried herbal notes and pine, along with animal scents of smoked and dried meats and rare beef. In the mouth the wine is medium to full bodied, with great concentration and length, demonstrating fruit notes of blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, ripe plums an hints of cherry, along with tar and a mélange of dried herbs. The wine is lifted by a solid spine of brisk acids and large scaled fruit and wood spiced tannins, giving a sensation of lightness and energy. The wine will age effortlessly for several years, but is already a natural fit for both grilled/braised meats, hearty pasta (mushrooms/cream/salty parmesan cheese) and stews.
2009 MJM, Central Coast (91% Syrah, 5% Grenache, 3 % Mourvedre, 1% Viognier) ($58)
MJM is our signature, Syrah-based blend, named in honor of our wives and co-conspirators Mitchi, Jen and Michelle. We feel that Syrah from cooler sites in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles make wines of extraordinary depth, aromatic complexity, elegance and longevity, on par with those from the great growing regions of the world. We purchase fruit from renowned sites on acreage contracts so we may dictate farming, limit yields and harvest selectively, resulting in grapes of intensity and balance. 2009 was a classic cool climate year, punctuated by an early September heat wave which blasted overly exposed vineyards. Careful canopy management was critical to protect the crop from sunburn. After a mid September rain storm, October was sunny and cool, with plenty of light, allowing slow but determined ripening. The grapes were carefully harvested in late September to early November in several passes. The resulting wines were extremely intense, with great extraction and structure, and we decided to age them for nearly three years in barrel, so that the wines could fully integrate their spectacular raw materials. As you all know, we released the 2010 MJM before the 2009, and the resulting year in bottle has given the 2009 MJM even further development. Josh Raynolds of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar reviewed this wine a few weeks after bottling and rated it “92+?”. We think it has developed significantly since that time. Extremely Limited. 225 cases made.
Our Tasting Note: The 2009 MJM is a blockbuster wine, with incredible depth and concentration, but with ripe tannins buried within her effusive fruit flavors. On the nose, the wine displays explosive aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and kirsch, along with smoke, baking spices, anise, pine, tar, and sweet toasty vanilla from new French oak barrels. On the palate the wine is voluptuous, with plush fresh and preserved black and blue fruits, raspberry, kirsch and fresh and dried meats, bacon and wood smoke, with hints of fresh herbs, spices and a chalky minerality. The intense fruits are underpinned by serious tannic structure and solid acids that provide lift, focus and intensity. The wine is presently displaying some of its ultimate potential, but we think this wine will age for at least 10 years.
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As harvest marches to conclusion, we start thinking about cooler fall weather, more time with the family, and longer heartier meals. We know we will be turning to the Syrah and Grenache based wines more and more (along with the Pinot Noirs of course). And we will use these wines to celebrate birthdays, holidays and the simple joys of cooking and gathering. We hope you will join us in enjoying these handcrafted, tiny production wines with your families, friends and colleagues. And please tell us your stories; we get great enjoyment from hearing your own stories of parties, wine pairings, and events. Our winery is a collaborative venture, and you all are a big part of the story.
We look forward to seeing you in the tasting room or around town.