2017 Spring Release

Hello everyone from the team at Dragonette Cellars.  We hope you are all in good health and great spirits. It is time for our early spring release of new wines, including the fabulous 2013 MJM, and some great new whites, headlined by the 2015 Chardonnay Duvarita, the terrific 2015 Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc and the new 2016 Rosé.

Note to Wine Club Members: This is the Spring mailing list release and not your Spring wine club allocation. Your Spring wine club shipment will include the 2015 Chardonnay Duvarita (2014 version received 93 points in the Wine Enthusiast) from this release but will also include 2014 Pinot Noir Black Label (worthy successor to the Parker 95 point rated 2013) and 2014 Seven (93 Points and Editor’s Choice in the Wine Enthusiast). Your Spring shipment will begin shipping the week of April 17, weather permitting. Additional Note: Neither the Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc nor the Rosé will be in a club shipment. Although delicious and worthy, we decided that the wine club receive the smallest production, most highly allocated wines, and there are too few spots for everything. To add these and other bottles to your shipment, order online before March 27.


As you have undoubtedly heard (or witnessed), nearly the entire state of California has endured a historically wet, happily drought-busting winter. The north coast was completely soaked and even devastated in parts, and the Sierra Nevada now has the largest snowpack in many decades.  Santa Barbara County received far less rain than the north, but we did see some particularly heavy storms, one of which dumped 7 inches of rain on us in one day (we had about that much all of last year).  Our local reservoir, Lake Cachuma, went from disastrously dry (7% capacity) to nearly half full in a matter of a couple weeks.  All this rain bodes well for the upcoming season, as soil salts have been washed away, and the soil charged with a decent profile of water for the early season at least. The vines should have plenty of pre-season energy for a change.

As for the scenery – it is magnificent.  The hills have turned sumptuously green, and we expect an avalanche of flowers soon. We have clear, cool, unendingly blue skies and blindingly brilliant sunshine providing just the perfect amount of warmth. We suggest a visit.

In the cellar, we have been blending and bottling, and we can now announce the release of several new wines, including the always sought-after and fought-over (dry) Rosé, the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon, and the 2015 Chardonnay Duvarita Vineyard.  As we start to warm up and move into Spring, these wines will be terrific accompaniments to warmer weather and nature’s spring bounty of vegetables. In addition, we are ready to release our iconic MJM Syrah blend from the fantastic 2013 vintage, which has already been garnering praise and high scores, with more certain to come.

Finally, we have received a bevy of good press on already released, low inventory wines and wanted to share those before the wines sold out. In particular, look for the 2014 single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs (Grassini and Vogelzang) and the Pinot Noir from John Sebastiano Vineyard.

Announcing the New Releases

The Spring release is now open! Spring release closes on March 30, so order by then to secure your order. Quantities of all of the Spring Releases are low (in some cases historically low), so act fast to secure your bottles before they are gone.

2013 MJM Santa Ynez Valley 

Our signature Syrah, named in honor of our wives Mitchi, Jen and Michelle, this wine is a selection of our favorite barrels of Syrah, blended with small amounts of Grenache and Viognier, and then given extended barrel aging as dictated by the vintage character of the wine. In 2013, the MJM was painstakingly selected from the top lots of John Sebastiano Vineyard (55%), Stolpman (25%), Thompson (15%) and Harrison Clarke (5%) and was aged for 27 months in oak barrels (30% new) before bottling without filtration. We are thrilled with the 2013 MJM which is ripe, juicy and penetrating, with great big dark fruit flavors, tons of spice and meat notes and a big tannic spine completely buried in fresh fruit goodness.  Already approachable now, this wine will easily age for 15 years. You’ll also love the impressive new label and bottle, befitting this special wine.

The 2013 MJM is already getting critical acclaim.  The Wine Enthusiast has announced that in its June 2017 issue MJM will be honored with 95 Points and will be a ”Cellar Selection.” We have two other excellent reviews with notes as well.  The venerable Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine, gives 2013 MJM 93 points and two puffs, stating:

“Very ripe and very complex with a full complement of gamy Syrah spice and herbs indivisibly tied to its very generous, sweet berry fruit, Dragonette’s MJM is a weighty and positively mouthfilling wine that bears the indelible stamp of high ripeness, yet it is so deep and tasty that its flirtations with excess are easy to overlook. Although it is showy stuff with the kind of obvious richness that is bound to tempt early drinking, it is certain to gain in polish with age, and three to five years of waiting will be handsomely repaid. 93 Points.” (March 2017 Issue).

Finally, the Wine Spectator gives MJM a solid 91 Points and writes, “Dark and deeply structured, with ripe blueberry, bittersweet chocolate and espresso aromas to the flavors of smoky dark plum, licorice and pepper. Drink now through 2027.”

2015 Chardonnay, Duvarita Vineyard

As much as we loved the 2014 version of the Duvarita Vineyard Chardonnay, the 2015 is simply superior.  There is more of everything; deep concentrated fruit, great integration, expressiveness, length and ageing potential.  We know you will love it.

Duvarita Vineyard, just west of the Santa Rita Hills appellation lies on south-facing slopes of almost pure sand. The grapes here are farmed biodynamically.  The low vigor soils, small canopy and a low fruit zone combine to make this one of the earliest ripening vineyards we farm. The small clusters here give wines that are lean and elegant, with terrific intensity and minerality. In 2015 we fermented the wine entirely in a combination of barriques and 350 litre French oak barrels, 20% new.  The wine was aged on its lees for 15 months before blending, a gentle cross flow filtration and bottling with minimal sulfur.   Rich and concentrated, the wine shows tropical yellow fruits, stone fruits and melon, interspersed with floral notes (white flowers, orange blossom) and  some well-integrated wood spice, and energy and lift from ample acidity and aromas of stones and graphite. Very young, this wine is starting to open up, but will age for many, many years. Extremely Limited. Only 250 cases produced, almost all of which will go to the wine club. The 2014 version received 93 points in the Wine Enthusiast.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara

2015 will be forever known as the great drought year; the last in a historically dry five-year period. Due to early warmth, 2015 had an extremely early budbreak, and although we avoided frosts, we had cool windy weather in May, resulting in very poor set, with fewer and smaller clusters. After mid-June, we had constant warm to hot temperatures up until harvest which commenced as early as the end of July. Soil toxicity (from salt buildup) and this poor set led to extremely low yields; in fact, the lowest we have seen. What fruit was on the vines, however, received all of the plants’ energy, resulting in deep, concentrated and remarkably flavorful wines. 2015 is proving to be a great vintage for quality, though there is not much to go around.

The 2015 is a 50/50 blend of grapes from Grassini and Vogelzang Vineyards, and it was aged on its lees for 8 months in 70% neutral oak barrels and 30% stainless steel. The wine has perhaps the most concentration and mouthfeel of this blend ever.  It should pair terrifically with all manner of seafood, shellfish, and boldly flavored vegetables, as well as poultry and even lighter pork dishes, and it will certainly age well for 7-10 years.

The press on this wine has already been good, with 91 points in the Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine (January 2017) which writes:

“91 Points (two puffs) There is nothing “conventional” about Dragonette’s Sauvignon Blancs, but this one comes a bit closer to convention in terms of its more obvious herbal components and its slightly less weighty manner. That said, it is still a deep and fairly complex version that hits the mark for both balance and very keen varietal focus, and, depending on what is for dinner, it just might get the nod over its two bigger, more lavish mates.”


The wine also received 90 points in the Wine Enthusiast (May 2017 Issue).

2016 Rosé, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara

2016 was another in a string of terrific vintages.  A small burst of concentrated rain in February helped clear out some of the salts in the soil and prepare the vines for a good growing season. We had another early budbreak and perfect weather during set, allowing for a strong, balanced crop. May, June and July were quite warm and ripening was fairly quick and almost too easy. It was looking like another record early harvest until the coolest August anyone could remember slowed the vines considerably. The grapes slowly and evenly ripened throughout the August and early to mid-September with no heat spikes or other vine stressing events to cause rapid loss of acidity, and we harvested our blocks at almost perfect ripeness. The Grenache for Rosé was in perfect health, and we emphasized that grape in 2016, aided by a small amount of Mourvedre and a tiny bit of Syrah. The final numbers were 88% Grenache, 8% Mourvedre, and 4% Syrah.

This year’s Rosé is bright and flavorful, with energetic strawberry and watermelon notes, lifted by citrusy yet round acids. The Rosé pairs beautifully with all sorts of dishes, from appetizers, to mildly spicy foods, and everything in between. The excitement is already building for the 2016, which was featured in numerous top restaurants and was quickly sold out.  Get some soon!

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Other New Reviews

2014 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blancs

We are down to the last few cases of our 2014 single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs.  With almost a year in bottle, these wines are really starting to strut their stuff.  Keep in mind that “scores” of Sauvignon Blanc typically are seriously undervalued when compared to the reviews of Chardonnay. We don’t think it is fair, but a 93 on a Sauvignon Blanc is akin to a 97 or 98 for a Chardonnay. Indeed, these wines are among the highest rated Sauvignon Blancs in the entire country. They will not last long, so don’t miss them!

2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard – 93 Points (Two Puffs) in Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine, January 2017

Dragonette’s versions are always among the richer Sauvignon Blancs to be had, and this year’s edition from the Vogelzang Vineyard is as deep and well-filled as any around. It leads with layered, ever so slightly honeyed aromas of ripe melons, figs and sweet oak with accents of dried hay and grass providing an indelible varietal stamp, and it is both mouthfilling and beautifully structured with continuous, very rich flavors that follow through on the promised complexity of the nose. It is a wine that wants drinking with appropriately flavorful foods, and it is put together in a way that suggests that it will age famously and grow for years.


2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Grassini Vineyard – 91 Points (Two Puffs) in Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine, January 2017:

From its full-volume aromas to its ripe and juicy, melon-and-fig flavors, this ample offering is generously decked out with oak and heads in a different direction than its more acutely grassy cousins. It recalls Chardonnay by way of is tactile weight and slightly oily feel, and, if it arguably wanders a bit off the classic varietal track, it is a compelling wine of marvelous richness, range and depth.

2014 Pinot Noir John Sebastiano Vineyard – 93 Points and Editors Choice (Wine Enthusiast, June 2017). Also received 90 points and a glowing review from the Connoisseur’s Guide:

“Nicely married elements of cherries, strawberries and gentle sweet spice hold sway in the well-defined nose and moderately deep flavors of this one, and, while far from being a flamboyant wine, it is a carefully constructed, very well-polished Pinot Noir that stays in very fine focus throughout. Its lack of any obvious tactile angles and edges allows for easy drinking with no need of additional age, but its balance and keen composition are harbingers of good things to come if its early charms can be resisted for a few years.”

2014 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills – 92 points Wine Enthusiast (June 2017)

2014 Seven (Syrah) – 93 Points and Editor’s Choice (Wine Enthusiast, June 2017 Issue). The wine also received 91 Points in the Wine Spectator, with this note: “Elegantly complex and well-defined, with raspberry and pomegranate aromas and smoky accents that lead to lively flavors of orange zest, fruitcake spice and loamy white pepper. Drink now through 2026.” (Web Review 2017)

2014 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard – 94 points, Editor’s Choice Wine Enthusiast (May 2017), 91 Points Wine Spectator, 90 Points Connoisseur’s Guide.

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In Conclusion

As you know, we launched this journey with the goal of sourcing grapes from committed growers in the best sites, carefully farming each block for maximum grape quality and then crafting each wine, whether a blend or a single vineyard wine for the highest possible aromatic and flavor complexity, balance and expressiveness.  We have used our past wine world experience of what is “great” to guide us in our quest to make our own wines great. Thus, we seek to maximize the potential for greatness that we see in Santa Barbara, and it is gratifying to receive confirmation of the results in the accolades of the press.  Still, we are ever mindful that it is you that are our most important tasters and customers, and we are especially pleased that you have responded so enthusiastically to our work.  Please do enjoy these new releases with family and friends, hopefully over a fantastic meal.  Remember that these wines are very limited and will go fast.


John, Steve, Brandon and the Dragonette Cellars Team