2021 Winter Release
New Winter Release
2018 Pinot Noir, Black Label
2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard
Greetings from Dragonette Cellars
Happy Winter! Here in the Santa Ynez Valley, we are enjoying the cold winter mornings (well, just being below freezing is cold for us), which are sending the vines happily into dormancy. While dormant, the vines store up carbohydrates which they will use as energy for the upcoming growing season (kicking off in March or April). Rainstorms are providing much needed water to the vineyard soils, cleansing them of salts, while building up a profile for use later as well. As always, we hope for a number of storms, spaced far enough apart to allow the water to penetrate the soils. Too much, and the water runs off where it is of little use or can cause damage. With the recent fires, we are especially wary of slides in the burn areas, and thus, we are measured in our wishes. Of course, this is all up to Mother Nature, and we can only see what she has in store for us this year. We think good thoughts.
In between the storms Santa Barbara County is typically brilliantly clear and sunny. Indeed, from a visual point of view, the winter season might well be the most stunning one we have. The low angle of the sun provides the most brilliant and crisp light which simply illuminates everything we see, from the landscapes around us to the looming mountains in the distance. Colors are vivid, and sunsets are simply magical. When this lockdown is lifted (soon!), we will look forward to welcoming you up to enjoy these cool winter months in Santa Barbara wine country.
In the meantime, we are pleased to announce the Winter Release of new wines. This is a top-notch release, with our oldest single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, and the two Black Label wines, Pinot Noir and MJM (Syrah). As always, these wines are crafted in tiny amounts – all less than 375 cases, and the large majority will be going to the Wine Club in the next few months. We have reserved a small portion for non-members; however, these will not last long. We continue to suggest joining the Wine Club to ensure access to these singular, highly rated, highly sought-after wines. We know that you will love these wines as much as the critics do. Hopefully even more.
2018 Pinot Noir Black Label, Sta. Rita Hills
This wine is a rigorous selection of our most dramatic, flavorful and expressive barrels in the cellar. Due to their intensity and extract, these barrels receive the longest barrel aging regime of the Pinot Noirs, and the resulting structure makes this wine the longest lived of the Pinot Noirs as well. It is a special wine.
In 2018, we enjoyed the coolest vintage since 2011. Winter rains and a cool early spring helped delay budbreak, while providing for a good soil water profile. Weather was good during set, allowing for reasonable yields. A warm early summer promoted ripeness, but in late August the weather turned quite cool, with only moderate daytime highs, lots of clouds and cold nights. The grapes, generally, moved very slowly toward full ripeness, which is ideal for us, as we are able to pick deliberately, with each vineyard block harvested at peak quality levels and under perfect conditions (early morning picks with one of us sorting in the field). The cool year meant that the 2018 grapes had excellent flavors at lower sugars and with plenty of energetic acid and good freshness. The solid yields meant that we had plenty of grapes from our favorite sites, making blending more challenging, but also more rewarding in the end.
The 2018 Black Label is comprised of grapes from Radian (62%), Fiddlestix (20%) and Bentrock (18%). The grapes were harvested in small, careful picks with strict field sorting, before being largely destemmed (3% whole clusters), given a 4 to 7 day cold soak and carefully fermented with native yeasts and temperature control. At dryness, the wine was transferred directly to the finest French oak cooperage (66% new, selected coopers) and aged on the lees for 19 months before selection, blending and bottling. The wine is expressive and had amazing textures and flavors with lots of fruit and great structure. It should age splendidly on its intensity and balance. Drink 2022-2032+.
The 2018 wine has not yet been rated, but the 2017 version was highly rated, including 96 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 94 Points by Antonio Galloni and a “best of” wine by Connoisseurs Guide. Of course, by the time the scores come out, the wine will be gone.
Extremely Limited. Only 375 cases were made. This is a Spring Wine Club selection (April 2021), and therefore only a few cases remain for non-members.
2017 MJM (Syrah)
MJM is our flagship, Syrah-based blend, named in honor of our wives Michelle, Jen and Mitchi. We farm Syrah from several precise blocks in both Ballard Canyon and Sta. Rita Hills, and we select only the finest, most dramatic, barrels for this blend, to which we add small amounts of Grenache and Viognier. The resulting wine is given additional aging until we feel it is ready for bottling. Depending upon vintage, élevage lasts anywhere from 24 to 34 months.
The 2017 Vintage was a difficult one, as the effects of a five-year drought and shatter (incomplete pollination) at set reduced yields in many of the vineyards well below 2 tons per acre. The resulting grapes were incredibly deep and intense, with thick skins, loads of fruit and a serious tannic spine. Even with gentle extraction techniques, we knew that the MJM would benefit from longer barrel aging than in past years. Ultimately, the 2017 MJM was crafted from wines from John Sebastiano (50%, three blocks) and Stolpman (50%, three blocks). Clones included 470, 383, Estrella, 174, and Alban 1. This dramatically intense wine was aged for a total of 30 months in the finest French oak cooperage (Sylvin, Ermitage & Seguin Moreau) of which 44% was new.
The 2017 MJM will be one of the more long lived MJMs, as it has concentration and large scaled, yet ripe tannins. Indeed, it reminds us of the 2015, another hot dry vintage. The wine should age well for 15 years and hold for another 10. Drink 2023-2035+.
The wine was rated in barrel by Jeb Dunnuck who gave it 96-98 Points and said:
“The 2017 Syrah MJM might be a candidate for the Syrah of the vintage…Beautifully pure crème de cassis, licorice, crushed stone, graphite, and ground pepper notes all emerge from the glass. It’s full-bodied, powerful and concentrated, yet as with all the wines from this team, it’s perfectly balanced, has awesome tannins, and a great finish.”
Extremely Limited. Due to the small yields, we only made 315 cases of this wine, and most of that will go to the Wine Club in the Winter Shipment (early February). We suggest acting fast on this one.
2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard
Vogelzang is one of the most celebrated Sauvignon Blanc sites in California. We have leased several acres here since 2009, working with the same vineyard management team for more than a decade to fine tune our pruning, canopy and crop management and deficit-irrigation strategies. They do an amazing job, and the resulting grapes are of the highest quality, with great concentration and complexity.
Upon harvest, these spectacular grapes are immediately whole cluster pressed, settled overnight, and then transferred to oak barrels of varying sizes (228L, 350L, 500L, 276L “cigars”), a small portion of which is new, for fermentation. At complete dryness, the barrels are topped up, and the wine is aged on its lees for 16-18 months before racking, cold stabilization, a light fining and very gentle cross flow filtration. The results have been exceptional over the years and our wines from this vineyard have been among the most distinguished (and highly rated) Sauvignon Blanc wines produced anywhere.
The 2018 version of this wine is no exception. The long cool season allowed extended maturation of the grapes on the vine, and we actually picked these grapes in several passes through our three blocks in mid-September, which is among our latest harvests ever. The cool summer allowed picking under ideal conditions as well, the cold mornings helping to lock in terrific acidity and letting us pick in the morning light where we can sort out unwanted clusters, leaves, etc. The resulting wine shows classic Vogelzang character of powerful stone fruit, mango and pineapple flavors, with great concentration and texture, but with a laser like spine of acidity and mineral character. The 2018 will drink well upon release, but should age for 10-15 years on its structure and balance. Drink 2021-2031+.
Jeb Dunnuck gave the wine 95 points, calling it “powerful, broad, concentrated, and beautifully balanced”. Antonio Galloni gave it 94 points, calling the wine “compelling…incredibly complex and delicious…another superb wine from Dragonette.”
Extremely Limited. Only 260 cases produced, the large majority of which will go straight to the Wine Club in February. Act fast, this is always a favorite.
Tasting Room Update – Curbside Pick Up Continues
The Tasting Room remains closed for tasting as we weather what we hope are the final days of the shutdown. Until the lockdown is lifted, the Tasting Room will be Open for Curbside Pickup and Direct Sales (No Tasting). And who knows? Visitors might meet one of the owner/winemakers in the Tasting Room as we juggle staffing and duties. The winemakers apologize in advance for our lack of information technology skills, though we are improving.
Call the Tasting Room at 805-693-0077 to place orders and make appointment for pick-ups. We look forward to seeing you.
We are happy to kick off this new year with some of our finest, most age worthy wines. We suggest grabbing a few to follow over the coming years. When you do open them, please let us know. We love hearing how the wines are performing over time.
John, Steve, Brandon and the entire Dragonette Cellars team