2021 Spring Release
|Spring Release of New Wines|
It is Springtime again! Here in Wine Country that can mean only one thing – Spring New Releases! Well, of course, it means a lot more than that.
First, it means that the hills of the Santa Ynez Valley are green after the winter rains. The plants are awakened by the refreshment and reaching towards the sunny skies as they begin their lives’ journey. We are hoping for a bit more rain, but we did have a couple of good storms. Californians are always looking for more rain, as we are sure you all know.
Second, this Spring has meant the widespread availability of vaccines, and sharply lower infection rates from Covid-19. “Hooray!” In Santa Barbara we have the tasting room open outside, and it has been simply buzzing with visitors all safely distanced and thrilled to enjoy great wines in this beautiful place. The previous Rose release has drawn a tremendous response, and wines are flying out the door in case quantities as people prepare for warmer weather and better times ahead.
Third, Spring means that we begin planning for the growing season with pruning and later, shoot thinning and canopy management. In the cellar we are bottling up the last of the 2019 wines (except for MJM) and looking forward to seeing the new babies take their proverbial first steps out into the world.
And, yes, finally, it means the Spring Release, as we are excited to announce the availability of several new wines, all produced lovingly in tiny quantities and ready for the table or the cellar if you have the patience.
New Release Wines
2019 Pinot Noir, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard
2019 Pinot Noir, Duvarita Vineyard
2019 Pinot Noir, “Collaboration”, Bentrock Vineyard (tasting room and wine club exclusive)
2018 Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard
2018 Chardonnay Rita’s Crown Vineyard
2018 Chardonnay Duvarita Vineyard
Details. Most of the wines in this offering are extremely limited, some less than 50 cases for the entire country. Additionally, the warmer weather means that shipping options will be limited. This offer will remain open until April 10, 2021.
2019 Pinot Noir, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard (Sta. Rita Hills)
We must admit a special excitement about the first Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir. The vineyard is legendary, planted in 1971 to a mixture of secret heritage clones, and it lies in the tenderloin of the Sta Rita Hills. It is one of the principal reasons that there is a Sta. Rita Hills.
A few years ago, we began working with S&B fruit, employing organic farming in our blocks and evaluating the grapes for our various Pinot Noir programs. By 2018, S&B was responsible for 40% of the Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir. When we began tasting the 2019 Pinot Noirs it became clear the S&B wine deserved to be bottled on its own. The cool 2019 vintage was excellent, and the grapes enjoyed extended hangtime into mid-September. More importantly, the barrels of S&B were simply dripping with terroir, contrasting sharply in character (though of similarly excellent quality) from the wines that come from Fiddlestix, only a few hundred yards away. Was it the vine age? Soil differences? Row spacing? Row orientation? Slight elevation differences? Probably all the above, and we found the wine complete and fascinating, with deep, concentrated red fruits, earth and spices, fine tannins and great persistence. So here it is. We think you will love this wine.
The wine was aged on its lees for 16 months in French oak barrels (40% new) and bottled without filtration. Extremely Limited. Only 120 cases produced.
2019 Pinot Noir, Duvarita Vineyard (Santa Barbara County)
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 by the friendly, dedicated, obsessive Brook Williams. The low vigor soils, very careful irrigation, small canopy, and a low fruit zone combine to make this one of the lowest yielding and earliest ripening vineyards we farm. The small clusters here give wines that are lean and elegant, with terrific intensity, minerality and a remarkable depth of flavor even at lower alcohol levels.
2019 was a difficult vintage at Duvarita, but the small amount of wine made was of very high quality. Yields were very small, as cool weather at bloom meant uneven set. The cool year was terrific though as the grapes retained great acidity as they slowly ripened. As August heated up the grapes obtained full maturity, though we did have to drop uneven and imperfect clusters, further lowering yields. That said, the grapes that were picked made a delightful wine, one of concentration, but also elegance, with plenty of material and structure for aging. The wine was aged on its lees for 16 months in French oak barrels (15% new) and bottled without filtration.
Extremely Limited. Only 180 cases produced.
2019 Pinot Noir, “Collaboration”, Bentrock Vineyard (Sta. Rita Hills)
Bentrock vineyard is located at the far western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills on steep slopes of sandy and shaly clay loam soils and diatomaceous earth. The vineyard generally faces north, limiting sun exposure. This site is regularly buffeted by ocean winds and cooled by daily fog creeping up and down the Santa Ynez River, allowing for a long, slow growing season. The resulting wines are intense and deeply concentrated, with cool red fruits (cherries and raspberries), spice, minerals, and a cool hint of fresh herbs wrapped in a finely textured, medium bodied frame.
This single vineyard wine was produced in “Collaboration” with our entire staff, with whom we painstakingly selected three distinct barrels from Bentrock for this wine. We evaluated wines from three separate blocks with varying amounts of whole cluster, new oak, and other attributes. The final blend is all destemmed fruit from 100% neutral barrels. Great job, team! We think the wine shows complexity, balance, and harmony, while respecting this great site.
Extremely Limited, only 75 cases produced. Tasting room and wine club exclusive.
2018 Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard (Sta. Rita Hills)
This dramatic hillside site on the border of the Sta. Rita Hills is one of the coolest sites planted to Rhône varietals in all of California. Grenache grows on a steep, south-east facing hillside of almost pure sand on the eastern edge of the block and slightly heavier sandy clay loam toward the west and at the bottom of the block. The block is typically picked very late but at relatively low sugar levels for Grenache. These grapes produce a cool, energetic, mineral-laden wine with juicy, high toned, aromatic red fruits, fresh herbs, and good structure for aging. We pay extra to have our blocks organically farmed here.
The very cool 2018 Vintage required us to wait a long time to pick these stubborn grapes (Grenache can handle a good deal of heat). Ultimately, we waited until early November for the grapes to be ripe enough to be picked. The stems were less ripe than in some other years, and so we decided to destem all of the fruit for this wine. After a long cool fermentation, the wine was aged in large barrels (1200L Muid and 600L Demi-Muid) to preserve fruit character and allow slow evolution. The resulting wine is harmonious, with a great sensation of plush fruit on the pallet and great length and lift from energetic acidity and polished tannins.
Extremely Limited. Only 140 cases produced.
We believe that Santa Barbara is one of very best places to grow Chardonnay in the new world. The cool ocean influence, with daily fog and wind allows the development of beautiful ripe flavors, while the relatively cool climate permits retention of critical acidity and marine soils provide a sense of minerality. Thus, we were inspired to include a small amount of very particular Chardonnay into our portfolio. They have all been very well received by critics and customers alike. The wines are balanced, with beautiful fruit components lifted by driving, energetic acidity and structure from careful use of new and used oak barrels. The wines have the ability to age for a good long time.
2018 Chardonnay, Rita’s Crown Vineyard. (Sta. Rita Hills) – 94 Points Jeb Dunnuck & Antonio Galloni
Rita’s Crown is a spectacular vineyard at some of the highest elevations in the Santa Rita Hills. Located right above the historic Mount Carmel monastery, our south west facing blocks are steep and cobbled with large amounts of diatomaceous earth. The winds are constant and strong, with a feeling of saltiness from the nearby ocean and a decided marine chill. The Chardonnay in this block typically sets 2-2.5 tons per acre from a relatively small canopy (In 2018 it was closer to 1.5 TPA). These low yields and long cool season result in ripeness at incredibly strong acid levels. We think this is a hallmark of great sites. The wines are dramatic and expressive, with a tremendously long finish.
The 2018 wine fermented in French oak barrels, 30% new. The resulting wine went through partial malolactic fermentation in barrel and was then aged for 18 months on its lees, without stirring, before selection, blending and bottling. Extremely Limited: Only 220 Cases Produced, most of which will go to the Wine Club.
Jeb Dunnuck gushed over this wine, giving it 94 points and stating:
“From a great vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, the 2018 Chardonnay Rita’s Crown Vineyard just jumps from the glass with exotic notes of spiced citrus, nectarines, flowers, and honeysuckle-like aromas and flavors. It’s a rich, beautifully textured, elegant yet concentrated Chardonnay with loads to love. It shows more salinity and minerality with time in the glass and I suspect will evolve for a solid 7-8 years.”
2018 Chardonnay, Duvarita Vineyard (Santa Barbara County) – 94 Points Jeb Dunnuck
In addition to fantastic Pinot Noir, the biodynamic Duvarita Vineyard grows intense yet balanced Chardonnay from its gentle slopes of sandy soils further down the hill. Wines here are medium bodied and elegant, with a stony minerality and a remarkable depth of flavor. These wines evolve slowly and will absolutely repay bottle aging (under appropriate storage conditions).
Jeb Dunnuck gave this wine 94 points, stating:
“The 2018 Chardonnay Duvarita Vineyard comes from a cooler site located outside the boundary of the Sta. Rita Hills. It was brought up in one-third new French oak and saw plenty of lees contact. This medium gold effort offers a complex bouquet of ripe stone fruits, sappy herbs, salty minerality, and ample spice. With beautifully integrated oak, medium to full body, outstanding balance, and a great finish, it’s going to evolve for a solid 7-8 years, if not longer.”
Extremely Limited: Only 145 Cases Produced.
|We are grateful for the support all these years, and especially during the last 12 months, which were trying for everyone. We know there will be many changes in the way Americans do things going forward, but we hope that very soon we can all return to the joy of sharing a bottle of great wine with loved ones over a fantastic meal, whether made at home, or by any of America’s fantastic chefs. We also hope to see you here in Santa Barbara wine country and enjoying our region and its incredible bounty.|
John, Steve, Brandon and the entire Dragonette Cellars team