Fall Rhone Release

Fall Release – Rhone Wines

Greetings Everyone:

We are taking a very short pause from Harvest to announce the release of our 2019 Rhone-styled (Syrah and Grenache) wines from the terrific 2019 vintage (the 2018 vintage of the MJM). Harvest has been moving along at a measured pace in the cool year we have been having here.  We know the rest of the West has been baking all Spring and Summer, but here in Santa Barbara, the mighty pacific has kept things foggy and windy for the most part. 

Some Notes on the 2019 Vintage

2019 was a classic cool-climate year in the Sta. Rita Hills & Ballard Canyon. A wet and cold winter cleansed vineyard soils and provided a good profile of soil moisture. A cool Spring helped delay budbreak until late March and to control vigor. Cool and windy conditions around bloom resulted in an extended flowering, but we saw decent set in Syrah. June was warm, but July and early August were generally cooler and ripening slow. Late August introduced significant heat, which was welcome to ripen the sun-loving grapes. Unevenness required several passes to remove green or damaged clusters. September was generally cool and sunny, as was October, allowing for us to harvest at precise times, under ideal conditions (long, cool mornings).   

As for the wines, they were made in such small quantities and we have had to wait to release them until the wine club shipment.  We expect them to sell out fast, so act fast. 

The Wines

2019 Syrah, John Sebastiano Vineyard (Sta Rita Hills)

**Note to Wine Club Members – This wine will appear in your Fall 2021 Shipment (October 2021). 

This dramatic hillside site lies on the eastern border of the Sta. Rita Hills and is one of the coolest sites planted to Rhone varietals in all of California. We pay extra to have our carefully selected hillside blocks farmed organically. Each block contains a different clone and rootstock combination (470 on 5BB, Estrella and 383 are own rooted). The steep hillside soils are clay-loam over limestone. The cool wind and fog at this site provide for an extremely long season. These grapes produce a dark, intensely aromatic wine, with cool black and blue berry fruits, great freshness, mineral lift and solid structure for aging. We have made a single vineyard Syrah from this site since 2013, as the alluring aromas and flavors simply had to be showcased on their own.

The Wine

A blend of three separate blocks and clones (470, 383, Estrella), each of which was picked separately in multiple passes as ripeness developed. The grapes were fermented separately in 1.5-ton, open top fermenters (85% destemmed; 15% whole cluster) by native yeasts. At dryness, we combined free run and gently pressed lots and transferred them to French oak barrels (228L barriques and a few 400L barrels), 15 percent new, with various coopers (Sylvain, Ermitage, Seguin Moreau) and toast levels (M, ML, M+). The wine undergoes spontaneous malolactic fermentation in barrel and no additional sulfur was added (there is a small amount added to the juice the day of harvest/processing) until MLF was complete in April, 2020. The wine was ultimately aged on its lees for 9 months before selection and blending, then the blended wine returned to barrel for an additional 8 months before bottling. The wine is fantastic in this cooler, more elegant year. Drinkable now, it will improve for 7-15 years or longer.  

Extremely Limited. 380 cases produced. As a Wine Club wine, this wine is allocated. Make your request today.

2019 Seven (Syrah) (Santa Ynez Valley)

**Note to Wine Club Members – This wine will appear in your Spring 2022 Shipment (April 2022). 

Seven is our Syrah-based blend, originally named for the seven exceptional cool climate vineyard sites from which it was comprised. Over the years we have refined our vineyard sources (dropping some, expanding into others), selecting precise blocks and clones to increase aromatic and flavor complexity. The 2019 Seven is comprised of 95% Syrah, 4% Grenache and 1% Viognier sourced from top-flight vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills and Ballard Canyon: Stolpman (45%), Spear (30%), Larner (10%), Kimsey (10%), & John Sebastiano (5%). The wine was aged in French oak barriques, 400L, and 500L puncheons (5% new) for 9 months before being blended and then returned to barrel for an additional 8 months aging before bottling.

We are thrilled with the performance of this wine, as it is already beginning to show explosive, complex aromatics (red, blue and black fruits, spices and meats), a rich smooth palate, with vibrant, layered red, blue and purple fruits, but also plenty of structure to provide a long finish for such a young wine. We expect this wine to continue to develop for 5-10 years and to last for well over a decade after that.

Very Limited. Only 450 cases produced.

2018 MJM (Syrah)

**Note to Wine Club Members – This wine will appear in your Winter 2022 Shipment (January 2022). 

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 (a small amount of Viognier is co-fermented with the Syrah). 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 2018 Vintage was generally cool, with a short period of heat in August, but well before the Syrah was close to ripe. September turned very cool, and the grapes ripened very slowly, ultimately being picked throughout October. The grapes had great color and intensity, but with a real sense of freshness from the excellent acidity. The 2018 MJM was crafted from wines from John Sebastiano (54%), Stolpman (32%), Larner (7%) & Kimsey (7%). Clones included 470, 383, Estrella, 174, Alban 1, and 3. This dramatically intense wine was aged for a total of 27 months in the finest French oak cooperage (Sylvain, Ermitage & Seguin Moreau) of which 55% was new.

The 2018 MJM will drink well early for its exuberant fruit and ripe structure, but it also has terrified concentration and balance for aging. Indeed, it reminds us of the 2016, another vintage showing freshness and exuberant fruits.

The wine was rated in barrel by Jeb Dunnuck who gave it 95-97+ Points and said:

“The 2018 Syrah MJM will spend another two years in barrels, but it looks to be screaming good at this point. Stunning black fruits, smoked game, charred meat, and peppery goodness all give way to a full-bodied, powerful Syrah that has a stacked mid-palate, ripe tannins, and flawless balance.”

Extremely Limited. Only 340 cases produced, and most of that will go to the Wine Club in the Winter Shipment (early February 2022). We suggest acting fast on this one.

LINK: Order wines here

2019 Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard (Sta Rita Hills)

Grenache at John Sebastiano 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.

In the cool 2019 vintage, the Grenache was harvested in late October at relatively low sugars. We did not see sufficient stem ripeness to permit whole cluster fermentation and decided to destem 100% of the Grenache (typically we use up to 25% whole clusters). The grapes were fermented in 1.5-ton, open top fermenters by native yeasts. At dryness, we drained the free run juice and gently pressed the remaining berries, and then transferred the wine to large French oak barrels (1200L Muid, 600 L, Demi-Muid and 500L puncheons) for aging. The wine undergoes spontaneous malolactic fermentation in barrel. The wine was ultimately aged on its lees for 16 months before blending and bottling. The wine is fantastic in this cooler, more elegant year, with bright strawberry and raspberry fruits, fresh herbs and spices, fabulous texture and a very long finish from great structure. Enjoyable now, the wine will improve for 5-7 years and hold much longer. 

Extremely Limited. Only 140 cases produced.

In Conclusion

We now return to the harvest. It will be a big push to the finish line, but we are ready to pick everything at just the right time. If you want to see some harvest action, book a winery tasting. And of course Los Olivos is beautiful this time of year. We look forward to seeing you soon at either the Tasting Room or the Study in Los Olivos, or at the Winery in Buellton.


John, Steve, Brandon and the entire Dragonette Cellars team