2022 Winter Release

Happy 2022 Everyone!

We hope that you are all doing well despite the ongoing Covid situation. It seems as though we are handling this omicron surge fairly well, which is encouraging. Winemakers inherently have an optimistic streak in them, as we have discussed many times in the past.

Speaking of optimism, we are buoyed by the December weather here in the Santa Ynez Valley. We have enjoyed a wet and cold December and early January, which is always great news for the upcoming season. The rain is obviously critical for flushing the soils of salts and building up a moisture profile for the vines to draw from. 2020 and 2021 were low rainfall years, and the ground has proved it was very dry. Fortunately, the rainfall came intermittently, and the soil was able to absorb it without runoff. We will continue to need more rainfall, so keep thinking rainy thoughts!

From an aesthetic point of view, the wet December has meant the hills are turning green, which makes a marvelous contrast to the bright blue skies and the brilliant yellow sunshine. It really is magically beautiful this time of year.

When it comes to growing Chardonnay (& Pinot Noir, of course), Santa Barbara also has magical qualities. The vines enjoy a cool climate and long growing season, allowing for excellent flavor development, with excellent acidity and structure. It is now time to showcase the region’s excellence with two new 2019 Chardonnays (Rita’s Crown and Duvarita vineyards). The 2019 vintage was spectacular, the wines are highly rated, and these wines are just singing right now, with many years of development ahead of them. We are also releasing the always popular 2019 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard; however, this wine is so limited that we only have enough for the Wine Club members.  

We suggest that you all consider joining a wine club to obtain access to our most allocated wines, such as the 2019 Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix. As most of you know, we make tiny quantities of most of our wines, and they sell out fast. Almost all of our Pinot Noirs, for instance, are allocated almost exclusively to the wine club, and in fact have been sold out for most of the last two years. Joining the club gives you guaranteed access to or most allocated wines. We hate to see anyone disappointed. Join us!
The Wines
In addition to growing great Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara has been recognized as one of very best places to grow Chardonnay grapes. 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.

2019 Chardonnay, Rita’s Crown Vineyard (Sta. Rita Hills)
95 Points Jeb Dunnuck & 94 Points Antonio Galloni

Rita’s Crown sits majestically at some of the highest elevations in the Sta. Rita Hills. We source fruit from steep, south and southwest facing blocks of sand and clay loam with abundant diatomaceous earth.  Daily winds and fog deliver a strong marine influence resulting in an interesting saline note in the wines, along with the chalky minerals from the soils. Ripeness is delivered through the long season, not high temperatures.

Yields are low. The Chardonnay in this block typically sets between a ton and a half and three tons per acre  from a relatively small canopy. In 2019 it was closer to two 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 2019 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.

Jeb Dunnuck gushed over this wine, giving it 95 Points, and stated:

“…the 2019 Chardonnay Rita’s Crown Vineyard offers another level of richness without compromising on purity or focus. Lemon, ripe orchard fruits, iodine, and chalky mineral notes all flow to a medium-bodied Chardonnay with good acidity and a long, layered profile on the palate. Aged 18 months in a mix of small and larger barrels (30% new), it’s another head-turning good wine from this team.”

Galloni gave it 94 points, calling the wine, “powerful, deep and structured.”
Extremely Limited: Only 230 Cases Produced.
2019 Chardonnay, Duvarita Vineyard (Santa Barbara County)
95 Points Antonio Galloni

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).

In 2019, the vineyard produced s very small crop of 2.4 tons per acre across two sections (Clones 548 and 76). The grapes were gently pressed, settled overnight and then fermented and aged one their lees in French oak barrels (20 % new) for 17 months.   

Antonio Galloni gave this wine 95 points, stating:

The 2019 Chardonnay Duvarita Vineyard is transparent, nuanced and so exceptionally vivid. Apricot, tangerine oil, white flowers, mint, crushed rocks and white flowers are all finely sculpted. The 2019 dazzles with its saline, infused minerality, tension and outstanding balance.
Extremely Limited: Only 200 Cases Produced.

2019 Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills (*Wine Club Only)

Fiddlestix sits in the climactic “goldilocks zone” of the Santa Rosa Road corridor, across the street from Sanford & Benedict and across the river from Sea Smoke and Rita’s Crown. This area gets just the right balance of sunshine, fog and wind to ripen the fickle Pinot Noir while retaining proper balance in the grapes. Soils include botella clay loam, Monterey shale and pockets of chert. We lease six separate blocks and clones here, each of which adds complexity to the final blend.

The 2019 vintage was excellent at Fiddlestix. The vines enjoyed the long cool season, and we picked the grapes in early to mid-September at good ripeness and exceptional acidity. The grapes were fermented with 10% whole clusters, and the wine aged for 19 months in top quality French oak barrels (37% new). The 2019 wine is concentrated and complex, with great the typical red spectrum fruits (cranberry, cherry, pomegranate) and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg & clove) and perhaps a bit more punch that the 2018. The wine evolves beautifully in the glass, suggesting a solid aging curve. Drink 2022 – 2032+

The 2019 has not yet been critically rated, but the 2018 version was 96 Galloni and 94+ from Jeb Dunnuck. We think this one is every bit as good.  It will be sold out long before it is ever rated.

Only 375 cases produced; this wine is a wine club exclusiveJoin a wine club before January 24, 2022 to obtain an allocation of this special wine.
In Conclusion
 A special thanks goes out to our employees, both in the cellar and in the Tasting Room/Winery. They have been out there on the front lines, masked and armed with disinfectant. They have kept Tasting Programs expertly humming along, wowing guests with knowledge and hospitality and fun despite the challenges. We know that you appreciate the great job they do as well. Give them a big shout out next time you are in town.