Rhone Release

New Rhone Releases
2020 MJM
2021 Syrah, John Sebastiano Vineyard
2021 Seven
2021 Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard

These wines are extremely limited
There’s only so much to spare of these wines as most of their case production is allocated to the current or upcoming Wine Club, so be sure to act fast.

We hope you all had a fantastic start to 2024! It has been cold here in the Santa Ynez Valley. Vineyards are all certainly dormant after significant cold snaps in the last couple weeks. Rain amounts have been more or less “normal” for the season, but we are hoping that the little boy (El Nino) delivers us a good amount of rain to start the year off right. Some of the biggest rain years here have been El Nino years, but one never knows. Fingers crossed as usual. We will start pruning fairly soon and into February, hoping a good slumber will have the vines refreshed and ready for a terrific year.  Soothsayers have suggested a sunny warm growing season after several cool ones. We will see!

Here in the cellar, we are preparing for the release of our Winter Wine Club.  The Wine Club Members have received their customization emails, and we are preparing for another couple of days of “all hands on deck” club shipment packing.

In connection with the wine club shipment, we can now release to the general public a small amount of one of the key Wine Club wines, our flagship Syrah, the 2020 MJM. A blend of our favorite, most dramatic Syrahs, blended with small amounts of Grenache and Viognier, this wine enjoys an extra year in barrel to allow full evolution of these intense and structured lots. This wine has already received 97+ points from Jeb Dunnuck, and we are certain that you will want some bottles to follow as it ages gracefully over the coming 15-20 years.  A recent tasting of the 2011 and 2014 MJM’s demonstrated wonderful development, but a long life ahead.

In addition, we are releasing to the general public, the 2021 Syrah, John Sebastiano Vineyard, the 2021 Seven Syrah, and the 2021 Grenache. The 2021 John Sebastiano Syrah was a Fall 2023 Wine Club Wine, sports a 96+ rating from Jeb Dunnuck and is almost sold out. The 2021 Seven, far from being the baby brother of the MJM is actually stylistically distinct creature, with more savory, aromatic and expressive character. Jeb Dunnuck once (2017 vintage) called this wine more of a Cote Rotie-style compared to the more Hermitage-like John Sebastiano Syrah. Dunnuck gave the 2021 Seven 93+ points, calling it “terrific.” Galloni gave it 94 points. Lastly, the 2021 Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard is a decidedly cool climate wine. We like to call it the Pinot maker’s Grenache. Bright red fruits and spices are delivered in a lithe, texturally pure package. The wine is a delight, but we make only a tiny amount.

** NOTE TO WINE CLUB MEMBERS: The MJM is in the Winter Club Shipment (January 2024) and the Seven will be in the Spring Club (April 2024).

The Wines

2020 MJM (Syrah) (Santa Ynez Valley)

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. 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.

This wine is a product of the miracle 2020 vintage. A generally cool year was upended by a series of punishing heatwaves in August-October and devastating fires elsewhere in the State. We fortunately avoided smoke effects here, and thus we call it a miracle vintage. Although we saw some dehydration and yield reduction, we also found underlying acidities were still excellent from the cool (prior to August) year. The freshness played well with the exuberant fruit of 2020.

The 2020 MJM was crafted from wines from Stolpman (60%), Kimsey (25%) & Larner (10%). John Sebastiano was affected by a localized fire in July, and we were not able to use the fruit.  Clones included 3, 470, 383, Estrella, 174, Alban and a massal selection from Kimsey. This dramatically intense wine was aged for a total of 27 months in the finest French oak cooperage (Sylvain, Ermitage & Seguin Moreau) of which 60% was new.

The 2020 MJM is deeply concentrated, well structured, and bold, with exuberant black, purple and blue fruits, framed by super high-quality oak, baking spices and iron, lifted by stony minerals. The wine all Ballard Canyon in 2020, and thus shows the broad shoulders, the power and tannic spine of that AVA. It will slowly unfold over the next 10 years and keep another 15 after that. Though powerful, it is already drinkable as the fleshy fruit notes coat the mouth and buffer the strong tannins.

The 2020 MJM was 97+ Points Jeb Dunnuck, who called it “stunning,” “full-bodied” and “flawlessly balanced.” Antonio Galloni of Vinous rated it 95 Points.

Extremely Limited. Only 475 cases produced. Most of that will go to the Wine Club in the Winter Shipment (early February 2024).

2021 Syrah, John Sebastiano Vineyard (Sta Rita Hills)

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. 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.

In 2021, the wine combines 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 (100% destemmed) 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), 58 percent new, with various coopers (Sylvain, Ermitage, Seguin Moreau) and toast levels (M, ML, M+). The wine undergoes spontaneous malolactic fermentation in barrel. 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.

The Wine was rated 96+ Points by Jeb Dunnuck, who said, “The [wine] would be the equivalent of a great Cornas from California given its wild, feral, almost bloody style. Ripe red and black fruits, salted meat, bouquet garni, iron, and subtle marine-like notes all define the aromatics, and this fabulous Syrah is medium to full-bodied, with ripe, integrated, yet building tannins, beautiful balance, and a great finish.”

Extremely Limited. 380 cases were produced, only a few (less than 20) remain, post Fall Wine Club.

2021 Seven (Syrah) (Santa Ynez Valley)

The 2021 Seven is comprised of 95% Syrah, 3% Grenache and 2% Viognier sourced from top-flight vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills and Ballard Canyon: 50% Stolpman (Ballard Canyon / Sustainable), 30% Spear (Sta. Rita Hills/Cert. Organic), 15% Kimsey (Ballard Canyon / Cert. Organic), 5% John Sebastiano (Sta. Rita Hills/Organic). The wine was aged in neutral French oak (228L barriques, 400L, and 500L puncheons) 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), lovely texture with vibrant, layered red, blue and purple fruits, but also plenty of acidity and tannic 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.

This wine was rated 94 points by Antonio Galloni at Vinous and 93+ points Jeb Dunnuck. Limited. Only 575 cases produced.

2021 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 2021 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 and transferred the wine to large French oak barrels (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 15 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.

Extremely Limited. Only 110 cases produced.