Young but Promising Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm is a Chardonnay-focused winery established in 2009 in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara County, California. Founded by Jeff and Nikki Nelson, Liquid Farm started with four barrels of wine and the dream to produce Old World style Chardonnay while supporting local viticulture. Two of these first four barrels showcased a more mineral-driven profile that reminded Jeff and Nikki of Chablis so they named it White Hill after the white chalky hills of Chablis. The other two barrels showcased warmer tones and fuller profiles reminiscent of Meursault, so they named that wine Golden Slope after the Côte d’Or. Though Liquid Farm expanded their portfolio over time, they still focus on four Chardonnay bottlings as well as a rosé and small amounts of Pinot Noir.

Sticking to their love of terroir-driven wines, the winemaking philosophy at Liquid Farm is rather hands-off. Under the guide of winemaker James Sparks, winemaking follows the path of minimal intervention from manual harvest through to native yeast fermentation and aging in neutral oak barrels. The team makes no machine adjustments or additions to the wine in order to preserve a sense of place and true-to-variety profile, ultimately even letting the wines go through malolactic fermentation naturally. Given the cool climate of Sta. Rita Hills, these wines are often bottled with higher natural acidity and lower alcohol which makes them perfect table wines for anyone who appreciates the style and an expression of terroir.

I previously reviewed the 2016 Golden Slope Chardonnay from Liquid Farm. You can also check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2019 SBC Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2019 SBC Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color. Due to the wine’s youth, I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and it blossomed more and more as I drank it. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose displaying notes of ripe red cherry, raspberry jam, cranberry, leather, violet, cola, clove, and very faint cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of black raspberry, strawberry, cherry cola, sweet tobacco, clove, cracked pepper, and a touch of ground herbs. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. Fruit on this right now is gorgeous, though I’d recommend holding onto this for another year or two and I wager you’ll be rewarded as everything comes together.

Price: $45 (I found it for $40). I think this is pretty fairly-priced, particularly closer to the $40 level and with many stores selling this for $50. It’s a bit richer than I was expecting, though I think some of this can be attributed to youth and the wine should integrate well over the years to come. High quality is there, and this does a solid job of representing Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.

Non-Vintage Grower Champagne with Remarkable Depth and Precision

Today’s Story: Champagne Agrapart & Fils

Champagne Agrapart & Fils is a grower Champagne house established by Arthur Agrapart in 1894. Situated in the village of Avize in the Côte de Blancs, the Agrapart holdings include 12 hectares (30 acres) of predominantly Chardonnay in mostly Grand Cru vineyards in Avize, Oger, Cramant, and Oiry. Today under the guide of fourth generation Pascal Agrapart (joined in 1984), the vineyards are farmed organically (and they have been for some time) while average vine age hovers around 40 years with many of the vines aged 70 years or older. Agrapart produces roughly 5,400 cases or less of Champagne each vintage, partially in an effort to maintain the highest quality standards both in the vineyards and in the cellar. At the end of the day these Champagnes are meant to show a true sense of place, so winemaking is rather hands-off including native yeast fermentation, long aging on the lees, and used-oak barrel aging. Come bottling, each wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Agrapart produces seven wines, beginning with the entry-level 7 Crus that I am reviewing today. The 7 Crus is a non-vintage bottling, made by blending two vintages together with fruit sourced from four Grand Cru vineyards and three 1er Cru vineyards. Next up is the non-vintage Terroirs bottling, which is a Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) sourced from only Grand Cru vineyards and made up of two vintages. To wrap up the non-vintage selections, the Complantée bottling is a field blend of today’s standard Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier Champagne varieties accompanied by “ancient” varieties of Arbane, Petit Meslier, and Pinot Blanc. It is also made exclusively with Grand Cru fruit.

The three main vintage wines of Agrapart include Minéral, Avizoise, and Vénus. All three of these are Blanc de Blancs made with only Grand Cru fruit, with the Minéral showcasing the precise and saline nature of the chalky soils. Meanwhile the Avizoise tends to be denser and richer thanks to deep, clay-rich topsoil and the Vénus is a single-vineyard expression of Avize. Last but not least, Agrapart produces very limited quantities of the Expérience bottling which is as natural as Champagne can get. This is a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru and Brut Nature wine, made from old vines in Avize and produced without any external additives whatsoever. It’s also only made in select vintages, and is highly sought after.

Champagne Agrapart

Today’s Wine: NV ‘7 Crus’ Extra Brut

90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir; 12% ABV

The NV ‘7 Crus’ Extra Brut Champagne is medium to deep gold in color with gorgeous and delicate effervescence. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of green apple skins, ripe pear, lemon zest, white peach, honey, brioche toast, cheese rind, vanilla cream, crushed chalk, and wet limestone. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity with the palate displaying notes of peach, green apple, nectarine, quince, chamomile, honey, freshly-baked bread, oyster shell, sea salt, and crushed stone minerality. This dry Champagne is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $60. Though not inexpensive, I think this Champagne offers solid value as the intensity and complexity are profound. There is remarkable depth to this wine for an “entry level” bottling and the precision is laser-like. This drinks up there with Champagnes significantly more expensive.

California Rosé of a Unique Blend

Today’s Story: Arnot-Roberts

Arnot-Roberts is a boutique winery established in 2001 by Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, two childhood friends who grew up together in Napa Valley. After college, Nathan started working with his father as a cooper of oak wine barrels while Duncan pursued winemaking throughout Napa and Sonoma counties. Arnot-Roberts began with a single barrel of wine the duo produced in their basement and over time grew through the purchase of fruit from renowned vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, El Dorado, and Amador counties as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains. When selecting vineyards, Arnot-Roberts makes sure the farmers are both “passionate and conscientious” because their goal is to produce small quantities of honest, terroir-driven, and single-vineyard wines which truly express their unique place. The winemaking style is a mix of Old World and New World, with use of indigenous fermentation, little or no new oak, and often whole cluster.

I previously reviewed the 2016 Que Syrah Vineyard, 2018 North Coast Trousseau, 2018 Watson Ranch Chardonnay, and 2016 Vare Vineyard Ribolla Gialla from Arnot-Roberts.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Rosé

68% Touriga Nacional, 16% Gamay Noir, 11% Cabernet Franc, 5% Grenache; 11% ABV

The 2020 Rosé is pale copper in color with hues of pale salmon. The nose seems somewhat muted and aromas are of medium (-) intensity, showcasing notes of cantaloupe, white strawberry, raspberry, bubble gum, cured meat, and chalky mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of white cherry, raspberry, watermelon, orange rind, bubble gum, and saline. This dry rosé is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, low alcohol, and a medium-length finish. Fun to try given the blend, but this is lacking in intensity and length I was hoping for.

Price: $30 (but you should be able to find this around $25 in some locations). I can’t call this wine a good value, especially since I paid slightly more than the average $30 price-tag online. It’s lacking in intensity, complexity, and length which is somewhat disappointing given the Arnot-Roberts wines I’ve enjoyed in the past. Having enjoyed the Triennes rosé the other day at half the price, I find this a tough sell for me personally albeit it’s fun to try nonetheless given the blend.

High Quality Provence Rosé From Two Burgundy Titans

Today’s Story: Triennes

Triennes is a wine estate established in 1989 in Provence, France by Burgundy legends Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Given their prowess in Burgundy, the duo became convinced that great wines of incredible quality could also be produced in the south of France when focus is put on the vineyards first and foremost. After they purchased their estate, Triennes underwent a massive replanting program to ensure the healthiest of vineyards, with vines and rootstocks specifically adapted to the local climate and microclimates. The vineyards are farmed as naturally as possible, with Ecocert organic certification following a transition that began in 2008.

As far as the Triennes wine portfolio goes, they produce three main wines of Saint Auguste (Syrah, Cabernet sauvignon, and Merlot), Viognier Sainte Fleur (Viognier), and the rosé I am reviewing today. They also produce a Merlot, Les Auréliens Blanc (Chardonnay, Viognier, Vermontino, Ugni Blanc, and Grenache Blanc), and Les Auréliens Rouge (Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon).

Today’s Wine: 2020 Rosé

Primarily Cinsault blended with Grenache, Syrah, and Merlot; 12.5% ABV

The 2020 Rosé is pale copper in color. Aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of white strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, mild cherry, dried green herbs, and subtle maritime minerality. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of watermelon, juicy strawberry, rosewater, lime zest, a touch of vanilla, and finely crushed rock minerality. This dry rosé is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $15 for 750ml (closer to $8 in Europe). This is a very easy-going, fresh, and enjoyable rosé and I think for the price it offers great value. My 375ml bottle was $7.50, and I find myself hard-pressed to find another rosé at the quality level of this one for the price.

Terroir-Driven Pinot Noir Born From an American and French Collaboration

Today’s Story: Racines Wine

Racines Wine is a collaboration between Santa Barbara winemaker Justin Willett (Tyler Winery and Lieu Dit) and French vignerons Étienne de Montille (Domaine de Montille in Burgundy) and Rodolphe Péters (Pierre Péters Champagne). In 2016, Étienne and his Chef de Cave, Brian Sieve, took an exploratory journey to California and Oregon in pursuit of their first winemaking venture outside of Burgundy, ultimately settling on the Sta. Rita Hills of California with Justin as their winemaker. A year later, Rodolphe joined the team to provide insight into Chardonnay and sparkling wine production, with the sparkling wine set for release in the near future.

As one might expect, the winemaking philosophy at Racines meshes well amongst all parties as they come from backgrounds of producing terroir-driven and elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. What’s more, they’re not trying to make something “Old World” or “Burgundian” per say, but rather simply showcasing the unique characteristics of the Sta. Rita Hills which has proven to be a rather high-quality AVA for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. All this being said, Racines’ Pinot Noir is fermented whole-cluster with pigéage throughout, while the Chardonnay production follows closely with the traditions of Burgundy and Champagne.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Sta. Rita Hills Cuvée Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Sta. Rita Hills Cuvée Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color. I poured my glass and forgot about it for an hour or so, which this wine needs at its youthful stage. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the rather complex nose showcasing notes of black cherry, red plum, muddled strawberry, leather, violet, pine, cola, cinnamon, chopped green herbs, and wet gravel. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of red cherry, black raspberry, strawberry, blood orange rind, sweet tobacco, licorice, violet, chalk, and crushed rock. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a long finish. Pretty well-balanced and I love the layers upon layers to this wine that surface over time.

Price: $60 (I paid $48). I don’t know if I can necessarily go as far as calling this a screaming value (because there are a plethora of Pinot Noir options for half the price that drink incredibly well), but there is no denying the intensity, complexity, and length to this wine are all worthy to note. This is a gorgeous wine now, though I’m excited to see what a few more years of bottle age will accomplish.

Lively, Precise, and Mineral-Driven Chenin Blanc

Today’s Story: Enfield Wine Co.

Enfield Wine Co. is a relatively small family-owned and operated winery established by John Lockwood and Amy Seese in 2010. John started working in the wine industry in 2004 at Heron Lake Vineyard, followed by harvests at Littorai, Bodega Melipal in Argentina, and Failla Wines. John remained with Failla for five years managing and farming their Sonoma Coast and Russian River estate vineyards, ultimately starting Enfield as a small passion project. In 2013, John left Failla and devoted his time entirely to Enfield.

Enfield focuses primarily on terroir as a starting point, working with small independent growers across a range of regions to source their fruit. John and Amy purchase fruit from Antle Vineyard and Brosseau Vineyard in the Chalone AVA, Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville, Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse Valley, Jesus & Patricia’s Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in Amador County. From these sites they acquire a range of varieties including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo amongst others, all with varying vine age as well. John’s philosophy is to harvest his fruit for balance and ferment the wines naturally in order to showcase each unique terroir, eschewing a heavy-handed winemaking style. The wines are often fresh, lively, and mineral-driven, though John does enjoy exploring esoteric bottlings as well.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc

100% Chenin Blanc; 12% ABV

The 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc is pale gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose showcases notes of ripe yellow apple, pear, lemon zest, honeysuckle, ginger, flint, oyster shell, and saline. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity, and the palate displays notes of nectarine, white peach, yellow apple, honey, chamomile, crushed stone, and sea salt. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. A very precise and well-balanced Chenin Blanc.

Price: $35. I think this is well-priced for how balanced, complex, and intense the wine is. Nothing sticks out of place here and this is a very solid representation of Chenin Blanc. Though it’s more expensive than the previous Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc I had, the intensity and quality level of this wine justify it.

Delicious and High-Quality Portuguese Bastardo

Today’s Story: Conceito Wines

Conceito Wines is a family-owned and operated wine estate with roots tracing back to the 1940s, though they did not start bottling their own wines until the 2005 vintage. Throughout their first several decades the Ferreira family sold their fruit to other producers, however when Rita Ferreira Marques joined after studying Oenology and working in Bordeaux, California, South Africa, and New Zealand the mantra changed. Conceito’s estate vineyards are located in Vale da Teja of the Douro Valley in Portugal, and they encompass 86 hectares (213 acres) across five separate sites. The climate of these vineyards is rather cool, augmented by high elevations between about 1,500 feet and 2,000 feet above sea level. All viticulture is organic without the use of pesticides or herbicides, while winemaking is of the minimal intervention approach. Each Conceito wine is meant to showcase the unique terroir of their sites in Portugal, and the portfolio consists of a flagship Conceito range as well as two Contraste bottlings (a red and a white) meant for more “relaxed” consumption.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Bastardo

100% Bastardo (Trousseau); 13% ABV

The 2018 Bastardo is pale ruby in color and fairly transparent. I let this evolve in the glass, with aromas of medium intensity and a nose that showcases notes of cherry, black raspberry, licorice, violets, smoked game, gravel, and mild spice. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of raspberry, red cherry, cranberry, red licorice, graphite, dried green herbs, and black pepper. This dry red is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $35. From quality, balance, and complexity standpoints I think this is very fairly-priced though there are better “values” out there. A lot of the Trousseau I’ve had seems to range from $25 to $45 and this fits right in the middle, but I do think several closer to $25 drink just as well as this one. Nonetheless this is a great and fun wine that can open you to more high-quality wines Portugal has to offer.

Strong Value Grenache From a Relatively New Californian Producer

Today’s Story: Newfound Wines

Newfound Wines is a family-owned and operated wine estate established by Matt and Audra Naumann in 2016. With backgrounds in the wine industry and a shared passion for agriculture, they established Newfound Wines as a 40 acre ranch, vineyard, and winery in the Sierra Foothills of California. In addition to their estate High View Vineyard which needed replanting in 2016, Newfound sources fruit from several other sites including Cemetery Vineyard and Colombini Vineyard in Mendocino County, Enz Vineyard in the Lime Kiln Valley, Scaggs Vineyard and Yount Mill Vineyard in the Napa Valley, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills. They focus on the varieties of Grenache, Carignane, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Semillon with an emphasis on organic viticulture as well as minimal intervention winemaking in an effort to showcase each variety and terroir as purely as possible.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Grenache Gravels

100% Grenache; 13.9% ABV

The 2018 Grenache Gravels is medium ruby in color and I let this open up for about 30-45 minutes in the glass before I started drinking it. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of muddled strawberry, black raspberry, cherry, red plum, leather, dried green herbs, mint, and crushed rock. Meanwhile the palate displays notes of raspberry, tart cherry, blackberry, licorice, red rose, chalk, and cracked pepper with prominent mineral undertones. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) and grippy tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Fruit is sourced from 85% Cemetery Vineyard in Mendocino County, 10% Scaggs Vineyard in Napa Valley, and 5% Yount Mill Vineyard in Napa Valley.

Price: $30. I think this offers very solid value for the price, as the depth is rather impressive at this stage and quality is certainly very high for an “entry” bottling. Though the tannins are slightly out of balance at this stage, I think they will resolve with another year or two and you’ll be left with a wine striking well above its price-point.

Fun and Unique “Nighttime” Rosé

Today’s Story: Las Jaras Wines

Las Jaras Wines was founded in 2014 by winemaker Joel Burt and Hollywood comedian/director Eric Wareheim. Joel Burt, a winemaker at Domaine Chandon, was growing tired of making wines in a cookie-cutter, corporate, and mass-produced manner when he met Eric and the two realized they shared a passion for fine wine. The duo started planning their own wine label where they could produce wines in homage of “the old days” (think 1970s Napa) and Las Jaras was born. Joel describes their Cabernet “like a Dunn from the 80s, but way more approachable” and each wine in the portfolio is made largely using similar traditional techniques.

To achieve this style of wine, Joel remains very hands-off throughout the winemaking process. Las Jaras sources their fruit from various old vine vineyards, though most comes from Mendocino County. All fruit is hand-harvested and each variety goes through separate winemaking processes, all being hand-sorted at the crusher. Though each variety is vinified differently to best express that variety’s unique character, the long story short here is that Joel doesn’t add sulfur, the wines ferment with only natural yeasts, and bottling is accomplished with no fining or filtration.

I previously reviewed the 2018 Sweet Berry Wine from Las Jaras.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Superbloom Cuvée Zero Zero

27% Marsanne, 16% Roussanne, 16% Grenache Noir, 14% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache Blanc, 10% Carignan, 7% Picpoul Blanc; 10.9% ABV

The 2020 Superbloom is deep salmon in color with pinkish hues, and it’s slightly hazy. This needed about 30 minutes to open in the glass, as there were some funky aromas that needed to blow off. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of watermelon, grapefruit, white cherry, strawberry, white rose, and saline. Meanwhile the palate displays notes of raspberry, strawberry, candied watermelon, mild white pepper, and stony mineral. This dry rosé is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low alcohol, and a medium (-) length finish. Very chuggable and fun but I wish the finish was a bit longer. 1,500 cases produced.

Price: $27. I sought this wine from my local wine shops for quite some time, and am glad to finally find it since I’m a big fan of Joel and Eric. This is a very fun, chuggable, and interesting rosé made from quite the blend of co-fermented varieties, however I think for the price there are better values out there.

A Must-Try to Spice up Your Rosé Game

Today’s Story: Tenuta delle Terre Nere

Tenuta delle Terre Nere is a somewhat young but highly regarded wine estate founded by Marc de Grazia on the northern slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. The first commercial vintage was in 2002, and the estate focuses on local Sicilian varieties with Nerello Mascalese and Carricante of principal importance. The estate today consists of about 55 hectares, of which 27 hectares are planted to vines in production and 7 hectares are breeding. The holdings are broken up into 24 parcels across six crus and range in elevation from 600 to 1,000 meters above sea level, with an ultimate plan to reach 38 hectares planted to vine. Aside from the 7 hectares recently planted, Terre Nere works with vines aged 50 to 100 years old, and the estate even has one parcel that survived phylloxera and is 130-140 years old!

Marc de Grazia has long been a proponent of single cru Etna wines, so he vinifies, ages, bottles, and labels each of his crus individually. These include Calderara Sottana, San Lorenzo, Bocca d’Orzo, Santo Spirito, Guardiola, and Feudo di Mezzo. All viticulture has been organic since Terre Nere was established (certified in 2010), and the prior owners farmed their vineyards organically for the previous two generations as well. Winemaking is meant to be minimally invasive, allowing de Grazia to showcase the unique Etna terroir in all of his wines.

To learn more, view images of the estate and vineyards, or explore the range of wines from Tenuta delle Terre Nere, I recommend visiting their website here. I also previously reviewed their 2019 Etna Bianco if you care to explore or revisit my thoughts on another wine in the portfolio.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Etna Rosato

100% Nerello Mascalese; 13% ABV

The 2020 Etna Rosato is pale copper in color, rather light for many rosé wines I’ve enjoyed. The aromas are of medium intensity, but the rather complex nose shows itself over time with notes of white strawberry, cherry, peach, raspberry, cured charcuterie meat, rose petal, flint, and saline mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of Rainier cherry, freshly-picked strawberry, peach, cantaloupe, chopped green herbs, crushed rock, sea salt, and white pepper. This dry rosé is medium-bodied though very crisp and lean with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $23. I think this is a great buy, as it offers beautiful balance, length, and complexity while being immensely chuggable on a hot day. This is the most fun, delicious, and rock-solid rosé I’ve had in a long, long time and I’ll be buying more as soon as I can.