Beautifully Honest Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Whitcraft Winery

Whitcraft is a small, family-owned and operated winery in Santa Barbara, CA known for their traditionally made and “unadulterated” Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Established in 1985 by Chris and Kathleen (Barnato) Whitcraft, the winery started as a passion for both the craft of winemaking and the lifestyle. Chris learned from California greats including Joe Heitz, Dick Graff, and Burt Williams while simultaneously hosting a radio show about wine from 1978 to 1989. Chris and Kathleen’s son Drake joined the family winery and took over in 2007, maintaining the traditional practices of hand-harvesting, foot-pressing, no added enzymes, and native yeast fermentation. Whitcraft’s wines are pure, well-balanced, and honest representations of the fruit and terroir, often remaining low in alcohol and not seeing much added SO2. Drake hand fills and corks his wines, with production incredibly limited and often reserved for mailing list clients or restaurants. Though Chris passed away in 2014, his vision and passion live on through Drake to this day.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Pence Ranch Clone 828 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.49% ABV

The 2016 Pence Ranch Clone 828 Pinot Noir is translucent pale ruby in color. Once this opens up, the nose displays aromas of ripe red cherry, wild raspberry, forest floor, stemmy underbrush, mint, dusty dried rock, and light baking spice. Moving to the palate, the wine showcases notes of strawberry, black cherry, cranberry, licorice, tobacco, loamy earth, white pepper, and green herbs and vegetation. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a medium (+) finish. Would love to revisit this wine with a few more years of bottle age.

Price: $68. Whitcraft Pinot Noirs are some of my favorites out of California, and while they don’t have that opulence found in a lot of cult Cali Pinots I think they strike up right with some of the big dogs and therefore make a good value play. Pair with grilled duck breast, herb-roasted chicken, or goat cheese and salami.

Elegant Pinot Noir From Santa Barbara County

Today’s Story: Chanin Wine Co.

Chanin Wine Co. was established in 2007 by winemaker Gavin Chanin, and his goal is to produce single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. Gavin selected the vineyards to source his fruit based on their organic (or at minimum sustainable) farming practices while also seeking older vines. The current vineyard selections include Sanford & Benedict in the Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos between the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys, Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley, and Duvarita just west of the Sta. Rita Hills. Gavin eschews higher alcohol levels in his wines to foster balance and finesse, while practicing gentle winemaking methods and avoiding additives such as commercial yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes. All of Chanin’s wines are bottled unfiltered.

Fun Fact: The artwork featured on Chanin’s labels is Gavin’s own.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.28% ABV

The 2014 Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color and moderately transparent. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of strawberry, red cherry, rosehip, leather, tobacco, loamy earth, smoked game, green herbs, and exotic spice. On the palate, this displays notes of bright red cherry, muddled strawberry, black raspberry, violet, worn leather, charred earth, stemmy underbrush, and cracked pepper. Light- to medium-bodied with a velvety mouthfeel, medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 34 barrels produced.

Price: $50. Not really the style I was expecting, as this reminds me of a Kosta Browne or Williams Selyem, but this is certainly a delicious Pinot Noir. This is very well-made and the lower alcohol content does seem to help bring out the elegance and finesse of the wine. Pair this with seared tuna, grilled quail, or herb-roasted chicken.

The Caymus of Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Belle Glos

Belle Glos was established in 2001 by Joe Wagner, a fifth generation Napa Valley winemaker who grew up in the vineyards and worked alongside his father at Caymus Vineyards. With great admiration for Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, his grandmother and co-founder of Caymus Vineyards, Joe named his new endeavor in her honor. Though his family previously produced Pinot Noir from Napa Valley fruit between 1972 and 1990, the wines did not display what they thought possible out of the variety and began searching for cooler coastal appellations suited for Pinot Noir. Joe soon thereafter produced his first vintage at Belle Glos from the Taylor Lane and Clark & Telephone Vineyards, the first of several vineyard-designated wines Belle Glos would create. By 2004, Belle Glos added the Las Alturas vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands to their portfolio and 2011 marked the first vintage from the Dairyman Vineyard in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. Each year, Belle Glos releases the Clark & Telephone, Las Alturas, and Dairyman bottlings in accordance with their initial goal of producing single-vineyard Pinot Noir, however occasionally they offer limited release wines when vintage conditions allow.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.6% ABV

The 2017 Clark & Telephone is opaque and rather deep ruby in color, actually almost purple. Given 30 minutes or so to open up, the nose showcases aromas of black raspberry, cranberry, licorice, red and blue florals, leather, cedar, baking spice, and mild chocolate. There is also some heat thanks to the ABV that is unfortunately a bit off-putting. Once in the mouth, the wine offers notes of cherry, strawberry jam, blackberry, sweet tobacco, damp earth, white pepper, cinnamon, coconut, and vanilla. This is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish. No doubt this needs a few more years of aging.

Price: $55. This is high for what it is, in my opinion, and seems too heavy-handed by the winemaker. While I’m sure this boozy fruit-bomb would have wide appeal (I nicknamed this the Caymus of Pinot Noir, which is funny because it’s also in the Wagner family), I would skip it for quality options in the $30-40 range. Pair this with grilled chicken, pork, or pasta.