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LUTUM: Promising New Sta. Rita Hills Producer

LUTUM, Latin for “dirt” or “soil,” is a new Pinot Noir and Chardonnay label launched by Bill Price, owner of Classic Wines and Price Family Vineyards, and Santa Barbara County winemaker Gavin Chanin. The Lompoc winery’s mission is to craft wines that reflect the terroir of the great vineyards of California.

The first wines, reviewed here, were released on November 12, 2013, through a mailing list offering that features small lots of 2011 Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and 2011 La Rinconada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Additional vineyard sources will be added to the lineup beginning with the 2012 vintage releases, including Bien Nacido, Gap’s Crown and Sanford & Benedict vineyards, as well as Chardonnay.

Price owns part of the Durell Vineyard, the Gap’s Crown Vineyard, and ownership interests in Three Sticks, Kistler, Kosta Browne and Gary Farrell wineries. He was so attracted to Gavin’s winemaking talent and style that Price asked him to be a partner in the new winery. Gavin has gained some notoriety for his own label, Chanin Wine Company, producing elegant, restrained, classically styled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. He prefers to pick grapes early to limit finished alcohol levels and preserve a wine’s expression of terroir. This style grew from tasting the famous wines of Europe from his uncle’s wine collection and one of his winemaker mentors, Jim Clendenen.

Gavin’s uncle, Tony, started Zaca Mesa Winery in 1978 along with Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist and Adam Tolmach. When Clendenen and Tolmach founded Au Bon Climat, Tony went back to his family’s business and in 1991, Tolmach left Au Bon Climat to start The Ojai Vineyard. Gavin worked his first harvest at Au Bon Climat at age 18 after finishing high school in 2004. In 2009, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with a major in art and began his winemaking career as an assistant at both Qupé and Au Bon Climat. He also has experienced harvest in New Zealand and South Africa.

The wines are sold through a mailing list at www.lutumwines.com.

The two wines reviewed here definitely have their own distinct style. In tasting them side-by-side with the Hilliard Bruce wines, they offer lower alcohols, less ripeness, less extraction, and plenty of juicy acidity. They are in the Au Bon Climat mold.

2011 LUTUM Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.39% alc., 125 cases, $60. Clone 667 planted in Goulding cobbly clay loam. Brix at harvest 22.5º. 100% de-stemmed. · Light garnet in color in the glass. Aromatic from the start, with scents of cherry, raspberry, sandalwood and a pleasant note of spice. Light in weight but flavorful, featuring a cherry theme that makes an impression on the mid palate, carrying over to a refreshing finish fueled by bright acidity. The tannins are reserved and the sense is one of liveliness. There are complimentary notes of strawberry, earth, grass, grilled mushroom and oak in the background. Score: 88

2011 LUTUM La Rinconada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.01% alc., 125 cases, $50. Mt. Eden clone planted in Santa Lucia shaly clay loam. 25% whole cluster. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of earth-kissed cherry, forest floor, spice and a hint of vanilla. Delicately weighted but flavorful, featuring cherry and red berry fruits with good intensity and finishing length. Supple tannins, juicy acidity in the background, and an appealing freshness and transparency complete the picture. This wine leaves a smile on your face. Score: 90

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