James Wilkes worked for years at Bien Nacido Vineyards and was a close friend of the Miller family who founded the vineyards. The phone is 805-899-2845. He started his own label in crafting small lots of Pinot Noir from the Bien Nacido Vineyard. He crafts an excellent Pinot Blanc as well.
1984 was a seminal year for Wilkes and Bien Nacido Vineyards. He had just accepted a position with Bien Nacido Vineyards to help market the grapes produced there during one of the largest grape gluts in California history. He was reviewing the wines produced from the vineyard and tasted the only red wine produced from Bien Nacido-grown Pinot Noir. Most of the Bien Nacido Pinot Noir was made into sparkling wine at that time. However, the 1982 Austin Cellars Bien Nacido Pinot Noir had just been released and not only did he feel that Pinot Noir was the future for Bien Nacido but he knew that was his future.
During his 18 years at Bien Nacido Vineyards, his goal was to make Bien Nacido recognized as one of the premier Pinot Noir vineyards in the country. Along with the marketing and sales of the grapes, he focused on improving farming techniques and upgrading the trellises. He spent a lot of time on the road visiting other vineyards throughout the state. He looked at what other vineyards were doing, tasted the resulting wines and then brought this research back so that we could take advantage of the best techniques around. During this time, he tasted the best Pinot's from Bien Nacido, as well as from all over California and France. Because he was spending untold hours visiting wineries and talking with winemakers, he developed a real sense of how he personally wanted to produce wine.
In 2001, he decided to venture out with the goal of making world class wines. Initially, he limited his production to Pinot Noir from Bien Nacido but he always had the goal of working with the finest vineyards along California's coast. In 2003, he expanded our horizons a bit and added Pinot Noir from Solomon Hills Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley and Vall-Foss Vineyards in Napa Valley. He also wanted to produce a white wine so he added a Pinot Blanc from Bien Nacido in 2004.
The Pinot Noirs are perfectly fine Central Coast wines showing admirable restraint and elegance. The Pinot Blanc is also quite good, although Pinot Blanc, a mutation of Pinot Noir, is often overlooked by white wine drinkers.
When Jeff passed away, the J. Wilkes brand legacy has continued under the direction of winemaker Vidal Perez, focusing, as Jeff did, on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Vidal is a graduate of California State University at Fresno in Viticulture and Enology and is an assistant winemaker at Central Coast Wine Services where Jeff made his wines.
The wines are sold through a mailing list, the website, and through tasting rooms in Santa Barbara County.
Articles About J. Wilkes
2012 J. Wilkes Santa Maria Valley Pinot Blanc
13.8% alc., 540 cases, $14.99. Stainless steel fermented. · Pale yellow-green color and clear in the glass. Opens with the aroma of freshly sliced green apple but evolves into a grassy-themed nose similar to a Sauvignon Blanc. Delicate flavors of green apple, pear, apricot and citrus with a slight grassy tone. Easy to drink with a slightly creamy mouthfeel. Seems more typical of a Sauvignon Blanc than a Pinot Blanc. Score: 85. Reviewed September 5, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 J. Wilkes Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
13.8% alc., 350 cases, $19.99. Fermented and aged in French oak barrels with partial malolactic fermentation. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon, paraffin, roasted nuts and oak spice. Nondescript on the palate and quite simple, with very delicate flavors of lemon and grapefruit, picking up a little intensity over time in the glass. Smoothly textured with a slight oak imprint. Score: 85. Reviewed September 5, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 J. Wilkes Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 550 cases, $26. Fermented with native yeast and barrel aged in French oak for 14 months. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A smoky, earthy Pinot Noir featuring medium bodied black cherry fruit and hints of anise, tar and oak. Juicy, with mild tannins and an enjoyable finish offering good cherry fruit intensity and refreshing acidity. Score: 87. Reviewed September 5, 2013 ARTICLE »
2005 J.Wilkes Bien Nacido Vineyard Block Q Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Jeff shoots for an understated style of Pinot Noir that shows exemplary finesse and balance. Plenty of nice red fruits, spice and herbs here in a graceful wine of great charm. Reviewed March 23, 2008 ARTICLE »
2005 J. Wilkes Bien Nacido Vineyards Pinot Blanc
14.1% alc., 600 cases, $18. The grapes were machine harvested at night and pressed without de-stemming. Cold fermentation ensued and the wine was aged sur lies. · An excellent wine which is notable for its tropical flavors. Clean and crisp, this would make a perfect aperitif.. Reviewed August 24, 2007 ARTICLE »
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2005 J. Wilkes Bien Nacido Vineyard Q Block Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 172 cases, $60. I have thoroughly enjoyed Jeff’s Pinot Noirs since the first releases, but I must admit that this may be his best to date. Jeff focuses refined aromatics, soft textures, and overall elegance and this wine hits the mark on all three. · The nose is complex with fruit, violets, smoke and spice leading to dusty red cherry spiced fruit and touched off by refined acidity on the lengthy finish. This is the stuff Pinot dreams are made of. Magnums are available for the first time as well. The 2004 vintage of the same wine needed more bottle age and will be released along with the 2005 within the next several months. Reviewed March 5, 2007 ARTICLE »
2004 J. Wilkes Bien Nacido Vineyard Hillside Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 300 cases, $38. · An elegant and velvety Pinot that is straightforward. The aromas and flavors feature tart cherries, cranberries, oak and spice. A decent, but shy drink that may need some cellaring to coax out the fruit. Reviewed May 1, 2006
2004 J. Wilkes Bien Nacido Vineyards Hillside Santa Barbara Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 290 cases, $38. · Scents of violets, cherries, woodshed and barnyard. Medium-weighted flavors of cherry and strawberry with spice and pepper and a little woodsy bent. Easy and approachable with svelte tannins. Reviewed March 3, 2008 ARTICLE »
2004 J. Wilkes Solomon Hills Vineyard Block 3 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 350 cases, $38. · This Pinot sports a pretty dark garnet robe. The deep, darkly fruited nose leads to luscious flavors of blackberries, mushrooms and mocha. The mouth feel is rich yet silky. This is a winner that really shines with air time. Really great with cheese that blunts the racy acidity. Reviewed May 1, 2006
2003 J. Wilkes Voll-Foss Vineyards Napa Valley Pinot Noir
175 cases, $27. · A delicious Pinot Noir with verve. Dark, deep and dense with sweet purple fruits and some tantalizing earthy notes. Not overblown, but possessing a rich and full mouth feel. Reviewed May 1, 2006
2003 J. Wilkes Bien Nacido Vineyard Q Block Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 215 cases, $48.50. · This wine has a focused nose of fresh baked cherry tart. The elegant cherry flavors are highlighted by oak and a touch of white pepper. Well-delineated but with bracing acidity that may overwhelm some tasters. A dining table performer. Reviewed May 1, 2006
2002 J. Wilkes Bien Nacido Vineyard Q Block Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
215 cases, $48.50. · A lovely cherry and floral nose that lingers, leading to a fresh cherry-toned and spicy finish. A very feminine, lip-smacking Pinot. Reviewed May 1, 2006
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