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A family owned winery farming Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on a steep Carmel Valley ridge rising over 1250 feet overlooking Carmel Bay seven miles away. The winery traces its name to Hawley Bowlus, a pioneering sailplane engineer who created the famous Baby Albatross sailplane kit that he flight tested from a ridge in Carmel Valley. Hawley's grandson, Brad, and his great-grandson, Garrett, returned to the same mountaintop in Carmel Valley where Hawley had originally launched the Albatross.
Garrett studied enology and viticulture at the University of Dijon and UC Davis and moved to Oregon where he worked for several wineries. In 2007, Brad told Garrett he had found the perfect site to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and it turned out to be the same ridge where Hawley tested his Albatross sailplane. The site is replete with limestone and shale and sits but 7 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, with a very cool cumulative growing season of between 1750 and 1950 degree days.
Albatross Ridge's 25 acres of vines at Bowlus Estate Vineyard are farmed by Garrett. The vineyard is divided into eight blocks of Pinot Noir, including clones 115, 777, "828," and Pommard, and four blocks of Chardonnay planted to clones 96 and 15.
A tasting room is located in Carmel-by-the-Sea on Mission St. inside the Court of Fountains. Open Thursday through Sunday from 12:00 to 6:00 and other times by appointment.
2014 Albatross Ridge Estate Carmel Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., pH 3.29, 280 cases, $55. Clones 96 and 15. Yield 1.25 tons per acre. 100% whole cluster pressed and native barrel fermented on the lees with no lees stirring or racking. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Exuberant aromas of citrus, warm brioche, spice, nutty oak and sea breeze. Beautifully crafted with spot on balance, offering flavors of citrus, Bartlett pear, apple, subtle oak and a hint of salinity. The sustained finish is particularly notable. Score: 93. Reviewed December 13, 2016 ARTICLE »
2014 Albatross Ridge Estate Reserve Carmel Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.64, 300 cases, $55. Harvest Brix 22.0º-23.0º. Yield 1.25 tons per acre.15% whole cluster. 4-day cold soak, long, cool fermentation in small open-top tanks. Multiple individual native fermentations involving four clones of Pinot Noir spread over eight unique blocks. The majority clone is “828,” with additions of 777 and Pommard clone. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. A selection of the finest barrels of the vintage. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose opens quickly to reveal aromas of purple berries and sous-bois. Exquisitely balanced and unctuous on the palate, with nicely ripened flavors of black cherry and boysenberry. Very polished, with seamless tannins, and a thread of dried herbs that adds a savory note. Score: 92. Reviewed December 13, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Albatross Ridge Cuvée Vivienne Estate Grown Carmel Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., pH 3.62, 1,080 cases, $40. This wine is named after winemaker Garrett Bowlus’ young daughter Vivienne. It is a blend of all eight vineyard Pinot Noir blocks. Harvest Brix 21.5º-22.5º. Clone 777, 115, “828,” and Pommard. Yields 1.7 tons per acre. 85% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, 30% new, bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging aromas of black cherry, cardamom spice, unlit cigar and humus. The mid weight, earth-kissed black cherry and black raspberry fruit core is backed buy juicy acidity. A riff of tobacco oak plies the background. The wine finishes modestly with redder cherry fruit. Score: 89. Reviewed January 17, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Albatross Ridge Estate Carmel Valley Chardonnay
12.5% alc., pH 3.24, 410 cases, $55. Sourced from four distinct blocks on the estate vineyard. Cones 96 and 15. Harvest Brix 20.5º-21.5º. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented with native yeasts on the lees with no stirring or racking, 100% native malolactic fermentation, aged 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Welcoming aromas of canned peach, lemon zest, vanilla creme and subtle toast. A discretely concentrated offering featuring bright flavors of lemon, pineapple and peach with complimentary nutty oak and a subtle salinity. Engaging acidity provides vivaciousness. Score: 91. Reviewed January 17, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Albatross Ridge Estate Reserve Carmel Valley Monterey County Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., pH 3.60, 375 cases, $55. Vinted and bottled by Bowlus Vineyards, LLC, Healdsburg and vinified by Garrett Bowlus. The 25-acre estate vineyard is located on a steep and rocky ridge at 1250 feet overlooking the Pacific Ocean that lies seven miles away. A very cool site with less than 2,000 degree days each season. This wine is a selection of the finest barrels of the vintage. Yields 1.7 tons per acre. Harvest Brix 21.5º-23.5º. Clones 777, Pommard, and “828.” 15% whole cluster. 4-day cold soak, long and cool fermentation in small open top tanks with native yeast. Aged 11 months in 33% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Enticing marriage of dark red cherries, baking spices and sandalwood on the nose. Light to mid weight flavors of red cherry, strawberry and cranberry presented in a delicate, charming style with a slightly tart and saline-infused acid frame. Nicely balanced with sandy tannins and a finish replete with cherry and blood orange flavors. Score: 90. Reviewed June 18, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Albatross Ridge Estate Reserve Carmel Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.68, 300 cases, $55. A selection of the twelve finest barrels of the vintage. Harvest Brix 21.5º-23.5º. Clones 777, 115, “828,” and Pommard. 90% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, 33% new, bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. A tug of oak currently spearheads this mid weight plus wine offering aromas and flavors of blackberry, black grape, cassis, spice and black tea. The fine grain tannins and acidity are well balanced and the silky texture is très Pinot. The wine is currently a bit tight and the oak overlay is a bit much, but these features should mollify with a few years in the cellar. Score: 90-91. Reviewed January 17, 2016 ARTICLE »