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Elite California Pinot Noir Vineyards III Central Coast - Other Appellations

Bien Nacido Vineyard - Santa Maria Valley AVA

Owners: The Miller Family Wine Company (part of The Thornhill Companies)
Acres: 800 acres with 250 acres of Pinot Noir (the exact acreage is fluid as old vines are removed and re-planting and new planting is ongoing. Years planted: Initial planting of Pinot Noir was in 1973. Multiple additional Pinot Noir plantings including in 1996 and 2006.
Location: A few miles east of the town of Santa Maria in the Santa Maria Valley AVA. The vineyard is in a portion of the historic Rancho Tepusquet.
Aspect: Situated in a valley that is open to an east-to-west corridor leading to the Pacific Ocean 16 miles to the west. Since the vineyard lies at 34 degrees latitude, it receives intense sunlight from a directlyoverhead sun. Elevation is 600’-900’ with 15-40% slope. Pinot Noir scions: The original 1973 plantings were on their own roots and included Martini clone 13, and Swan and Calera selections. Subsequent plantings have included Pommard, Mt. Eden, and Dijon 114, 115, 667, 777, and faux 828.
Soils: Diverse as would be expected with such a vast vineyard including sandy loam, chalk, gravelly loam, marine uplifting volcanic, and limestone.
Vines: Both own-rooted, nearly 50-year-old vines, and more recently planted rooted vines.
Farming: Chris Hammell has been the longtime vineyard manager. Most of the vineyard blocks are allocated to small producers and farmed according to their standards. SIP certified.
Winery clients: A Bien Nacido Estate Pinot Noir has been produced since 2007 from the oldest own-rooted vines dating to 1973 and vines planted in 1996 and 2006. An Estate The Captain Pinot Noir is produced from Block 40 high-density vines planted in 2006. A very limited bottling, LXXIII Estate Pinot Noir, is from Blocks G, N, and Q, dating to 1973 (some of the oldest vines still producing in California). Many eager Pinot Noir clients have included Au Bon Climat, Byron, Calera Wine Co, Chanin, Dolin Estate, El Lugar Wines, Fess Parker, Foxen, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Longoria, MacRostie, Migration, Pali Wine Co, Qupé, Sanctuary, Sandler Wine Co, Scar of the Sea, Summerland, Tantara, The Ojai Vineyard, Timbre Winery, Twomey Cellars, and Tyler Winery.
Comments: The oldest Pinot Noir blocks include G, N, and Q that are planted to multiple clones/selections including Pommard, Martini 13, Swan, and Calera. The vineyard is planted to multiple varieties besides Pinot Noir including Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rousanne, Merlot, Barbera and Nebbiolo. Bien Nacido Vineyard and Solomon Hills Vineyard Estate wines are available for tasting at the destination tasting room located along Grand Avenue in downtown Los Olivos.

2014 Bien Nacido Estate Old Vines Santa Maria Valley Pinot NoirBien Nacido Estate Old Vines Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $100. sourced from the oldest own-rooted vines in Bien Nacido Vineyard. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose reveals itself over time in the glass to to offer a marriage of cherry and toasty oak aromas. Light to mid-weight in style, with flavors of cherry, strawberry, spice and toasty oak. Elegantly fruited, even close to shallow with an appealing juiciness. The wine has a rustic, savory bearing with a modicum of toasty oak in the background. Better over time in the glass, showing off a resolute but not especially long finish. Reviewed August 29, 2020. Score: 91

2016 Foxen Block 8 Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $60. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Very savory nose highlighting aromas of dried herbs, stem, saddle leather and tilled earth. Fruit shows up on the palate as sweet blackberry and pomegranate but still dominated by savory notes. Sleek in texture with mild tannins and a cut of citrus-infused fruit on the finish. More fruit comes to the forefront when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 92

2017 Gary Farrell Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., $70. Pommard clone from the legendary Q Block, considered the most prestigious Pinot Noir block in this vineyard. · Light garnet color in the glass. The scent of dark red cherry and berry, oak spice and floral perfume leads to a mid-weight infusion of oak-kissed Bing cherry and dark strawberry fruit flavors. Fresh and satisfying without noticeable tannins, silky in texture, and offering an arrow of acidity that drives a lip-smacking, extended finish. Reviewed August 29, 2020. Score: 93

2018 Gary Farrell Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., 565 cases, $70. Released May 2021. 100% Pommard selection from the legendary Q Block, considered the most prestigious Pinot Noir block in this vineyard. Some whole clusters added later during fermentation. 4-7 day cold soak, 7-10 day extended maceration after fermentation. Aged 15 months on the primary lees in French oak barrels, 40% new. · A lighter, elegantly styled wine that still packs a punch. Lovely aromas of red grape, cherry, strawberry and raspberry that offer noticeable mid-palate intensity. A subtle savory underbelly of spice and herbs lend interest. Very refreshing and easy to approach, with an incredibly long finish. Score: 93

2018 Bien Nacido Estate Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $50. The goal of this wine is to reflect the diversity of soils and unique voice of this vineyard. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose has fruit (strawberry, red currant), spice, and earthy elements. Flavors of black cherry, ripe strawberry and red licorice with the slightest vegetative underbelly. Middleweight in fashion, with a silky mouthfeel, balanced tannins, wellmannered acidity and a modest but pleasing finish. Score: 92

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Calera Jensen Vineyard, Mt. Harlan AVA

Owners: Calera was originally founded in 1975 by Josh Jensen who is often referred to as ‘Mr. Pinot.’ Duckhorn Wine Company purchased Calera Wine Company in 2017, including the winery, the brand, the tasting room, and the winery’s prime vineyards. Duckhorn was acquired by San Francisco-based TSG Consumer Partners in 2016.
Acres: 13.6
Years planted: 1975 (first tiny harvest in 1978 and the first commercial noteworthy wine in 1980)
Location: A remote property in the Gavilan Mountain Range in San Benito County that was a former limestone quarry.
Aspect: Four hillside blocks, each with a different exposure at 2,200 feet elevation. The site is cooler than many other vineyard locations due to the direct flow of cold marine air off the Pacific Ocean through the Monterey Bay coastline.
Pinot Noir scions: One-third Calera selection rumored to be suitcase budwood possibly from Chalone and two-thirds are an unknown nursery bench graft source originating in California.
Soil: Limestone
Vines: 726 vines per acre, often yielding less than 1 ton per acre. Modified VSP trellis. St. George rootstock.
Farming: Certified organic since 2008. A dedicated vineyard crew makes multiple passes through the vineyard almost daily to ensure appropriate vineyard management.
Winery clients: None, a monopole
Comments: Jensen Vineyard is named after founder Josh Jensen’s father, Stephen Jensen. Calera is the only winery in the Mt. Harlan AVA. The vineyards are located in the Mt. Harlan AVA, but the winery is technically outside the AVA, so “estate bottled’ cannot be used on the labels. One could easily make an argument to include Calera’s Selleck, Reed, and Mills vineyards in any listing of elite California Pinot Noir vineyards, but Jensen Vineyard has always been my clear favorite among the four vineyards.

2016 Calera Jensen Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 1,000 cases, $95. Calera selection. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Engaging aromas of plum, blackest cherry, and sous bois. Gracious in the mouth, with a mid weight core of black cherry and black raspberry fruits with deft oak dressing. Firm, but not intrusive tannins and noticeable cut on the the finish that goes on and on. There are several features of this wine that make it special including the seductive texture, the energy imparted by good natural acidity, the purity of fruit flavor, the subtle savory thread, and the extremely long, grand cru finish. Much more appealing when sampled the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle. An exceptional wine. Reviewed June 2019. Score: 95

2018 Calera Jensen Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., $100. Calera selection. Whole cluster fermented, native yeast. Aged in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose rises up over time revealing wonderful aromas of dark berries, plum, dried beef, clay and wine cellar. Inviting flavors of purple grape and pomegranate framed by supportive fine-grain tannins and a good cut of acidity. The finish is drenched in ripe dark fruits and is amazingly long. The fruit is definitely ripe but not overly mature. Even better when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle when some spice shows up and the long finish continues to amaze. Very age worthy. Score: 95

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Hoffman Mountain Ranch (HMR) Vineyard, Adelaida Hills AVA

Owners: The original Hoffman Mountain Ranch property was owned by Dr. and Mrs. Hoffman beginning in 1961. Financial difficulties caused them to lose the property in 1982 to IntraLeisure, Inc. In 1989, the ranch was sold to Japanese investors who renamed it San Luis Winery, Inc. The Van Steenwyk family, owners of nearby Adelaida Vineyards & Winery, assumed ownership in 1994.
Acres: 34.94 acres total with 30+ acres of Pinot Noir and 4 acres of Chardonnay. 23 of the 34+ acres are original Pinot Noir vines with the remaining 11 acres established in 1999 and 2011 using cuttings taken from the original vines.
Years planted:
1964: original Pinot Noir plantings
1999 and 2011: additional Pinot Noir plantings using budwood from the original vines.
Location: Adelaida District AVA in the western hills of Paso Robles
Aspect: 14 miles inland from the Pacific coastline at 1,600’-1,725’ elevation. Cooler than most vineyards in the Paso Robles area. The original Pinot Noir vines are south-facing on the lower portion of a steep slope. Pinot Noir scions: Mt. Eden or Martini
Soils: Chalky, limestone-rich subsoils
Vines: The original Pinot Noir plantings are own-rooted. The rootstock is uncertain but winemaker Jeremy Weintraub believes the leaves and cluster morphology suggest Martini clone on St. George rootstock.
Farming: Current winemaker Jeremy Weintraub has farmed the vineyard organically since 2013. Yields are less than one ton per acre.
Winery clients: None, a monopole
Comments: The HMR Vineyard is the oldest producing Pinot Noir vineyard in the Central Coast. More than 98% of the original vines are still producing as are the replants established from cuttings of the original vines in 1999 and 2011. An HMR Estate Pinot Noir from the original old vine plantings has been produced since 1996 but the wines have only reached their full potential under the stewardship of winemaker and vineyard manager Jeremy Weintraub.

2018 Adelaida HMR Estate Vineyard Adelaida District Paso Robles Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $60. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A nose you could drink, with hi-tone scents of fresh black cherry, cardamom spice and sous bois. The layers of discreetly concentrated and delicious black cherry and blackberry fruits are expansive on the mid palate and finish. A riff of spice adds interest. A bit of tannin tenacity adds to the buffed and welcoming texture. This wine really infuses the palate with charm. A pinotgasm. Reviewed August 29, 2020. Score: 97

2018 Adelaida HMR Estate Vineyard Adelaida District Paso Robles Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $60. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Fetching aromas of black cherry and earthy flora lead off. The mid-weight flavors of black cherry and boysenberry are striking and exhibit exceptional length in the mouth and on the finish. Hints of pastry crust, vanilla and baking spice add interest. A sophisticated wine that is driven by wellintegrated, crunchy acidity. The finish seemingly lasts forever and leaves behind a memorable echo of dark fruited aromatic goodness. When tasted from an open bottle several hours later, my notes say simply, “Wonderful!" Reviewed August 29, 2020. Score: 96

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Rosemary’s Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley AVA

Owners: Brian Talley
Acres: 14 acres of Pinot Noir and 14 acres of Chardonnay
Years planted: 1987-2001. The original 2.5-acre planting of Pinot Noir is own-rooted Wädenswil clone and still in production. Much of the original Chardonnay planting has now been replanted with Pinot Noir.
Location: Arroyo Grande in the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA
Aspect: One of the coolest sites in the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA, overlooking the Pacific Ocean that lies 6.5 miles to the southwest. The vineyard surrounds the home of Talley Vineyards’ co-founder Rosemary Talley. The site was a former avocado grove that performed poorly due to frequent frosts that caused the crop to fall off the trees.
Pinot Noir scions: Wädenswil 2A (original vines) and Dijon clones
Soil: Lopez very shaly loam (chalky shale)
Vines: Original plantings are 6’ x 12’ spacing while later plantings have 4’ x 8’. The vineyard is truly unique as a site that produces both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of such high quality.
Farming: Sustainable farming practices by a full-time team. Yields are about 2 tons per acre.
Winery clients: Au Bon Climat and Testarossa. Talley Vineyards has produced a vineyard-designated Pinot Noir from Rosemary’s Vineyard since 1993.
Comments: Numerous vintages of the iconic Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir have been served at the White House.The vineyard is named after Brian Talley’s mother, Rosemary. The first Pinot Noir to bear the ‘Rosemary’s Vineyard’ moniker on the label was a 1991 legendary single vineyard bottling crafted by the late Jim Clendenen.

2018 Talley Vineyards Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 575 cases, $80. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Plenty of sweet Pinot perfume including aromas of cherry, baking spices, and red rose petal. Moderately rich flavors of black cherry and blackberry framed by silky tannins and a compliment of oak. Lustrous and giving, with a grand finish. Still terrific when tasted two days later from a previously opened bottle. Score: 95

2019 Testarossa Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 1,000 cases, $74. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Plenty to like in the nose that offers scents of black cherry, terra-cotta, underbrush and a hint of toasty oak. Toothsome flavors of dark cherry, black raspberry, and blackberry with a hint of savory herbs and welcome oak. Clearly special, with an appealing sappy richness framed by balanced tannins, and a sleek texture. This wine hits all the bass notes with its tangy dark fruits. Surprisingly giving at this young age. Score: 95

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Solomon Hills Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley AVA

Owners: The companion vineyard to Bien Nacido Vineyard was planted by the Miller Family in 1999.
Acres: 100 acres of Pinot Noir plus some chardonnay and Syrah
Years planted: Late 1990s
Location: Just 8 miles west of Bien Nacido Vineyard but with a decidedly different terroir.
Aspect: The westernmost vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, adjacent to Highway 101 and just 10 miles from the Pacific coastline. The south-facing site is blessed with the proximity to the ocean and the resulting Santa Maria marine effect. As a result, it is one of the coldest vineyards in the region and is very marginal for growing grapes. Spread on gently rolling hills with 10-15% slope.
Pinot Noir scions: Dijon 115, 667 and 777, and Wädenswil 2A
Soils: Primarily ocean-derived sandy loam (Garey Series) with rapid water drainage and moderate stress to the vines.
Farming: Managed by the same team that farms Bien Nacido Vineyard (headed by Chris Hammell). SIP certified organic farming practices.
Winery clients: A Solomon Hills Estate Pinot Noir is produced as a companion to the Bien Nacido Estate Pinot Noir. A little more than 1500 cases are produced annually off of selected rows of vines in the two vineyards. Clients, many of which have included Byron, Calera Wine Co, Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, Flying Goat Cellars, Foxen, J. Wilkes Wines, Kenneth Volk, Landmark Vineyards, Lane Tanner, Paul Lato, Presqu’ile Winery, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Row Eleven Wine Co, Tantara, The Ojai Vineyard, Tolosa Wines, and Vino V Wines.
Comments: In the late 1850s, the bandit Salomon Pico traversed El Camino Real and was the inspiration for the character Zorro. This vineyard was christened Solomon Hills. Paul Lato has said, “This vineyard has the potential to become the ‘Grand Cru’ of Santa Barbara County.” The 900-plus-acres adjacent the vineyard owned by The Miller Family Wine Company are leased to various private enterprises including Driscoll, which is known for blueberries.

2016 Paul Lato “Suerte” Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $80. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is both fruity and savory, combining aromas of black raspberry and spiced black plum with aromas of dried herbs and tobacco. The savory theme continues on the palate that features mid weight purple and black berry fruits that are permeated with earthy and herbal flavors The wine has a very soothing texture and a fine, but not noteworthy finish. Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Reviewed June 9, 2018. Score: 92

2018 Solomon Hills Estate Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc.,634 cases, $60. Pommard and Dijon 115 and 667 clones. 30% whole cluster. Native primary and malolactic fermentations. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Giving aromas of dark cherry and raspberry, earthy flora, dark spices and dried herbs. The flavors echo the aromas with added flavors of white pepper and Italian herbs. There is good lift from bright acidity and appealing length on the palate and on the finish. Score: 93

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