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Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery

Like Alfaro, Windy Oaks is located in the tiny hamlet of Corralitos in the southwestern corner of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. The proximity of Corralitos to the Pacific Ocean makes it ideal for winegrowing. The summers are dry and warm with foggy mornings and the winters are cool and moist with annual rainfall between 12 and 30 inches. Large temperature swings are not unusual, with 90º days followed by 50º nights. The growing season here is among the longest of any viticultural region in California, with bud break in February and harvest in some vintages extending all the way into the first days of November.

Jim and Judy Schultze left the corporate world behind and used their many years of interest and experience in artisan winemaking to create Windy Oaks Estate beginning in 1996. 18 acres are planted to Pinot Noir (including 1 acre of a special Burgundian clone) and 1 acre to Chardonnay at 900 feet on a ridge overlooking the town of Corralitos and the Monterey Bay beyond.

Viticulture and winemaking here is very much Burgundian-themed. The Schultze Family Vineyard is farmed according to sustainable and organic principles with hand-tending of all the vines which are directly monitored for water status. The site is extraordinary for growing the Burgundian varieties, yielding physiologically ripe grapes without high sugars but with high natural acidity. The planted Pinot Noir clones are Dijon 115, 667, 777 and 828, Pommard, and 2A.

Winemaking is non-interventional and natural with no additives except yeast (most fermentations are 50% indigenous and 50% inoculated). No racking is done once the wines are in barrel. The Schultzes travel yearly to Burgundy to meet with coopers. They use 3-year-old air-dried tight-grained French oak barrels and age their Pinot Noirs for 18 to 27 months using a relatively high percentage of new oak (50% up to 75%). The wines are neither fined nor filtered. The estate winery is quite modern with a basket press and a bottling line that employs minimal oxygen uptake insuring that the wines go through little or no bottling shock. Jim is experimenting with oak tank fermentation, 100% indigenous yeast fermentation, and 100% whole cluster fermentation. Special limited bottlings of Pinot Noir have been released employing these innovative techniques. The attention to detail throughout the winemaking process and meticulous care of the vineyard have produced extraordinary wines at Windy Oaks.

2018 Windy Oaks Estate Special Burgundy Clone Special Release Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 24 cases, $120. The pinnacle of Windy Oaks wines that comes from the oldest parcel of the singular proprietary Burgundy clone block hand tended by Jim at the home estate vineyard. Jim brought the original cuttings to the United States from a grand cru vineyard in Vosne-Romanée. This wine is made in a single barrel lot with native yeast and partial whole cluster fermented grapes, receiving a long, cool maceration, and native malolactic fermentation, with aging on the lees for 27 months in a special custom French barrique made exclusively for Windy Oaks by artisan coopers in Burgundy. This wine is only released in vintages that are deemed to exemplify its special characteristics. · Light garnet color in the glass. Alluring, even spectacular aromas of Bing cherry, cola and spice.. The essence of black cherry is complimented by a savory tone. Substantial flavor that defies the wine's light color. Impeccably balanced with polished tannins and a lush, distinguished finish that goes on and on. Score: 95

2007 Windy Oaks Estate Cuvée Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 360 cases, $38. A blend of clones from the estate vineyard. Aged 16 months in 55% new French oak. · The nose is full of interest with scents of juicy cherries, spice, graham, herbs, oak and a hint of good funkiness. A whiff of alcohol peaks out. Earth-kissed dark red cherry and berry fruit flavors are on the light side but pleasing. Very polished and smooth with supple tannins creating some charming elegance. Decent (+).

2007 Windy Oaks Estate One Acre Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

138 cases, $38. Sampled with lunch at the winery. This proved to be the top Chardonnay tasted during my week in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Barrel aged 18 months in 33% new French oak. · Bright, crisp and fresh with enough white stone and tropical fruit flavor to thoroughly satisfy. Barrel fermentation has contributed complimentary notes of butter, spice and vanillin. A little minerality creeps in on the finish. I have called this wine “a Kistlerkiller” in the past and I am sticking to my claim. Very good.

2007 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release 100% Whole Cluster Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $55. Selection of 4 to 6 whole cluster barrels. Aged 21 months in 50% new French oak. · The fruit is darker-toned in this wine and more intense. Scents of plums and berries, oak toast, spice, and a little fecundity lead to a full palate of loamy black cherry and black raspberry fruit with underpinnings of dark chocolate and grilled meat. Perhaps “down and dirty” is a good descriptive. The tannins are fine-grained and dry, the oak is nicely partnered with the fruit, and the wine has the polished sensuality that drives Pinot lovers crazy. Very good.

2006 Windy Oaks Estate Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 345 cases, $60. Primarily sourced from the original 3-acre block of the vineyard. Aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. · The nose is quite refined with attractive cherry and berry aromas with a touch of oak, green herbs and barnyard. On the palate the wine is strikingly soft and smooth, refined and seamless, with discreetly concentrated fruit encased in caressing tannins. Flavors of currants, baking spice and savory herbs add interest. Very good.

2005 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Burgundian Clones Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 40 cases, $95. This special half-acre block is tended exclusively by Jim. The clone, a rarely propagated French Pinot Noir clone, is not available in the United States. Aged 27 months in 100% new French oak. I have drank both the 2004 and 2005 versions of this wine and found both to be stunning. I do not have specific tasting notes since I enjoyed the wines with special friends at dinners. I do have fond memories of both wines, however, and can only say they rival the best Burgundies I have ever drank. As good as the other Windy Oaks Pinot Noirs are, this bottling is a step above, a tour de force.

Windy Oaks Estate wines are sold primarily through the winery’s Wine Group. The Limited Releases such as the Proprietor’s Reserve, Special Burgundian Clone and One-Acre Chardonnay are only available to Wine Group members. Since production is small (2,000 cases of Pinot Noir), the Wine Group has been closed since 2007 (a waiting list is now in place), but an Early Release List allows you to buy most new releases before their offering to the general public. Some wines are sold on the website subject to availability. Visit the website at for more information. Special events and open houses are held periodically at the winery for dedicated customers and occasionally the public. 831-786-WINE.

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