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Bien Nacido (Spanish for “Born Well”) Vineyard of Rancho Tepusquet is one of the Central Coast’s premier sources for Chardonnay (over 300 acres) and Pinot Noir (over 250 acres). A number of other promising varieties are planted as well including Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rousanne, Merlot, Barbera and Nebbiolo. The total acreage is fluid as old vines dating to the 1970s are removed and replanted. Maximum vineyard size is 800 acres.
The vineyard is a few miles east of the town of Santa Maria and lies in a valley that is open to the Pacific Ocean to the west. There are regular summertime afternoon cool breezes from the ocean. Since the vineyard lies at 34 degrees latitude, it receives considerable intense sunlight from a directly overhead sun. Most of the vineyard is allocated to small producers whose blocks are farmed according to their standards. The grape production is sold to customers by charging a flat rate for the block or rows, so the winemakers can crop their vines to the volume they prefer. Some Bien Nacido customers have sourced the same rows of grapes for over 20 years and designate their particular block on the bottle. The entire Bien Nacido Vineyard client list is on the website.
A Pinot Noir under the Bien Nacido Vineyards label was first released in the 2007 vintage. Trey Fletcher, most recently at LIttorai, became the winemaker for the Bien Nacido Vineyards and Solomon Hills Vineyard labels in 2011.
2017 Bien Nacido Estate Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
12.6% alc., 251 cases, $40. The famed Bien Nacido Vineyard has been bottling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under their Estate label since 2011. Grapes for this wine come from own-rooted, 45-year-old vines planted in shale with limestone outcroppings. This W Block of Chardonnay is the oldest block at Bien Nacido Vineyard, planted in 1973 to the original Wente clone. Whole cluster pressed, native fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie 16 months in French oak barrels (25% new) and stainless steel. Bottled unfiltered.
A tasting room for Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estate wines is located in downtown Los Olivos. Note: I did taste the 2016 Bien Nacido Estate Santa Maria Pinot Noir ($50) but cannot give it a recommendation since I found the oak barrel work to be overbearing. A tasting room for Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estate wines is located in downtown Los Olivos. Visit www.biennacidoestate.com.
· Aromas of lemon, pineapple and straw with noticeable toast and nuttiness. Excellent restraint and edginess on the palate with flavors of grapefruit, lemon rind and lime shot through with an arrow of spirited acidity. This wine avoids the ripe fruit tropical flavors common in many California Chardonnays. An excellent value considering the pedigree of the grapes. Score: 92. Reviewed May 25, 2020 ARTICLE »
2014 Bien Nacido Estate Old Vines Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $100. Sourced from the oldest own rooted vines at Bien Nacido. · 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. Score: 91. Reviewed August 29, 2020 ARTICLE »
2009 Bien Nacido Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $N/A. The Miller Family’s own approach to a Bien Nacido wine. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Lovely array of dark fruit aromas with a subtle green vegetal note. Discreetly concentrated flavors of dark red plums, black raspberries and currants with a hint of spice, green bell pepper and mushroom in the background. Medium weighted with balanced tannins, and light on its feet. A nicely balanced and savory wine. Very good. Reviewed June 24, 2012 ARTICLE »
2007 Bien Nacido Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $52. The inaugural bottling under the Bien Nacido Vineyards label. · Deep reddishpurple color in the glass. Ripe black cherry and black raspberry aromas with plenty of smoky, toasted oak. Abundance of very ripe-flavored dark berry, black currant and black plum fruit dragged down by too much smoky oak. Softly textured and easy to approach, with the structure to age. Disappointing at this price especially considering the venerated vineyard source. Decent. Reviewed March 2, 2011 ARTICLE »