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A newer producer of Pinot Noir in 2012 from Pence Ranch Vineyard located in the far eastern portion of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation (technically outside the appellation), across from Rio Vista Vineyard and adjacent Sebastiano Vineyard. About 38 acres are planted on the 200-acre property primarily to Pinot Noir with a small amount of Chardonnay. Both heirloom (Swan and Mt. Eden) and French clones.
The vineyard planting began in 2006, the first crop was in 2009 and the wine was vinified by the owner at Tantara. The inaugural commercial release was the 2010 vintage vinified by veteran winemaker Jeff Fink, formerly a winemaker at Tantara. Jeff crafted the wines from vintages 2010-2013 and was replaced in 2013 by winemaker John Faulkner with Sashi Moorman as a consultant.
The Pinot Noir is rooted in clay-based soils with southern and western exposures. Other grapes grown here include Chardonnay, Syrah and Gamay. Almost all of the wines are made with organically-grown estate fruit, totally about 6,000 cases in 2018. Interestingly, the Pinot Noir is fermented in open-top concrete fermenters, with a variable percentage of stem inclusion.
In August 2016 an eastward expansion of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA was approved and Pence Ranch is now officially in that AVA.
Modeled after a California rancho of the Spanish era, owner Blair Pence has established 10 varieties of olives and vegetable plots that supply Italian restaurants in the Los Angeles area, and grows grain on the ranch to geed 40 head of cattle and five cutting horses.
The wines are offered through a mailing list.
2016 Pence Ranch Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $30. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, wood spice, eucalyptus and earthy flora. Straightforward, middleweight flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, spice, toast and tobacco. Easygoing, with matched tannins and some finishing fruit goodness. Satisfactory, but lacks charisma. Score: 88. Reviewed April 14, 2018 ARTICLE »
2016 Pence PTG Estate Sta. Rita Hills Gamay Noir
13.5% alc., 498 cases, $36. An estate grown Passe-Tout-Grains that is a a 50/50 blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir. The estate Gamay vines were established from cuttings from the oldest Gamay vineyard in the US in Oregon. Grapes fermented in concrete tank carbonically and aged in neutral puncheon. · Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, strawberry and herbs arrive slowly in the glass with swirling. Cherry-driven on the palate with an herbal underpinning. Comfortably textured with silken tannins and a ending note of bright cherry. Score: 89. Reviewed April 14, 2018 ARTICLE »
2015 Pence Estate Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
13.0% alc., 423 cases, $40. A blend of six clones grown in sedimentary soils. Barrel fermented (25% new oak) and aged on the lees without stirring for 16 months. Full malolactic fermentation. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of toasty oak, flint, smoke and sea shell. Lush and creamy on the palate, with flavors of lemon, pineapple, toasty brioche, crème brûlée and a hint of salinity. The wine finishes on a lemon note with very good length, intensity and cut. A likable wine that delivers plenty of flavor and energy. Score: 90. Reviewed April 14, 2018 ARTICLE »
2015 Pence Rosa Estate Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 372 cases, $50, wax crown. Sourced from a small 2.8-acre block where the soils are a mix of calcareous, diatomaceous and limestone along with the typical heavier clay of the site. Barrel fermented in French 581-gallon oak Foudre for 16 months. Full malolactic fermentation and no lees stirring. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Reserved, but pleasing aromas of lemon creme, spice and warm brioche. Highly refined and polished with bright flavors of lemon wafer grapefruit and green apple. A classy wine with a finish cinched up with hi-strung lemony goodness. Score: 93. Reviewed April 14, 2018 ARTICLE »
2015 Pence Unum Estate Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.5% alc. 125 cases, $60, wax crown. Sourced from the oldest vines in the estate vineyard. Clone 667 planted in 2006. 25% whole cluster fermented, aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very nicely perfumed, offering aromas of cherry, raspberry, spice, and BBQ rub. A friendly wine which is both savory and fruity, offering a mid weight, oak-kissed cherry core dressed in silken tannins. A woody, herbal thread plies the background. The fruit seems a bit under ripe. Score: 89. Reviewed April 14, 2018 ARTICLE »
2014 Pence Ranch Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $27. Winemaker Sasha Moorman. Produced and bottled by Pence Ranch, Lompoc, CA. I could not find this wine on the website or wine-searcher. I bought it at Whole Foods. · Light ruby red color in the glass. The nose opens beautifully over time displaying scents of cherry, cardamom spice, rose petal, pipe smoke and a touch of toasty oak. Light to mid weight in style, and forward drinking, offering flavors of cherry, cranberry, raspberry, and exotic spices backed by easy going tannins. A deft touch of oak plies the background, and the wine finishes with a nice cherry kiss. A terrific value in a Pinot displaying some whole cluster sensibilities. Score: 90. Reviewed September 24, 2017 ARTICLE »
2010 Pence Ranch Estate Estate Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.5%, 620 cases, $30. From all five producing blocks. 15% whole cluster. Aged 22 months in 1-year and older French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Generous nose with aromas of black plum, blackberry jam, fruit leather and a touch of dark strawberry glaze. Middleweight core of dark red and black berries, plum and Hoison sauce with a touch of earth and spice. Noticeable oak in the background which recedes over time in the glass. Well-managed tannins with good acidity. About the same the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle. Good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »
2010 Pence Ranch Estate Uplands Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 295 cases, $40. From two producing East Blocks. Pommard and 115. 15% whole cluster. Aged 22 months in 1-year and older French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very giving nose offering aromas of red and black berries, exotic spices and a hint of peppery herbs. Very satisfying flavors of dark berries with hints of spice, vanilla and smoky oak. Nicely balanced and easy to cozy up to, leaving behind a pleasant impression. Still pumping out the aromas and flavors the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Plenty of Pinot singing here. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »
2010 Pence Ranch Estate Westslope Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 94 cases, $50. From three producing West Blocks. 667, Swan and 828. These blocks are exposed to significant wind and have heavier soils than the East Blocks. 15% whole cluster. Aged 22 months in 1-year and older French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very pretty aromatics with plenty of pure dark red cherry and just the right touch of oak. Soft and inviting on the palate with a discreetly concentrated core of dark red cherries and berries, finishing with a surge of cherry fruit with just a hint of oak. About the same the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »