Reviews from Jeb Dunnuck for The Wine Advocate
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Reviews from Antonio Galloni's VINOUS
Read his introduction "Santa Barbara: The Thrill of discovery"
2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega
Sta Rita Hills
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Located on the very cool western side of Santa Rita Hills, Fe Ciega Vineyard (Spanish for blind faith) consistently produces profound pinot noir. I don’t like to say I have favorites, but this vineyard is dear to my heart. With a fabulously complex aroma, dark color, and a huge impactful flavor, this wine is never shy. The difficulty making Fe Ciega has not been how to extract enough character from the grapes, but, instead how to fashion a wine of elegance.
It’s not entirely a bad thing to have grapes with too much character; it’s much easier to chisel away at the excess than to create more out of nothing. None-the-less it requires an attitudinal adjustment to realize that more is not always better, and I found that concept a stumbling block for decades. I always assumed that the winemaker should extract every last bit of character from the grapes, and to do less was a disservice to the vineyard. However, I can see now that extracting just the right amount enables a wine to be more harmonious and expressive.
So, faced with a vineyard that has an over-abundance of personality, I began to change the way we make Fe Ciega. We started with picking the grapes at lower sugar levels. Highly flavored wines taste so much better when they still have a spark of brightness, and by harvesting earlier more acidity is present in the grapes and that brings freshness.
We also made changes in the cellar. Fermentation creates heat and hotter ferments extract more from the grapes, so we have moved to reduce the maximum temperature we allow the fermentations to achieve. Additionally we have changed the number of “punch downs” (mixing the fermentation tanks) we do. In the old days I would insist on three mixings per day and that has been reduced to only one. These changes have dramatically altered the wine, it is now much more aromatic and flavors that were once heavy now dance on the palate.
So, the other night I opened the 2012 again and imagined it would be a lighter bodied wine of delicacy, but no, Fe Ciega is strong and voluminous—it ain’t no wimp wine! What’s different about our Fe Ciega wines is that they now capture a fresher, livelier expression of those bold flavors.
The 2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is one of the tighter, more focused Pinots in this range. Orange peel, spice, dried flowers and mint all add an exotic flair. Today the tannins are quite firm, which is unusual in this vintage. Ideally the 2012 is best cellared for another year or two. There is real density here, but it needs time to fully emerge.
93 2014 - 2022 Antonio Galloni – Vinous
The 2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega, which comes from the western, cooler part of the Sta. Rita Hills, is a drop-dead gorgeous effort that has both richness and tension. Showing classic forest floor, wild fennel, herbs and black raspberry and sweet cherry fruit, it hits the palate with medium-bodied weight, integrated acidity and a layered, elegant feel that’s hard to resist. This is very pretty, and it should shine for upward of a decade.
94 - Jeb Dunnuck- The Wine Advocate
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