Santa Maria Valley
Planted on a high hillside above the rest of Bien Nacido Vineyard, this block has always performed admirably. But there is always room for improvement, and, since Chris Hammell took over the farming at the vineyard in late 2000, there have been radical improvements in how this plot has been cared for. It took an amazing amount of attention to the details to get this vineyard looking the way it does today, and I think you can taste it in this wine. Bien Nacido is a very cool climate place–at the environmental extreme for this varietal-and it is always touch and go whether it will ripen fully. But by farming intelligently Chris has gotten the fruit to ripen earlier and more evenly than ever before.
The Bien Nacido is one of the wines I most enjoy making. Never straight forwardly fruity, this wine has some of the spicy complexity that I find so compelling in the famous northern Rhone appellation of Cote Rotie. I know I am completely out of sync with much of the wine world on this one, as it seems as though ready-to-drink, hot-climate Australian shiraz fruit bombs are all the rage. But with proper patience, I think you will find this wine very rewarding. In general, these syrahs have taken some time to show their best. The 2000, now a year after release is just beginning to show its stuff. The 1995, 1997 and 1998 are drinking well, while the 1996 and 1999 still need quite a bit more time. This 2001 is about the best we have made from here, and, while it is drinkable now, time is what it needs most.