Sta. Rita Hills
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.
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir | Vineyard: Fe Ciega | AVA: Sta. Rita Hills | Alcohol: 13.5% | Vinification: 15% New French Oak | Barrel Aging: 16 Months | Total Production: 194 Cases
Jon Bonne-San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 wines of 2014
2012 The Ojai Vineyard Fe Ciega Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($60, 13.5%): Adam Tolmach’s interpretation from Santa Barbara talent Rick Longoria’s exceptional site is a sign of what you might call the Santa Barbara continuum: two veteran talents making an utterly contemporary wine. Juicy and deep in its flavors a Santa Rita riff with muscle, and a plushness of cherry and plum fruit to balance its intense mineral side.
Antonio Galloni’s Vinous
“Bright violet color. Explosive aromas of boysenberry and cherry preserves, with notes of cola, incense and candied rose adding complexity. Silky, deeply pitched dark fruit flavors show outstanding vivacity and power, with a bright, minerally quality building on the back half. This rich, elegant pinot finishes with lingering spiciness, gentle tannins and a whiplash of sweet berry fruit.” – AG 93 Points
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
“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.” – JD 94 Points