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
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir | Alc: 13.0% | Vinification: traditional open top fermentation with 15% whole clusters | arrel Aging: 15 Months in French Oak, 20% new | Total Production: 326 cases
Antonio Galloni’s Vinous
“The 2013 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is one of the darkest wines in this range. Dark red cherry, plum, smoke, licorice, violets and cloves are pushed forward in a distinctive, succulent Pinot that emphasizes juiciness and raciness. Round and voluptuous through to the finish, this generous, inviting Pinot will drink well now with some air, although it will be even better in another few years. The 2013 was done with 15% whole clusters. Adam Tolmach adds that he is working to tame some of the inherent strength and opulence of this site.”- AG 92 Points
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
“One of more structured and backward Pinot Noirs in the lineup, the 2013 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega comes from a south-facing site on southern side of the Sta. Rita Hills, just off Santa Rosa Road. It has a Burgundian vibe in its darker cherry fruits, pepper, wild herbs and forest floor bouquet. This gives way to a medium-bodied, structure and tannic Pinot Noir that will need another year or two to really round into form. I suspect it will have a decade or more of overall longevity.”- JD 92+