Santa Maria Valley
This Solomon Hills chardonnay comes from the benevolent 2016 vintage, which brought the fog inland again after 4 years of being parked offshore. Mild and sunny summer afternoons in Santa Maria were framed by cool grey mornings and evenings, which made for an especially savory chardonnay from this cool-climate and sandy soiled vineyard.
Aromatically, there’s a land-meets-sea kind of earthiness here that reminds me of some of my favorite white burgundies. Parking your nose into a glass of this reveals crushed seashells, chamomile flowers, brioche, and that distinct drying pine needle aroma that often comes from this site. With such a savory spread of aromas it’s a bit of a shock when the mid-palate flourishes with juicy pear and apple flavors, which close with a citrusy mineral prickle.
There is density to Solomon Hills; each year it’s our most structured and full-bodied chardonnay. But above that it speaks to elegance and balance, purring along in fourth gear rather than going full throttle. Chardonnay from this site often reminds me of the ones I made from Talley years ago (though with less oak influence), and some of those from the 90s are still drinking well. Like those wines, this Solomon Hills is a worthy white to tuck away for years. It’s expressive and delicious already though, so good luck with that!
Blend: 100% Chardonnay | Alc: 13.0% | Vinification: Barrel fermented in French Oak, 10% New | Barrel Aging: 11 Months | Total Production 327 Cases
Solomon Hills Vineyard is the most coastal vineyard up in cool foggy Santa Maria Valley. It’s also the sister vineyard to Bien Nacido, so it too is farmed with same doting attention to detail. The site consists of a series of gently rolling hills of sand next to Highway 101, at the western edge of the appellation. Being so close to the ocean, Solomon Hills is exceptionally cool and foggy in a region where that is the norm (the Miller family also grows blueberries here, which might give you an idea of the climate).
The marginal weather and the extremely poor sandy soils make low yields and intense fruit the name of the game. When the vines are flowering in spring the weather is often moist and cool, which makes it difficult to get good fruit set. And being planted on nutrient-poor sand means the berries and clusters stay quite small, which is great for making wines with vibrancy and character.
With these influences only Dijon clones make sense for the site, as these clones are better equipped to ripen in chilly vineyards where “California clones” like those at Bien Nacido might give under-stuffed and overly nervy wines. The Dijon fruit benefits from the cool, gradual ripening here. Our wines that come out of this vineyard are always radiant and bold offerings with lots to say, but also elegant and precisely balanced—just a joy to drink!
“One of the standouts is the 2016 Chardonnay Solomon Hills, which comes from a cool site in the Santa Maria Valley, not far from Bien Nacido. This sensational effort offers notes of apple blossoms, crushed citrus, and exotic flowers, with more and more brioche and marzipan notes developing with time in the glass. Deep, layered, and concentrated, yet also incredibly pure and elegant, it’s a remarkably complete Chardonnay that does everything right. Don’t miss it!” Jeb Dunnuck – 96 Points
Antonio Galloni’s VINOUS
“The 2016 Chardonnay Solomon Hills is quite open and accessible in this vintage, almost surprisingly so. Orange, apricot and lightly tropical notes give the Solomon Hills its distinctive feel in this vintage. There is plenty of intrigue as well as near term appeal to the Solomon Hills in 2016.” 2018-2024 93 Points
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
“The 2016 Chardonnay Solomon Hills reveals a lovely bouquet of crisp apple, citrus blossom, white peach and stuck match, which is still digesting its sulfur addition from bottling. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, tight-knit and saline, with bright acids and a long, briny finish. This will need a little time to bounce back after bottling, but it’s an inherently lovely wine that I’d be inclined to give a year or two in bottle. 2018-2028”- William Kelley 92 Points