John Sebastiano Vineyard was planted in 2007 and produced its first crop in 2010. It is located on the northeastern edge of the Santa Rita Hills appellation way up in the hills so it catches the ferocious winds that come in from the ocean at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The vineyard is predominantly inside the appellation and mostly planted to pinot noir, however there is some syrah and grenache planted just outside and that is where we get our fruit. The vines were planted on a steep southern slope and the soil has quite a bit of clay with some shale-y bits that pop through here and there. The vines struggle to develop a full canopy of leaves and the fruit ripens late in October or early November, but each year the wine possesses a knockout aroma of crushed raspberries with a solid structure of tannin and acidity.
Vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano pays attention to every detail, which is good because grenache is finicky. Assuming flowering goes well, grenache produces clusters that are so big that they need to be individually hand trimmed in order for the fruit to mature evenly. Also, the clusters become bleached if they receive too much sunlight, so Ruben trains the vines in a way to encourage just the right amount of shading. This extra effort really shows in the finished wine, as each year the color of the wine is dark and the flavors are impressive.
This vineyard has produced wines that are imbued with what can only be described as dramatic personalities. Planted on the climatic edge where the vines barely ripen their fruit, the structure of this grenache is different from what I have seen elsewhere in California, or for that matter from the southern Rhone or Spain. The wines are simply fresher and more alive.