Santa Ynez Valley
This new Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyard located in the cool Lompoc area of the Santa Ynez Valley excites us. The vines are planted close together, four by eight feet instead of the old California standard of six or eight by twelve feet. The vineyard is on nutrient poor sandy soil, and the vines grow without much vigor. Our block is planted to one of the French clones of Chardonnay (Dijon #76), newly available in this country. In addition, the owner and the vineyard manager truly want to produce the best quality grapes possible.
I had been observing the vineyard throughout the growing season, giving my input where needed, and was quite pleased with how things were progressing. But I was not prepared for how different these grapes would look as they arrived at the winery. The clusters and the berries themselves were much smaller than the other chardonnay grapes we had received. We were used to the U.C. Davis clones 4 and 5 to which most of our area is planted. The other huge difference was the color of the fruit–it was golden. Rather than yellow on the sun side of the cluster and green on the shade side, every berry was golden and fully ripe. This was certainly evidence that the combination of row orientation, vertical trellising, and leaf pulling makes a huge difference!
The wine received our usual minimal handling (watch carefully and do nothing), and we bottled it without fining or filtration in early December of 2000. The wine, while still young, shows great promise. It possesses a lovely balance; its acidity level is high enough to give it nerve, yet the wine has ample richness. It does not have that typical California tropical fruit aroma but a subtler lemon-y, mineral-y character that is a little hard to describe yet is quite satisfying. We are thrilled with the quality of this wine.