• Ungrafted & Unparalleled:  2017 Tyler Bien Nacido N-Block Pinot Noir

    Ungrafted & Unparalleled: 2017 Tyler Bien Nacido N-Block Pinot Noir

    In the pursuit of crafting wines intended as the ultimate reflection of place we cannot help but turn to the old world for inspiration. Within California Pinot Noir we've seen so many styles garner attention, whether they be wines of elegance and structure, or dark extraction and overt ripeness. Obviously, my sensibilities have gravitated toward the former. Finding wines that fully realize the potential of this more delicate approach is rare. Justin Willet at Tyler Winery in Santa Barbara is one of the few who's found it. And it's no surprise the Santa Barbara native's intimate knowledge of place is the reason why.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Tyler Bien Nacido Vineyard - N Block Pinot Noir and Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay.

    American Pinot Noir built upon nuance undoubtedly means turning to the variety's birthplace of Burgundy for many answers. However, in the end it's a connection to place here that will dictate the results. Justin Willet has a familiarity with these historic Pinot Noir vineyards in Santa Maria Valley and the Santa Rita Hills like few others do. He works with some of the very oldest parcels in the region, but one stands out from the pack.

    Bien Nacido is one of California's most recognized vineyards and it's their N-Block parcel that contains rare ungrafted vines planted in the early 70's. Justin began with this parcel when he first launched his winery in 2005, and today he controls all aspects of farming. Of the full range from Tyler N Block is produced in the smallest quantity, sometimes yielding only a single barrel. As you can imagine it's always the first to sell out. 

    Justin's relationships with the regions's growers over many years have afforded him opportunities that few have. Aside from gaining access to the most choice parcels he takes a hands-on approach within the vine rows, working with a very small crew who have strict instructions. Yields are kept low, but it's the flexibility to alter practices each unique growing season that really highlight Willet's familiarity with this special site. 

    The hallmark of the N Block is bright and lifted qualities with a reserved tension that finishes with supreme focus. The Heritage and Martini clones from the 1973-planting brings a pure and transparent character that meshes perfectly with the low-extraction and minimal oak protocol in the cellar. If Justin produces wines with Burgundian sensibilities then N Block is the special bottling that brings this comparison closer than any other. 
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Chardonnay at its Most Noble:  2016 Sandhi Sta. Rita Hills Bentrock

    Chardonnay at its Most Noble: 2016 Sandhi Sta. Rita Hills Bentrock

    At this moment, there's no white wine in America that pulls me in with more excitement than the Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay. As much as its mesmerizing style is all about the extreme site, this rare saline-driven California Chardonnay has a delicious-factor that I cannot get over.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay for $48 per bottle.

    Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr established two wineries in the Santa Rita Hills to tap the ultimate potential from this extreme, marginal climate within eyesight of the Pacific. The north-facing Bentrock vineyard lies on shale and diatomaceous soils, the sort that call to mind the chalky limestone in Meursault's higher elevation sites. This poor soil in Bentrock endows a great sense of minerality, but also naturally keeps yields low and concentration of fruit very high.

    These nitrogen deficient soils have an interesting effect during fermentation, and without wandering too far down this path we can say that a lack of oxygen creates a reductive style of wine. In the most deft execution in Burgundy we may call this noble reduction.

    The interplay between fresh apple, white peach with the crushed rock, seashell component throughout is just mesmerizing. The finish hints at the faintest note of caramel carried through with awesome salinity, making this glass impossible to set down. Every element of the wine reaches out to different senses, still composed in a tightly-knit and beautifully balanced mold.

    Speaking about Bentrock and leaving out the name Jean-Marc Roulot is difficult for me. When you taste the wine you immediately sense the kindred spirit, with this magical reductive element meshing with spectacular grace and delicacy. Sashi and Raj are both close with the Meursault superstar, and countless visits between the three in both Santa Rita Hills and Meursault have left an indelible mark on the winemaking philosophy. 

    If one component of Bentrock stands out the most it's surely the quickness and ease in finishing the bottle - the ultimate attribute of greatness. Burgundian sensibilities may be deeply rooted here, but Bentrock is a testament to the heights that terroir-driven California Chardonnay can achieve. 
    Posted by Alexander Rosen