• Willamette Valley Apogee:  2016 Lingua Franca Mimi's Mind

    Willamette Valley Apogee: 2016 Lingua Franca Mimi's Mind

    For years there was building buzz about Dominique Lafon's new collaboration with Larry Stone in the Eola-Amity Hills. That buzz reached a crescendo when the first vintage was released, and today the wines of Lingua Franca stand as among the very best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the New World. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer the top Pinot Noir from Lingua Franca, the 2016 Mimi's Mind, sourced from Mimi Castell's iconic vineyard of heritage Pommard vines in the Eola-Amity-Hills.

    Like all of the Pinot Noir from Lingua Franca, Mimi's Mind is all about forward, pristine red cherry fruits with great lift and dead-serious definition. It may sound trite, but the balance in Mimi's Mind is again sole reason Lingua Franca has skyrocketed to prominence in such a short period of time. These are just perfectly composed Pinot Noirs of grace, and Mimi's Mind is where the grandeur of all the elements reach its apogee.

    Originally, I sat down a few years ago with Larry in La Jolla and tasted through the inaugural release from his winery, Lingua Franca. And since that time I've made two visits to his state-of-the-art winery in the Eola-Amity Hills. Tasting through the 2017's in barrel made clear this project is continuing to raise the bar.

    Larry and Dominque had become very familiar with the Eola-Amity Hills working previously with the Seven Springs Vineyard, and in the end, Larry planted vines and built his winery right next door. Though their admiration of Oregon terroir throughout Willamette Valley was very high, both found a magic combination here where the entire picture of the wines maintained sharp focus. This was the sweet spot where minerality met ripe texture and the results personified that elusive Burgundian sensibility: Elegance and impact, without the compromise of terroir.

    As consulting winemaker, Dominique Lafon of Comtes Lafon in Meursault, has a style that highlights silky fruit and seamless texture. His Volnay and Meursault wines are among the most collected in the world, and early on Larry Stone was a huge force introducing these to America. Larry was the 9th American to become a Master Sommelier and became the very first to win the Best International Sommelier in his competition in Paris. Working with Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and then the iconicRubicon restaurant in San Francisco Larry's work to cultivate the following of Burgundy in the US cannot be overstated. 

    The Jory and volcanic soils in Eola-Amity proved to be the ideal landing for this joint venture. And recruited from Burgundy was their winemaker, Thomas Savre, whose work in the cellars of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti brought a skilled and meticulous eye into the fold. Lingua Franca is one of the most exciting new estates I've been introduced to. The overall balance and purity of fruit to each of the cuvées ultimately reflect their place. The legendary names that built this winery from the ground up have surpassed even the highest expectations placed upon them.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Ungrafted & Unparalleled:  Tyler Bien Nacido N-Block Pinot Noir

    Ungrafted & Unparalleled: 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 2016 Tyler Bien Nacido Vineyard - N Block Pinot Noir.


    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-Blockparcel 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
  • Chardonnay at its Most Noble: 2014 Sandhi Bentrock

    Chardonnay at its Most Noble: 2014 Sandhi Bentrock

    This weekend I revisited a favorite Chardonnay, the 2014 Sandhi Bentrock. While white Burgundy is overwhelmingly where I turn, the 2014 Bentrock from the Pacific's wind-swept Santa Rita Hills delivers the whole package. This simply hits every mark for me: Precision, finesse, and downright deliciousness. There's no white wine in America that pulls me in with more excitement than the Bentrock Chardonnay.


    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.

    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. 

    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.

    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.

    2014 Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay
    $89 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod