Ontiveros Road, Los Olivos
Beckmen Vineyards is a small estate winery run by the Beckmen family in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County. Their Purisima Mountain Vineyard extends to 365 acres at heights between 750 feet to 1250 feet above sea level. Ten different varietals are planted, in a variety of clones and on a variety of rootstocks. After a number of years of partially, from 2006, Beckmen have been cultivating their Purisima Mountain Vineyard biodynamically. Steve Beckmen believes simply that “biodynamics isn’t a flavour you can taste in a wine: it’s a philosophy, a way of treating the earth that naturally increases plant health and vitality. While some may raise an eyebrow at the more holistic and metaphysical aspects of biodynamic farming, the truth is that great vineyards around the world have consistently proven that these farming techniques work.” The Beckmens’ core philosophy is to let the grape shine through in their wines. Unfortunately, Steve wasn't available when I visited: I'd have liked the opportunity to discuss biodynamic farming further with him.
Sauvignon Blanc, Purisima
Mountain Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Beckmen Vineyards, 13.9%
The fruit for this wine is grown on a block on the vineyard with particularly poor, limestone-rich soil. After being cold fermented for around 30 days, SO2 was added to inhibit malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged in 60% barrel and 40% stainless steel for seven months, before being lightly fined, filtered and bottled at the end of April 2006. 1000 cases were produced. It retails at about $20.
There’s crisp aromatic gooseberry fruit on the nose. Really good, crisp, pure palate. Very Good Indeed. 90/100
Marsanne, Purisima Mountain
Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Beckmen Vineyards, 13.8%
After a long, cold barrel fermentation, the wine was aged for eight months on its lees in neutral barrels, with around 40% undergoing malolactic. The wine was bottled, lightly fined and filtered in May 2006. Just 400 cases were produced. It retails at about $20.
It has a lovely fragrant nose with some fino and nuts notes. The delicate, floral palate has very pure, precise flavours. This is a really lovely, friendly wine. Very Good Indeed. 91/100
2005 Le Bec
Blanc, Santa Ynez
Valley, Beckmen Vineyards, 13.9%
This is a southern Rhône style blend of 59% roussanne, 32% marsanne and 9% grenache blanc grown on the steep limestone hillsides of the Beckmens’ Purisima Mountain Vineyard. 2005 was fairly cool and the harvest was later than usual. There was 35% malolactic fermentation, and the wine was aged six months on its lees in neutral barrels. The wine was bottled filtered, but not fined at the end of April 2005. 1100 cases were produced. $20 retail.
Honeysuckle, honey, almonds and white peach on the nose. There’s lovely balance on the palate: it has a richness and silkiness that’s very inviting. Clean and pure. Very Good Indeed. 90/100
This is one of two grenaches that Beckmen make from fruit from their Purisima Mountain Vineyard in Ballard Canyon. Yields are kept low at about 1.5 tons per acre, which combined with the long growing season of 2005 (harvest started mid October and ended in early November) to produce particularly good fruit. The grapes are two Chateauneuf clones: 60% Tablas and 40% Alban. The grapes were destemmed, gently crushed and cold soaked for 48 hours before fermentation in open top casks for 7-10 days, with the caps punched down three times daily. After transfer to neutral barrels, the wine underwent spontaneous malolactic fermentation. It was bottled in October 2006 unfined, but lightly filtered. 700 cases were produced. $28 retail.
It has a warm, inviting plummy fruit, but it’s an elegant, restrained fruit. There’s a very fresh feel on the palate: it’s quite lively and zingy, which disguises a good light fruit structure with a nice spiciness. Very Good Indeed. 92/100
Syrah, Santa Ynez
Valley, Beckmen Vineyards, 14%
1500 cases were made of this 100% syrah from 60 lots in the Beckmens’ two vineyards in Ballard Canyon and Los Olivos. The grapes were hand harvested throughout October. Yields were restricted to 2.7 tons per acre. The wine was aged for 14 months in 40% new French oak, 50% one to three year old barrels and 10% neutral oak. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. $25 retail.
The nose has perfumed, chocolatey black fruit with quite an intense, concentrated feel. Very silky, fragrant palate. It has huge elegance, but also a big structure. There’s really nice balance too and a lovely purity of fruit. This is a very impressive wine with a beautiful finish and enormous length. Very Good Indeed/Excellent. 94/100
Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Beckmen Vineyards, 14.5%
Grapes were harvested from the Purisima Mountain Vineyard in the first half of October. Yields were restricted to two tons per acre. Individual vineyard lots were destemmed, crushed and cold-soaked for 48 hours before a 5-10 fermentation period in open top tanks, with the cap being punched down by hand three times daily. After fermentation, the wines were gently pressed and racked into barrels, where the wine underwent spontaneous malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 16 months in 50% new French oak, with a heavier charge than usual, and 50% one and two year old barrels. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered and retails for around $40.
A very integrated nose with some cured meats and black fruit. Fairly big on the palate. But it’s a bit straightforward. Very Good. 86/100
Clone #1, Purisima
Mountain Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Beckmen Vineyards, 14.8%
This is the fourth vintage of Beckmen’s Clone #1 Syrah, made exclusively from the UC Davis Shiraz clone originally sourced from vines planted in 1868 in Victoria in Australia. Yields were only 1.25 tons per acre. The grapes were harvested in the second half of September 2004 and fermented using native yeasts in open top vats for seven days, with the caps being punched down three or four times a day. After malolactic fermentation in barrel, the wine was aged for 16 months in new and 1-2 year old French oak. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered; 400 cases were produced, and it retails at $42.
This has a big gamey nose with huge concentration. Very full and open on the palate, with powerful, but not jammy black fruit and significant peppery spice, particularly on the finish. An attractive, impressive wine. Again there is a lovely purity to the wine. Very Good Indeed+. 93/100
Santa Ynez Valley, Beckmen Vineyards, 14.2%
2004 was the third vintage of this wine: although it’s not labelled as such, the fruit comes from their Purisima Mountain vineyard in Ballard Canyon near Los Olivos. This was made in a smilar way to the syrah, and aged for 21 months in 60% old, neutral barrels and 40% new French and American oak. It is a blend of 88% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 2% syrah, and 2500 cases were produced. Retail price is about $25.
There’s sweet black fruit on the nose, perfumed with some sweet vanilla. With ripe fruit on the palate, it very much a warm climate Bordeaux style with quite chewy tannins. It a nice enough wine, but it doesn’t really say Santa Ynez to me. Good/Very Good. 85/100
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Last updated: 3 January 2008