Santa Rita Valley

2005 Estate Chardonnay, Verna’s, Santa Barbara County, Melville
The Verna’s chardonnay comes from Melville’s Los Alamos estate in Cat Canyon.  It is a combination of clones 76, 95 and 96, planted on well-drained sandy-loam soils.  It is fermented in neutral French oak, with around 10% malolactic, and then ageing on the lees.  1445 cases were produced.  $22 at cellar door.
A fresh minerally nose with some tropical fruit.  Quite a mouthful with a big acid structure.  A nice fresh chardonnay with very good length.  Very Good.  87/100

2005 Estate Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, Melville
Apparently a combination of clones 4, 76 and 95, grown on sandy-loam soils in the Santa Rita Hills.  The grapes were harvested by hand, gently whole-cluster pressed and then fermented in 10% new French (Damy) oak, with around 15% malolactic fermentation, followed by ageing on the lees.  4325 cases were produced.  $26 at the cellar door.
A very pure, zesty, citrus nose with talcy minerality.  Nice clean palate with lower acidity than the Verna’s, which means it feels like it has greater purity.  Very Good.  87/100

2005 Estate Pinot Noir, Verna’s, Santa Barbara County, Melville, 15.3%
The grapes come from clones 2A, 667 and 777 grown on Melville’s Los Alamos estate.  Each vine yields around 2.75 lb of fruit.  As elsewhere, the vineyard is closely planted at about 1815 vines per acre.  60% of the fruit was de-stemmed, the rest fermented as whole bunches in small (1.5 ton) open-top fermenters.  2375 cases were produced.  $24 from the winery.
There’s deepish red fruit, and a tiny bit of cough syrup, on the nose, which is quite serious, and not at all playful.  Quite direct on the palate: precise, with a nice spicing which appears towards the finish.  Great length.  Light, clean-grained tannins appear after.  A very attractive wine.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2005 Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Melville
This is a combination of fourteen different pinot noir clones from vines yielding just under 2 lb per vine.  The grapes were harvested by hand over a six week period, meaning there were more than 100 fermentation lots.  40% was fermented as whole bunches, the rest de-stemmed.  In total they spent around 30 days in contact with skins and stalks: a seven day cold soak, followed by just over two weeks fermentation and then a further week or more extended maceration.  After fermentation, the wine was transferred to 20% new French oak, where it remained on its lees with no sulphur added, until the waning moon cycle of April, when it was gently pressure-racked for the first time and prepared for bottling July.  9320 cases were produced.  $28 from the winery.
The nose has deep red fruits, raspberries and some minty notes.  It has a lovely silky mouthfeel with nice balance.  Good structure and length, with a very nice feel after.  Very Good Indeed+.  91/100

2004 Estate Syrah, Verna’s, Santa Barbara County, Melville, 15.2%
This wine is composed of eight different syrah clones (Estrella, Durell, Shiraz 1, Tablas 99, 174, 383, 470 and 877).  Yields were less than 1 lb per vine, which equates to less than one ton per acre.  Three quarters of the grapes were de-stemmed, the remaining quarter left as whole bunches, then fermented in small open-top fermenters.  From the press, the wine was transferred directly into neutral 10 year old barrels, where it stayed, without any sulphur being added, until May when it was gently racked, before being bottled on 20th August 2006.  1049 cases were produced.  $20 at the cellar door.
Initially the nose feels slightly reduced and damp, but it’s not corked, as the down notes largely blow off.  Quite a cured meat nose – prosciutto, salami, dried meat/pork – quite a fascinating nose, and very unusual.  Very good palate.  It has a nice purity.  Overall, it feels a touch simple, but it’s very attractive.  Very Good Indeed.  90/100

2004 Syrah, Donna’s, estate small lot collection, Santa Rita Hills, Melville, 14.9%
This comes from a 5.6 acre section planted with just two syrah clones (estrella and Clone 1 Shiraz) on three different low-vigour rootstocks.  Yields are are 1.8 lb per vine (under two tons per acre), with the grapes harvested over a fortnight.  Most of the fruit was destemmed, with only 10% remaining as whole clusters.  The wine saw 10% new French oak and was bottled at the start of December 2005.  540 cases were produced.  $36 at the cellar door.
A gently fragrant, rather feminine nose with sweet black fruit.  Very good palate.  Very direct initially, but there’s some depth too.  It really builds in the mouth and has quite a spicy, toasty feel.  Probably still too young, but it is nicely satisfying, with an overall feminine feel and a nice lusciousness/voluptuousness.  91/100


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Last updated: 1 January 2008