Clos Pepe Vineyard
The tour and tasting wrapped up at about 1 PM.
- 2009 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay Barrel Fermented - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills
Very fresh, citrus and white stone fruits. Clean (precise), dry with a long finish. Minerality. Pears on the nose. Took a few minutes to open up--sulfites blowing off, perhaps?
Fermented in neutral oak, goes through ML and aged on lees. But also has rippin good acidity. I love this style that gets the body and richness with balancing acidity and light-handed oak influence.
- 2009 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills
Primary, but open. Plummy, red fruits, perfumed, sage. Some smokey flavor, integrated structure. Complete wine--beginning, middle and end--long finish. Tightly wound at present, though showing well.
- 2007 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills
Cherry jam, spice, sage and ginger on the nose. More open than 2009. Structured with integrated oak. Pretty ripe on nose and by flavor, though not heavily extracted or alcoholic.
Wes Hagen suggested 3-4 years further aging to bring out earthier characteristics.
- 2006 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills
Favorite of tasting--seems to be at a really good spot right now. Earthy, mushroom, truffle, floral (rose) and mild spice. Good acidity and core of fruit. Integrated structure, fine tannin.
Interesting to compare to the '06 Ojai Clos Pepe tasted a few months ago. The Ojai had a more extracted, baked fruit quality to my palate. Supposedly Ojai's was all Pommard clones, but I'm not sure if it was harvested later or treated differently otherwise.
- 2008 Axis Mundi Syrah Sleepy Hollow Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Meaty/bacon aromas, lavender, round fruit and zippy acidity. Very fruit-driven wine. Tannins not noted, but acidity gives it balance.
After the atypically long and interesting tour and tasting--plus lunch by the pond in Clos Pepe's vineyard--the Cold Heaven tasting was a more typical format. However, the wines are anything but typical. Cold Heaven's tasting room is a tasting bar at the front of their winery in Buellton. And by winery, I mean utilitarian space in a small industrial park. Exactly my style!
While Cold Heaven is best known for its Viognier from a variety of SBC vineyards (Le Bon Climat, Sanford and Benedict, Curtis and formerly Vogelzang), Morgan Clendenen's collaborative efforts with Condrieu vintner Yves Cuilleron and the remarkable Syrah should not be missed. Jeb Dunnick's Rhone Report totally nails it when it comes to Cold Heaven's wines, IMO. I'm just a 2nd assenting opinion here. If you like Syrah in a lower octane mold, this is the one to pursue. The 2004 is pretty funky, though, in an old world farmyard sense. The 2003 and 2005 are more spicy, floral and garrigue-laden with a core of fresh fruit.
- 2008 Cold Heaven Sauvignon Blanc Strangelove - USA, California, Central Coast
Peaches on the nose, fresh, high acid mouth watering sort of wine. Grapefruit pith on the finish. 50% stainless, 50% neutral oak.
- 2008 Cold Heaven Viognier Le Bon Climat Santa Barbara County - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Continues to be favorite in Cold Heaven Viognier lineup. Perfumed, honeysuckle, great balance, medium body with med/high acidity. Combines the honeyed aromatics with unreal freshness and precision. Finishes with a bit of pith. World class stuff, IMO.
- 2009 Cold Heaven Viognier - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Bigger bodied, lower acidity than Le Bon Climat--from Curtis Vineyard in warmer heart of the Santa Ynez Valley. Floral, spicey and a notion of toast--maybe some SO2? Solid wine, just isn't as racy as the Le Bon Climat.
- 2007 Domaine des 2 Mondes Viognier Saints and Sinners Sanford & Benedict - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills
Floral, broadly textured yet finely woven, big, serious and tropical. This is the Viognier if you like Cali style Chardonnay--it's a white wine for red wine drinkers. But it is not overly oaky or toasty, just creamy, and the acidity is really lively underneath it all.
- 2004 Cold Heaven Syrah Second Sin Santa Barbara County - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Smelling this immediately takes me to France--leathery/horsey aromas, earthy, tar and herbs. The palate is lively with good fruit and tannin. Definitely of a certain style, let's say just a wee bit Bretty. I suspect if poured side by side with some expensive French N. Rhone Syrahs or S. Rhone CdP it would more than hold its own due to the funk. Alas, I'm looking for something a bit cleaner from CA Syrah.
- 2005 Cold Heaven Syrah Second Sin Santa Barbara County - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
The Syrah counterpart to the great Le Bon Climat Viognier. Very similar to the '03 vintage which was flat out one of the best Syrahs I've tasted. Elegantly styled, more fruit driven than the '04. Perfumed with spice and pepper. Firm tannin, lively acidity, creamy texture. Cold Heaven is known as a Viognier house, but the Syrahs are a hidden gem. 13.6% ABV, by the way, and not at all underripe in flavor.
This is our only wine club (or mailing list). The commitment is minimal--8 bottles per year--and we get to participate in the various open houses and special events. Plus, the wine is uniformly good to great. Definitely of the fruit-forward style, but with plenty of structure and acidity for larger framed wines. The Pinots are my favorites, and that's the overall consensus as well. Just another bandwagon for me to joyfully hop on, I suppose!
Richard Longoria is pretty old school. He's one of the originals in Santa Barbara County of the same generation as Jim Clendenen, Adam Tolmach and Richard Sanford. He's also very proud to have learned under Andre Tchelistcheff early in his career. But he's a quiet, unassuming sort of vintner, so he tends to fly under the radar, especially with the rapid growth in the post-Sideways era.
- 2009 Longoria Pinot Grigio - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
See previous note. Varietally on-target, and priced fairly. One for sipping on a hot day or with the right food pairing.
- 2009 Longoria Pink Wine Cuvee June - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Same experience as with my previous note. Watermelon and strawberry. But doesn't have the gum numbing acidity I look for in a rosé. Plenty of juicy fruit, just feels a little flat to my taste.
- 2008 Longoria Pinot Noir Rancho Santa Rosa - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills
Loved the '07 vintage of this cuvee; this is just as good. A bit more acidic and lighter in weight with cranberry and cherry flavors. Mushrooms on the nose. Medium body, fresh, structured with fine tannin.
- 2007 Longoria Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills
Seems to be opening up. Shows mushroom and a definite spiciness. Full bodied and rich. Complex with firm structure. Plenty of fruit here, but not showing the baked edge to it I found in the '06. This looks like it'll get really good soon.
- 2008 Longoria Tempranillo Clover Creek Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Big ripe fruit, but also tannic and tightly structured. This needs several years to unwind.
- 2007 Longoria Syrah Alisos Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Huge structure! Tannic and acidic with dark fruit (berry, cassis) and complexing pepper and licorice aromas. Alisos isn't a truly cool climate vineyard, but isn't hot, either--this sits in that middle ground between the two poles. Big and ripe, yet structured and savory. Needs 3-5 years to unwind, I'd wager. Sometimes this bottling has a slightly porty feel to it; this is really chiseled. 6.9 g/L TA, 3.57 pH, 15.1% ABV.
- 2009 Longoria Albariño Beso del Sol Clover Creek Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Delicious dessert wine with honeyed aromatics. The real quality here is lively acidity with a lighter texture than a typical sticky. 11.9% ABV, 12% RS (~120 g/L RS) and 6.6 g/L TA with 3.36 pH. Apparently the result of a heat spike roasting the fruit, but only enough so that it raisined a bit then developed with further hang time. A fortuitous accident of nature it seems, and just the sort of dessert wine I like.
All in all, a great day in the valley. I'll miss it when we move!