By Bill Brousseau
While the Santa Lucia Highlands has always been an influential appellation we source fruit from, the Santa Rita Hills appellation (aka SRH) remains our second largest region for sourcing high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Dating back to 1999, our first endeavor to SRH was at Clos Pepe vineyards where we sourced Chardonnay. Back in those days, Chardonnay was in good supply but not Pinot Noir, so the common strategy was to purchase Chardonnay to have future access to Pinot Noir. After a few years of Chardonnay, we were able to convince them to graft to Pinot Noir which made some nice wines back in 2002. Unfortunately though, their yields were painfully low there in the Northern, windy end of the appellation, so we elected to part ways and look south in the SRH.
Fast forward to 2004, we land the opportunity to purchase from the world famous Sanford & Benedict (S&B) vineyard, producing an amazing Pinot Noir, of which I still vividly remember that day at harvest with the intense concentration of Pinot Noir characters. Leading into 2005 and for the next few years, we had a great showing of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from S&B.
However in 2008, the vineyard was going through strategic changes, blocks were being ripped out, and management was taking things in a new direction, we elected to take a hiatus from the region for 2009 and beyond. This departure while difficult, was in the best interest of quality and we were not comfortable with what quality we could guarantee in bottle.
Fortunately, we caught wind of an opportunity at La Encantada Vineyard, just two doors down from S&B vineyard that we could not resist in 2011. While this site is a bit more windy, it produces a nicely concentrated yet elegant expression of the SRH.
As we rolled into 2012 and 2013, we gained some really good traction with our wine fans and critics, which helped open the door back to S&B as well as La Rinconada (located between S&B and La Encantada) with some exceptionally farmed blocks. 2013 really kicked off a great, serious start back into the region, allowing us to have the volume to offer an appellation Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which was essentially single vineyard quality at an appellation price.
By the 2014 season, our relations continue to grow stronger on these three jewel vineyards in the SRH that we were getting access to even more high quality blocks and more clonal options for our single vineyard and appellation wines. With these changes led to a streak of great accolades on our 2014 and 2015 SRH Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We continued to be in awe of the region and are glad we were patient when sourcing was not optimal for quality.
We hope you enjoy these gems and appreciate the scenic route we took to achieve the quality and consistency of these wines.