WS Top 100 Day 4: Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
One of Wine Spectator’s stated criteria for inclusion in their Top 100 is that wines must not only receive a high score and offer good value, but also be “exciting.” I know, this notion is vague to me also, and to some degree it is just another way for the WS Top 100 to take center stage based on other variables rather than just their standard point system.
Even though their write-ups of each winery are quite straight forward and did not inspire a lot of excitement when I read them, tastings and other sources confirm that the Santa Rita Hills winery that made the list is one of the most dynamic in California.
> “Sea Smoke Cellars”:/explore/wineries/sea-smoke-cellars is a premium producer of Pinot Noir that has gained a cult following in recent years.
Based on their enormous reputation, it is quite amazing that Bob Davids formally established his vineyard just a few years ago in 1999.
Sea Smoke’s hillside vineyard is situated in the western part of the Santa Rita Hills AVA. It has a desirable southern-facing aspect that lets the vines soak up the afternoon sun. In the evening and overnight, fog from the Pacific Ocean creeps up the Santa Rita River and blankets the vineyard. Regular intervals of sun and fog are the key to complexity and finesse in Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara to the Cote de Nuits.
Listed at a very reasonable $30, the Sea Smoke 2004 Santa Rita Hills Botella Pinot Noir was ranked #53 on the 2006 WS Top 100. It is made with 100% estate grapes, has a deep ruby color, and has exotic, ethereal aromas of cherries and spice.
The attention to detail throughout the grape growing and winemaking processes of this Pinot is quite remarkable. Grapes were hand picked and crushing was forgone to let the fruit speak louder than vinification techniques. The must was punched down by hand to extract flavors and supple tannins.
Once the initial fermentation was complete, the free run was separated from gentle pressings. After racking, the different lots of wine were moved to 40% new French oak barrels and aged for 18 months. Regardless if they conveyed it effectively or not, Wine Spectator certainly picked an “exciting” producer for their #53 spot.