Jeb Dunnuck – September 2023

Reviews by Jeb Dunnuck

September 2023


2020 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard

The 2020 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard comes from a site on the eastern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills and displays a darker purple/plum hue that’s followed by a gorgeous nose of bright red cherries, blueberries, exotic spring flowers, ground pepper, camphor, and hints of game. I always find a certain Côte Rôtie-like wildness from this site, and this beauty has it in spades. It’s medium to full-bodied, has a deep, layered mouthfeel, gorgeous tannins, and an outstanding finish. This awesome Syrah marries remarkable richness and depth with a rare sense of purity and elegance. It’s going to evolve for 15 years if well-stored. Bravo! 97 Points


2021 Chardonnay Puerta Del Mar Special Bottling

Tolmach loves to do these one-off special bottlings and they’re always fun to taste. The 2021 Chardonnay Puerta Del Mar Special Bottling reveals a vivid gold hue as well as a bright, juicy perfume of sliced golden apples, honeyed cream, green almond, and toasted spices. Beautiful on the palate as well, it’s medium to full-bodied and concentrated, with integrated acidity, a round, layered mouthfeel, and outstanding length. This incredibly classy Chardonnay deserves another 2-4 years of bottle age and will absolutely shock you with its quality over the following decade. 96 Points


2018 Syrah Henry Daniel

Coming from one-third each of the Duvarita, John Sebastiano, and Cottonwood Canyon vineyards, the 2018 Syrah Henry Daniel (named after Adam Tolmach’s son) has a classic, Northern Rhône-like bouquet of ripe blackberries, mulberries, peppery herbs, sandalwood, and hints of game. These all carry over to the palate, where it’s medium to full-bodied, has a beautifully concentrated, layered, elegant mouthfeel, sweet tannins, and a great finish. It’s another absolutely classic Syrah from this estate that will evolve for 15 years with ease. 96 Points


2020 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard

Textbook Bien Nacido notes of smoky black fruits, bouquet garni, black pepper, and subtle gamey, violet nuances define the 2020 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard, a medium-bodied, balanced, elegant Syrah with good concentration as well as the more focused, nicely structured, balanced style favored by this estate. It’s drinking beautifully today, yet there’s no reason this won’t evolve for 15-20 years if well stored. 95 Points


2020 Syrah Solomon Hills Vineyard

There are just two barrels of the 2020 Syrah Solomon Hills Vineyard, which comes from a great site just [west] of Bien Nacido, in the Santa Maria Valley AVA. Its deep ruby/purple hue is followed by a pure, crystalline-like bouquet of ripe cherries, red plums, bouquet garni, leather, and pepper. With medium to full body, a pure, focused, elegant mouthfeel, and nicely integrated tannins, this classic, age-worthy Syrah from Tolmach will benefit from 2-4 years in the cellar and evolve for a decade. 94+ Points


2020 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard

The 2020 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard comes from a warmer site not far from Ojai, and while I’m not sure about the blend of the 2020, this cuvée can normally include a little bit of Viognier. Its deep ruby/purple hue leads to a more medium to full-bodied, rounded, plush profile that includes red plum and blue fruits, sweet, velvety tannins, classic notes of peppery herbs, violets, and orange blossom, and a great finish. It’s another prodigious, incredibly impressive Syrah that readers will love to have in their cellars. It will evolve for at least 15 years. 94+ Points


2021 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Devoto

In comparison, the 2021 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Devoto is a slightly wilder, more feral wine offering redcurrant and red plum fruit, rose petals, sage, rosemary, and some more classic Sta. Rita Hills salinity and minerality. Cut from the same cloth on the palate, it’s balanced, medium-bodied, has integrated acidity, and a great finish. 94 Points


2021 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Discipulo

There are two Pinot Noir releases from this vineyard. The 2021 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Discipulo (meaning blind faith) comes from a mix of clones 115 and 667 and vines planted in 1998. It has a pretty, perfumed bouquet of redcurrant and ripe strawberries to go with ample spring flowers, spice, and sagebrush-like nuances. These carry over to the palate, where the wine is more medium-bodied, has a fine spine of tannins and acidity, and outstanding length. It not a heavyweight yet brings terrific intensity as well as length. Give it 2-3 years and enjoy over the following decade. 94 Points


2021 Pinot Noir Kessler Haak Vineyard

I’ve always loved the Pinot Noir from this site, and Ojai’s 2021 Pinot Noir Kessler Haak Vineyard is another beautiful wine. Redcurrants, darker raspberries, forest floor, earthy, iron, herbal nuances, and some subtle hints of flowers all emerge on the nose, and it’s medium-bodied on the palate, with a beautiful sense of elegance. This is never the biggest or richest Pinot Noir in a vintage, yet it shines for its balance, complexity, and sheet charm. It benefits from a little bit of air today and is going to evolve gracefully over the coming 10-12 years. 94 Points


2021 Pinot Noir Puerta Del Mar

The 2021 Pinot Noir Puerta Del Mar is straight-up gorgeous, with a cooler edge in its strawberry and darker raspberry fruits as well as rose petal, minty herb, and orange tea-like nuances. With medium-bodied richness, a layered, elegant mouthfeel, integrated tannins, and a great finish, it’s a beautifully complete, layered, elegant, yet still concentrated and incredibly enjoyable Pinot Noir to drink any time over the coming decade. 94 Points


2022 Viognier Bien Nacido Vineyard

The 2022 Viognier Bien Nacido Vineyard is similarly light gold-hued yet brings more exuberance in its aromatics of white peach, tangerines, honeyed flowers, and plenty of rocky minerality. Medium-bodied, vibrant, and crisp, it has plenty of fruit, nicely integrated acidity, and length finish. It’s another classy Viognier from this team. I think it will probably be slightly longer lived than the Roll Ranch release, but both of these are terrific and show the house style. 92 Points


2022 Rosé

The 2022 Rosé might be the finest rosé I’ve tasted from this team, and it stays in the fresh, vibrant style of the estate while bringing solid richness and depth. Orange blossom, chalky minerality, and tangerine notes all define this light salmon-hued beauty that offers bright acidity, terrific balance, and a distinct salinity on the finish. Bravo. 92 Points


2021 Barbera Rich Vineyard

The 2021 Barbera Rich Vineyard delivers exactly what you’d want from this variety with a plump, fruit-forward, round, mouthfilling style as well as spicy dark fruits, leafy herbs, and a hint of chocolate. It’s an undeniably delicious, balanced, impeccably made 2021 to drink over the coming 3-5 years. 92 Points


2022 ‘Estate White’ Ambulo Blanc/Caminante Blanc

Made from clones developed by UC Davis, the 2022 Ambulo Blanc Caminante Blanc is a 60/40 split of Ambulo Blanc and Caminante Blanc, which are grown on the ranch in Ventura without any fertilizers or pesticides. This lightly hued, juicy white has a crisp and attractive nose of ripe citrus, savory herbs, melon, and a kiss of spice. Medium-bodied, beautifully balanced, and layered on the palate, it’s another wine that holds onto a terrific sense of freshness without being lean or shrill. This is well worth seeking out and perfect for drinking over the coming couple of years. 91 Points


2022 Chardonnay Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard

Coming from a site in the Santa Maria Valley, the 2022 Chardonnay Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard has a big, musky nose of ripe orchard fruits, honeyed melon, and exotic, tropical notes to go with a rounded, fleshy, mouth-filling style on the palate. It shows the riper style of the vintage, with medium to full-bodied richness, yet it stays balanced and light on its feet. I think it’s a step back from the 2021, but it’s nevertheless a beautiful Chardonnay. 91 Points


2021 Sauvignon Blanc Presqu’ile Vineyard

Coming from a notable site just outside of Santa Maria (not far from Solmon Hills and Bien Nacido), the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc Presqu’ile Vineyard sports a medium gold hue to go with Bordeaux Blanc-like aromatics of sliced green apples, honeyed citrus, and leafy herbs. It’s medium-bodied on the palate, has a fleshy, nicely textured mouthfeel, and outstanding length. It strikes a good balance with its richness and freshness and will be incredibly versatile on the dinner table. It should have 4-6 years of longevity. 91 Points


2021 Syrah Santa Barbara County

A wine the competes with any number of impressive Saint Josephs from the Northern Rhône, the 2021 Syrah Santa Barbara County is medium ruby-hued (it’s almost opaque) and offers juicy mulberry and ripe blackberry fruits, notes of peppery herbs and subtle floral, gamey nuances, medium body, a round, supple mouthfeel, and a great finish. Drink this satisfying, undeniably delicious, textbook Syrah over the coming decade. 91 Points


2022 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyard

Bright and refreshing, with pink grapefruit, honeyed flowers, and some chalky mineral notes, the 2022 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyard is another impeccably made white from this team that’s medium-bodied, has a clean, elegant, lively mouthfeel, bright acidity, and a great finish. It’s slightly simpler and more up-front than the Presqu’ile Vineyard and best drunk in its first 2-3 years (although I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see it keep longer). 90 Points


2022 Viognier Roll Ranch Vineyard

There are two Viogniers. Starting with the 2022 Viognier Roll Ranch Vineyard, which comes from a site in Ventura County, it reveals a light gold hue as well as ripe lemons, honeyed flowers, citrus, and hints of orange blossom-like aromatics. This nicely balanced, medium-bodied, refreshing Viognier will have 3-5 years of prime drinking. 90 Points


2022 Paseante Noir Rosé

Reminding me of a terrific rosé from Bandol, the 2022 Paseante Noir Rose reveals a lighter salmon hue as well as terrific, medium-bodied aromas and flavors of dried cherries, orange blossom, and chalky minerality. It’s balanced, has a great texture, and outstanding length. 90 Points


[2022] Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County

The base appellation [2022] Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County is light ruby-hued with a pretty perfume of wild strawberries and ripe raspberries as well as some sappy flowers and foresty, sage, and dried herb nuances that emerge with time in the glass. This rounded, supple, incredibly charming Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir is up-front and ready to go, with soft tannins and moderate acidity. Drink bottles over the coming 4-6 years or so. 90 Points