Santa Maria Valley

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2010 and 2011 were exceptional vintages in California; both years were marked by a lack of hot spells during the summer—the weather was just moderate and pleasant. And this profoundly affected the grapes, giving us wines with unusual freshness and full ripeness at lower sugar levels.

While 2010 carried a below average size crop, in 2011 the weather during flowering was a disaster and the harvest was the smallest we had seen since 2002. Nowhere was it smaller than at Solomon Hills, where our one acre produced only two barrels of pinot noir—a paltry ¾ ton of grapes.

This small crop gave us fruit of astonishing concentration, the trick was to transform it into a wine that not only showed off its power but also its finesse and complexity. Back in 1995 we had much the same situation with our pinot noir from Bien Nacido, and as intriguing as that wine is, I’ve learned a thing or two about winemaking since then. In a nutshell, faced with a tiny crop one must be prepared to harvest the grapes at a moment’s notice because with a small crop on the vine, the fruit has a tendency to go from unripe to raisins in a matter of days. And in the winery a gentle extraction is essential, as there is so much flavor in low crop fruit that the result can be heavy and clunky unless care is taken.

The stars must have been aligned in a most auspicious manner because unlike some earlier Solomon Hills pinots that were tough in their youth, this 2011 is supple and delicious today. Aromas of cranberry and hints of citrus meld well with red berry flavors and fine textured tannins. There is a staining intensity to this wine that argues for further aging, yet everything is in balance. A delight!

Blend: 100% Pinot Noir | Alcohol: 13.0% | Vinification: 100% Neutral French Oak | Barrel Aging: 15 Months | Total Production: 46 cases

Press Reviews

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar

“Vivid ruby. Assertive aromas of raspberry, cherry and candied rose, with Asian spice and mineral accents building with air. Juicy and precise on the palate, offering appealingly sweet red fruit liqueur flavors and a hint of candied flowers. Shows very impressive energy and clarity on the long, gently tannic finish, with its zesty blood orange nuance.” – JR 93 Points

Antonio Galloni’s Vinous

“A drop-dead gorgeous beauty, the 2011 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills bursts from the glass with dark red and black stone fruit, crushed rocks, white flowers and mint. Vivid and wonderfully alive, the 2011 is a more than worth follow up to the spectacular 2010. Today, the fruit is front and center, but another few years in bottle should bring more aromatic complexity and nuance.” – AG 93+ Points