Stars of Santa Rita

You might have seen Romain Bourger’s excellent earlier article on California’s Santa Rita Hills AVA. Here he picks out five wines that he thinks show why it’s so special.

MELVILLE, CHARDONNAY, CLONE 76-INOX, STA. RITA HILLS, 2018,

The Vineyard Cellars, £30-£35*

This wine comes from a cold and sandy spot on one of the western vineyards of the estate and is entirely made of Clone 76, one of the most planted clones, originating from Burgundy. It is only vinified on its lees in stainless steel tank without undergoing malolactic fermentation.

The result is a bright, pale green-yellow wine with delicate nose of fresh lemon, green apple and honeysuckle as well as a touch of fresh pineapple. It has a vibrant acidity and a slight, mouth-watering, iodine tone and a round palate. The wine shows great balance and purity.

I would suggest this wine with simply grilled plaice with lemon zest, all reminiscent of the saltiness and freshness found in this wine.

SANDHI, CHARDONNAY, SANDFORD & BENEDICT VINEYARD, STA. RITA HILLS, 2017

Roberson Wine, £45+*

An iconic vineyard indeed as it is the one that pioneered Sta. Rita Hills back in 1971. This is the ninth vintage for this highly acclaimed winery and shows an explosive minerality followed by fresh stone fruit and floral notes. It is an incredibly complex, textured and balanced wine, one that truly shows the level of Chardonnay in California.

I think that due to its complexity and texture, this wine would match with richer dishes such as lobster or poultry in a creamy sauce.

MELVILLE, PINOT NOIR, BLOCK M, STA. RITA HILLS, 2014

The Vineyard Cellars, £45+*

This vineyard is planted on clay soil on the top of a sun-exposed mesa. There is no new oak used in this wine (only neutral barrel from 5-20 years of age) and 70% is whole cluster.

The wine has a dark fruit component and more generous palate but keeps a great freshness and tannic structure. With great depth and complexity it is showing very well now but still has plenty of time to develop.

The ripeness of this wine would pair well with a pork belly served with roasted butternut squash (to which I’d suggest to add some rosemary) and balsamic roasted onions.

The Ojai Vineyard, Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills, 2017

Tiger Vines, £25-£30*

Grenache often can be found at a high degree of alcohol and be ripe and almost a bit flabby. This example is none of those things. Planted on a loamy-clay soil with limestone it makes an extremely juicy and seductive Grenache.

The wine has a bright garnet colour and a light intensity that could be reminiscent of Pinot Noir. It is an explosion of ripe red berries and red cherry underlined by a delicate flavor of licorice and violet. The palate is soft, crunchy and juicy with a refreshing savoury finish.

This wine is so delicate that I would definitely pair it with a meaty fish such as some roasted monkfish wrapped in pancetta (somehow now of a classic combination) with a Mediterranean twist; I’d add Provence herbs to it and serve it with a traditional tian of vegetable (aubergines, tomatoes and courgettes, with extra thyme).

STORM WINES, PINOT NOIR, DUVARITA VINEYARD, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, 2015

Tiger Vines, £35-£40*

Although a relatively young vineyard (planted in 2000), this bio-dynamically grown Pinot Noir is made of three different Dijon clones (667, 115 and 113) and planted on sandy loam. The wine has a touch of whole clusters and only a kiss of new oak. The result is a robust Pinot Noir with an amazing forest floor complexity completed by ripe dark fruits, a light violet component and a long, savoury palate. It is not an extracted example of Pinot Noir and, to me, shows exactly what Pinot Noir is capable of.

Due to its great aromatics, I would suggest this wine with a gamey dish such as roasted pheasant with wild mushroom and a red wine reduction.

For more information about the wines of Santa Rita Hills region visit the website.

*All prices are quoted trade, ex VAT.

Published by

Romain Bourger

Romain Bourger

Head Sommelier at the Vineyard Hotel & Sales Manager at the Vineyard Cellars UK Sommelier of the Year 2019