2017 and 2018 Vintages Get Great Reviews from Wine Advocate

From the February 2020 Edition of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

John Benedetti crafted some lovely wines from the Corralitos area of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation in 2017, despite the heat wave. “Labor Day is way too early to pick most of the Pinot Noir from this region,” he says. He spoke with other winemakers and growers in the area to decide what to do. “I got together with viticulturalist Prudy Foxx and winemaker James MacPhail for a pow wow. The long-term forecast looked cold, so we decided to let the fruit hang. We saw sugars artificially spike after the heat wave. Then it got cold and foggy, and brix dropped back down. In the end, we picked at 23 brix. We got nice physiological ripeness, and it ended up being a good year. It taught a lot of us not to panic pick.”

Stylistically, the 2017s are very different than other recent vintages. “I think in some instances, the heat thickened the skins and made for really aromatic, spicy wines,” Benedetti says. “They are not purely fruit-driven. We got more of that redwood spice than we did in the fruit-forward 2016 and 2018 vintages. There is a little more mineral and a little less fruit. I like these weird years, especially for Pinot Noir. I’m always looking for that beautiful mistake, that beautiful accident. Those curveballs have the best potential to make great Pinot Noir, if you don’t ultimately get screwed by the weather!”

94 Points – 2018 Split Rail Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard comes from vines more than 30 years old that were planted at 1,700 feet and the wine was aged ten months in 20% new French oak. It has a pale to medium ruby color, but wow! The nose explodes with crushed strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and red cherry candy with touches of rose petal, lilac, cracked pepper, dried cranberries and amaro with a dusty current. The palate is medium-bodied, über silky and slowly unfurls to floral and earth-tinged fruit layers, with a frame of very finely grained tannins and seamlessly woven freshness, finishing long, juicy and full of energy.
Drink date: 2020-2030.

94 Points – 2018 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyard comes from vines planted at 500 feet in elevation in sandy loam. It aged ten months in 16% new French oak, has a pale to medium ruby color and gives up aromas of blood orange, dried herbs, tobacco leaf, strawberries and raspberries with touches of rhubarb, licorice and dust. Medium-bodied and silky textured, it explodes with earth and amaro-accented red berries flavors. It has a grainy frame and addicting freshness, finishing very long with tons of energy. Yes!
Drink date: 2020-2030.

94 Points – 2018 Integrato Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Integrato is a barrel selection aged ten months in 20% new French oak. It’s pale to medium ruby with lovely scents of rose petals, strawberry and raspberry preserves, rhubarb, pomegranate and crushed red and black cherries with accents of loam, peppercorn and prosciutto. Medium-bodied, it explodes with red berries flavors and oodles of earthy accents. It has a grainy texture and excellent freshness, finishing long and very flavorful. Yes! 450 cases produced.
Drink date: 2020-2030.

93 Points – 2017 Herr Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2017 Pinot Noir Herr Vineyard comes from vines planted at 2,500 feet. It was made with much more whole cluster than is typical. “I wanted to experiment with stem and skin theories,” says winemaker John Benedetti. “This was riper than average, so I used more stems.” It was made with 33% whole cluster and aged 18 months in second-fill French oak. Pale to medium ruby, it gives up broody scents of crushed black cherries, boysenberries and marionberries with notes of fir, bay leaf, desiccated roses, loamy earth, underbrush and meaty scents. Medium-bodied, it’s intensely flavored with earthy black and blue fruits and red fruit sparks. It has a fine, grainy texture and addicting freshness, finishing long and laced with floral perfume.
Drink date: 2020-2030.

93 Points – 2017 Split Rail Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2017 Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard comes from 30-year-old, dry-farmed vines planted at 1,700 feet. It aged in 30% new oak. It’s pale to medium ruby and has a very pretty perfume of Bing cherries, fresh cranberries, saline, dried tobacco, rose petals, strawberries and raspberries plus notes of woodsmoke and rooibos tea. The palate is light to medium-bodied, delicate but intense, walking a lovely line between bright, fresh fruits and earthy accents. It has a soft, very fine-grained frame and juicy acidity lifting the long, perfumed finish.
Drink date: 2020-2027.

92 Points – 2018 Split Rail Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2018 Chardonnay Split Rail Vineyard comes from 20- to 30-year-old vines planted at 1,700 feet in elevation. It aged ten months in 15% new French oak. It has a fresh, bright nose with aromas of green apple, pear peel, baker’s yeast, crushed stone, fresh quince and touches of orange blossoms, hazelnuts and honey. The palate is light to medium-bodied, delicate but intense, smoothly walking the line between bright citrus, mineral and savory character, with addicting freshness and a long, textured finish.
Drink date: 2020-2026.

92 Points – 2017 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2017 Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyard comes from grapes grown at 500 feet, four miles from the ocean. It aged ten months in 20% new French oak. It has a pale to medium ruby color and is shy to begin, slowly offering up crushed red currants, red and black cherries, raspberries, dusty earth and an undercurrent of floral perfume with notes of peppercorn and dried herbs. It’s light to medium-bodied, delicate but intense, with a finely grained frame and seamlessly woven freshness, finishing long and layered.
Drink date: 2020-2026.

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