Longoria 2000 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido (Santa Maria Valley) – This has held very well, but it has neither complexified nor maintained steady-state, but has instead regressed into very simple old-pinot aromas of bark, soil, dust, and autumnal berry. I’ve another bottle, and maybe it will show differently, but as hard as it would have been to convince myself at the time, I think I should have consumed this at release. (6/12)
Hartley Ostini “Hitching Post” 2006 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido (Santa Maria Valley) – Bruising. Only a vague sense of restraint (or fear) separates this from the punishing perils of Pinot Port. The alcohol isn’t too unrestrained given the overall burl of the wine, but the fruit is dark and somewhat gelatinous, the structure an almost cartoonish 100-pound falling weight, and the body the kind one fears is only achievable via the sort of secretive modern science for which athletes must pee in cups. Not that I think that’s what they’ve done here. But I do think this is a wine for people who usually find Hartley Ostini pinots overly transparent, and I am not one of those people. (11/11)
Hartley Ostini “Hitching Post” 2001 Pinot Noir Julia’s (Santa Maria Valley) – Dusty morels and more intense, freshly-plucked porcini bind with pie fruit (that is to say: there’s an oven-warmed quality to it). This is fully knit and, I’d say, fully mature, even though I don’t expect it to fall apart immediately. A lack of full expression is, I think, inherent to the wine rather than to any artifact of age or storage; while I welcome the fact that the wine wasn’t pushed towards the caricature that afflicts so many of its neighbors, it also tastes as if it wasn’t pushed to the fullest expression of its own inherency, which is something I’d identify as somewhat of a house style at Hartley Ostini. In a way it’s a good thing, considering the alternatives, but one could also wish for just a bit more. (11/11)
Au Bon Climat 2007 Pinot Noir Los Alamos (Santa Maria Valley) – There is a particular quality of pinot noir that, in New Zealand, I’ve used – with some success – to guess at Central Otago (specifically Bannockburn/Cromwell) sourcing: blood orange, plum, and beet. But it occasionally shows up elsewhere, there and abroad, and here’s an example. If I hadn’t seen the label, I’d probably once again guess Central Otago, except that there’s a little more sophistication and delineation to the fruit (a consequence, perhaps, of New Zealand’s generally young vines and still-limited clonal palette). It’s really quite a gorgeous wine, overall, and as it finishes a graphite-like minerality…very unusual in pinot noir…starts to rear its particulate head. This is still very young, and yet there are already mature-tasting elements within, so as to its actual future prospects I wouldn’t dare venture a guess. (11/11)
Native9 2008 Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros (Santa Maria Valley) – Liquorous cough syrup heavy on the menthol, plus massive tannin that hasn’t quite escaped its green stage.
Native9 2009 Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros (Santa Maria Valley) – Big and leathery, with just about the darkest fruit one can extract from pinot noir. Very long, with steady and impenetrable density throughout. This is massive, but it’s also a very good wine.
Alta Maria 2009 Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros (Santa Maria Valley) – Blood orange and plum. Medium-bodied. Central Otago-ish. I like it, but it’s a bit of a stumbler.
Alta Maria 2009 Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley) – Green fig, ripe tangerine. Good acidity and a deft use of wood. Long and solid.
Qupé 2007 Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate (Santa Maria Valley) – Ripe. Blackness of both the berried and peppered varieties. Lots of tannin. This is not only made for the long haul, it’s already holding a non-refundable ticket.
Qupé 2008 Syrah Bien Nacido (Santa Maria Valley) – Rich mixed fruit, crushed black and blue berries, soft coal dust, some lingering toast, and a persistent touch of finishing oxidation. I inquire, but the bottle hasn’t been open long; perhaps the damage existed before uncorking. In any case, I don’t think this is fully intact.