Last September, I started spending time with the owners of Dragonette Cellars and Lindley Wines. In both cases, the owners double as the winemakers.
My goal: Writing a series starting with harvest and ending with bottling (whites or rosés) or barrel aging (reds), and to alternate back and forth with the two wineries. My most recent installment featured Buellton-based Dragonette Cellars and was posted on Oct. 24 — nearly three-and-a-half months back.
I interviewed Francesca “Frankie” and Jake Lindley on Dec. 19, and have absolutely no valid excuse for taking so long to whip up the story.
So once again, with “East to West,” I want to convey how the vast Santa Ynez Valley appellation encompasses two smaller AVAs: Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara to the east, and the Sta. Rita Hills to the west. At the east end, various Bordeaux grapes thrive in the heat; on the west end, it’s all about pinot noir and chardonnay, which flourish in the fog.
In September, when “East to West” last featured the Lindleys, both were short on sleep and knee deep in harvest. Jake had picked up cellar work at Pali Wine Co., which meant he went straight from harvesting grapes to long days at another winery. Frankie housed and cooked meals for out-of-town friends who rose with the sun to pick grapes alongside the crew members from Coastal Vineyard Care Associates, the company that manages Lindley Vineyard.
In September, I wrote: “About 11 a.m. (one Monday), Jake left for an all-day industry event in San Diego. He got home at 2 a.m. Tuesday — and went straight back to Lindley Vineyard for an overnight pick. About 10 a.m., he reached the winery to press that pinot, and at 2 p.m., he left for an eight-hour shift at Pali Wines.
Early in November, Frankie e-mailed me in response to my query about our next interview: “Sorry, Laurie: I would actually like to see him myself! He’s had one day off so far and slept for 21 hours … ”
But in two months’ time, as fruit was picked, fermented, pressed and eventually put to barrel, the two caught up on sleep. After Thanksgiving, Frankie graciously invited me to taste barrels at the Lompoc winery they share with Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe.
Visiting for the coming holidays were Jake’s parents, Karen and Rodney Quigley.
Jake Lindley and the 2013 viognier from Duvarita Vineyard.
On Dec. 19, we five gathered around a table at the winery, the Lindley’s three large dogs lounging at our feet. Frankie checked glasses and Jake sat quietly, seemingly lost in thought, but their anticipation was palpable — the chardonnay lined up in glasses was the inaugural vintage from their estate vineyard, located on Sweeney Road on the western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.
(They’ve bottled Lindley Chardonnay before, but sourced it from Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley).
Also on the tasting menu was the first Lindley viognier, which Jake had produced from Duvarita Vineyard on Purisima Road, and another vintage of pinot noir from Lindley Vineyard.
The couple finished harvest 2013 with 20 barrels of estate pinot noir; 2.5 of viognier; three of estate chardonnay; two pinot noir from Radian Vineyard; five from La Lomita Vineyard, and three barrels of blended pinot noir.
Of the viognier, Jake said: “We wanted a white to pair with our release of the 2012 pinot noir.” In December, they anticipated bottling the viognier in January, and would release it in the coming months.
The owner of Duvarita Vineyard sold the Lindleys one ton of viognier grapes, Jake said, which he turned into about two and-a-half barrels’ worth of juice, most of it fermented in “really old neutral barrels.”
And so we sipped. Here are our notes:
Barrel One: “Full of perfume; pretty; rosy, with a traditional viognier nose full of honeysuckle.”
Barrel Two: “Not as floral as Barrel One; more muted, full of straw; still a mouth punch; has a tiny bit of spritz; it’s still in ML (malolactic fermentation).”
Barrel Three: “This one is more like the first barrel; this is the half barrel, and is in stainless steel; lovely on the palate; really yummy;” (and, from Frankie): “Jake, you might just have a future!”
From viognier, we segued to the estate chardonnay, and tasted three more single barrels, slightly out of order:
Barrel One: “This tastes like chardonnay! … It’s a little simple, yet clean.”
Barrel Three: “This has a vibrant nose; way more fun; complex; this is a beautiful wine already; very pleasing.”
Barrel Two: “Butterscotch-y, but overall, much more simple; nutty; the nuttiness in this chardonnay comes from a heavier press — it produces some tannins from the skins.”
And then it came time to sample four barrels of pinot noir, all Pommard clone.
Samples of very young pinot noir from the Lindley estate pinot noir, Sta. Rita Hills
“At this point (early in the aging process), I’m looking for flaws in the wine,” Jake said.
Flaws? Nope. The young wine was exquisite, and as we swirled, sniffed and tasted, Frankie lavished praise on Jake: “We grew this!” and, “Oh my god, honey!”
Jake just smiled.
“I didn’t have to fight this wine,” he explained. “It was easy — the vintage itself, 2013, was easy.”
The Lindley’s young pinots were color-rich and complex in flavor. One barrel sample showed more mocha (“that may have been a newer barrel,” said Jake); another had already finished ML and displayed a softer and smoother mouthfeel. Yet another had a “big nose” — “This is MY kind of wine, a classic pinot noir. Pommard is perfume-y and has a silkiness to it.”
“To have something this fun … already .. to have this, now!” Frankie enthused about the progress of their pinot noir. “This is our first barrel tasting, because we’ve been so busy, and we wanted to do this with you,” she told me.
Indeed, though the wines are young, they each radiate a certain je ne sais quoi. They are bright yet elegant, layered and subtle.
“So far, so good,” Jake smiled.
Coming next: Dragonette Cellars bottles a 2013 vintage