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.
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.
“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
And West, back to Lindley Wines
Starting Sept. 20, with the inaugural harvest at their estate vineyard, Frankie and Jake Lindley have been deep in grapes — but short on sleep.
For example, Monday: The two had another pinot noir pick, beginning at dawn. About 11 a.m., Jake Lindley left for an all-day industry event in San Diego; he napped in the backseat on the way home.
At 2 a.m. Tuesday he arrived back home — and went straight back to Lindley Vineyard for an overnight pick, scheduled under the cover of darkness because of the warm days and evenings this week.
About 10 a.m., Lindley reached the winery to de-stem that pinot, and at 2 p.m., he left for an eight-hour shift at Pali Wines, where he’s picked up some extra cellar work.
Welcome to 24 hours in the life of a winemaker during harvest.
Tuesday evening, when I phoned Frankie Lindley to arrange Wednesday’s interview, she vowed with a laugh that, starting this weekend, she would be “sleeping in until October.”
(In fact, mid-morning Wednesday she confided that the exhausted couple had overslept by one hour and were late to the vineyard).
With their estate pinot noir all picked by Tuesday morning, the Lindleys Wednesday morning turned their focus to the vineyard source for Lindley Wines’ prior two vintages of pinot noir: La Lomita Vineyard. This private, one-acre site is near Ampelos Vineyard on the eastern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Since 2011, the Lindleys have shared that pinot noir with the owner.
When I caught up with him mid-morning at the winery, Jake Lindley was unloading what weighed in as a record three tons of La Lomita pinot noir. “I’ve NEVER gotten more from this site!” he exclaimed.
The final Lindley Vineyard estate pick early Wednesday was the half-acre of chardonnay, and pick just under one ton (1,191 pounds) — about one-quarter ton over than Lindley’s initial estimate.
He’d borrowed three fermenter bins from his winemaking neighbor, Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars, and by Wednesday noon, all of Lindley Wines’ pinot noir was soaking away in 17 bins topped with pink and red sheets.
“When I get a spare minute, I’ll start inoculating the pinot, three bins at a time,” Lindley said. But first, there was that ton of chardonnay to press.
Coming in about two weeks: I’ll revisit fermentation, barreling and aging at both Dragonette Cellars and Lindley Wines, where the respective winemakers’ 2013 sauvignon blanc, grenache-mourvedre rosé, pinot noir and chardonnay will be under wraps.
Copyright Laurie Jervis and http://www.centralcoastwinepress.com
About East to West: With this series of stories, I’ll share the 2013 harvest with two very hands-on owner/winemaker teams as they pick, ferment and begin to age several grapes picked for the 2013 vintage. With “East to West,” I want to convey how the vast Santa Ynez Valley appellation encompasses two smaller appellations: Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara to the east, and the Sta. Rita Hills to the west. The players: Dragonette Cellars, based in Buellton, and Lindley Wines of Lompoc.
Today: West, with Lindley Wines
“We need more fermenters!”
The sheer weight of the current harvest has taken many by surprise, and Jake Lindley is no exception. The pinot noir clusters are plentiful. More fruit needs more equipment.
Friday morning, Lindley, owner with his wife, Francesca “Frankie” Lindley of the vineyard and wine label that bears their name, arrived at the site just as half-ton picking pins were being filled with the first pinot noir grapes off the vines.
The couple had estimated that their first pinot noir harvest from the vineyard planted in May 2011 would yield about eight tons.
Instead, the weight from the two pinot noir blocks picked Friday morning was slightly more than four tons, almost double the Lindley’s predictions. Hence, the need for more fermenting bins.
“Everyone’s coming in heavy, but this is kind of ridiculous,” Jake Lindley told me later that morning, unloading picking bins into a crusher/destemmer at his Lompoc facility.
About 7:30 a.m., a crew from Coastal Vineyard Care Associates and seven of the Lindley’s friends were nearly finished picking the first four rows of those two blocks, or almost one ton of grapes. They’d started about 6:30 a.m. under a thick fog and light drizzle.
Lindley Vineyard, the westernmost in the Sta. Rita Hills American Viticultural Area, is 6.5 acres of vines on a 10-acre parcel, Frankie Lindley said. Most of that is planted to pinot noir, with clones 115, 667 and Pommard 91. The site’s remaining half acre contains chardonnay, Wente clone 2.
The Lindleys estimate they’ll harvest 1.23 tons of chardonnay from the half acre, Frankie Lindley said.
For their prior three vintages, the couple has sourced chardonnay from Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley and some pinot noir from the one-acre La Lomita, located near Ampelos Vineyard at the east end of the Sta. Rita Hills.
Then came Friday: The inaugural pick at Lindley Vineyard, and the always-vivacious Frankie Lindley, a native of Worcestershire, England, was nearly beside herself with excitement. She busied herself showing friends visiting from L.A. how to clip clusters and helped sort the fruit being dumped into picking bins loaded on a trailer.
“I’m completely filthy but I’ve never been happier!”
She’d arrived well before sunrise and walked the rows, admiring the grapes, planning the details of picking Block B and C, which are planted to clones 115 and Pommard. The time was ripe, so to speak, with the pinot noir “just what we want — low alcohol, and high acid.” The brix was 24.5 and the pH 3.28 — “perfect.”
Lindley knelt to pick clusters hanging below the vines’ fruiting wire, which, on Newton’s recommendation, was trained just 18 inches above the ground. Being closer to the ground affords the vines both protection from the brisk winds that rake the hillside vineyard and a dose of heat that naturally radiates from the ground.
Lindley relayed that Coastal Vineyard Care’s Jeff Newton told her that the the vineyard’s pinot noir “was some of the best he’s ever seen — and he sees a lot of pinot noir!!”
When the first two tons of pinot noir were in bins on trucks ready for the winery, Jake Lindley popped a bottle of Champagne to celebrate the vineyard, the grapes and friends.
Two days and lots of crushing later, the couple shared some of the factors they consider before deciding when to pick.
“Our goal is the finished wine — we want it to have low alcohol and high acidity, but be ripe enough to exhibit good phenolics (a grape’s natural compounds). It’s a delicate balance … picking too early might sacrifice complexity,” Frankie Lindley told me.
“Then, it also comes down to ‘how does it taste? How does it look’? The process is all very hands on .. we stay on top of the fruit and tasted it two times a week.”
Next in the series: Dragonette Cellars harvests the rest of its grenache and mourvedre from Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon.
Copyright Laurie Jervis and http://www.centralcoastwinepress.com
Alta Maria Vineyards’ 2010 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
This rich, ruby-colored pinot noir is full of dark cherry and has perfect balance and a long finish. I enjoyed it alone but this beauty would pair with variety of meats ranging from steak to grilled salmon and anything in between.
The pinot is a blend of clones 777, 2A, Pommard, 115 and Martini sourced from premium vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley. It was aged in 33 percent new French oak for 17 months.
This wine has earned several top scores since its release, including being named one of the Top 50 Pinot Noirs in “America’s Best Restaurants,” in the April 2013 Wine & Spirits Magazine.
Winemakers James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins, friends since their days at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, team to produce Alta Maria, and their separate labels are Native 9 and Autonom, respectively. All three are available for tasting and purchase at the tasting room, open daily in Los Olivos.
Production: 4,200 cases. Retail: $28. www.altamaria.com
My fellow blogger Joe Roberts at www.1winedude.com penned this lovely tribute to the Family Behind California Chardonnay, the Wente Family. Yes, that Wente, as in Wente Clone.
Rick Longoria, one of my favorite winemakers, has released his first pinot noir vintage from Block M at the esteemed Fe Ciega Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills.
Block M is named for the clone Mt. Eden, which Longoria planted in 2008 from cuttings taken at another treasured site, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, across the Santa Ynez River from Fe Ciega.
Fe Ciega’s Block M comprises 1.25 acres on a steep hill — one that Longoria said he originally thought “was too steep to farm.” However, other vineyards nearby “were planted on as steep if not steeper slopes, so that gave me confidence that we could plant this block and not have any serious problems with tractor access, etc.,” he noted.
Longoria grew fond of the Mt. Eden pinot noir clone when he sourced it from both Sanford & Benedict and the Mt. Carmel vineyards. “Those sites produced some of the best wines I made in the late 1980s through the mid-2000s.”
Longoria calls his first Block M vintage, the 2011, quite reminiscent of the Mt. Carmel pinot noirs he once produced: “Rich forward fruit aromatics in the nose, and a juicy dense quality in the mid-palate, with a velvety finish.”
Longoria produced just 58 cases of the 2011, but anticipates increased production as the vines continue to mature.
The 2011 Pinot Noir Block M Fe Ciega retails for $55. Information and tasting room hours, www.longoriawine.com
Copyright Central Coast Wine Press