2012 Rippon Pinot Noir Mature Vines of Central Otago – New Zealand’s Very Best

New Zealand’s Finest!

 

I first began drinking Rippon’s phenomenal Pinots with the early 2000s, continuing my enjoyment and the consumption of their finest juice a few years ago with the release of their 2010s and sensational 2003s. My adoration is well documented in these pages.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate is on record as well, referring to Nick’s wines as

“…Pinot Noirs that rekindled memories of those glorious 2005 Burgundy’s”.

I was also quite impressed to hear the news a few months back that Nick Stock, Senior Editor for James Suckling.com, in the New Zealand issue of “The Top 50 New Zealand Wines of 2016,” ranked Rippon’s 2012 the #7 Top New Zealand Wine for 2016!

The fruit for Rippon’s Pinot Noir Mature Vines is culled from an ancient parcel on the estate’s north-facing, steep, eroded slope. It’s a meeting point of glacial deposits: ancient soil, rock and coarse gravels, all based in schist, where Central Otago’s earliest vines were planted. Rippon’s Mature Vines cuvee is issued from all of the fully developed Pinot vines growing in this expansive parcel. This is where it all began for Rippon, and the fruit of the vine from this parcel bears witness to the perfectionist style Nick Mills (and his father Rolfe Mills before him) is renowned for.

For those new to these pages, I like to remind everyone just how vital Nick’s training has been to the continuity of these world class Pinot Noirs. Not only are these the oldest plantings in the region, but they are tended by a man who spent his formative years working the soil and terroirs of Burgundy; he knew how vital his understanding of such things would be. To that end, Nick tenured with de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) , and spent time with Jean-Jacques Confuron, Lucien Jacob, Alain Meunier, Nicolas Potel and Domaine de la Vougeraie as well. His are truly the wines of a master craftsman.

2012 Rippon Pinot Noir Central Otago Mature Vines

This is the mature-vine assemblage of the entire property and has a more granitic, schist, wet-stone and rock edge as well as delicate perfumes and hints of pepper, not to mention poached raspberries and cherry fruit. Great depth and weight and good phenolic concentration. It’s all saturated in dark cherry flavors and plenty of tannins. No compromise in detail. Best from 2018, but will grow well past that.

96 points, Nick Stock for James Suckling.com

2014 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir – SLH As It Should Be!

2014 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir – SLH As It Should Be!

Monterey County is one of the most scenic regions in Southern California. Spanning roughly 90 miles, this is an all-important wine region stretching from Monterey Bay south to the edge of San Luis Obispo County. Vineyards here are flanked by the Galiban Mountains to the east, with the gorgeous Santa Lucia Mountains along the Pacific encompassing the western edge.

Nicky Hahn is a bit of rock-star here. It was his idea that the Santa Lucia Highlands – once simply part of the Monterey County wine zone – be carved out, recognized as a unique appellation. Achieving such recognition doesn’t come easy; involving bureaucrats is a process. It can take years to move the mountains of paperwork as well as attitudes required to have a new wine region officially recognized.

But Nicky pulled his fellow vintners together; they made their appeals, showed their wines, explained the benefits, and showed a few more wines… Three years later, Nicky had his new AVA (American Viticultural Area) – Santa Lucia Highlands became a reality.

In 1980 Hahn released its first wine and by 1991 Nicky’s Hahn Winery gave birth to the Santa Lucia Highlands. Hahn, Nicky’s dream now a reality, became synonymous with what today is one of California’s most important, most respected Pinot Noir zones. Nicky (Nicolaus) Hahn was a visionary. His vision gave the world one of its most important wine zones.

Hahn’s estate in this zone is breathtaking, their wines undeniably class-leading. Today the wines are made by Paul Clifton, his Midas touch undeniable. For 2014 – if you can dig up a few bottles – this estate hit a level of quality with their estate bottled wines that keeps me coming back for more. In particular Clifton’s SLH Pinot for 2014 is magical. Today, five years on, it’s only just beginning to spread its wings!

A smokin’ effort, as well as a terrific value, the 2014 Pinot Noir Hahn SLH (mostly from the Smith Vineyard) offers classic notes of forest floor, toasted spice, licorice and tons of Pinot Noir fruit in its medium-bodied, textured and layered profile. … I’m hard pressed to come up with a better value in Pinot Noir. Drink this pleasure bent beauty over the coming 4-5 years.

An estate that has hit another level of quality over the past few vintages, Hahn Family Wines focuses on estate vineyards in both the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Arroyo Seco Valley. The wines are made by Paul Clifton, everything is destemmed and aging occurs all in French oak. The big change recently is the moving of their limited-production, single vineyard releases to their Lucienne label. These are all made in tiny, 80- to 600-case quantities and are beautiful wines. In addition, their entry level wines and the new SLH releases (which are a blend of the single vineyards) are absolutely worth checking out.

92 points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate — Drink 2016-2021

Bethel Heights ÆOLIAN Pinot – Truly Profound

2014 Bethel Heights ÆOLIAN Pinot – 95 points Wine Spectator & Truly Profound

In 1977, bound by a love for fine wine, the Casteel, Dudley and Webb families acquired 75 acres northwest of Salem, Oregon. Their acquisition included 14 acres of un-rooted, freshly planted cuttings. These were promising times for the group, and they looked forward to their new life away from academia.

The next few years saw the clearing of acreage, additional plantings, inaugural bottlings – they bottled their first homemade basement batch in 1981 – and the first commercial offer, in 1984. The Eola Hills gave these families their independence, and some mighty fine wines, as well. It’s a true family affair, with the third generation of cousins now lending their hands in the winery.

Those early years were amazing according to the families:

“What we found here was a living landscape – a geological mosaic of benches and slopes covered with healthy living soils, a crystal clear stream running down the middle through a deep, wooded ravine, and a rich diversity of wildlife to share it all. Sheer magic.”

The ÆOLIAN wind blows up from the Van Duzer Corridor, west of Bethel Heights. It has been the singular, most defining aspect of this place since the 1800s. The ÆOLIAN wind has carved mountain, land and vineyard over the decades.

This is the moniker for Bethel Heights’ great Pinot Noirs. Nearly 30 vintages ago I tasted here, on my first visit to these windswept, hilltop sites. I recall that visit each time I taste their 2014s, especially the ÆOLIAN bottling. I love it, and consider it among the most profound wines I’ve yet tasted from this inimitable family of the vine.

 

Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

 

As I begin to compose my thoughts for this letter, I remember back to that now-famous line, uttered so perfectly by Sean Connery throughout his career, as his character in the 007 series would introduce himself; “Bond, James Bond”.  I think of that phrase every time I hear that a new release of this wine is headed my way.  “ROAR, ROAR WINES.”

ROAR Pinots need absolutely zero introduction for the initiated.  They come to us from the rolling hills of the Santa Lucia Highlands region of the Central Coast – Monterey to be quite specific – and they are quite simply, as Parker so perfectly points out, “Among the finest produced in California”.  From the very first review of these tremendous and full-bodied Pinots ever offered by the Wine Advocate, the world has waited in line for a chance to purchase these singular efforts from the gracious Franscioni couple.

The wines of ROAR Vineyards – so named as to pay homage to the screaming winds that blow through the hills and valleys of this region, originating from the coast – are made by Gary and Rosella Franscioni along with their good friend and wine-maker Gary Pisoni, to bring to light the very best attributes of this part of California.  These are powerful Pinots, rightly so, and yet they retain the elegance that Pinot Noir is so famous for.  Meeting the people behind the wines will completely, as is so often the case, explain the wine you’ll find in the bottles.

What’s more, the names of the vineyards these folks are behind as farmers and proprietors are equally as famous as a source for world class wines in many other folks hands as well.  A bottle of Pinot Noir carrying the Garys’, Rosella’s, or Pisoni vineyard designations, when bottled by an ever-increasing number of fine producers in California, is as close as one can come to a guarantee of a tremendous wine.  The assistance these 3 people have offered to so many folks, in their attempts to produce world-class Pinot Noir, is truly heart-warming.

Today, we have just a small offering (minuscule, to be precise) from this tremendous estate to offer all of you.  As is the case with ROAR, the wines are consistently offered for sale — and completely sold out — before the reviews are printed by the wine writers.  If you look at the previous vintage’s notes, however, you’ll understand the reason behind the quick and consistent sell-through.

Just as a final note, here are some words from the experts on this amazing estate:

“Wow! I was blown away by these Pinot Noirs from Roar. They all reveal unbelievable complexity, richness, and the extraordinary potential that exists in the Santa Lucia Highlands for this varietal.

[It] reminds me of a beautifully ripe top vintage of Grand Cru Corton from the Cotes de Beaune.

This brilliant Pinot Noir is among the finest produced in California.”
— Robert Parker, covering several offers from ROAR

“Gary and Rosella Franscioni, third generation farmers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, are proprietors of Roar Wines, proprietors of Rosella’s Vineyard and partners with Gary Pisoni in Garys’ Vineyard.

With the Roar Pinots, they set out to capture the pure character of the Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards that they are so intimately familiar with….

The Franscionis are perfect proof that an artisan’s wines are a true reflection of the person. Like their wines, Gary and Rosella are beautiful, classy people.”                — Gregory Walter, PinotReport

 

Recently tasted 2015s confirm the unending hot streak here at ROAR…

The single vineyard Garys’ and Rosella’s Pinots were striking…

Happy Hunting…

Brittan Vineyards Pinot Noirs – Lovers of Great Burgundy, It Doesn’t Get Much Better!

Brittan Vineyards

I’ve been at the Burgundy game for 30 years; tasting my way through every village of the Cote, north to south and back again. I’ve personally visited with vignerons through thick and thin on more than 2 dozen occasions. It’s maddening some times, the elusive bottle of mind-bending Pinot.

Oregon ain’t no picnic either, might be even more frustrating. Pinot won’t be tamed, tricked, cajoled, manipulated, masked. Cabernet? Grow it anywhere; it’ll still show its stuff. Try that with Pinot and you might as well sell it off to the distillery.

Estimates put the top performers – those who garner the BIG points – at less than 1% of all growers.

So imagine the look on my face when reading the headlines in the Wine Advocate,

“Brittan’s wines with low pH and firm acidity (without sacrificing flavor) are sure to send bolts of rapture through lovers of great Burgundy” .

Visions of Mortet went dancing through my head. Let me conclude by saying, any bottles remaining after this pre-sale will find themselves quietly resting next to verticals of Aubert’s best in my cellar.

Don’t dilly dally…

Available for a short time…

 

 

2012 Melville Sta Rita Hills Estate Pinot | “Gorgeous, Radiant Wine” says Galloni

Thanks Nancy Pastor, The Wall Street Journal for the picture

Melville Estate – Tops in 2012 for Sta Rita Hills!

If Santa Barbara isn’t squarely on your radar, it should be.

Galloni opened his July 15 review with,

“A palpable energy and the thrill of discovery accompanied my tastings in Santa Barbara this year.”

Looks like big name Pinot producers from Napa and Sonoma have some competition on their hands. Melville in particular.

A long-time favorite, Greg Brewer and his team turned in a set of 2012s that flat out stunned Mr. Galloni. From fruit grown on their estate in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, Melville’s 2012 Pinot was the best of the bunch.

Galloni dubbed it

“One of the most polished, refined and aromatically expressive wines I have tasted from Melville…”

crowning it 94 points and saying

“What a gorgeous, radiant and totally sexy wine…”

Melville’s Lompoc estate, planted on various sub soils – predominantly Lompoc dune sand, clay loam and shale – performed brilliantly in 2012. The increased hang time allowed by the lazy, foggy mornings added up to picture perfect growing conditions. Brewer was able to harvest gorgeous fruit, with acidities to balance the striking fruit profiles and stunning aromatics.

Personally, these remind me of his ’07s – bursting with pleasure, balance like none other.

Gorgeous stuff, indeed!melville-2012-estate-pinot-noir-sta-rita-hills

2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” Pinot Noir – Phenomenal Old-Vine Beauty

 

Where The Rippon Magic Happens

 

I first began drinking these phenomenal Pinots with the early 2000s, earning the chance to work directly with the estate a couple years ago with a small release of their 2010s and sensational 2003s. My adoration is well known to friends, family and colleagues alike, with the Wine Advocate on record as well, referring to Nick’s wines as “Pinot Noirs that rekindled memories of those glorious Burgundy 2005’s”. You’ll be as thrilled as I am to hear that Nick’s most well-priced treasure – the 2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” – has finally landed in the States – ready for your immediate, hedonistic enjoyment!

The site which would eventually become known as Rippon was first planted to 25 various varietals during the 1970s by its founder, Rolfe Mills. Rolfe had spent time in the Douro Valley during the 1940s and the site of schist, rich in foliated mica and quartzite, on his land in Central Otago sparked a great curiosity. Rolfe began experimenting with his soils, isolating a parcel on the western board of Roy’s Bay, Lake Wanaka.

This ancient parcel is Rippon’s north-facing escarpment, and it forms the meeting point of terminal moraines and coarse gravels, all based in schist, where Central Otago’s earliest vines were planted. Rippon’s Mature Vines cuvee is issued from all of the fully developed Pinot vines growing in this expansive parcel. This is where it all began for Rippon, and the fruit of the vine from this parcel bears witness to the perfectionist style Nick (and his father Rolfe before him) is renowned for.

2012 “Rippon Mature Vines”

For those new to these pages, I’d like to take the time to remind folks how vital Nick’s training has been to the continuity of these world class Pinot Noirs. Not only are these the oldest plantings in the region, but they are tended by a man who spent his formative years working the soil and terroirs of Burgundy; he knew how vital his understanding of such things would be. To that end, Nick tenured with de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) , and spent time with Jean-Jacques Confuron, Lucien Jacob, Alain Meunier, Nicolas Potel and Domaine de la Vougeraie as well. His are truly the wines of a master craftsman.

 

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