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Elegant, nervy, silky, ethereal…these were a few of the descriptors that came to mind as this Pinot Noir made its way around our tasting table. Of the many things California does well, “coastal Pinot Noir” may have risen to the top of the list, thanks to thoughtful producers like Mikey and Gina Giugni of Scar of the Sea. Based in San Luis Obispo, this small winery is what wine geeks would call a “micro-négociant”—they do not own vineyards but instead contract with growers throughout California who share their sensibility and work with them closely. All the wines the Giugnis produce are small-production, hand-crafted bottlings that are defined not by any winemaking style but by the vineyard(s) they are sourced from. This Pinot Noir hails from two iconic sites in the Santa Maria Valley, and it’s a knockout. We’ve got a “value of the year” contender on our hands…
The Santa Maria Valley is at the northern end of Santa Barbara County, and the high-elevation vineyards that supply this wine—Rancho Ontiveros and Rancho Vinedo, both farmed by ninth-generation Californian James Ontiveros—neighbor the historic Rancho Tepusquet Land Grant. Like many of the Central Coast’s best growing zones, Santa Maria Valley runs east-west, allowing the easy flow of cool air from the Pacific Ocean. As the Giugnis note, they work with vineyards “that fall under the spell of her fog each day.”
The Giugnis founded Scar of the Sea in 2012, and in a relatively short period of time they’ve established collaborative relationships with grape-growers in an assortment of coastal appellations along California’s Central Coast. These include sites in the Edna Valley, the San Luis Obispo Coast, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, and elsewhere. They take a “transparent” approach to their winemaking, emphasizing organic vineyard sourcing, native yeast fermentations, and minimal oak or other “additions.”
This wine is a blend of grapes from two organically farmed Santa Maria Valley vineyards, with younger-vine material from Rancho Ontiveros and old-vine (1973) fruit from Rancho Vinedo.
The 2022 vintage is a compilation of five separate “picks,” fermented on ambient yeasts with some whole grape clusters left intact. The wine aged for seven months in used French oak barrels and was racked only once, at bottling. A total of 2,256 cases were made.
Shining a medium ruby-red in the glass with pink reflections at the rim, this medium-weight Pinot has a very inviting perfume that combines juicy fruit, flowers, spice, and earth in equal measure. Notes of red and black cherry, red plum, cranberry, Earl Grey tea, sandalwood, underbrush, and wild herbs. It is juicy and velvety, but there’s enough acidity to keep it lively and refreshing on the palate. A great mid-weight Pinot for pairing with grilled salmon or other red-friendly seafood preparations. No need to decant, just pop, pour, and enjoy at a cool 55 degrees in Burgundy stems. You will be amazed at how much wine they packed into this reasonably priced bottle. Cheers!
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