2012 Gainey Vineyard Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills
Expert Rating
WE 92 points
(Read the full review below)
 
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Sta. Rita Hills AVA 2012 Pinot Noir "Sleeper of the Year"

Of all the noble red varieties, when it comes to marrying richness, vibrancy, and ethereal floral complexity, Pinot Noir stands alone. But as we've reported so many times over the last seven years, the world's most seductive variety is also one of the most capricious. If yields are too high, Pinot Noir is often dilute. If soils are too fertile, bottles lack the mineral cut that makes for olfactory fireworks. If the microclimate's growing season is too short, Pinot Noir loses its sexy high-tones.

The greatest Pinot Noir in the world, of course, is grown on the calcareous slopes on Burgundy's Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. Above the villages of Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle-Musigny, Pommard and Volnay, the most prized vineyards enjoy extended growing seasons, allowing small-berry Pinot Noir to mature slowly and incrementally.

After Burgundy, two small quadrants on the California coast are the next best thing. Both are greatly influenced by morning fog as thick as pea soup. The first is on the Sonoma Coast, where poor Goldridge soils and chilly breezes off the Petaluma Gap work in tandem, giving birth to the high-octane, single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from Peter Michael, Kistler, Dutton-Goldfield, Phelps and Radio-Coteau.

The second spot is far more extreme. Set on the Santa Barbara coastline where the mountains run east-west in lieu of north-south, a thick fog coats the Sta. Rita Hills every morning. Diurnal temperature shifts on summer days flirt with 40 degrees, even if daytime highs rarely exceed 80. The growing season — one of the longest in the New World — often stretches from late March to mid-October! While the summers are dry and berry size is tiny, due to the cool summer temperatures, there's rarely any risk of desiccation.

The biggest challenge for the most revered growers in Sta. Rita face is posed by their bankers and accountants. Yields off the top vineyards are typically LESS than 2 tons per acre, sending production costs skyrocketing. Not that the daunting arithmetic deters the likes of Sea Smoke, Cargasacchi, Fiddlestix, Dan Gainey and Manfred Krankl at Sine Qua Non.

Gainey VineyardsOver the last decade, a half-dozen vineyards, all blanketed by morning fog that the locals call "sea smoke," have turned out many of the highest rated Pinot Noirs in America. Brewer-Clifton has netted a half dozen 93- to 97-point scores off of Mount Carmel Vineyard and Cargasacchi. Paul Lato has been on a hot streak for a half decade, crafting 93- to 95-point gems off of Zotovich and Fiddlestix vineyards. Sea Smoke is nothing short of a Pinot Noir phenomenon. And Manfred Krankl's Sine Qua Non Pinots have long been some of the most fabled collector wines on the coast.

Due to the tiny yields and the high farming costs, these exquisite wild-berry Pinot Noirs generally begin at $50/bottle, topping out in the low $100s. Except one.

Dan Gainey's Evan's Ranch sits just east of Sea Smoke and Cargasacchi. Each morning the "smoke" rolls in, providing a bit of moisture as it cloaks these manicured hillsides. By midday, the fog burns off, yielding to bright Santa Barbara sun. In the marvelous 2012 growing season, one that was absent much of the drama of previous vintages, the crop size remained small. Clusters were tiny, berries sweet and juicy — making for one of the most mouthwatering Pinot Noirs of Gainey's illustrious career.

The 2012 Gainey Estate Pinot Noir is vivid ruby to the rim, infused with exquisite aromas of raspberry liqueur, cherry and pomegranate, lightly touched by new-wood cedar. Rich and mouthwatering on the attack, high-toned and juicy, the core is packed with a luscious mix of strawberry preserves and black cherry, finishing with fine persistence and length. Drink now-2019.



Tasting Notes

2012 Gainey Vineyard Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills
"The 2012 Gainey Estate Pinot Noir is vivid ruby to the rim, infused with exquisite aromas of raspberry liqueur, cherry and pomegranate, lightly touched by new-wood cedar. Rich and mouthwatering on the attack, high-toned and juicy, the core is packed with a luscious mix of strawberry preserves and black cherry, finishing with fine persistence and length. Drink now-2019."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

"This Pinot Noir is silky smooth, with a delicate, airy texture. Yet the flavors are full-throttle, showing excitingly ripe cherries and persimmons, kissed with toasty oak, and made bright with vibrant acidity. Drink now through 2017."
92 points -- Wine Enthusiast

 

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