2012 Lompoc Wine Company Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills
 
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Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr The Fog Called "Sea Smoke" ― and What We Hate About These Jobs

When the announcement was finally made, and Domaine de la Côte was born, we couldn't have been happier for our longtime friends Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr. Two of the most inspired winemakers on the coast, both of whom came to winemaking from most unusual backgrounds and circumstances, had finally gotten their hands on a few world-class Pinot Noir vineyards. Given the pedigree of the sites and the ingenuity of the founders, it wouldn't be long before the world's most influential critical voice came calling.

In August 2013, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate waxed poetic before dropping a 93-point bomb on the first release from the most talked-about new venture on the Santa Barbara coast since Sea Smoke. The Advocate described the 2011 Domaine de la Côte Pinot Noir as a wine of "thrilling complexity," before suggesting that this luscious, high-toned Vosne-Romanée look-alike would hit its peak before the early 2020s.

Parker's review came as no surprise. Vassar-educated Moorman is the ingenious winemaker at Stolpman Vineyards in Ballard Canyon. Parr, who grew up in Calcutta, India, before moving to San Francisco, is America's #1 sommelier, in addition to being the winemaker at high-scoring Sandhi. But even more than the winemaking résumés of the founders, it was the pedigree of the vineyards they'd acquired and chosen that most intrigued us.

Moorman, Parr and a financial partner purchased a collection of vineyards that were originally part of Evening Land Vineyards and are planted over 40 acres at the chilly western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. Set at 700 feet in elevation, with clayey soils strewn with chunks of white flint or "Silex," the vines were planted to tight spacing of up to 7,000 plants per acre. As temperatures rarely reach 80 degrees, even on the warmest summer days, the Pinot Noir vines are treated to extraordinary extended hangtime, much explaining the marriage of red-fruit opulence and riveting acid backbone.

In the superb 2012 vintage ― acknowledging where Domaine de la Côte was headed without forgetting those who had paved their way ― Moorman and Parr turned the spotlight away from their new venture, and paid tribute to the great vineyard history of Sta. Rita Hills.

Working with fruit drawn off of two of the most famous Pinot Noir vineyards in California, Parr and Moorman turned out one of the more dazzling wines of the year. The first vineyard was famed Sanford & Benedict. The second was Rita's Crown ― a steep perch set just above Sea Smoke, a stone's throw from Point Conception. Parr took to the road after setting up tasting appointments with sommeliers in NYC and San Francisco. The 2012 Pinot Noir he put on display wouldn't bear a Domaine de la Côte label, as Sashi put it, "because the wine had nothing to do with us, but everything to do with what came before us."

By the time Rajat returned to the Sta. Rita Hills, he'd shocked the restaurant world on both coasts, earning wine-list placements at Restaurant Daniel, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Bar Boulud, Rouge Tomate, RN74, Saison, and Quince.

Then Sashi Moorman did his part. The winemaker picked up the phone and dialed WineAccess, asking us to do him and Raj a favor by publishing this story about their 2012 "Lompoc Wine Company" Pinot Noir and the Sta. Rita Hills, sending it out to our readership of 300,000.

It's one thing to negotiate a price on behalf of our membership, flexing our bulging buying muscles as we haggle with brokers and national salesmen, people with whom we have no prior relationship. It's quite another to do so with an old friend who doubles as one of the most brilliant and inventive winemakers on the coast. But, as we pointed out to Sashi, last we looked our paychecks aren't signed by the Lompoc Wine Company. Sashi's suggested retail price was $45/bottle, consistent with the $6,000/ton cost of Pinot Noir off Sanford & Benedict and Rita's Crown. We thought once. Twice. Then we dug in our heels and haggled like we didn't recognize the name or number on the caller ID. The discussions lasted the better part of four months. Today, finally, we're publishing this bittersweet tribute to the Sta. Rita Hills.

Sashi and Raj's 2012 Lompoc Wine Company Pinot is glistening ruby-red to the rim, infused with mouthwatering aromas of black raspberry and cherry-cola flash, tinged with textbook mineral smokiness. At once suave and energetic on the attack, packed with deep wild-berry richness, all braced by juicy, supple tannin backbone. Drink now-2020.

$45 on release. $23.99 on WineAccess ― a bittersweet reminder of what we most hate about these jobs. Shipping included on 4.


Tasting Notes

"Sashi and Raj's 2012 Lompoc Wine Company Pinot is glistening ruby-red to the rim, infused with mouthwatering aromas of black raspberry and cherry-cola flash, tinged with textbook mineral smokiness. At once suave and energetic on the attack, packed with luscious mix of wild-berry and black cherry richness, all braced by juicy, supple tannin backbone. Drink now-2020. This is a Sta. Rita Hills classic."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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