Grand Cru Excellence in Sta. Rita Hills
In Wine Enthusiast’s 95-point review of the 2014 Foxen Pinot Noir John Sebastiano Vineyard, the venerable publication gushed “the palate packs vibrancy” and was dazzled by its “extreme sense of space.” Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate called it “hard to resist.” The master craftsmen behind the praise are “The Foxen Boys” — Bill Wathen and Dick Dore — but they’ll be quick to point to the vineyard as the wine’s true star. Vinous’ Antonio Galloni clearly agrees, writing that the John Sebastiano Vineyard “belongs in the upper echelon of vineyard sites in California.” Considering that most Santa Barbara vintners deemed 2014 “the third in a string of excellent vintages” according to Wine Spectator, the Foxens had a perfect storm on their hands. One sip of this silky-smooth, rich and decadent Pinot, and it becomes clear that you’re drinking California’s version of Grand Cru Burgundy. Just 125 cases are up for grabs.
The 2014 growing season couldn’t have provided a better backdrop for Foxen and its world class John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir. The third-straight drought year in California ushered in steady Pacific breezes on the extreme Eastern boundary of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA where Sebastiano vines are rooted in clay-loam over a game-changing bed of limestone. Though dramatic diurnal temperature shifts occured, those Pacifi breezes helped Pinot grapes ripen evenly, yielding rich and complex character, with bracing acidity. With aging in 50% new French oak for an incredible 17 months, the result is heralded excellence — California Pinot at its apex.
After 33 years in business, a lot of things have changed since the launch of Foxen from the family-owned Rancho Tinaquaic property in 1985. For instance, the Civil War-era blacksmith shop, which they converted to a tasting room, was upgraded in 2009 to a state-of-the-art solar-powered winery and brand new tasting room What’s stayed the same is the duo’s commitment to taking a minimalist approach to winemaking; one that puts complete trust in the surrounding and encompassing terroir.