Mailing-List Pinot Noir From World-Class Vineyard
On my revelatory trip to Dragonette Cellars in Santa Barbara County, I fell deeply in love with their 2015 Dragonette Radian Vineyard Pinot Noir. This wine goes almost exclusively to their mailing list, other than a few select restaurants. There will be some sommeliers cursing my name when they receive their limited allocation this year, but the wine was too good not to share, so I pleaded with owners John Dragonette and Brandon Sparks-Gillis, until they gave in. The previous vintage received 94 points from both Antonio Galloni and Jeb Dunnuck, and given the quality of the 2015 vintage, I have no doubt that this wine will exceed that in spades. I’ve secured an extremely limited allocation of this mailing-list gem at $75 per bottle.
The quality of the fruit from Radian Vineyard is so impressive that the owners of Screaming Eagle bought the site in 2015, but Dragonette still farms their original blocks. Tiny, concentrated berries packed with freshness deliver a mesmerizing Pinot with ethereal aromas of juicy red plum, black cherry, and orange zest. It has both volume and structure on the palate, with concentrated cherry, raspberry, cardamom, black tea, and beetroot. Gorgeously textured with layers of svelte tannins, radiant acidity, and a long and nuanced finish. This is just a baby and I can’t wait to experience it in 10-15 years.
Ever since tasting a Dragonette Pinot Noir at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York several years ago, I’ve dreamed of visiting the winery in Santa Barbara County. While the cuisine from Blue Hill’s Chef Dan Barber is indeed the stuff of legend — the wine stole the show. A couple days after New Year’s, I finally made the trip south to “one of the most fascinating wineries in the Central Coast,” making “truly world class,” wines — as Vinous founder Antonio Galloni describes Dragonette. I’d go one step further, saying the generosity, precision, and freshness of their wines makes them some of the finest I’ve tasted in recent memory.
When I arrived at the winery I found co-owners and co-winemakers John and Brandon deep in the middle of moving barrels around. The terms “hand-crafted” and “small-production” seem to be bandied about right and left these days, but it isn’t often that you encounter owners personally making the wine and personally doing all the unglamorous cellar work. U2’s “Achtung Baby” was blasting from the speakers — my favorite band — so I didn’t mind waiting until they finished.
By the time we finished the tasting I had convinced the guys to show me Radian vineyard, which sits on the former “Rancho Salsipuedes” (loosely translating to "get out while you can”). Looking out over Radian’s unreal vineyard-scape of white crushed rocks — ancient Diatomaceous soils that contain large rocks as light as feathers — the same prized qualities as the chalky soils of Champagne or the Albariza soils of Jerez. As Radian’s vines struggle in this challenging, cold, and windy site, they produce tiny clusters of small berries, which yield a perfectly fresh, concentrated wine with a racy brightness.
Master of Wine Candidate
Vice President of Wine, Wine Access