How insanely sought-after are the Pinot Noir grapes from Radian Vineyard that produced this 2015 Dragonette Cellars Pinot from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA? Radian is so brilliantly farmed, delivering berries packed with such dazzling concentration and natural acidity that the owners of Screaming Eagle bought the site in 2015—but Dragonette still farms their original blocks. In short: Wow. Those tiny, concentrated berries packed with freshness deliver a mesmerizing Pinot Noir 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, and black tea. It is hands-down, one of our absolute favorite Pinot Noirs from Sta. Rita Hills. We didn’t care when the bean-counters complained that we bought two cases for Wine Access HQ. It’s that good.
Back in the spring of 2018, our own Vanessa Conlin spent an entire day with Dragonette co-owners and co-winemakers John Dragonette and Brandon Sparks-Gillis. When she arrived at the winery, the fellas were 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.
After the tasting, the trio headed out to 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. This gorgeously textured wine with layers of svelte tannins, radiant acidity, and a long and nuanced finish is something to savor over the next 10-15 years.