Crafted by winemaker De Korth, a Monterey native who has spent time at Burgundy giants Leflaive, Lafon, and Morey—this lively, cherry-scented red is already drawing raves from the Bernardus fans who locked into bottles of our first allocation, like this 5-star rant: “Great big flavor, lovely lasting finish. Let this one open for at least an hour before drinking!”
We call it bottled proof of the stellar conditions that graced California’s Golden Coast in the 2016 season, when welcome rains refreshed the Santa Lucia Highlands’ drought-stricken vines. Bathed in salty breezes from the nearby Monterey Bay, these Pinot Noir vines rebounded after three intense drought years to yield an excellent, though early, harvest.
Give De Korth those raw materials, and something special is bound to happen, and he’s proven that it doesn’t take a big-name vineyard to make a big-time impact. In 2016, he blended grapes from four vineyards, including from their exclusive Ingrid’s vineyard, an oceanside site normally reserved for their $80 single-vineyard bottling. Granite soils and Pacific influence collide in this crimson gem, producing a fresh, spicy, distinctly Californian Pinot. Ten months in French oak adds cult-level swagger to this value bottling in the form of dark chocolate, toasted nuts, and coffee across its velvety-smooth palate.
Today, the 2016 is a beacon of value showing “vivid dusty blackberry and wild berry notes,” according to Wine Spectator. Kosta Browne’s 2014 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir will set you back $104, but this 2014 Bernardus boasts the same-appellation provenance, a Burgundy expert, a homegrown winemaker, and a price that makes stocking up a no-brainer. Bernardus normally tops the charts with swanky, vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs that keep the Monterey champion on every critic's radar, but the 2016 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot may be the best bargain of the year!