We first tasted the 2013 Foxen Pinot Noir Melville Vineyard in the late spring of 2014. As you may recall, 2013 was a particularly warm summer in the Sta. Rita Hills, a vintage in which the call to harvest was made in the second week of September (in lieu of early October), as natural sugar readings soared.
Tasted from barrel, the wine wasn’t so much dark ruby, as one would expect, but inky purple. Drawn from Ron and Chad Melville’s sand soil oasis on Highway 246, Melville Vineyard Pinots typically feature high-toned scents of black cherry and raspberry. Not this wine. The nose was full-blown, infused with notes of black raspberry, dark plum, blackberry, and violets.
Then we swirled, sipped, and aspirated. Wow.
We’ve been tasting with Dick Dore and Bill Wathen, on and off, for over twenty years. The single vineyard Foxen Pinot Noirs have long been some of the most sought after on the Santa Barbara coast, known for their elegance and finesse, more a subject of Burgundian tension than New World concentration. But our tasting notes of May 8, 2014 spoke little of restraint. Instead, we described “blackberry jam, plum, black cherry preserves, weighty, plush and generous, a black fruit elixir … just too delicious to spit.”
It would still be a year before the “Block C” was scheduled for bottling. Not a critic had tasted the wine, not a review or rating had hit the web. With total production of just six barrels, or 150 cases, we asked for one-sixth of the Foxen production. After a half hour of good natured hemming and hawing, Dick promised us “a half barrel,” or 150 BOTTLES — of what may well be the most utterly extravagant Pinot Noir ever drawn off Melville’s famed “Block C.”
Here are the details.
Harvested by hand on September 13, “Block C” would yield slightly less than two tons of tiny berry Pinot Noir per acre. Completely destemmed, Dick and Bill opted to include 1/3 whole clusters during fermentation, recognizing the need to buttress and frame the vintage’s extraordinary concentration. A five-day cold soak extracted deep color and chewy texture. Once the fermentation was completed, the wine was transferred into small French barrels. With the exception of racking once in March 2014, then again just before bottling in March 2015, the wine was left untouched in the barrels, 40% of which were new.
Bottling took place on March 19, 2015, roughly ten months after our visit. As the wine was perfectly clean, there would be no fining or filtration.
The 2013 Foxen Vineyard Pinot Noir Melville Vineyard “Block C” is purple-black in hue. Lavish aromas of black fruit preserves, licorice, smoke, and violets, framed with new wood cedar. Ultra-concentrated on entry, dense and almost chewy texturally, filled with a mix of crushed black fruit, cassis, and black cherry jam. Despite the tremendous opulence of the vintage and the comparatively high alcohol (14%), the wine remains perfectly balanced, as finished pH came in at a bracing 3.48!
94 points from Parker’s Wine Advocate. $65 on release. $56 today on WineAccess. 150 BOTTLES are up for grabs. Shipping included on 3.
$55. 4 bottles. this was my least favorite of the foxen family of pinot. I am still a huge fan and wouldn't turn this down if I could ever find this in a nearby restaurant.
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