Reserve: 2014 Pinot Noir (Sanford & Benedict Vineyard) by Sanford

Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Pinot Noir (Sanford & Benedict Vineyard) by Sanford of the legendary Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara California.

Subtle aromatic nose characterized by rich fine leather of slightly damp loamy terroir intertwined with faint sweet berries, touch of dark cherries and vanilla. This wine commands a clean palate and clear mind.

Body is balanced right down the middle, front to back. An attack with suggestion of acidity is quickly counterbalanced by subtle tannin in the form of dark cherries. This creates just the right amount of background structure and foundation for a silky, whispy mouth feel. Oak vanilla and berries continue their gentle interplay as they carry over from the nose, introducing yet more whispers of musical harmony. Body and finish appear as one through a seamless transition culminating with gentle whispers of dry tannic grip and faint spice.

This is a terroir driven wine. An exercise in restraint and balance. A strict adherence to core principles. It reads like a thesis in Pinot Noir excellence. You cannot explore wines from the California central coast without indulging in this specific Pinot Noir by this storied founders’ vineyard. I keep this particular Pinot Noir on hand in my cellar as a benchmark and reference.

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Astral Cabernet Sauvignon

In 1868 something begins to ravage France’s vines. After some digging—pun intended—it is discovered that a plant louse/ aphid known as phylloxera (phyl·lox·e·ra) was enjoying the roots instead of the wines in which they produced.

Although it is somewhat debated, the phylloxera mite is thought to have come from America sometime in the 1850’s. Back in Missouri Charles Valentine Riley, Missouri’s entomologist recognized the affliction in Frances plantings and wrote French botanist Jules Émile Planchon in 1870 to inform him that he too had observed this louse, feasting on the leaves of American vines, and not on the roots—his letter was quickly dismissed.

After some persistence, Riley visited France in 1871 and a argued that American rootstock was resistant to the aphid since the two had evolved together. He was correct! Then in the winter of 1872 George Husmann—The Father of the Missouri Grape Industry in Herman, Missouri—also a scientist, educator, and writer—sent nearly 400,000 cuttings to Montpellier, France. In spite of some French resistance to using American root stock the project was successful and the so-called la défense began.

To this day, all vines with few exceptions are planted on this Missouri bred rootstock in France and America with a local exception—our Astral Cabernet Sauvignon. To this day Astral remains one of the few California Cabernet’s not reliant on disease resistant stock, due in large part to Happy Canyon’s lack of humidity, and the presence of sandy soil!

~ Dierberg * Star Lane


Not long ago I reviewed the Astral Cabernet Sauvignon by Dierberg * Star Lane. I had been wanting to explore this wine since my visit a few years ago and it did not disappoint (see link to my post just above). Shortly after, Dierberg shared the story behind this vineyard. I found it very interesting and thought you might enjoy reading (posted with permission).

Reserve: 2016 Pinot Noir (Cork Dancer) by Hitching Post

Tonight’s occasion: 2016 Pinot Noir (Cork Dancer) by Hitching Post , Santa Barbara Country, Califronia.

Today we take a look at an understated everyday Pinot for the everyday wine enthusiast. This wine presents great all around value. If your are looking for a great EDC (Every Day Consumption) wine, I recommend adding this to your cellar.

Deep ruby color. Crisp nose with notes of berry, subtle stone fruits and caramel stand out most. Body shows good balance with a mildly acidic attack followed by creamy tannins in the form of plums and dark cherries. Transition to finish is seamless, capped by mild, dry tannic grip and a hint of spice.

At 12.5% ABV it is a very mellow laid back experience. You can open a bottle by yourself and work your way through it over the course of your evening with minimal fuss. All this conspires to make this a very approachable and enjoyable wine. This is most definitely a pleaser. Nicely done guys!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Hitching Post wines delivered to your doorstep.

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2016 Pinot Noir (Drum Canyon) by Dierberg * StarLane

Tonight’s occasion: 2016 Pinot Noir (Drum Canyon) by Dierberg * StarLane

Deep ruby red color. Nose is restrained, well mannered, slightly warm, with notes of oak, berries, hint of sweet cherry all conspiring to create a very subtle red vines licorice. Terroir is also represented in the form of wet dusty leather. It maintains a classy posture overall. Interesting.

Body is representative. A very mild restrained acidic attack that is quickly accompanied by buttery smooth tannins. Very subtle oak and blackberry emerge towards the back to create a full mouth feel. A very faint black currant lends good structure and balance as it transitions to a brief finish capped by a hint of spice.

I reviewed the Dierberg Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir a while back and was absolutely enamored with it. One of my top California Pinot Noirs. Looking back at my notes I can some similarities and some differences. First this one is more medium bodied, slightly dryer more structured body. Where they resemble is the result of the winemakers attention to detail, commitment to excellence and adherence to core principles. The result is a world class California Pinot. I highly recommend this Pinot, particularly for the advanced palate, especially side-by-side with the Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir for a good perspective on this winemaker and his craft. Well done folks!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Dierberg Star Lane wines delivered to your doorstep.

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Reserve: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (Astral) by Dierberg Star Lane

Tonight’s occasion: 2011 Astral (Cabernet Sauvignon) by Dierberg * Star Lane, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.

As expected, dark rich opaque color. This is mostly Cab and Cab Franc. Out of the bottle nose is slightly restrained but big and heavy with lots of plum and a touch of dark sweet cherry up front. In the back, anise lingers over a fairly neutral terroir and is accompanied by black licorice as it opens up. There is good separation. This had to have been massive, if not barely approachable 5 years ago.

Unlike your quintessential big jammy California Cab, the body shows good balance front to back. Moderate acid goes hand-in-hand with dry, restrained, fine grained tannins and black currants. Plum and herbs carry over from the nose providing a brief diversion in an otherwise highly structured body. Transition to finish is brief, culminating in a firm and spicy tannic grip that leaves the palate parched and tingling.

This is by all accounts a solid, well built, delineated, wine for the advanced palate. It will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them. At almost 10 years old, it is just now becoming approachable and should be a magnificent work of art in 5-10 years time. It is built for the long haul, is a fine example of the winemaker’s attention to detail and strict adherence to core principles. It presents a zero compromise view of what is possible from an already storied region. I highly recommend this for those seeking solid example of what a California Cabernet can be. It presents a solid reference point for anyone looking for some perspective on the venerable California Cab. Well done Dierberg * Star Lane!!!

Almost two years ago while exploring for the first time, the Santa Barbara county region of the Central coast (read about it here: Dierberg, Santa Barbara) Dierberg came highly recommended by my all-time favorites and very savvy vintner, Roger Roessler. It did not disappoint. I have since gradually been exploring their selection of outstanding quality wines and very much look forward to following their works moving forward. Several racks will remain dedicated to their wines in my cellar. You can also view all their wines I have reviewed and highly recommend here or by using the search.

Tech Sheet

2011 Astral by Dierberg Star Lane

From Winemaker: 2011 SLAST Tech Sheet.pdf
Cellar Life: 12-15 years
Composition: Cabernet Franc 76%, Cabernet Franc 22%, Syrah 2%
Aging: 20 months French oak, new 80%
Analysis: Alcohol, 13.7%
Harvested/Bottled:
Oct-Nov 2011 / Aug 2013
Total Production: Approximately 400 cases

 

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Reserve: 2016 Pinot Noir (Babcock Vineyard) by Pali Wine Co

Tonight’s occasion: 2016 Pinot Noir (Babcock Vineyard) by Pali Wine Co), Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, Central Coast.

Intense ruby color. Bright nose with plenty of cherry, hint of sweet cherry and smooth almost butterscotch caramel. Swirl vigorously to unlock even more caramel. A slight wet sand mineral undertone lingers in the back.

This is a classic central coast Pinot Noir. A fine example at that. Body is very restrained. Medium to light with good mild acid on the attack, moderate buttery tannins create a clean, rounded mouth feel. Good separation keeps your attention without straying too far off balance. A tart blackberry slowly take over the transition to a slightly dry and spicy finish.

This is a one-time limited production using grapes from a coveted Vineyard. Exactly the kind of wine I love exploring. What I like about this winemaker most is their wines are true and representative of their origins. No two are the same. They present a great opportunity to explore varied regions and styles of Pinot. I look forward to exploring more of their wines. Well done Aaron and all of the lively crew at Pali Wine Co! 🍷😁👌🏽

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Pali wines delivered to your doorstep.

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Guest Review: 2017 Pinot Noir by Sanford

Guest Review: 2017 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills Appellation) by Sanford of the legendary Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara California.

I think I found the Prince of Pinot! Sanford 2017 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills Appellation is an elegant and well balanced Pinot.

Bright ruby red colored, light and fruity aromas of cherries, leather, and baking spices. On the palate, flavors of raspberries, red cherries, oak, and light peppercorn. At 13.5% ABV, this Pinot Noir has balanced acid and tannin structures, a delightful wine for any special occasion.

Need pairing ideas? Try pairing Sanford 2017 Pinot Noir with:

      • Roasted Chicken
      • Salmon or other fatty fish
      • Duck
      • Pasta dishes with pesto, a cream base, or mushroom sauce
      • Beef and garlic dishes

About our guest


Jenn is a Native Texan photographer, wine lover. She thoroughly enjoys learning about wine making, the history behind wines, and of course wine tasting. She also has a passion for travel and is on a mission to find amazing wines from around the world.

You can follow Jenn’s journey via his Instagram page @txblondevoyage


Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Sanford wines delivered to your doorstep.

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Reserve: 2017 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir by Pali

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Huntingdon) by Pali Wine Company.

We’ve seen a few wines from Pali. Alphabets and Riviera most recently. Now the Huntington. All Pinot Noir. All very distinct and quite representative of their various appellations. All medium to light bodied. All on the nuanced side of the spectrum.

The Huntington is a bold departure from the bunch. This is a Big California Pinot. It is unapologetic, jammy, chewy. A full mouthfeel. A dark, spicy, tannic affair. This is a bit of an eyebrow raiser for a Pinot from Santa Barbara County. I suppose even a WineSnob needs a break from the sometimes dreary monotony and strained palate that constant subtlety and nuance can sometimes contrive.

So here we are. I am staring down the second half of this bottle a full day later. It is laughing at me. I folded in confusion last night. I went to bed not sure how I felt about it. I could not fault it either. Not sure what to think. I feel like I lost to this wine. Even now it pretends to be a little more approachable, but then laughs all the way through the finish. This Pinot will eat Napa Cabs for breakfast. I will lay down right next to a Syrah for 15 years and still chuckle at the irony.

Yeah yeah yeah, black currants are more pronounced a day later. Mineral leather too. It’s jammy but not sweet. It’s got big bold tannic structure, a basket-full of berries and an Indian kitchen’s worth of spices. But I feel like I’m still losing. I thought this was going to be another clean crisp “laydown” from Pali. I thought it would be another easy smooth pleaser. But Nooooo! This wine plays dirty. Really dirty.

Pick up a few bottles, lay them down for at least 5-10 more years. Let them mellow out. Taste the magic. You might have better luck taming it that I did last night. I’ll see you again in 2025 Pali Huntington.

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Pali wines delivered to your doorstep.

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Reserve: 2014 Pinot Noir by Sanford

Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Pinot Noir (Block 6) by Sanford of the legendary Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara California.

Clear ruby color. Nose of crisp berry, sweet cherry and caramel with a hint of leather. Mildly acidic is attack quickly overwhelmed by a creamy, buttery expression. The caramel follows through the body along with a hint of plum, berry and a more pronounced leather. The terroir is well expressed. A seamless transition to a very subtle finish with very little fanfare. This is after all a traditional style Pinot Noir. Once opened up, gentle tannins and a hint of spice linger.

I keep a stash of Sanford Pinot in my cellar as a reference wine. It is a textbook example of what is possible when it comes to California Pinot. From grape to glass, they are delicate, layered, exquisite wines of the highest quality. For me they serve as an fine example for the central coast. You simply cannot speak of California Pinot Noir and not try their wines. It’s refreshing to see a Vineyard with such a legacy stay true to its craft after so many decades.
Keep up the great work guys! 🍷😁👌🏽

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Sanford wines delivered to your doorstep.

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Reserve: 2014 Pinot Noir by Dierberg * Star Lane

Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Pinot Noir by Dierberg * Star Lane Vinyards, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County, California.

Light ruby color. Very restrained and delicate nose characterized by sweet berry, hint of cherry, oak and the faintest slightly mineral terroir. The melange creates a subtle and unmistakable slightly caramelized marshmallow essence. It is rich, clean, crisp, layered, highly delineated. Body is just as restrained, very subtle, delicate balance of mild, berry, faint oak and leather as the terroir becomes slightly more expressed. Body makes a subtly tannic transition into the finish which quickly turns creamy and dissipates into the very gentle finish capped by a restrained spice. This is a traditional Pinot and it is showing perfectly right now!

My goodness this is an amazing Pinot!!! After weeks of bold big bodied wines, it is a breath of fresh air upon the palate. It is a reminder that some of the best Pinot in the world is crafted here in California. You won’t find this at the store. You will have to make the journey of a lifetime to this understated region. I wrote about my visit to this winery on my blog (see link in bio). Well done Dierberg * Star Lane! Hope to see you again soon. 🍷😁👌🏽

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Dierberg Star Lane wines delivered to your doorstep.

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