Sea Smoke Dazzles with Santa Rita Hills Wines

Divine Wines from the coast to try this weekend

Sea Smoke Vineyard

Sea Smoke Offers Elegance Under Cork.

Sea Smoke’s journey in the Santa Rita Hills began about 15 years ago. Its estate vineyard was first planted in 1999. The site is a southern facing hillside one of a few east/west coastal ranges in the country. The offshoot is that a marine layer envelops the vineyard each evening and cools the vines down.

When vines are cooled in this way they take longer to ripen fruit, extending the hang time and thus increasing the time for flavors to develop. In total 144 acres are planted to mostly pinot noir and a small amount of chardonnay. The Sea Smoke Estate is farmed using Biodynamic practices.

Sea Smoke 2013 “Southing” Pinot Noir ($60)

This offering is composed entirely of pinot sourced at their estate vineyard. Cluster sorting, destemming and manual punch downs were all utilized. Aging took place over 16 months in French oak; 55 percent of the barrels utilized were new. Big cherry aromas lead the nose along with subtle, but present, wisps of red raspberry. Continued red fruits dominate the palate. They’re joined by a collection of spices and a lovely mineral component. Bits of mushroom, bay leaf, cranberry and black tea all emerge on the long and persistent finish. Racy acidity and somewhat firm tannins provide excellent structure. This is a terrific example of pinot noir. “Southing” is delicious today, particularly if paired with a well selected accompaniment such as slow cooked pork in adobo. However it has the stuffing to improve in the bottle over the next 5-6 years and drink well for another 5 or so after that. In either case you’ll get a pinot expression that speaks of the grape and the place.

Sea Smoke 2012 L.D. “Sea Spray” Sparkling Wine ($80)

The fruit for this sparkling wine (100 pinot noir) was all hand-picked from their estate vineyard. Thine wine was produced using the methode champenoise method. After nine months aging sur lie it was aged in bottle for 24 months en tirage before disgorging. White flowers and freshly baked brioche aromas emerge from the nose. Lemon zest, Anjou pear and bits of spice are in evidence on the deep and layered palate. Bits off laky biscuit and white pepper spice emerge on the long, elegant and somewhat lusty finish. This is a delicious and attractive sparkling wine that will elevate any meal or an occasion it’s part of.

One of the things that make these two wines fascinating is that they’re both pinot noir from the same estate property. The grapes were farmed using the same biodynamic philosophy. After that the fruit was treated gently in both cases but differently respective two completely different winemaking methodologies for still versus sparkling wine. In short tasting both of these wines side by side makes for a fascinating evening with friends that will spark a great conversation. I recommend doing that. If that’s not possible, try whichever one of these wines you can get your hands on; it’ll be worth your time and your money.


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