Santa Cruz Mountains: Wines of Breathtaking Pedigree

“I tasted more truly exceptional wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains this year than at any time over the past decade. The 2018 Pinots are utterly breathtaking, while the 2017 and 2016 Bordeaux reds and 2016 Rhônes aren’t too far behind. I have long believed that the Santa Cruz Mountains is one of the world's preeminent regions for fine whites and reds that speak of place. These new releases certainly make a statement. THE CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS That’s the good news. At the same time, I have to tell you this is one of the most difficult articles I have ever written. While this report contains many compelling wines from a number of estates, I am writing these words during one of the most difficult harvests California has ever seen. Dry weather, high winds and lightning proved to be a perfect storm that ignited numerous fires across the state. In the Santa Cruz Mountains the fires have been devastating. Some wineries, such as McHenry, burned to the ground. Many residents lost their homes, including winemaker Bradley Brown and members of his team. Others, like Rhys, were evacuated and miraculously escaped what could have been catastrophic damage. Among these harrowing tales, the words I heard most often were “it could have been worse.” Over the last few years I have visited a number of properties that have burned, including Signorello and Mayacamas in Napa Valley, and Brown’s home, all places where I once tasted. There is a feeling of loss and sadness in returning to those sites that is beyond my capacity to describe with words, but it is very real. The personal situations people are dealing with right now are, frankly, unfathomable. All of us at Vinous extend our deepest sympathies to everyone who has been affected by the fires. It seems pretty obvious at least some of the 2020 vintage will be lost to smoke taint. Even here, though, there are challenges. Labs are now so backed up that the amount of time required to receive test results is several weeks, as long as a month in some cases. Obviously, that data will be useless as a decision making tool by then. Winemakers have resorted to extraordinary means, including sending their samples around the world to countries such as Australia for testing. The fires were especially damaging in the areas around Rhys and Big Basin, which is to say the part of the Santa Cruz Mountains that is to the west of the San Andreas fault. Properties to the east, including Ridge and Mount Eden, have mostly had to deal with smoke, but not fire. SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS – A BRIEF OVERVIEW The Santa Cruz Mountains were created by the collision of the Pacific and North American plates many millions of years ago, resulting in a complex latticework of geologies and sites that are just beginning to be understood from viticultural and winemaking perspectives. The San Andreas Fault divides the Pacific plate, which is marine-influenced, cooler and ideal for Burgundian and Rhône varieties, from the North American plate, which is warmer and therefore also suitable to Bordeaux varieties. Elevation is another distinctive aspect that differentiates the Santa Cruz Mountains from other regions around the world. Ridge, for example, which is a collection of four ranches, provides fascinating case studies on the impact of altitude within a relatively small area. I hope we will have a chance to create a Vinous Map for the Santa Cruz Mountains at some point in the future that further explores these topics.” --Antonio Galloni, Santa Cruz Mountains: Wines of Breathtaking Pedigree , September 2020 To read Antonio’s full report and learn about the 2018s and look back on the 2017s, check out the full article on Vinous now. Below is a selection of notes from the report.

Rhys Vineyards

Alpine Hillside Pinot Noir 2018

Delectable Wine

The 2018 Alpine Hillside is a dark, unctuous wine. Black cherry, plum, licorice, menthol and gravel infuse the 2018 with tremendous depth and concentration. Powerful and resonant in the glass, the Alpine Hillside is a Pinot built on creaminess and density, with a touch of whole cluster savoriness that balances things out nicely. The tannins need time so soften, but there is a lot to like. (Antonio Galloni, Vinous, September 2020)
— 3 years ago

Alex and Eric liked this

Mount Eden Vineyards

Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Delectable Wine

Mount Eden’s 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon represents the essence of what Cabernet Sauvignon is all about in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Deep, powerful and explosive, the 2016 simply has it all. A wine of tremendous depth and intensity. Readers, take note. This is world class Cabernet Sauvignon that in any other region would cost 2-3 times as much. Savory and expansive, with tons of mountain character and remarkable richness from low yields in 2016, the Cabernet Sauvignon is simply off the charts. It’s another utterly breathtaking wine from Mount Eden. (Antonio Galloni, Vinous, September 2020)
— 3 years ago

Alex and Tegan liked this

Mindego Ridge

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir 2018

Delectable Wine

The 2018 Pinot Noir is magnificent. Rich, deep and powerful, with tremendous resonance, the 2018 is positively stellar. A range of floral and savory notes develop in the glass, adding myriad layers of nuance in a Pinot that marries intensity with translucence. Sweet dark cherry, mint, sage, rose petal and blood orange build into the stunning finish. The 2018 is one of the very finest wines I have tasted from Mindego Ridge. (Antonio Galloni, Vinous, September 2020)
— 3 years ago

lisa and Alex liked this