The Bernard Roth Archives
We happy that Bernard, who has sampled so many wines, has shared his notes with us. We do have, or have had for sale a few of the wines Bernard writes about, and we include a link to our stock page whenever it is a producer we carry (but since the stock page is kept up-to-date and the wines are sold, don't expect any but the newest of wines to show up in our stock!). Mostly though, since we specialize in County of Santa Barbara Wine and Central Coast Wine, we don't carry a lot of the wines Bernard writes about. But we think it is important that you be able to have an idea what they're like in case you are planning to buy some somewhere, or have them in your own collection. Enjoy.
Here are Bernard's notes from June 29, 2002:
|00 Domaine Alfred Edna Valley
Chamisal Vineyard Vin Gris (Saignee of PN)—Light, unpretentious.
Bit of bitterness on finish. Pleasant summer sipper, but just that. 82
00 Tantara Pinot Blanc Bien Nacido Vineyard—Minerally, stony. Very dry. Bit hollow. Could be fruitier. ~84.
00 Clos Pepe Santa Rita Hills Estate—Good earthy and berry aromatics. Very yummy. Red berries. Feminine, balanced. A short term drinker. ~90
99 Domaine Alfred Edna Valley Chamisal Vineyard—Deep briary aromas. Fabulous. Red cherry, oak, cola. Light toasty finish. Super. Needs 2-4 years. Similar to a better Savigny-les-Beaunes 1er Cru. 92
99 Domaine Alfred Edna Valley CALIFA Estate—Lighter aroma, darker color compared to stable mate. Cherry leather bouquet. Somewhat less obvious oak. Richer, darker fruit. Chewy finish. Needs 3-6 years. 92+
00 Fiddlehead Cellars Santa Rita Hills Lollapalooza Estate “Fiddlestix”—Sweet raspberry nose. Sweet red raspberry, tart acidity. Bottled this week, obvious signs of shock. Disjointed, tight and angular. 87(+?)
00 Flying Goat Cellars Santa Maria Hills (35 year old vines)—Typical SM Valley horse blanket nose, huge aromas, dried cherry. Perky acid, bright red cherry flavor. Bit muddled mid-palate. Excellent. 92-93 for lovers of new world style PN.
00 Hitching Post Highliner SB County—Earthy, mushroomy, oak, cherry nose. Luscious, but still a bit clunky. Bit much oak now. Cherry, tannic. 88(+?).
00 Lafond Santa Rita Hills Lafond Vineyard—Muddled cherry, oak, stewed tomato nose. Tannic, chewy, mulberry, charcoal. Tannic finish. Needs 3-6 years. 86(+?)
00 Loring Santa Rita Hills Clos Pepe—Big, dark, kirsch aromas. Earthy. Rich, moderate acidity, chewy, very thick for PN, layered. Excellent. 3-5 years. 92+
99 Santa Barbara Winery SB County—Cooked tomato nose. Tomatoey, wash water, rotted cherry flavor. Not very good. 80.
00 Silver Julia’s Vineyard SB County—Coal, perfumy, roses, cherry bouquet. Thick, voluptuous, low acid. Chewy. Dr. Pepper, blackberry. Tarry finish. 86.
00 Tantara Santa Maria Valley Dierberg Vineyard—Floral, red berry nose. Light weight, coal tar, bitter, astringent finish. Some light fruit, too much oak. 82
00 Tantara Santa Lucia Highlands Garys’ Vineyard—Gorgeous nose. Earthy, mushroom, smoky, dry cherry aromas. Rich, stewed red fruit, oak, bit medicinal. Unclean finish. Needs 2-4 years. 86
00 Whitcraft Santa Rita Hills Melville—Bit closed. Tarry, minerals, blackberry. Bit tannic. Needs 2-4 years. 89+
00 Whitcraft Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido “Sharpshooter”—Lush, sexy nose, slight volatility. Sweet fruit, red cherry, balanced. Yummy. Drink through 2005. 91
00 Loring Santa Lucia Highlands Garys’ Vineyard—Light aromas of toast, cherry, cola. Rich, tannic, plumy, dark fruit. Good acid. 3-4 years. 88(+?)
00 Stephen Ross Edna Valley Chamisal Vineyard—Subdued. Tannic, stemmy, not very fruity. 3-5 years? 85(+?)
00 Lane Tanner Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Vineyard—Classic Bien Nacido nose of mushrooms, horse blanket, dry cherry. Perky acid, almost petulant. Red cherry, oak, somewhat tannic. Needs 1-2 years. 89+
And the usual blathering from the bloody pulpit…
I’ve been to about half the PN and Mushroom Madness events throughout the years, though I’ve missed the past few. IMO, the overall quality of the wines has gotten better, probably reflecting better vineyard practices, especially in some newer vineyards like Clos Pepe, and better winemaking. Rick’s food was as good as ever, but this occasion there was more variety and more quantity. Something for everyone and every wine.
It was good to meet Wes Hagen, vineyard master at Clos Pepe and finally try their PN. I’d previously had Chardonnay from Clos Pepe, made under the Brewer-Clifton label. This is the first vintage that Clos Pepe Estate PN has been produced and Wes acquitted himself nicely with an outstanding and lovely wine. I give the nod to Brian Loring’s 2000 Clos Pepe, my first taste of Brian’s wine. I liked the Clos Pepe better than the Garys’.
The Domaine Alfred and the Flying Goat wines were unexpected surprises and both are worth searching out. I wish I could tell you more, but I was focused on the wine and food when the respective winemakers were giving their spiels. Frankly, what was in the glass was enough information for me to buy their wines. I then opened one of my Flying Goat PNs on July Fourth over at Larry and Laura’s Montecito Condo, and it showed just as well, matching nicely with a smoky, oak-fire grilled salmon. It was outshined by a perfectly mature 92 Domaine Drouhin Cuvee Laurene (Oregon), but that’s another story…
I’ve followed the Lafond Winery wines from the very start. Lafond is the Estate Vineyard owned by Santa Barbara Winery owner Pierre Lafond. The latter is the first commercial winery in SB County. Bruce McGuire makes wines for both wineries. I’ve been a big fan and wine club member for years. SB Winery has made itself a reputation for its Beaujour (the best Nouveau-style wine in the state, primarily made from Zin, not Gamay), fine Sauvignon Musqué, dry Chenin Blanc, excellent PN and Chardonnay, and fabulous dessert wines (among the best in the state; its LH Zin having no peers). SB Winery also has occasional success with syrah, cab franc, regular zin, and some inexpensive odd ball blands. Lafond started producing more expensive wines than SB Winery from exclusively estate fruit in 1995. Some Lafond Vineyard fruit had been used in SB Winery wines for a long time.
IMO, Lafond has had a tannin management problem. I presume that in trying to differentiate itself from its sister label, Lafond soaks its reds on the skins longer than at SB Winery, trying for more power and depth. Maybe the wines just need a lot more age, but most of them leave me wanting. Too tannic, muddled fruit. Not enough clarity and brightness, which for PN, is a mistake. Atypically, this time out, the Lafond bested the SB Winery offering, more by default, because the SB Winery PN tasted damaged.
I started following Stephen Ross Dooley’s eponymous label from the very start, then lost track about 4 years ago as I just couldn’t keep up with every older label, what with all the newer wines being produced locally. In the early- to mid-90s, Steve’s PNs were among my favorites of the local producers. His Bien Nacido was always good, a benchmark of consistency. This offering from Stephen Ross makes me long for the old days. I hope his current Bien Nacido is better than this Chamisal offering.
Silver is a new local winery and I believe this is their first release. Silver is the last name of the winemaker/owner. Grapes were purchased from Cambria’s Julia’s Vineyard. I wanted to like this wine, as the winemaker seemed nice enough with contagious enthusiasm. But I simply do not like Julia’s Vineyard PN fruit. I’ve had a few enjoyable Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Chardonnays, but having tasted multiple vintages and multiple producers’ versions of Julia’s Pinot, I cannot recall a single one that I liked. So nothing against Mr. Silver… I just hope he can find a better source for fruit.
Lane Tanner (who was not present) for a long time made only Pinot Noir. Then, after a problem with a bad lot of corks followed by a small local harvest (I think in 98), Lane began making other varietals. Her initial syrah (also 1998, if memory serves) was commendable, for a PN producer. All the while, Lane has not lost her deft touch for the PN grape. Her 2000 Bien Nacido demonstrates that she’s still in the top tier of local PN makers. Now if only Wes can get her some Clos Pepe fruit… hint, hint!
I’ve also followed the Fiddlehead wines of Kathy Joseph since about the 91 vintage. Some of her early to mid 1990s PNs were stellar. Always purchased fruit (including some from Oregon) until now. This is her first vintage of Estate fruit. I was told that barrel samples of her 2000 Estate PN were excellent. The lackluster showing on this day may be bottle shock. So don’t misread my notes for anything other than a big question mark. It will be worth following Kathy’s Estate wines in the future, and I hope this particular vintage comes together. Hopefully I get the chance to find out within the next year.
Finally, a note about Chris Whitcraft. Anybody who spent, and spends, as much time learning his craft from Bert Williams ought to be good. I’ve tasted many of Chris’s wines over the years (he also makes Chardonnay from Bien Nacido and Lagrein from French Camp Vineyard, and an oddball blend from who knows where). I was first blown away by both his Chardonnay and PN around 1990 at the SB Museum of Natural History annual tasting/fundraiser. Since then, I’ve found his wines to be rather variable. Either extraordinary or faulty. When faulty, the wines seemed unclean. On occasion, funny things happened in the bottle, like secondary fermentation. This almost always kept me from buying his wines (which have always had a loyal following). I recall the 93 Bien Nacido “Q” Block PN as an amazing example of what he could achieve, only to be dismayed by the unclean character of the “R” block. The two Whitcraft offerings on this day seemed to show a cleaner side to his wine. The Melville may show better in a few years, but his Bien Nacido (I don’t know whether it is a single block) surely hit the mark. Chris now shares space at Craig Jaffurs sparkling but spartan facility in Santa Barbara, so hopefully Chris’s days of making occasional defective unclean wines are behind.
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