Talbott Vineyards keeps refining Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay

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Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, where the fruit has been coveted for years, is 13 miles south of the city of Monterey on the cool, rugged benchland of the Santa Lucia Highlands. (Images courtesy of Talbott Vineyards)

TALBOTT VINEYARDS has a longstanding reputation for impeccable Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands. That’s all they make. Like the Robert Talbott clothing line produced by the same family, the wines are dedicated to quality and craftsmanship.

It’s a winery where the quest for perfection never slows down. Since coming on board as general manager and winemaker in 2008, Dan Karlsen has replanted 40 percent of Talbott’s famous Sleepy Hollow Vineyard and fine-tuned everything from ground cover to shoot positioning to rootstocks to coax the most quality out of the ideally situated 565-acre spot.

And what a truckload of experience Karlsen brings to the job: A specialist in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, he spent 10 years at Chalone where he was general manager and winemaker, and

Dan Karlsen is winemaker and general manager at Talbott Vineyards

Dan Karlsen is winemaker and general manager at Talbott Vineyards.

prior to that worked a decade at Domaine Carneros where he moved up to winemaker and helped establish their Pinot Noir program. His early years were spent at Dry Creek Vineyard and Dehlinger.

In a video on the Talbott website, Karlsen explains the three tiers of Talbott wine. The Kali Hart wines, named for Robb Talbott’s youngest daughter, are a pure expression of fruit and are made without a lot of oak or handling. The Logan wines, named for Robb Talbott’s son, are meant to be the perfect marriage of Kali Hart’s bright fruit and some of the strategies used for the high-end wines — more oak, for example. The top-tier wines see more oak, more sur lie contact, more malolactic fermentation because they have powerful fruit “that can stand up to anything the winemaker throws at them,” Karlsen says.

Talbott Vineyards Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands 2013, $42: Full-bodied and elegant, this Chard will wake up every sensory button in your head. Aromas of pear and green apple, and toasty brioche from the oak, are followed by lush, creamy flavors swirled with oak. Flavors of green apple, pear, lemon-lime and toasty brioche are braced with  sturdy acidity. The amazing fruit is powerful enough to stand up to 100 percent barrel fermentation and 10 months of barrel aging, all French. Alcohol is 14.7 percent.

Talbott Vineyards Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands 2013, $42: Just sit down and strap on your seat belt to prepare for this explosion of bright cherry, raspberry and plum fruit all stitched up with spicy French oak notes, velvet tannins and cool-climate acidity. It’s creamy and rich, and steals your attention from any food on your plate. There is a subtle sweetness, but it isn’t sweet — it’s just the alcohol teasing your palate. Grapes come from the finest blocks of Sleepy Hollow Vineyard.

Talbott Vineyards Logan Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2013, $25: Logan, named for Robb Talbott’s son, is made from 100 percent estate-grown fruit off Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, plum, vanilla and brown spice are followed by flavors infused with spicy, smoky French oak (20 percent new) wrapped in smooth, supple tannins and acidity. It’s Pinot on steroids: Intense aromas, texture like velvet, fruit as dense as an essence. It’s an affordable Pinot for coming from such a famous vineyard and provides more than a glimpse of the power of Sleepy Hollow and the skill of winemaker Dan Karlsen.

Talbott Vineyards Chardonnay Kali Hart Monterey 2013, $20: This sweetheart — the most affordable of the Talbott wines, is a pure fruit expression of Talbott’s Monterey grapes — citrus, pineapple, honeydew melon with a hint of French oak and minerality. The point of this wine, named for Robb Talbott’s youngest daughter Kali, is to give voice to the vineyard — not to over-manipulate the fruit with oak and cellar techniques. That cool-climate acidity of the hillside balances the fruit. Only 15 percent of the wine was racked to French oak — just enough to broaden the mouthfeel and add a subtle touch of toasty flavor.

Talbott Vineyards Kali Hart Pinot Noir Monterey 2013, $21: Folks — snatch this baby up. Such a sweet price for coming from such a prestigious winery. It has a beautiful deep ruby color with aromas of cranberry, currant and plum and hints of vanilla. Tannins are soft and smooth. It’s barrel-aged in French oak for nine months. Alcohol is 14.6 percent. This is an ideal introduction to the elegance of Monterey Pinot Noir.

You can reach Sandra Silfven at ssilfven@hotmail.com.