Two words, “Sea Smoke,” make students of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and blanc de noirs sparkling wines sit up straight. Sea Smoke’s seriously allocated world-class wines are grown on biodynamically farmed hillsides above the Santa Ynez River in the Santa Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County. Sea Smoke wines have had a cult-like following since the first releases in 2001. The meticulously hand-farmed vineyards are perched along one of the few east-west mountain ranges in the country, which means the river valley acts like a funnel to channel in the fog, or sea smoke. It keeps the vineyards cool and extends hang time for the grapes. Because of the limited production and allocation to only a few wine shops and restaurants, the wines are difficult to obtain unless you enroll to be on The List to buy wines direct from the winery. Sea Smoke is owned by America business entrepreneur Bob Davids. The director of winemaking is Victor Gallegos; the winemaker is Don Schroeder.
Sea Smoke “Ten” Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, Calif. 2013, $82: This is an intense, brooding, full-bodied Pinot Noir. Flavors are concentrated; fine-grain tannins coat the mouth; it has good weight. Inhale and the aromas light up all the sensory points in your head with blueberry, blackberry, cherry, pomegranate, cinnamon/clove and black pepper. It’s called Ten because it’s made from 10 French pinot noir clones. It’s an awesome wine — fruit and alcohol and oak: a meal unto itself
Sea Smoke Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills, Calif. 2013, $60: This full-bodied, complex Chardonnay is clean and dry with aromas of fresh apricot, mandarin orange and pineapple. Oak is ever so deftly woven into the fruit; acidity is firm. It needs time to warm up in the glass to unfurl it’s distinctive character. A lot of handwork goes into its making, from diverse clones, to the harvesting program (some rows are picked earlier for the acidity and complexity) to the use of various-sized casks and toast on the wood. It’s aged 16 months before it’s bottled.
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