The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 79 of 148

On the production side, it's all about approach. Winemaker and General Manager Steve Fennell implemented key changes in production when he started in 2006. With Chardonnay, he applied an Old World approach by insisting on whole cluster pressing and barrel fermentation. "Sta. Rita Hills is not Burgundy, nor should it be," Fennell says, "but in some ways that's still a model for me when making Chardonnay." Chardonnay from the Sta. Rita Hills naturally has very high acidity. Fennell's use of barrel fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation and stirring of the lees assists in rounding out the acid and creating richness, while at the same time, helping to integrate the oak and minimize diacetyl, which causes that "buttery" lavor. A key characteristic of Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills is its intensity. "All red fermentation is a balancing act: extraction without over-extraction," says Fennell. This is especially important with Pinot Noir, since its innate subtleties can easily be lost with over-extraction of the skins. With that in mind, Fennell wanted to ensure balance by not over-extracting the Pinot Noir and exacerbating that intensity. So in 2006 the height of all the fermentation tanks were increased by two feet, thereby decreasing the ratio of surface area to volume. If the surface area of the cap, which contains all the skins of the grapes, is greater than the volume of the juice, then there will be greater interaction between the juice and skins—which leads to greater extraction. Sanford Winery also purchased a range of tank sizes to accommodate each of the different sized blocks on the property. Each year since 2006 the Terlato family has invested in production equipment to ensure the highest quality wine production. In addition to the tanks, these have included new pumps, a pneumatic punch down device, a new destemmer and feed system, and a tank press large enough to minimize the time between hand picking and dejuicing. In 2007, the Terlato family made a key change that would dramatically affect the future of Sanford Winery: They purchased the historic Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Prior to this time, they and everyone else had purchased fruit from the property. Ownership would allow them to control the health and growth of the vineyard. The vineyard was planted in 1971 and parts of it were not only lowyielding, but also unhealthy. Fennell and the team went block by block through the vineyard evaluating the health of each site. In 2008, Sanford Winery began the irst wave of replanting using new technology that was unavailable 40 years earlier. The rows were redesigned to create greater density between the vines, thereby increasing their stress and potential. Sanford Winery expanded the clonal palette, planting a wide range of Pinot Noir clones that they knew already worked well in the area, such as Dijon 667, 777 and Pommard, along with a few new clones including a virus free version of the Swan clone. The next two waves of replanting took place in 2010 and 2011. In total, 70 acres were replanted, while 56 acres of old vines remain, in addition to 18 acres planted in the late 1990's. The old vines have also seen signiicant improvements in quality due to changes made in canopy management to better control the vigor of the deeply rooted old vines. More recently, Sanford Winery has organized its own farming team and hired Vineyard Manager Erik Mallea to oversee the crew. Mallea was previously with Coastal Vineyard Care, which managed both the Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada vineyards. Not only does Mallea have experience with these properties, he can now focus all his attention on only these two vineyards—260 planted acres in total. "As a production team with both vineyard and winery, we're really in line," Fennell explains, "Erik's involved in our tastings, and we're all together because we all have the same mission: to produce the best wine, grow the best fruit and make our most intelligent decisions, from picking to the cellar." Sanford 2010 Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills ($28) Blend of 85% La Rinconada Vineyard and 15% Sanford & Benedict Vineyard The nose is bright with notes of wet chalk, lemon zest, and a hint of toasted almonds. On the palate, the acidity is mouthwatering and balanced with rich yellow stone fruit and a subtle hint of sweet buttercream. Sanford 2010 Pinot Noir Sta. , Rita Hills ($42) Blend of 75% La Rinconada Vineyard and 25% Sanford & Benedict Vineyard The 2010 vintage in the Sta. Rita Hills is known for its heavy, ripe fruit character, and while this wine is certainly ripe, it's also quite balanced with a nice backbone of acidity. The glass is illed with aromas of pretty red fruit laced with hints of coriander, nutmeg and sage. Lean up front, the palate is relatively soft with a wide range of lavor—ripe raspberry, mocha, cranberry and baking spice. Sanford 2009 Pinot Noir , Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills ($60) 100% Sanford & Benedict Vineyard The wine is extremely dark and sultry. The nose is quite savory—black cherry and beef broth come to mind, with hints of dried herb. The palate is rich and silky, illed with lavors of dark black fruit and coffee. An extremely luscious wine that is far more savory than fruity. may 2013 / the tasting panel / 79

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - May 2013