The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2016

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august 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  85 TASTING NOTES Windstream 2013 Chardonnay "Sarmento Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands Maritime winds in Northern Monterey County and foggy mornings inspire the voluptuousness in this barrel-fermented white. Caramel-lemon on the nose leads to a gorgeous, opulent mouthfeel and flavors of burnt tangerine peel in lightly baked, buttery pie crust. It finishes with a salinity that sweetens the citrus peel. 94 —Meridith May Windstream 2013 Pinot Noir "Sarmento Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands Spring rosebuds and raspberry are pretty in the opening bouquet, but the dry, graphite-driven chalky tannins are akin to licking those petals. The red fruit is painted with light strokes of cherry licorice and the finish sends the profile into a happy blueberry jam. 93 —M. M. San Simeon 2014 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Monterey Fully engaged and mouth- watering, this creamy yet zingy white speaks to lemon oil, pineapple upside- down cake and a touch of cinnamon. A pitch-perfect acidity makes for a modern Chardonnay that's approachable to the max for food pairing. Lees stirring adds complexity and texture. 92 —M. M. San Simeon 2014 Pinot Noir, Monterey Aromas of baking spices and a hint of white pepper are at the starting gate. As the spices evolve exotic and the raciness of the acidity is made apparent, the refinement of the wine increases in palate feel. Black cherry runs neck and neck with raspberry and rhubarb. Round the bend is opulent charm, and they all tie at the finish. 90 —M. M. Maddalena 2014 Chardonnay, Monterey This treat is named after the Riboli Family's visionary matriarch who founded one of California's first tasting rooms and leads a successful restaurant in Los Angeles to this day. Rich notes of sugared mango, lime juice- soaked guava and a benevolent mouthfeel give this expansive white its intensity. 92 —M. M. that the Ribolis have found ideal land on which to cultivate cool-climate varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. "I think soil is important, certainly, but in Monterey, climate is king," says Riboli. "What makes the appellation unique is the Monterey Bay. It acts as a natural refrigerator, amplifying cycles of fog and wind that roll from north to south, rather than west to east. As you move closer to the ocean, there is a cutoff point where it becomes too cold and windy for grape growing. U.C. Davis did a study in the '70s based on growing degree days, but they failed to take into consideration the effects of maritime fog combined with low temperatures at night. In theory, the growing degree days should have been adequate to ripen Cabernet‚ yet there were some truly awful green bean and bell pepper Cabs that came out of this region." That natural refrigerator that Riboli speaks of is due, in part, to a massive submarine canyon that is over 60 miles in length and two miles deep. It is the largest submarine canyon on the West Coast, and it begins less than 100 yards off Moss Landing's reedy shoreline. Nicknamed the Blue Grand Canyon, the weather effects it creates ripple inland for miles. It is one of the defining features that make this sleepy California AVA so unique, viticulturally speaking. On a warm summer day, the temperature variation from the mouth of the Bay to the southern end of the county can be as much as 40 degrees. As daytime temperatures rise, heat generated from the sun forces warm air to rise and creates a low-pressure effect, funneling fog and cool air southward through the valley. That sweet spot, where Chardonnay thrives, is one that pioneering viticulturalist Richard Smith helped the Ribolis to find. Riboli continues, "Today, we have vineyards in Arroyo Seco, Santa Lucia Highlands and Soledad." Arroyo Seco, which means "dry riverbed," begins at the foot of the Santa Lucia mountain range. Studded with palm-sized cobblestones affectionately dubbed "Greenfield potatoes," this well- drained sub-appellation allows for a high degree of control over irrigation. "Chardonnay can tolerate a little more heat than Pinot Noir; in Arroyo Seco, the flavor profile of Chardonnay is very tropical. It's intense, full-bodied and luscious; typically there's a lot of guava." On the loamy benchlands of the Santa Lucia Highlands, it's a little more reserved. "Often we find that the flavor ripeness is there, but we're waiting for the acid levels to come down before harvest." The Ribolis didn't plant Pinot Noir until the 1990s. In a region where Chardonnay still accounts for more than 50% of the vines in production, it took time and experimentation to find the right clones. "Initially, the quality wasn't very good. The original blocks were planted with a Martini clone that yielded Pinot Noir with large berries. We like Dijon clones 115, 777, 667 and Pommard clone 5. We find that smaller berries give us the concentrated, expressive style we're after." Today the family offers three distinctive brands all housed under Riboli Family Wines: Windstream, San Simeon and Maddalena. Windstream is single-vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands. "We only make 800 cases of each. We find that these wines need more time in French oak, and the Chardonnay needs more malo to soften its naturally high levels of acidity." San Simeon is a blend of fruit from Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands. Riboli explains, "Pinot from Arroyo is elegant and nuanced, with more red fruit notes, whereas the Santa Lucia Highlands fruit is darker and more concentrated, with black cherry notes and in some years, rhubarb. Both regions have tons of potential, and with both the San Simeon Chardonnay and Pinot Noir we use a combination of American and French oak. Our Chardonnay under this label has slightly less malo." Maddalena, aptly named after Anthony's grandmother, is made from 100% Arroyo Seco Chardonnay. A blend of fruit fermented in tank and in oak, stylistically it's the most fruit-forward white of the trio. "We have a really good team; we've been in business for nearly a century, and I feel that we're moving forward, we're evolving. We're not trying to make Burgundian-style wines; let's make the best Chardonnay and Pinot from Monterey's AVAs that we can make."

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