Santa Cruz Mountains –
The 2015s and 2014s
GALLONI | AUGUST 31, 2017
Once again, I came away deeply impressed with the wines I tasted during my annual visit to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Rugged hillside sites and an extraordinary range of microclimates confer tremendous personality to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and red Bordeaux varieties. There is little doubt the finest Santa Cruz Mountains wines are world-class in every way.
2015 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
was extremely hard on growers in 2015. Poor weather during flowering
decimated yields throughout the region. Losses were regularly north of 50%. Yields were especially punishing for Pinot Noir,
to the point that several estates, including Rhys and Fogarty, were not able
to bottle some of their vineyard and block designates. Warm and dry weather
during what turned out to be a brutal drought cycle accelerated ripening and condensed the harvest, which made picking decisions critical. Where they could, producers opted to pick early to preserve freshness. More challenges awaited in the wineries. Tiny clusters made sorting out whole clusters nearly impossible, while other growers were virtually obligated to use more stems than normal to fill their tanks. Interestingly,
in tasting, it is the Chardonnays that reflect the personality of the vintage more
than the Pinots. Quite a few Chardonnays feel distorted and too big for their
frames. The 2015 Pinots are generally dark and rich, but as a group offer
better balance than the Chardonnays.
Rhys’s Horseshoe Vineyard
The 2014 Cabernets and Bordeaux Reds
As a group,
the 2014 Cabernets and Bordeaux reds are fabulous. The wines often show the
natural stress of drought conditions. Even so, I found much to like in the
2014s. Readers should expect intense, tightly wound wines that are likely to
require at least several years in bottle to be at their best.
How The Wines Were Tasted
virtually all of the wines in this article during a trip to the Santa Cruz
Mountains in late May 2017. One of our goals at Vinous is to offer unparalleled
depth and perspective. I strongly believe there is no substitute for spending
time in a region, observing the landscape, talking with producers and tasting
wines in various stages of their evolution, all the way from tank samples to
current releases to tasting library wines and older vintages.
One of the
challenges in reviewing the wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains is that so many
of the best examples are made by producers in Sonoma and other regions. For
ease of reference, reviews for all Santa Cruz Mountains wines I have tasted
within the last twelve months can be found here.
This article also includes notes for estates such as Calera and Big Basin that
make wines outside the Santa Cruz Mountains. Lastly, neither Varner nor Neely showed
their wines this year because of an ongoing issue involving those parties.
You Might Also Enjoy
Seven Classics from Ridge, Antonio Galloni, June 2017
in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Antonio Galloni, July 2016
Monte Bello Revisited: 1968 – 2012, Antonio Galloni, July 2016
Cruz Mountains: Scaling the Heights, Antonio Galloni, July 2015
Overview of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Antonio Galloni, July 2015
Monte Bello: Past, Present and Future, Antonio Galloni, July 2015
Conversation with Paul Draper, Antonio Galloni, July 2015