2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 96 points
2016 LESTER FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 94 points
2017 DUNE & MOUNTAIN PINOT NOIR 92 points
2016 ALFARO FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 92 points
2016 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR 91 points
“Whole cluster fermentation of Pinot Noir can be a risky proposition but Big Table Farm and Big Basin Vineyards are committed to it “big time,” and their results are stunning. The potential advantages of whole cluster fermentation include exotic aromatics, silky smooth tannins, and more lengthy and cooler fermentations that impart a different and enchanting flavor profile. I had the opportunity to taste current releases from these tw wineries a few days apart, and although the wines from the two wineries are quite different in several ways, they do share a commonality only found in whole cluster fermented Pinot Noir.
Proprietor and winemaker Bradley Brown established Big Basin Vineyards in 1998 adjacent to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Wine grapes were grown here by French immigrants in the early 1900s and continued until 1954 when the property was sold by Justin Lacau to a local timber company. By the 1990s, all that remained of the vineyards were redwood stakes and scattered vines hidden by brush.
Bradley has restored this historic property and the entire vineyard and olive tree orchards are now Certified Organic by CCOF. 90% of the estate is preserved in its natural state. A winery was built on the same site as the original 1890s house structure that burned down in the 1970s, and completed in 2003. The winery building is of timber frame construction built using redwood harvested from the estate.
100% whole clusters of Pinot Noir are commonly employed. The whole berries and whole clusters are cold soaked for up to a week before being heated up to start the spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentations. The juice is pumped over and hand punched down, and the wine is gently pressed of the skins after 15 to 30 days of skin contact. The wines are only racked once to oxygen-free bottling tanks for bottling unfined and unfiltered. The whole process is truly non-interventional resulting in truly artisanal wines.
The winery’s portfolio includes over sixteen wines, and typically five different single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from special sites in the Santa Cruz and Gabilan Mountains. The Pinot Noir wines tasted here are truly impressive as a group and unlike any other wines currently produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They are notable for their freshness, engaging aromatics, invigorating fruit, complexity and a judicious use of new oak. Bradley notes that the wines are “still in their tight phase of youth,” so I sampled them initially over a 2-hour period, then again 6 hours later, and again the following day.
Tasting is available at the winery’s Saratoga Tasting Room and the Estate Vineyard and Winery Tasting Room in Boulder Creek.”
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 96 points:
“Moderate garnet color in the glass. The aromas of black cherry, purple grape, spice cabinet and mulch soar in this gifted wine. Black cherry and boysenberry fruit flavors flood the mouth with goodness. There is plenty of spice and smart oak to enhance the pleasure. The balance is spot-on with exquisitely integrated tannins, acidity and oak, the mouthfeel is sleek and polished, and the finish is uplifting and juicy. Flat-out amazing when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle the following day. Both swagger and finesse in one package.”
2016 LESTER FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 94 points:
“Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is replete with whole cluster goodness including aromas of dark cherry, exotic spices, burnt pipe tobacco and compost. Heady fruits including black cherry, boysenberry and blackberry are accented with redeeming notes of spice and tobacco, and framed by silky and supple tannins. The mouthfeel is comforting, oak is judiciously integrated, and the juicy, long finish leaves quite a gratifying impression. Even more striking when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. This wine has personality.”
2017 DUNE & MOUNTAIN PINOT NOIR 92 points:
” Moderate garnet color in the glass. Conspicuous aromas of Maraschino cherry, burnt tobacco, and BBQ spice rub. Very sleek in the mouth in a mid weight style, with flavors of black cherry and tobacco and an earthy vibe. A bit of astringent tannin is apparent upon opening, but nearly resolves when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. The fruit is quite ebullient and propels a lengthy finish. This wine will be better upon release in January as the tannins enmesh.”
2016 ALFARO FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 92 points:
” Moderate garnet color in the glass. Engaging nose offering aromas of darker berry and cherry, exotic spices, oak sawdust and a hint of fresh leafy greens. Up-front opulent black raspberry and blackberry fruit flavors underpinned by muscular tannins. Sheer beauty of fruit with welcome uplifting acidity and a notably long finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the imposing tannins had mollified. This wine will benefit from more time in the cellar.”
2016 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR 91 points:
“Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Persistent aromatic joy featuring scents of cherry, ripe cranberry, spice, fertile earth and old wood. Light to mid weight in style, offering flavors of red fruits , baking spices and tobacco. A woodiness pervades the flavor and aromatic profile. Forward and pleasing and somewhat delicate, with riveting acidity and a finish resonant with crystalline cherry.”