Vinous, September 2020
“Once again, I tasted a wide range of wines from Big Basin and proprietor Bradley Brown. The 2018s and 2016s in particular show the strengths of those two vintages. All the wines are done in a minimalist style, with native fermentations and a good deal whole cluster influence. The stem character is especially evident in the Pinots, all of which now see 100% whole clusters, but far less so in the Rhône-variety reds, where the stem influence was less a few years ago, when most of the wines in this report were made. It will be interesting to see where the more current wines end up, as Brown has increased the whole clusters on his Rhône reds in recent years. Aging is done mostly in neutral oak, while the wines are bottled with no fining or filtration. On a less positive note, Brown lost his home during the August 2020 fires, yet another reminder of how devastating California’s fires have become in recent years. The winery, which is just a stone’s throw away, was miraculously spared.” —From Santa Cruz Mountains: Wines of Breathtaking Pedigree by Antonio Galloni
2017 ODEON 95 points
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD “TERRACES” SYRAH 95 points
2018 COASTVIEW VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 94 points
2018 LESTER FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 94 points
2016 RATTLESNAKE ROCK SYRAH (ESTATE) 94 points
2016 GABILAN MOUNTAINS GSM 94 points
2016 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR (ESTATE) 94 points
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD SYRAH 94 points
2018 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 93+ points
2018 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR (ESTATE) 93+ points
2016 SIXTY-TWO TERRACES SYRAH (ESTATE) 93+ points
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD GRENACHE 93 points
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 93 points
2018 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS SYRAH 93 points
2017 ALFARO FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 93 points
2017 LESTER FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 93 points
2017 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 93 points
2017 GABILAN MOUNTAINS GSM 93 points
2018 HOMESTEAD BLOCK ROUSSANNE (ESTATE) 92 points
2018 HOMESTEAD 92 points
2018 ALFARO FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 92 points
2018 DUNE & MOUNTAIN PINOT NOIR 92 points
2017 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR (ESTATE) 92 points
2017 ALTITUDE 2292 92 points
2018 HOWARD FAMILY VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 91 points
The 2017 Odeon, a Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend, is fabulous. Rich, heady and explosive, the 2017 possesses tremendous depth and richness. Odeon is one of the most harmonious wines in this entire range. All the elements meld together effortlessly in a wine that continues to blossom as it sits in the glass. In a word: Impressive.
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD “TERRACES” SYRAH
The 2016 Syrah Coastview Vineyard – Terraces is bright, finely cut and absolutely impeccable. Blue/purplish fruit, lavender, spice and mint all grace this attractive, mid-weight Syrah. The 64% whole clusters add a good bit of aromatic complexity without overpowering the wine. The Terraces offers a slightly darker fruit profile, bright acids and a bit more structure than the straight Coastview Syrah. It is such a gorgeous, expressive wine.
2018 COASTVIEW VINEYARD CHARDONNAY
The 2018 Chardonnay Coastview Vineyard is a gorgeous wine. Bright, translucent and finely cut, the 2018 sizzles with energy. Crushed rocks, mint, white pepper, lemon oil and chalk give the 2018 its chiseled personality, but there is also plenty of palate weight to balance things out. This is a terrific showing from Big Basin and proprietor Bradley Brown.
2018 LESTER FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR
The 2018 Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyard is fabulous. The best elements of the Big Basin style come together in a Pinot that has it all: soaring aromatics, deep fruit and plenty of backing structure. Some of the 2018 Pinots are quite giving today, but not the Lester. It needs at least a few years in bottle to fully come together. Dark, brooding and mysterious, the 2018 will have much to say when the time comes.
2016 RATTLESNAKE ROCK SYRAH (ESTATE)
The 2016 Syrah Rattlesnake Rock is a powerful wine. Red fruit, iron, chalk, white pepper, game and incisive tannins give the 2016 a real feeling of drive that distinguishes it in the range. This is an especially mineral-driven, savory, taut Syrah, with all the elements in the right place. Dried herbs, licorice and crushed flowers add aromatic intrigue. It will be interesting to see if the 2016 gains a bit more volume in bottle. It is such a promising wine. The Côte-Rôtie selection Syrah from John Alban works so well here.
2016 GABILAN MOUNTAINS GSM
The 2016 GSM Gabilan Mountains is bright, energetic and wonderfully nuanced. Bright red/purplish fruit, rose petal, mint, sage and licorice are all beautifully delineated. The 2016 is distinguished by its energy, translucence and vibrancy both of which it has in spades. It was done with 66% whole clusters and given 21 months in barrel.
2016 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR (ESTATE)
The 2016 Pinot Noir Old Corral is positively stellar and shows what can happen with a bit of time in bottle. Sweet red cherry, hard candy, rose petal and star anise give the 2016 striking inner sweetness and perfume that carries all the way through to the finish. In the glass, the 2016 is deep and resonant, but not at all heavy. The Old Corral tannins are there, but so well integrated into the wine’s fabric.
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD SYRAH
The 2016 Syrah Coastview Vineyard is bright, perfumed and lifted, with a lot of layers from the 90% whole clusters. It is also one of the most nuanced Syrahs in the range. Freshly cut flowers, sweet red plum, star anise, rose petal, spice and blood orange all grace this understated Syrah. The 2016 is a wine of considerable allure. All the best elements of the Big Basin house style come together effortlessly.
2018 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR
The 2018 Pinot Noir Coastview Vineyard is a bit hard to taste today, as the elements haven’t fully come together just yet. There is plenty of depth and persistence, but the tannins are a bit unruly at this stage. It will be interesting to see what time brings, but I am optimistic, as the wine develops beautifully with aeration, which really seems to release brightness and depth to the red fruit flavors.
2018 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR (ESTATE)
The 2018 Pinot Noir Old Corral is a deep, virile wine. It is also the most potent of the Big Basin Pinots. Accordingly, readers should be in no rush. A blast of dark cherry, plum, licorice, sage and game adds to an impression of searing power. I would give the 2018 at least a few years in bottle, as the tannins are pretty imposing today. There is a lot of wine here.
2016 SIXTY-TWO TERRACES SYRAH (ESTATE)
The 2016 Syrah Sixty-Two Terraces is a powerful, inward wine that is going to need a few years in bottle to be at its very best. Graphite, menthol, licorice, sage, chalk, smoke and dark red fruit start to emerge with a bit of time. Even so, the Sixty-Two Terraces is a powerful wine that is nowhere near ready to show its cards. Stylistically, it is a bit more linear and wild than some of the other Syrahs in the lineup.
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD GRENACHE
The 2016 Grenache Coastview Vineyard is full-bodied, ample and so expressive. Dark cherry, plum, mocha, new leather and spice fill out the layers effortlessly. Readers will find an ample, resonant Grenache built on texture. Next to the Grizzly, the Coastview is quite a bit darker and more powerful. The 50% whole clusters are very nicely integrated. I would cellar it for a few years. There is real depth and substance here.
2016 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR
The 2016 Pinot Noir Coastview Vineyard is a beautiful wine that melds the power that comes so naturally at Big Basin with an extra kick of brightness and inner perfume. Sweet red cherry, mint, blood orange and cinnamon infuse the 2016 with striking layers of nuance that continue to develop over time. Chalk, white pepper and a touch of whole cluster savoriness from the 88% stems rounds things out. The 2016 is such a vivid, expressive Pinot.
2018 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS SYRAH
The 2018 Syrah (Santa Cruz Mountains) is one of the standouts in this range. Bold, deep and savory, the 2018 is endowed with striking depth from start to finish. The 100% whole clusters add tons of aromatic intensity, but are also nicely integrated into the wine’s fabric. I would give the tannins a few years to soften. There is plenty to look forward to. Alban Côte-Rôtie selection Syrah with a dollop of Viognier is pure magic. This is a fabulous appellation-level Syrah.
2017 ALFARO FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR
The 2017 Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyard is a bit creamier than the 2018 tasted alongside it, which helps balance some of the stem influence. Macerated cherry, dried flowers, spice and leather fill out its mid-weight, curvy frame effortlessly. Soft, open-knit and inviting, the 2017 is really in the zone today. A closing burst of rose petal, sage, mint and star anise adds striking perfume to the substantial finish.
2017 LESTER FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR
Dried cherry, cedar, sweet pipe tobacco, crushed flowers, mint and orange peel give the 2017 Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyard considerable allure and appeal. Medium in body, with soft contours and lovely complexity, the 2017 is just entering the zone of peak drinkability now
2017 COASTVIEW VINEYARD PINOT NOIR
The 2017 Pinot Noir Coastview Vineyard is a dense, powerful wine. Dried cherry, cinnamon, blood orange, spice and dried flowers lend aromatic complexity. The 2017 has quite a bit of structure, but it is also drinking very well today. Time in the glass really brings out a whole range of floral, spiced notes. There is plenty of intrigue, that much is clear.
2017 GABILAN MOUNTAINS GSM
The 2017 GSM Gabilan Mountains captures all the best of the wine. Ample, full-bodied and intense, with impeccable balance. It all comes together. Today, the flavors are primary I would cellar the 2017 for at least a few years, as it is very primary. Dark cherry, plum, mocha, licorice, blood orange red/purplish fruit, rose petals, mint, hard candy and a touch of whole cluster inflections from the 54% whole clusters add character to this, sumptuous, racy GSM.
2018 HOMESTEAD BLOCK ROUSSANNE (ESTATE)
The 2018 Roussanne Homestead Block is a gorgeous white loaded with varietal character and plenty of nuance. Apricot, dried flowers, tangerine oil, chamomile and almonds fill out the layers as this oily, beautifully textured Roussanne opens in the glass. The 2018 offers a striking mix of the freshness of the year with the natural richness of Roussanne.
The 2018 Homestead offers tremendous appeal. Sweet red cherry, blood orange, mint, spice and dried flowers infuse the 2018 with myriad layers of nuance that open up effortlessly. Forward, juicy and wonderfully inviting, the 2018 has so much to offer. It is a wine of immense pleasure, a terrific value and the kind of wine that disappears in an instant at the dinner table. In 2018, the blend is 33% Carignane, 25% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 19% Mourvedre and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.
2018 ALFARO FAMILY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR
The 2018 Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyard is gracious and lifted in the glass, with lovely red berry character and translucent feel that is impossible to miss. Crushed rose petal, mint, spice, orange peel and sweet cherry fruit all run through this ethereal, silky Pinot from proprietor Bradley Brown.
2018 DUNE & MOUNTAIN PINOT NOIR
The 2018 Pinot Noir Dune and Mountain is a bold, intense wine. A rush of floral and savory notes lead into a core of dark cherry and plum Pinot fruit. I imagine the 2018 is going to need at least a few years to come together. Today, the tannins are pretty imposing. Readers should expect a heady, super-expressive Pinot with bright acids and a lot of whole cluster character from the 100% stems.
2017 OLD CORRAL PINOT NOIR (ESTATE)
The 2017 Pinot Noir Old Corral is effusive and so expressive. Exotic spice, macerated cherry, mint, cedar, rosewater, dried flowers, orange peel and earthy tones all run through the 2017. Powerful and ample in feel, the 2017 has just enough softness to drink well with minimal cellaring. I expect it will always be somewhat of a brute, even with bottle age.
2017 ALTITUDE 2292
The 2017 Altitude 2292 is a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend. Plump and juicy, with a touch of whole cluster savoriness, the 2017 is undeniably attractive. It offers lovely immediacy, even if it tapers off a bit on the mid-palate and finish. It will be interesting to see if this fleshes out in bottle.
2018 HOWARD FAMILY VINEYARD CHARDONNAY
The 2018 Chardonnay Howard Family Vineyard needs quite a bit of air to come together, as it is a touch reduced and also somewhat angular at the outset. White flowers, white pepper and citrus add an attractive upper register to this vibrant, taut Chardonnay. Another 6-12 months in bottle should help things come together more fully.