Varner Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
The Los Alamos vineyard is a landmark in Santa Barbara County (it was the site of the first Au Bon Climat winery in the early eighties), and has made a strong move toward sustainability in recent years under the stewardship of vineyard manager Tavo Acosta. The Varner Pinot was sourced from two blocks on the site with northeast/east exposures, and while this is a decidedly cool climate, which helps lengthen the growing season, there’s still enough sunlight intensity in Santa Barbara to push Pinot Noir over the brink, if you’re not careful.
The 2014 Los Alamos Vineyard Pinot Noir from Varner was crafted from 100% destemmed fruit and aged in French oak barrels, of which just 30% were new. It clocks in at just 13.2% alcohol and yet it’s plenty generous with the fruit. It is an absolutely outstanding California Pinot Noir, period (i.e., it’s not just good “for the money”). It has all the makings of a by-the-case summer staple, bright and versatile and ready to go right out of the bottle—serve it at 60 degrees in Burgundy stems with some simply marinated tuna steaks off the grill (cooked rare!) and don’t tell anyone what you paid for this wine. On second thought, do tell—this is a bargain worth bragging about.
In the glass it’s a translucent ruby moving to magenta at the rim, with aromatics that make you feel like you’re walking through a redwood forest eating berries: there’s some nice blackberry and black cherry interspersed with red currant, cranberry, forest floor, and a little dried herb savor. The wine has terrific ‘crunch’ and energy—a pitch-perfect balance of fruit sweetness and mineral grip.