Single vineyard wines from Santa Barbara County: low brix, low alcohol, light oak, unfined and unfiltered
Winery: Ryan Cochrane had always dreamed about making wine from famed Santa Barbara County vineyards, and in 2010 made his first vintage of Pinot Noir from the Sta Rita Hills. Gradually his elite vineyard sources expanded along with annual production. He established himself as a meticulous, detail-oriented winemaker, producing bright, age-worthy, low-alcohol, Old-World styled wines from celebrated, cool-climate coastal single vineyards. After shepherding the 2018 harvest through fermentation and into barrels, Ryan passed away after a long fought battle with cancer. The Cochrane family continues Ryan’s lineage of great wines, with his established methods and techniques in place. Working with the Cochrane Family, Ed Kurtzman makes the Ryan Cochrane Chardonnays while Justin Massa makes the Pinot Noirs, intentionally following the original stylistic course set by Ryan.
Winemaking: Putting “terroir first, not ego first,” their winemaking philosophy is to create wines in various styles that reflect each single vineyard, rather than imposing a “house style” into their winemaking. Atsina wines are thoroughly Californian, each describing a unique place and time, seeking balance and a natural ability to pair with food. New oak is rarely used, preferring not to employ it unless needed by a particular vineyard and vintage. Although most winemaking is non-interventionist, they are not dogmatic about it, bottling unfined with the very minimal sulfur, racking after ML into tanks for settling before bottling unfined, with only the mildest filtration. Winery is in San Carlos.
Winemaking: In each vineyard, grapes are picked at peak of ripeness over 2-week’s time, yet at lower brix than his growers prefer, aiming for final alcohol levels in the 12-13% range. Each clone and block is fermented separately in open top bins, with precisely scheduled and gentle punch-downs, with a sprinkling of whole clusters (usually more for Fiddlestix). Pinot Noir is pressed and gravity/gas-racked to barrel for about 10 months in all French (Francoise Freres or Seguin Moreau) oak, and bottled with scrupulous attention to detail, always unfined and unfiltered. Chardonnay is pressed directly into oak barrels for fermentation, then aged on heavy lees with some stirring for richness and texture. New oak ranges between 12 and 20%, with Chardonnays bottled unfined.
Vineyards: Grapes are picked based on grape flavor and how that translates into wines, harvesting before big and ripe flavors develop to capture more elegance and subtlety. All vineyards show cold marine influence, and produce small yields of around 2 tons per acre.
Chardonnay, Zodovich Vineyard 2017, Sta Rita Hills 93 Points, WE 12.5% alcohol
93 Points, WE: “Clean and pithy aromas of citrus rind meet with walnut oil on the nose of this single-vineyard expression. The palate is very distinctive and interesting, combining apple, pear and botanical flavors with salted lemon and orange rinds, framed by a very textural grip.” It has a Chablis-like acidity and raciness with extended finish, in part from the early picking, and also from sandy soils and the cold climate from the nearby Pacific Ocean. Completed malolactic fermentation in barrel, 20% new French oak. 120 cases.
Chardonnay, Solomon Hills 2017, Santa Maria Valley WE 12.4% alcohol
93 Points, WE: “Very complex on the nose, this bottling by the late Ryan Cochrane is wondrous as usual, starting with aromas of grapefruit pith, lemon blossoms and peel and roasted nuts. The palate is vibrant in acidity and grippy in texture, delivering flavors of baked lemon, damp oak and blanched almond.” Located just east of US101 south of Arroyo Grande in Santa Barbara County, the rolling sandy dunes of the sustainably-farmed Solomon Hills Vineyard are chilled by cold winds and fog off the adjacent Pacific Ocean, slowing ripening, extending hang time and harvest dates compared even to other cool vineyards in the region. Full malolactic barrel fermentation. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. 240 cases.
Pinot Noir, Solomon Hills 2017, Santa Maria Valley 94 Points, WE 12.9% alcoho
94 Points, WE: “Sanguine aromas of iron meet with roses, carnations, pomegranates and peppercorns on the earthy, spicy nose of this bottling by the late vintner, who died in January 2019. Intriguing lines of Montmorency cherry and tart pomegranate converse with bay leaf and sansho pepper on the palate.” The windswept, steep sandy soils ripen the grapes slowly for later, low brix harvest. Sustainably farmed. Clones: 667 (40% Whole Cluster), Pommard (25% Whole Cluster) and 115. 10 months in French oak. 216 cases
Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix Vineyard 2017, Sta Rita Hills 90 Points, WE 13.8% alcohol
90 Points, WE: “Baked cherry aromas meet with clove dust on the nose. Bright red-currant flavors, mace and star anise elements.” Winemaker Notes: “A seductive perfume of sandalwood, violets, and Bing cherry opens the nose. On the palate, robust vanilla, baking spice, and rich strawberry compote play against darker notes of leather and tobacco. Crescendos to a long supple finish.” This famous vineyard is across from Sanford & Benedict, and farmed sustainably by Sta Rita Hills pioneer and good friend to Ryan, Kathy Joseph. The Ryan Cochrane rows are closer to the road where it ripens first from sun exposure. Clones are 113, 667 and 115 (of which 20% was fermented Whole Cluster). Aged 10 months in 17% new French oak. 144 cases.
Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard 2017, Sta Rita Hills 13.4 Alcohol
93 Points, WE: “The aromas of black plum, pomegranate, carnation, mace and sumac are dense on the nose. The palate zips with acidity and stays light on its toes, delivering flavors of black raspberry, rose petal and minty tea.” Winemaker Notes: “Wild strawberry and cranberry join fresh thyme and violets on the nose, fresh berries, cream, and complex baking spice enliven the rich palate. Bright acidity follows through to a long textured finish.” From the acclaimed and CCOF organically farmed La Encantada vineyard close to Sanford & Benedict, planted with 667, 115, Pommard clones. Aged 10 months in French oak. 192 cases.