Arcadian Winery

2005 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir •Fiddlestix Vineyard

California: Santa Barbara County: Sta. Rita Hills

Offer Expired:May 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: Oh, Fiddlestix!

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Infiltrate the award-winning Santa Barbara County Arcadian Winery, a winery that has always kept its prized wines close. Get special access to Arcadian’s best wines, and select a high-scoring single vineyard Pinot Noir for our deserving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Arcadian Winery

Wine Subject: 2005 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir – Sta. Rita Hills

Winemaker: Joseph Davis

Backgrounder: The Wine Spies arre always impressed by Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills, a Santa Barbara County growing region that has been producing some of the finest Pinot Noir south of Sonoma and Napa counties. Today’s award-winning wine hails from a producer that allows very few wine merchants access to their prized wines. Today, we are proud to be the only online wine merchant to feature their single vineyard Fiddlestix 2005 Pinot Noir.

California’s Central Coast region, and specifically Santa Barbara have become one of the state’s premier regions for Pinot Noir. The generally warmer climate, moderated by the coastal fog, its sandy and clay loam soil, and broad exposure results in Pinot of exceptional purity.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Beautiful dark ruby hues, with a with a deeper garnet heart. Color is concentrated from core to edge. When swirled, tall and skinny legs form high up on the glass. After these descend to the surface, a second set of legs appears, mid-way up.

Smell – Heady and bold, with candied cherry, fresh strawberries and black cherry out in front. These are followed by dried dark flowers, earthy blackberry and bramble. As the wine opens up, aromas soften and soft Clementine peel, cedar and a hint of anise join in.

Feel – Velvet smooth across the entry, the wine quickly expands on the palate, becoming warm and full-bodied. A moment after it settles, fine-grained tannins add a velour texture. After the wine crosses the palate, a mineral-rich, flinty dryness gradually encroaches.

Taste – Beautifully balanced, with fruit and earthen character in perfect proportion. Dark strawberry and black cherry lead to candied red cherry and tart cranberry. These bright fruits are tempered against bramble, flint, dried earth, subtle dried leaves and sweetwoods. At the end, soft dried meats make an intriguing experience.

Finish – Long and flavorful, with red fruit leading to darker fruits – which eventually yield to earthen flavors of dark minerals, earth and a hint of black pepper.

Conclusion – Today’s Pinot Noir, from our new friends at Arcadian, is a gorgeous, delicious, bright and bold treat. We are honored that Arcadian has given us special access to their cellars, and we are very happy to have selected their stunning 2005 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir as our featured wine of the day. With windswept evening fog and hot days, the climate of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA is particularly well suited to Pinot Noir and today’s wine really communicates the terroir of the region – and the Fiddlestix Vineyard. With bold, bright flavors and a deep nose, this is a delicious wine to enjoy all on its own. However, with its bright acidity and complex flavors, we recommend pairing it with something bold and spicy. We enjoyed our sample bottle with homemade gourmet Not-so-sloppy Joes. The experience was heavenly. And so very tasty!

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Joe Davis

WINE EDUCATION: course study at UC Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Began my career at Morgan Winery in 1984 and remained for 10 years as winemaker. I spent one year as General Manager at Bernardus Winery and then began Arcadian in 1996

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Challenging the style of the new world

WINEMAKER QUOTE: It’s always about elegance and class with respect to Pinot Noir. It is in my soul and in my glass.



AGENT RED: Greetings, Joe. We are thrilled to be showing your 2005 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JOE DAVIS: I am equally excited to be working with the Wine Spies to introduce our wines to a whole new segment of wine lovers who may have not had the opportunity to taste Arcadian Fiddlestix Pinot Noir. Especially from such a great vintage!

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

JOE: Without a doubt and the wine still resonates in my mind even today. As a young undergraduate I worked in a wine shop. While there a very good customer was kind enough to present me with a gift for graduation. I convinced him that we should share it with the staff that very night and of course we opened the bottle. To say it was a profound experience doesn’t really begin to express the impact that it has made on my life. I have had it on only one other occasion and again it was sublime. Subsequently, it was presented to me as a gift from the family that produced it while I was an acting guest of honor for the Magic Moments charity in Birmingham AL This bottle remains in Atlanta GA where it is in the artist Thomas Arvid’s cellar waiting to be painted alongside a bottle of Arcadian.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

JOE: Again this is an easy answer for me – Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac in the village of Morey St. Denis Burgundy France. It was his 1978 Dujac Clos de la Roche that captured my soul. And it is this wine that has become the “elusive chalice” that I have been searching for in my own wines.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

JOE: This is an excellent question that can be easily answered but requires some explanation: When I am in the cellar it is my palate and mine alone that must be the deciding factor in preparing the final composition. I must make wine that I believe in and am most passionate about. So it must first be for myself and then for those who share my convictions of what great wine should be. The detail of what that can be requires a much greater space for discussion. I do believe however, that the wine should come from a place and consistently reflect that place. That despite many of the decisions that I must make in the process of making wine, the overriding factor should always be the place. There should be a consistent aromatic and flavor profile that can be recognized by many as coming from that place.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

JOE: I love this wine so much! 2005 may be the greatest vintage on the Central Coast in the last 28 years. It certainly is my favorite and the 2005 Fiddlestix reflects the vintage so beautifully. It is what I call a classic vintage that is about elegance and breed and straight lines. A wine that will live a long life and with each passing year prove why with some wines the sum is greater than its parts; so often we drink our wines so young and we do not allow them to evolve. We drink the parts and miss out on the nuance that can be so alluring with time. That’s not to say that this wine can be drunk today it has so much to offer right now but will certainly reward time in the cellar. Of all the sites that I work with Fiddlestix perhaps reminds me the most of what I taste when I am drinking Burgundy. There is minerality to this wine that you don’t often see here in California. There is beautiful fruit here as well but the complexity of the fruit and mineral combination is what can confuse tasters into not recognizing its California roots.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

JOE: Fiddlestix does not produce a big opulent style so while it has femininity it also has muscle that is more sinewy than massive. The structure is that or a female gymnast. With that in mind it can stand up to bolder richer food. I love to eat this with a compote of wild mushrooms, a mélange if you will reduced down until it is dense and rich and powerful in flavor. Stir some risotto and ladle this compote over the risotto and you will at once feel as if you have been transported to the countryside.

For those of you who are protein lovers, roasting a leg of lamb will also provide the richness I am looking for to match this wine.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sta. Rita Hills AVA- and the Fiddlestix Vineyard – so special?

*JOE: There is just not enough time to begin to explain all of the things that make the Santa Rita Hills so very special. Just the topography alone would be explanation enough. Add into that the fact that it is a relatively new growing region that has immensely benefited from the many advancements we have made in viticulture these last 15 years. The soils have decomposed in place and are rich in calcium, producing very small berries that are very intense in color and flavor. The cool prevailing marine winds allow for one of the longest fruit hang times for Pinot Noir that we know of. Easily two to three weeks longer than the north coast sites.

Fiddlestix sits right between the famed Sanford and Benedict Vineyard and Sea Smoke Vineyard. From the very beginning it produced very special fruit. As it continues to mature the quality grows and we see so many great things there,

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

JOE: It is quiet in the cellar so my time is spent focused on sales and watching my son play baseball with his pinto all star team. Soon my daughter will be performing in the local theatre the play Crazy For You and I can’t wait to see her on stage.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

JOE: With the understanding that they were bottled with very little dissolved oxygen to aide in their slow development in the cellar. This means that they will require some decanting to allow them to open up. I want my wines to stimulate the mind of the consumer and that means they will need to focus and give some thought to it. The time they spend listening to and thinking about this wine will reward them with such pleasure.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

JOE: I just want to say thank you to all of you who decide to bring this wine into your home. I am honored that you have invited us to be part of your meal hopefully shared with family or close friends. May this deliver far more than you paid and reward you in a way the you had hoped and deserved.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Fiddlestix Vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Sta. Rita Hills can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

90 PointsStephen Tanzer – Medium red. Spicy redcurrant and strawberry on the nose, with subtle earthiness and musky herbal character. Bitter cherry and cracked pepper flavors possess impressive concentration but are a bit wound up today. Air brought up sweeter raspberry, then a big hit of bitter cherry pit. The tannins are standing out right now. This needs time.

About This Wine:

The Harvest: The Central Coast has been struggling for the last several years with low water tables and very low average annual rainfall. This puts additional pressure on the plants as they struggle to survive the impact of reduced water access. Additionally the soil begins to build up deposits of sodium that act like plaque around the rootstock portals. This slows the uptake of nutrients into the plant itself slowing down the overall physiological development of the fruit. Many producers are choosing to begin harvesting later and later into the season when grapes sometimes have desiccated and skin to juice ratios have become lopsided.

2005 was a wet rainy winter season, halleluiah! With as much as 39 inches landing on the vineyards in the Central Coast, much of the sodium was washed away freeing up the rootstock portals to flow freely. We noticed increased physiological development occurring earlier than in the past several years with the overall result being harvested fruit having much better balance and higher natural acidity with an excellent juice to skin ratio. Many Central Coast vineyards enjoyed bigger harvests due to the better overall set with much less desiccation resulting in an overall higher quality fruit.

The Vineyard: This being our fifth vintage from this site, it’s exciting to see the continued development of this bold vineyard as we learn how to better farm it and how to handle the gripping tannins that develop in the grapes due to the soil. We continue to learn from and enjoy working directly with Larry Finkle and Kathy Joseph in the execution of managing the vineyard. We also were able to access new blocks with additional clones to put into the mix.

Fiddlestix Block 1 was planted in 1998 and Block 2 in 1999. Both Blocks are comprised of clay loam soils from the Botella and Gazos series but there is a fair amount of chirt and Monterey shale that aid in drainage. Block 1 is planted to a vine density of 1361 plants on 4 X 8 spacing. Block 2 is planted to 1556 plants per acre on 4 X 7 spacing. The trellis is a vertical shoot positioning with 3 sets of double catch wires.

Harvest began on September 4th for clone 4, clone 113, clone 115, and clone 777 in Block 2 and for clone 667 in Block 1. Harvest of clone 113 and clone 667 in block 3 followed on September 10th. Both blocks produced delightful fruit with very little triage (sorting) required, as well as excellent seed and stem ripeness. Although we conducted a second triage de table we were able to submit close to 70% as whole cluster for fermentation. Crop loads were low at 25 hectoliters per hectare (1.75 tons per acre) but skins were thick and acids were perfect with beautiful balance and an amazingly low pH was.

The Production: My fascination with the great wines of Burgundy has taken me down the path of artisan style winemaking. I have chosen to rely not only on modern science but my own gut instinct as to how to allow the fruit to develop into the wine that Mother Nature had intended. I have listened to and emulated those Burgundian artisans I most admired, employing their traditional techniques to bring forth the uniqueness of these particular rows within this vineyard. The grapes undergo a tremendous amount of triage both in the vineyard and in the cellar. I consider this to be one of the most significant practices we employ. We can truly say only the best grapes go into our fermenters. Once they are received into the cellar we subject them to another sorting on the table and then into the fermenters. This whole cluster fermentation technique we believe contributes significantly to the aromatics and texture of our wines. It is the gentlest manipulation of Pinot Noir grapes possible. Once in the fermenters we cover the cap in dry ice to arrest any spontaneous fermentation that may occur. We prefer a pre fermentation maceration (cold-soaking) allowing the color and flavor to be extracted in the absence of fermentation for two or three days. During the fermentation we pigeage (foot tread) twice a day increasing to five times a day at peak fermentation. The wine is usually pressed of at 1 or 2 brix into 36 month extra tight grain chateaux Sirugue barrels from the Allier forest in the center of France, of which in this vintage 40% is new. The wine remained in barrel for 22 months without racking and was bottled without fining or filtration. This wine received an additional fourteen months of bottle ageing before release on September 1st 2008.

About The Winery:

Inspired by the great traditions of Burgundian winemaking, Joseph Davis has been making Arcadian Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah in California’s Central Coast region since 1996. Using French artisan methods and hands-on vineyard management, Joe’s Arcadian label consistently receives high marks from the world’s most respected wine writers. Following his gut instinct allows him the complete realization of his dream and his mission remains to make wines that fully express the uniqueness of the vineyard and the region while capturing the voluptuous flavor of the grape and the kiss of cool California breezes and warm sunshine.

Traditionally, Joe harvests fruit with much more modest sugar levels and much higher natural acidity than many of his fellow growers. The belief that Arcadian wines will continue to evolve in the bottle for years to come and that this continued evolution will ultimately produce a much more interesting wine is what drives Arcadian’s—and Joe’s—-philosophy of winegrowing.

Joe Davis’s Bio: Like most passionate wine enthusiasts, a great epiphany led Joe Davis to his calling as a winemaker…

While in college on an athletic scholarship, Davis, the son of a Monterey California fishing family, took a job in a wine shop. One Christmas, a good customer brought Joe a gift of a 1978 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, Domaine Dujac. One sip and he was completely taken with the flavor and sheer deliciousness of the wine, “To have winemaking as a life pursuit and to make wine like this,” he thought, “would be the most wonderful thing in the world.” And so his quest began.

Joe voraciously read everything he could find wine related and enrolled in UC Davis’ graduate program. In 1985, he met and went to work for Dan Lee of Morgan Winery. While primarily making award-winning Chardonnay, Davis never lost site of that fantastic Burgundy and in 1990, he presented a classic Pinot Noir production plan to Morgan Winery.

At that juncture, no one in California was producing Pinot Noir in the style of Domaine Dujac, and Davis was determined that implementing the French artisan, traditional methods of wine making and vineyard management would produce superior wine. Davis also felt that the cool coastal regions of central California were well suited to producing fine Pinot Noir.

His original plan included techniques Davis applies today to his Arcadian Winery Pinot Noir; whole cluster fruit is hand picked and sorted early in the day to ensure chilled fruit. It is sorted again after arriving in the winery and allowed to cold soak for 48 hours to arrest any premature fermentation. This allows the juice to extract as much possible color and tannin from the grape skins. Fermentation occurs in small open-topped wooden vats. The grapes are pigeaged (foot treaded) 3 to 5 times daily to further extract color, tannin and richness and are pressed when sugar levels reach 1 to 2 °. The wine completes fermentation in barrel, is aged in new French oak, and bottled unfiltered.

“Obviously, not all vintages are the same, the recipe might change, but by using these methods consistently, I impart a common thread among my wines that translates into my style” says Davis. He employed these procedures for all of his Pinot Noir vintages (1986-1994) at Morgan and then took this knowledge to a General Managers position at Bernardus Winery. Finally, in 1996, on his own and ready to fulfill his dream, he released Arcadian Winery’s first vintage of Chardonnay to rave reviews.

Utilizing his 26 years of experience, following his gut instinct and creating Burgundian style Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah allows Joe Davis the complete realization of his dream. His mission remains to make wines that fully express the uniqueness of the vineyard and the region while capturing the voluptuous flavor of the grape and the kiss of cool California breezes and warm sunshine.

Technical Analysis:

pH: 3.36

TA: 7.1 g/l

Alcohol: 13.5%

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