2006 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Santa Barbara County
What We Say
MAKE HISTORY ALERT:
Today’s wine will be tasted by our Operatives (and you), online, on March 14th, 2009, during a historic nationwide tasting. This tasting hosted via live video feed by respected wine writer Jordan Mackay, whose new book, Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America’s Pinot Noir Country, features The Gainey Vineyard and will be released nationally this week.
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Mission Codename: Capital Gainey
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Select the third and final delicious Pinot Noir for our exclusive Twitter Taste Live event.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: The Gainey Vineyard
Wine Subject: 2006 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Kirby Anderson & Jon Engelskirger
The Sta. Rita Hills AVA, located within Santa Barbara County and almost entirely in the Santa Ynez Valley was established in 2001 and is considered one of California’s best regions for growing the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay due to its cooler climate. The AVA’s weather is heavily influenced by cool coastal breezes and persistent Pacific fog. Just less than 200 acres in the AVA are under vine. Interestingly, the name of the appellation was changed from Santa Rita Hills to Sta. Rita Hills so as to not conflict with Chilean powerhouse winery Vina Santa Rita.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep burgundy in color with exceptional and clarity. Garnet to pinkish edges and slow thin legs ring the glass.
Smell – Aromas of ripe red cherries and exotic spices lead off with hints of earthiness and floral violets. a tiny touch of citrus zest tanginess and mint leaves also emerge as you explore this wine further.
Feel – Medium-bodied, supple and smooth with medium tannins and good, but not overly bright acidity resulting in well-structured but round wine.
Taste – Concentrated flavors of ripe red cherry along with other red fruits and the same exotic spice found on the nose are evenly layered over earthy notes and a touch of oak.
Finish – Clean and medium long in length with lingering flavors of cherry, oak and spice.
Conclusion – Gainey’s 2006 Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir is an exceptional example of why the Santa Ynez Valley is famous for its Burgundian varietals and more specifically its Pinot Noir. Some may blame Hollywood for this fame, but when tasting this wine, you’ll agree that its great vineyard that produces great fruit, a dedication to quality and careful winemaking and most importantly, allowing the wine show its true character.
“SLEEPER ‘ELEVAGE’ ACTIVATED ~ #TTL ~ PRIORITY ALPHA 7 ~ PROCEED TO RALLY POINT theta.”
That was the message I received on my W.I.N.E (Wine Internet Nexus Engine) smartphone. It was enough to jolt me out of my Pinot Noir-educed daydream about one day retiring to my own Pinot vineyard.
I gesture-swiped my smartphone, which purr-beeped my successful activation gesture. I lifted the phone to my ear and spoke, “Agent Red with an Alpha 7. I have a Sleeper activation and request immediate PN-asset backup at rally point theta.”
After two seconds I heard the acknowledgment chime and I swiped the phone to securelock.
Agent White burst into the room, out of breath.
Between pants, he said, “This is happening way earlier than anticipated. What happened?”
“Keep your cool, White. You know how good Agent Elevage is. I’m not surprised that she succeeded in her mission. I am headed to theta now. All PN-a’s have been dispatched as well. Awaiting individual acknowledgments but I expect them all to be there. You stay here at HQ and await direction.”
He started to argue with me, but I simply held up my hand as I walked briskly from the room. I love telling Agent White what to do, and since Elevage was my sleeper, I made the rules on this mission.
While en route to theta, I received the individual notifications from my Pinot Noir Assets, themselves a group of world-renowned PN experts, some of them Agents from around the valley – and around the country. They have been waiting for this moment, and I expect all of them to be there.
On arrival, Agent Elevage greeted me in the lobby of the secret location. We exchanged the safe phrase. Both of us satisfied that all was in order, Elevage escorted me into the room where our secret tasting was to be conducted. There, on the long table, were place settings for ten people. Each setting had 7 Pinot Noirs poured in equal measure into fine burgundy glasses. Each glass sat on a printed letter between A and F. In the center of the table, 7 bottles were wrapped in brown paper, each with a corresponding letter.
“Well done, Agent Elevage. I know that this deep cover mission has been long and perilous. You are to be commended for your efforts.”
Agent Elevage just gave a humble nod and then escorted me to my seat. Gradually, the rest of our tasting panel arrived. Our collective mission: Evaluate the 7 Pinot Noirs that Agent Elevage has procured – and choose the best for our historic online tasting.
Once everyone was convened, the tasting quickly commenced. The room was hushed at first, as everyone sniffed, swirled, sipped and spit. The only other sounds were those of pens on paper or keys clattering on laptops. These people were serious about their Pinot Noir.
When everyone was finished with their evaluation, spirited conversation took place as each of us listed our top three winners. One of our agents tabulated the results, and three clear winners emerged; Today’s 2006 Gainey Vineyards Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2007 was declared our favorite Santa Barbara Pinot Noir in the tasting.
With that, Agent Elevage sprang up and dashed from the room. Over her shoulder she shouted, “I’m off to procure the remaining cases! There are only a handful left so…”
And she was gone, leaving the rest of us to share our thoughts on the wine.
Here is a detailed tasting experience from one of our esteemed, Dr. Pinot:
Doctor Pinot says:
Doctor Pinot had recently retired from his job as station chief in a country, that was now in the recesses of his memory, fatigued from the politics of politics; and, now he was back home in the Santa Ynez Valley. He was sitting at his old table, in the main dining room of the Buellton Hitching Post, watching Harry in the open kitchen, behind the glass, expertly turn the steaks, searing on the grill above the red oak fire. He was glad that this was off-season, and that the ‘Sideways’ tourist crowds were at home sitting on their wallets. The now famous winemakers had returned to reclaim what was once their locals’ joint: a place where they could talk over the crush; the newest winemaking protocols; and, their recent misadventures, over glasses of Pinot.
Harry, who had, one late night, named his old friend ‘Dr. Pinot’, carried out the Smoked Prime Rib of Pork, and placed it on the table, while offering to pour a glass of 2006 Gainey Pinot Noir from a sample bottle that winemaker Kirby Anderson had tasted with the wait staff at today’s pre-meal line-up. On the first taste, he knew that he was home. That he had returned to Pinot central; the heartland, where Santa Barbara Pinot was first crushed in memorable ‘60’s parties way up on High Mountain Road. The best sites were now planted in the low hills above the Santa Ynez River, above Hwy. 246, in the cool western end of the Valley, across 101 towards the Pacific, the site of Gainey’s Adam’s Ranch.
Putting the glass of the 2006 Gainey Pinot Noir up to his nose, aromas of Linn Farms olallieberries, Bing Cherries, Prune d’Argent plums, remote backwoods campfires, and baker’s vanilla, resulted in an olfactory neuron induced smile. The focused flavors of the bright, ripe, dark red fruit, the Asain spice notes, and the supple tannins and impeccable structure, completed the seduction. This would be Dr. Pinot’s new house wine, for his new life, in his new home."
To learn more about Doctor Pinot, follow his Top Secret Twitter Stream.
The Wine Spies would like to offer a hearty thank you to all of our panelists, even those whose cover we cannot blow, but who provided their Pinot expertise and time for our blind tasting!
TWITTER TASTE LIVE – LIVE TASTING ALERT!
Our LIVE online tasting will take place on March 14th. Detailed instructions on how you can participate will be included with your order. Just be sure to keep at least one bottle on hand. It’ll be hard, but try!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of The Gainey Vineyard and tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
90 Points – Wine Enthusiast – “On par with the beautiful ‘05s, Gainey’s 2006 Pinot Noir shows the crisp structure and delicious flavors that Santa Rita Hills so often brings to Pinot Noir. It’s dynamic in cherry, currant, root beer, vanilla and spice flavors, wrapped into a silky mouthfeel.” – Steve Heimoff February 2009
About This Wine:
Our 2006 “White Label” Pinot Noir is a worthy successor to the much-praised 2005, which garnered a bevy of sobriquets from leading wine critics. Like 2005, 2006 was a cool growing season in the Santa Rita Hills, with an extended harvest period that allowed our Pinot Noir grapes to attain an ideal balance of sugar and acidity. Perhaps even more focused and concentrated than its predecessor, the 2006 is classically styled, with fresh, pure fruit, bright acidity and succulent, perfectly balanced flavors of red raspberries and Bing cherries accented by alluring Asian spice tones. Beautifully structured, with firm, supple tannins, its delicious red fruit and savory spice flavors are expertly framed by subtle French oak tones. Enjoy this delectable Pinot Noir now and over the next 2-3 years with roasted game birds, lamb dishes and lightly sauced pastas.
– Winemaker Kirby Anderson
About the Sta. Rita Hills:
The Gainey family was among the first to recognize the Sta. Rita Hills as uniquely suited to classic, cool-climate varietals. For 20 years they had sourced their fruit from all parts of Santa Barbara County, but this area always stood out: Sta. Rita Hills produced the best fruit every year. In the early 1990s the Gaineys began searching for suitable vineyard land in the region. Evan’s Ranch, named for Dan Gainey’s great-grandfather, is the result, planted with 11 different Chardonnay clones, 10 clones of Pinot Noir, and 4 clones of Syrah, all high-density vineyards. Dan Gainey worked with other growers and was instrumental in obtaining federal approval of the new Sta. Rita Hills AVA in 2001.
About The Winery:
This year the Gainey family celebrates their 47th year of farming and ranching in Santa Barbara County. Since the beginning, it has always been the land and its potential that has guided the family. In 1962, Dan C. and his son Dan J. Gainey purchased an 1800 acre ranch on the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley. With over 1000 acres of rangeland devoted to cattle, 600 acres of farmland, 100 acres of Arabian horses facilities and 100 acres of vineyards, the Gainey Ranch was and still is the largest diversified farming operation in the valley.
In the early 1980’s, Dan J. and his son Dan H. became convinced that the unique geographical and climatical conditions of the area gave it the potential to produce world class wines. They planted 50 acres in 1983 and opened their Spanish style winery in 1984. The winery quickly became one of the most popular wineries to visit in the area and was named as “one of the best wineries to visit on California’s Central Coast” by Wine Spectator magazine.
Dan J. and Dan H. Gainey have always understood the primacy of the vineyard in making wine and have gone to great lengths to explore the diverse micro-climates available to them in the Santa Ynez Valley. In the 1990’s, the family purchased and planted a 120 acre parcel along Santa Rosa Road in what would later become the Santa Rita Hills AVA. The Gainey Vineyard thus became the first winery to own properties in both the warm, eastern end of the valley, where the family concentrates on Bordeaux varieties, and the cool, western end of the valley, where they have planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. This unique advantage allows the Gaineys to completely control all phases of their winegrowing: from planting of vines ideally suited to each of their vineyard sites, to viticultural techniques that emphasize low yields, to winemaking that stresses minimal processing.
High quality and long term consistency of fruit are two principles that guide all farming decisions. Dan Gainey, Vineyard Manager Jeff Newton and Winemakers Kirby Anderson and Jon Engelskirger work closely to constantly strive to improve their fruit. By controlling all aspects of grape growing, Gainey Vineyard is able to ensure that quality takes priority over farming economics. The result are vines low in vigor that produce small yields and fruit with great concentration and complexity.
The goal of Gainey Vineyard’s winemaking program is to create wines of uncompromising quality with optimum flavor and aromatic components that reflect the unique characteristics of the vineyards from which they come. Toward that end, the Gaineys have recently constructed a new gravity flow winemaking facility. Grapes processed here are handled in the most gentle manner possible and then fermented and aged in one of five temperature and humidity controlled rooms.
“We consider our vineyards and the wines we make from them an expression of the love we have for our land and this beautiful area of California.” – Dan H. Gainey
The Gainey Vineyard produces 18,000 cases annually. Our collection of “Limited Selection” bottlings have received rave reviews from critics and consumers alike. In addition to producing premium wines, we also pride ourselves on our attention to guests. Our Tasting Room is open for tours and tastings daily and we encourage guests to enjoy Gainey wines in our scenic picnic area. We also have an extensive program of annual events, including winemaker dinners, cooking classes and our annual Crush Party. We invite you to join us in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.
About The Winemakers:
Kirby Anderson – Before starting with the Gainey Vineyard in 1997, Kirby worked at Bernardus Winery in Monterey County and La Crema Winery in Sonoma County. Kirby now focuses his considerable talent on the varieties he is most passionate about: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Jon Engelskirger – Long considered one of Napa Valley’s finest Winemakers, Jon has a distinguished resume including Turnbull Cellars, Silverado Winery and Robert Pepi, as well as Hanna Winery in Sonoma County. A master of Bordeaux varieties, Jon oversees our Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and forthcoming Cabernet Sauvignon programs.
Varietal Composition: 100% Pinot Noir
Composition: Santa Rita Hills: 70% Evan’s Ranch, 12% Votovich, 7% Rancho Santa Rosa, Santa Maria Valley: Bien Nacido Vineyard
Harvest Dates: September 10–15
Fermentation: Small open-top tanks with daily punch-downs
Barrel Aging: 16 months in 27% new French oak
Bottled: March 2008
Production: 1,170 cases (12/750ml)