Being based in Silicon Valley means I have access to some of the best wine regions in California, and, heck, yes even the world. Livermore is about thirty minutes up 680 from San Jose. The Santa Cruz Mountains (talk about vistas!) are a short hop up 280 and through some twisties. And, of course, the giants, Napa and Sonoma Counties, are about a two hour drive up north via the Richmond-San Rafael bridge (which becomes our main thoroughfare when covering the Mill Valley Film Festival in Marin).
But what about Santa Maria Valley? (I mean, how do you solve a problem like Maria?)
Admittedly, it’s an AVA low on my experience depth chart. That’s a bit of a bugger. The AVA is the oldest within the Southern California wine growing regions (Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo).
Based on this Pinot, from Cheval Sauvage, one of my goals is to fix that deficiency soon.
Clay Brock, director of winemaking, sent Stark Insider his “Cheval Sauvage.” Given that 100% of the grapes are sourced from the Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley it’s probably a good example of what to expect from the–as we’re wont to say when nursing a two-buck Chuck in our Dixie cups with pinky finger extended James Lipton style–terroir. There’s no mash-up of grapes; neither variety. Just straight up, from the vineyards in SMV (three lots), into the glass. Well, more or less. Winemaking does happen in there somewhere.
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Speaking of winemaking, Brock surely knows his stuff. This is a medium-bodied beaut. Gorgeously textured, the ’09 Cheval Sauvage is silky and full of all those wonderful Pinot characteristics (ones that I so love in Pinots found in Carneros, one of my favorite AVAs): leather, earthy-ness (you know it when you taste it!), spice, and restrained blackberry fruits.
Bottom line: Outstanding.
100% Seirra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
$65, 94 points