Thursday, August 11, 2016
Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Barbara County: Where the List of Biodynamic Pinot Noirs Grows and Grows
Biodynamic vineyards are growing by leaps and bounds in Santa Barbara County's prime Pinot Noir spots. By the end of the year, BD acreage is set to quadruple when Sea Smoke Cellars passes its final Demeter certification, anticipated later this year.
The Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wine producer, which Wine Spectator writer James Laube once called one of Santa Barbara County's "grand cru vineyards," is about to add 150-170 acres to the list of certified vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills. But even more are expected in the future.
Sea Smoke announced that it has just purchased the neighboring Rita's Crown vineyard - which will add another 65 acres that the winery plans to farm and certify organic and Biodynamic.
Fans of the movie Sideways might remember that the film's director, Alexander Payne, was a wine club member at Sea Smoke before he made the film that made Pinot Noir famous.
Sea Smoke Cellars GM Victor Gallegos, quoted in Wine Spectator, says that having the second property will also protect the certification of its current vines by adding a significant buffer, since the two vineyards are adjacent.
"Also, longer term, prime vineyard land in Sta. Rita Hills is only going up in price," he added, in the Wine Spectator article.
Sea Smoke is located right across the street from Richard Sanford's original Sanford and Benedict vineyard. Rita's Crown is above Sea Smoke.
West of Sea Smoke, just outside the boundaries of the Sta. Rita Hills, lies Duvarita Vineyard, formerly Presidio Vineyard. Many of the best boutique winemakers in the region - including Dragonette, Storm Wines and Tatomer - make single vineyard designates from Duvarita's 16 acres of Pinot vines.
A little closer to Lompoc, but on the same road, Ampelos Vineyards, the first in the region to be Biodynamic, has 25 acres in vine, including approximately 20 acres of Pinot Noir. (Movie star Kurt Russell makes a wine from these vines.)
With the Sea Smoke vines on track to be certified this year, acreage will go from around 36 acres of BD grown Pinot to 200+ acres. When Rita's Crown is added in (it will take three years for certification), the total could climb to as much as 260 acres.
Total Acres of Pinot Noir in Sta. Rita Hills
20 acres of Pinot Noir (out of 25 acres)
16 acres of Pinot Noir (out of 26 acres)
Approximately 160 acres of Pinot Noir
Approximately 61 acres of Pinot Noir
Sta. Rita Hills AVA's growth only begins to approach Oregon's Biodynamic vines. The large Willamette Valley region is home to Maysara, Montinore, Cooper Mountain, Brooks, Johan and Rick House Vineyards. Collectively those Pinot producers have more than 600 acres of Biodynamic Pinot Noir vines.
Though Sta. Rita Hills' overall size is tiny in comparison to the Willamette Valley's, both are premiere Pinot regions.