Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 22, 2020

1986 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountain.
This 1986 Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot, shared with us by the winemakers Junior Banuelos and Denis Hoey at Odonata was showing beautifully, incredible really for a 34 year old wine with pretty details and a core of fruit without a severe fragility or sous bois, it impressed a crowd of Pinot Noir fans to near silence and awe! Hoey, owner at Odonata was mentored by Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s Jeff Emery and had access to this beauty, which we tried with an equally good 1985 version, it was tough to pick between them, in fact maybe more people liked the more expressive 1985, but I admired the delicacy of the 1986 and lighter frame that reminded me of a perfectly aged Burgundy with dried rose petals, a touch of damp earth, Christmas spices along with strawberry, cherry and plum fruits at its core, lingering on the medium bodied palate with minty herb and mushroomy accents. Jeff Emery began his career at the iconic Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard in 1979, serving an apprenticeship under the owner, Ken Burnap, and never moved on, basically taking over the winery in 2002. The original Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard property was a living history of the region, so it was sad when those old vineyards were lost to development in the later part of the 2000s, though Emery and Burnap to our eternal gratitude saved a big library of their wines and treasures like this can be found and admired. This wine’s color was impressive too, pretty dark crimson and with a gentle orange/brick edge, surprising, but seductive and still with a structured mouth feel.

When I was learning about wines and starting a career in the wine business I remember these wines from the 1990s, which were raw, robust and gripping wines that paid no heed to the modern approach and fashion of over polished and fruit bombs that were the rage at the time, though they could really blossom with age and patience, as this 1986 clearly shows. For many years, the Santa Cruz Mountains region was dominated by four wineries, Ridge Vineyards, David Bruce, Martin Ray/Mount Eden and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, each with their own stylistic character and charm. They very first Petite Syrah I tried that I remember was a Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard version, they of course called it by the grape’s true name Durif, spurring me on to learn the history of the varietal, a process that captured my passions for wine knowledge, at the time it wasn’t all there on the internet! The Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, known now more for Pinot Noir was also a Rhone producer before it was a thing and made some cool Grenache over the years as well, so if you find old bottles of this winery around be sure to not miss them, especially the estate vineyard Pinots like this one if you see it, plus that Durif, they probably will live 50 years! The Santa Cruz Mountains region has many fabulous wineries and vineyard sites to explore now and Emery and Burnap are part of its legendary period in the 1970s and 1980s that led to many winemakers to be inspired to give this place a try, including Dennis Hoey at Odonata, who wines are getting better and better and well worth digging into, with his Santa Cruz Mountains efforts being exceptional!
($N/A) 93 Points, grapelive