2023 Russell Joyce, Vermentino, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County.
A perfect Summer wine, especially delicious with Monterey’s local cuisine and its beautiful coastal environment, this new 2023 Vermentino from Russell Joyce and Joyce Vineyards is a crisp and steely ultra pale white that delivers fresh tangerine, quince, white peach, preserved lemon and tart green apple fruits on the vivid light to medium bodied palate. There’s a sea shore salty quality that is mouth watering and subtle white blossoms, along with a touch of zingy herbs and verbena notes that add to this brilliantly detailed Vermentino. Joyce used a combination of stainless steel, neutral French oak and cement vat to ferment and age this wine, allowing for full transparency, fine leesy/almond notes, texture and refreshing acidity, thanks to an early bottling, to come through in perfect harmony and again helps show some of range of this Mediterranean grape, which can be either opulently textural or racy and Riesling like, depending on its pick dates, sugar levels and how it’s made. Consisting of just over 18,000 acres the Arroyo Seco AVA, home to Joyce Vineyards, is one of the smallest AVAs in California, but it has taken on a more important status in recent years, after being a very sleepy region since some of the vines were planted here by the famous Mirassou family in 1961, over two decades before the region received its AVA status. Named for its unique geographic features of an ancient waterway named “Arroyo Seco” which was a seasonal creek that brought rain water and snowmelt from what we now call the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Los Padres National Forrest to the Salinas Valley. Over the millenniums the pressure of this natural water-release created a diverse geography by dumping hundreds of thousands of rocks here and filling a deep subterranean aquifer with fresh water. The original appellation cited this unique terrain that formed the Arroyo Seco area as the distinct features that sets it apart and was the basis of the foundation of AVA’s boundaries.

Joyce Vineyards, which has become one of Monterey’s most recognizable labels, maybe best known for their value priced Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as the original Carmel Valley Estate Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, now has a cult like following for the Russell Joyce Collection Gamay offerings. Russell also does a nice set of alternative whites, like this Vermentino, as well as his Chenin Blanc and Albarino, which is absolutely stunning in this 2023 vintage. The Cedar Lane Vermentino grapes, for Joyce’s almost electric shock dry wine, were harvested in idea cool temperatures from Mark Chesebro’s vines in the Arroyo Seco AVA, just south of the Santa Lucia Highlands bench. This AVA, one of Monterey’s oldest, was officially recognized in 1983, and is well known for having a lengthy growing season, giving ripe fruit, but with loads of energy, as the grapes retain lots of natural acidity. The strong daily winds that bring cool fog from the Monterey Bay, as seen in the SLH as well, as winemaker Russell Joyce explains, force the grapes to spend more time on the vine building flavor and complexity, for which his wines, like this one, are noted for. Extremely rocky well-drained alluvial soils are, as he continues, the base for creating wines processing a signature freshness and minerality. This terroir, at Cedar Lane in Arroyo Seco, with its combination of sand, granite, and shale loam soils, along with, as the winery adds, with the ever present marine influence, helps provide the perfect conditions for growing Vermentino, especially when, as I (or you) compare it to the similar conditions in the places that make for distinct versions of this grape, like Sardinia, Corsica and Liguria. This new Vermentino, again this vintage stays on learner side and begs for lighter cuisine, with oysters, clams, grilled sardines, sole and goat cheeses being ideal choices. Joyce, who uses only indigenous yeasts, prefers a natural vibrancy, authentic clarity and uses less oak on his white wines and this wine stays very faithful to that style, but takes to the next level.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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