2018 Diatom, Chardonnay, Bar -M Vineyard, Los Alamos Valley, Santa Barbara County.
The crisp light/pale gold no oak Diatom Bar-M Chardonnay by Greg Brewer is beautifully detailed and is a totally unique expression with fresh and vivid white peach and mixed citrus fruits leading the way along with delicate spring blossoms, clove spice, quince paste, wet chalk and sea shore elements. Brewer continues his obsession in Chardonnay purity with his Diatom label, a very singular journey or vision quest, more like a Jules Verne novel and Captain Nemo rather than Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab! There is a zen like quiet to these wines, as all the outside world is hushed, again like being on the Nautilus where all the madness of the world and noise are silenced and the wine reveals itself in the grapes truest form and nature. Brewer, founding winemaker at the legendary Brewer-Clifton and known for Burgundy style Pinot Noir and Chardonnays from cru sites in the Sta. Rita Hills, is one of Santa Barbara’s most respected and influential winemakers, he also crafted the acclaimed wines at Melville and over the years has produced some fabulous stuff. These Diatom wines are no compromise and ultra precise Chardonnays, they are intellectually challenging that try to dig down to the core essence of the varietal and the individual vineyard site, but they are also wines of quality and a pleasure to experience, in particular with raw foods and highly focused ingredients, like hyper fresh sushi and masterfully executed, they deserve that perfection to show themselves at their best. People want to compare these wines to terroir particular wines like Chablis, which I can understand, but you can’t explain them that way, they wines that unto themselves. Each year brings a new revelation and understanding of terroir and of Chardonnay self with these Diatom wines, they are fun and thrilling examples of what is possible.

The Diatom Bar-M Vineyard Chardonnay is sourced, according to Brewer, from a stunning contiguous block of clone 76 Chardonnay planted over 20 years ago in the Los Alamos region of Santa Barbara County set on ancient seabeds. The Los Alamos area is a magnificent and relatively unknown region, where you can find Rhone grapes, like Grenache and Syrah as well as Burgundy grapes in cooler zones, where the sandy loam soil, as Greg adds, lends itself to fruit with a bit more flesh and weight – perfectly suited to the Diatom model. The Innox style fermentation done with his special yeast cultures at very low temperature in small stainless-steel tanks, with inhibited malo-lactic or no malo to promote absolute transparency and freshness. Brewer leaves nothing to chance, using a short hose transit ensure precision and focus in these wines. Diatom is motivated by what Greg calls the pursuit of subtraction and refinement, in his mission to remove the mentioned outside noise or accents other than the grape and place. He likens It to the polishing of a grain of rice until one has reached its ultimate inner core. The Sta. Rita Hills and joining areas continue to inspire him and this marine landscape, in his words, is stark and so are the wines of its provenance. These Diatoms are fascinating efforts with as little disturbance, distraction or interference as possible. I love the 2018 vintage with its amazing mineral and energy driven character, they are weightless, but rich and textual, it is one of my favorite years for the Diatom line and this Bar-M, with its stony qualities and tangy edge is stunning stuff, enjoy it with creamy Toro or fatty/briny Spanish mackerel and have your mind blown! This Bar-M is delicious and is utterly compelling with a nice play between racy acidity and ripe flavors, don’t mis this, the Santos Road and Spear Vineyard, they all are outstanding. Also, check out Greg Brewer’s new Ex Post Facto Syrah too, which is super good, all are now available through Brewer-Clifton.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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