2020 Melville Winery, Pinot Noir, Estate Block M, Small Block Collection, Sta. Rita Hills.
As I was catching up with Melville’s selection of offerings I came across this M Block Pinot Noir, which I’ve never had or seen before, and found it to be one of the most compelling wines in the lineup and thrilled by the cool climate intensity along with a lush fruit density, it was highly enjoyable and impressive in the glass. The color is dark and has bright ruby edges, very inviting, and the palate is full of whole cluster tension and expressive in flavors with a rich and silky medium bodied palate of black cherry, blueberry, strawberry and red currant fruits along with a vibrant crush of herbs, cut flowers, mineral and zesty spices, all framed with subtle, but toasty French oak. As it open this Block M gains a more creamy luxurious nature in the mouth and lingers on and on, though keeping its vitality in an elegant way with delicate blood orange and Mission fig notes adding dimension here, there is definitely plenty of depth and width here and leaves a warm ripe aftertaste. The limited set of Small Block Collection wines at Melville have raised the game at this pioneering family estate in the western most part of the region, which is heavily influenced by the cold waters of the Pacific and the constant sea breezes that allows such a long and favorable growing season, with Melville’s Terraces and Sandy’s Block, along with this Block M, being fabulous terroir driven wines, pleasing on release, but having the stuffing and balance to age up to a decade or more.

Sitting above the estate Terraces on the top of the west-side hill lies Block M, as the winery notes, it is exposed directly to cold Pacific wind and intense sun on compact Botella clay, a dusting of sand, with a hardpan under the topsoil, which they say provides a dense and challenging layer for the roots to penetrate, that makes for deeper fruit concentration and smaller yields. These vines are planted with a north to south exposure and Melville has two Dijon clones (114 and 115) here and has remarkably smaller berries and clusters, all helpful in producing a rich and almost full-bodied wine, as this M Block shows. Melville, led by winemaker Chad Melville, says, clone 114 is known for its lush and tender texture, while 115 delivers higher-toned fruit components and is more pronounced structurally, they deliver a perfect ying and yang effect here, creating a striking balance of tension and pleasure. This vintage saw 80% whole cluster and was made in Chad’s gentle low intervention style and with aging in mostly used barrels to promote transparency and purity here, only 720 cases were produced, mostly going to Melville’s wine club and mailing list, with a tiny amount getting to restaurants and a small number of wine merchants. Melville has found their groove and the latest wines are delicious throughout the range, with their Syrah being a particular favorite of mine, and even the basic estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir bottlings are really entertaining wines, making them a great way to start exploring Melville and the region, but this Block M is something rather more special indeed.
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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