2020 Samuel Louis Smith, Pinot Noir, Spear Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
The bright and delightful low alcohol Spear Pinot Noir from Sam Smith, who is the head winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery, is a wine that was made in this vintage largely due to the devastating fires and smoke, with Smith trying to find grapes unaffected by these conditions and it offers lovely aromas, delicate flavors and quaffable drinking pleasures. Though, not up to his masterpiece Chard from this same vineyard, this Spear Pinot, which has less depth than some of his other wines, has plenty of personality with red cherry, cranberry, plum and raspberry fruits on the lighter framed, medium weight, silky palate along with refreshing acidity, a spicy pop, hints of blood orange, wild herbs, rose petal florals and subtle wood influence. Smith is a roll and his personal label wines are becoming highly coveted, especially his collection of Pinots, Syrahs and the mentioned, awesome, Chard, which should not be missed. Smith, who’s lively 2020 Spear Pinot came in at just 12%, uses partial whole cluster fermentation with native yeast primary and secondary fermentations with a gentle handling of the wine from start to finish, with his elegantly styled Pinots usually seeing a 10 months élévage in mainly used barrels, with up to 20 new French oak, though this one shows no overt oak influence.

The organic Spear Vineyard is already highly regarded and the wines coming from here are wonderfully balanced, have great depth and lovely aromatics, making it one of the Sta. Rita Hill’s prime locations and Sam’s Chardonnay is proof positive of the greatness here and its future potential. So it was interesting to try the Pinot from this site, which certainly has potential for some amazing wines made from this varietal, to match the quality already achieved with Chardonnay. Planted in 2014, Spear has Pinot Noir and Chardonnay primarily in the ground and it is farmed organically by Ofer Shepher, who deserves much praise for his efforts. Spear’s northern border, as Smith notes, and steep north-facing slopes hug Highway 246, giving the site a cooler tone and a long growing season that allows for complete ripeness with low sugars. Smith also notes that Spear’s varied elevation reaches 900 feet, getting some of the coldest blasts of Ocean air in the region and soils are mainly comprised of marine sedimentary clay and sand, meaning they are well drained, but provide a good defense to drought conditions, important for vine health and quality. Smith’s wines are best secured through his mailing list and his brand new set of 2021s have just been released, which look to be a very exciting set of small lot offerings, and I highly recommend checking them out, with the Gamay and Chards being wines not to overlook, while the Syrah and Pinot bottlings are the main focus.
($42 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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