2018 The Hilt, Pinot Noir, Estate, Sta. Rita Hills.
Matt Dees has made a beauty here with this 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, this vintage of The Hilt (sister property to the exclusive Jonata label) is spectacular with depth, complexity and length, it delivers an almost perfect performance in the glass with a dark ruby color leading the way to a structured red fruited medium bodied palate that is sublimely balanced. The Hilt Estate is comprised of three awesome vineyard sites in the Sta. Rita Hills, expertly farmed by Ruben Solorzano, best known for his work at Stolpman, including the famous Radian and Bentrock sites, which are highly coveted by top winemakers in the region, along with Puerta del Mar, all of which are planted on depleted soils and capture the essence of place, they are exposed to the cold wind and marine influences that ripen these grapes incredibly slowly, keeping acidity, but allowing for intense flavors and concentration. This 2018 is really beginning to show its potential and highlights the best of what the Sta. Rita Hills has to offer with satiny layers of black cherry, plum, raspberry and strawberry fruits along with hints of spice, earth and pretty floral aromatics, all of which is framed by subtle wood notes. The Radian blocks are set on extremely rocky soils and have a severe cool elevation, which translates to dynamic structure that is evident here with an underlying feel of grip and tension that works perfectly with the overall fruit density, while the clay infused Bentrock has unique outcrops of diatomaceous earth (fossilized ocean skeletons aka plankton) that the winery says is prized for its high silica content and porosity, that adds heightened fruit and mineral tones to this fabulous bottling. The Puerta del Mar is less well known for it’s characteristics, but is the core the wines soul and purity, if you listen to the those in the know here and while I’m not too experienced with these wines, I can tell you this vintage made an impact on me, especially as I tasted with other top notch and prestigious Pinots on the day.

The Hilt Estate wines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, come from their vines located in the ultra cool southwestern corner of the Sta. Rita Hills and reflect many unique aspects, such as the clones, diverse soil types, and other special properties of this estate, where the hugely talented Dees and his assistant Drew Pickering make an exclusive collection of wines, from single site offering to sparkling, which is extremely rare. I tasted both the Chardonnay and a couple of Pinots, with this 2018 Estate stealing the show, even over a Radian bottling that I though was going to be the one to grab me, though it might have been that it needs more time to fully develop, as was suggested to me. Either way, in my opinion this 2018 is remarkable and very exciting stuff that is very much a winner for drinking in the near term as well as for another decade. Dees took advantage of the year’s cool and consistent growing season to produce a gem here which suggests in the mouth to having a good portion of whole cluster with some fine savory and brambly elements and touches of pomegranate and Moro orange showing through here. This Estate Pinot was blended from select small batch fermentation(s) of separate blocks and clones, which included selections of Calera, Swan, Pommard, Mt. Eden, 37, 113, 114, 115, 667, 777 and some 828, that even in tiny amounts adds a certain distinctive edge that can be picked out, though the combination has made the wine wonderfully complete and seriously thrilling. The quality of the blending here is nothing short of brilliant, especially considering that Dees made just a tick under 4,000 cases of this stuff, which speaks to the quality of the sites and the farming here, which sees wildly small yields in most years. After careful sorting and gentle maceration(s) and mostly native yeast fermentation the Estate Pinot, which come in at just 13% natural alcohol, saw just 8% New French oak, with 92% being matured in (well used) neutral French oak barriques for 11 months, to promote fruit purity and terroir, that Dees and team achieved with great success, this is wine to search out and stock up on.
($49 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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