2018 Drew Family Wines, Pinot Noir, Wendling Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Winemaker Jason Drew, who is at the top of his game and one of California’s best Pinot Noir producers, considers the Wendling Vineyard one of a handful of “Grand Cru” sites in the Anderson Valley, and tasting his 2018 version is enough to convince me of just how right he is, this is an exceptional bottling and a thrilling wine of complexity, energy and beautiful from start to finish. I’ve been saying for years, that Drew is right at the top when it comes to cool climate Pinot and every year he continues to blow me away with the quality of his wines, especially his Fog Eater, Morning Dew Ranch, the Estate Selections and this outstanding Wendling Vineyard. The vintage, which was cool and mild with a late pick, is just starting to reveal its greatest and depth, gaining dark fruit intensity with every sip, but with racy acidity and a subtle floral bouquet shyly unfolding, this wine is just beginning its journey into greatness with the potential to really evolve to legendary status in another 5 to 7 years. The palate is a Burgundy lovers jam with glorious vibrancy and transparency showing elegant layers of black cherry, earthy plum, tangy huckleberry, blood orange and currant fruits along with a mix of spice, herbs, tea leaf and a light smoky wood note from the well judge use of classic French oak barriques. This Wendling is a daily deep in color Pinot with a dark garnet hue in the glass and is excitingly lengthy on the aftertaste, plus while proving some youthful grip and savoriness, it flows with silken grace and has, after opening up, an incredible mouth feel, this stunning stuff, that should be excellent with a range of foods from grilled or blackened salmon to seared duck breast in cherry reduction.
The Wendling Vineyard Pinot Noir saw 100% native yeast along with close to 45% whole cluster fermentation with the usual daily hand punch downs and long maceration period before going to barrel to age. Jason only gravity racked this wine twice and is extremely gentle throughout the process and the elevage lasted about 11 months in the barrel with 25% new French oak being used in this vintage, which as mentioned, is perfect in this 2018 edition. Sitting in the deepest end of the valley, in the most northwest part of the Anderson Valley, the Wendling Vineyard, which is just eleven or so years old now, is on a 450ft high slope with well draining rocky soils that include the Ornbaun, Wolfey and Bearwallow complexes.These hillside or mountain type soils are mainly weathered rock and have a base of sandstone, this Jason Drew says, along with the cooler coastal temperatures provides for low to moderate yields, giving a darker and intensely structured Pinot Noir with naturally low alcohols, as this wine at 13.3% clearly demonstrates, in the best possible way. Wendling is planted to several exciting suitcase Burgundy and Dijon clones, with Drew’s sections including an alleged DRC clone and a La Tache selection. Drew, who started his label in the early part of the mid 2000s down in Santa Barbara County after working with Bryan Babcock, has made his home in Anderson Valley and in the cooler western zone of Mendocino Ridge and has excelled here in this unique terroir, making some of the most compelling and authentic wines in the state, I highly recommend getting on his mailing list and exploring his whole lineup from Chardonnay to Syrah, and all the small lot Pinots! This Wendling looks to have an extended pleasure window and should drink well for more than a decade.
($70 ESt.) 95 Points, grapelive