2021 Stars & Dust, Dry Rosé, Crowded Table, Santa Ynez Valley.
I loved the last vintage of Nikki Pallesen’s Stars & Dust Rosé, where she bottled the varietals into separate Mourvedre and Grenache wines, so I was excited to see what her 2021 vintage brought, and was happily surprised to find that she combined the two grapes and two single vineyard sites into one glorious dry pink! This 2021 shows a bright pinkish salmon hue and has a Provence style array of flavors with ruby grapefruit, sour cherry and strawberry fruits, snappy spices, delicate seeped roses florals and a stony/mineral charm. Made from 52% Mourvedre from the Kaerskov Vineyard in the Los Olivos District and 48% Grenache from the Tierra Alta Vineyard in Santa Ynez’s Ballard Canyon region, this year’s Rosé is full of energy, steely intensity, dynamic acidity and structural fruit density, making for one of the best Rosés in the state. Those who are fans of Domaine Tempier, Gros Nore, Chateau Pradeaux and or Clos Ste. Madeleine will instantly see the connection and influence here in Pallesen’s pure California version, with this year’s long cool growing season making this Crowded Table a standout bone dry example of native Rosé and a wine not to miss. Pallesen explains that Kaerskov (Danish for “dear wood”) where the Mourvédre comes from (Los Olivos District AVA), is a farmed by area icon Ryan Carr, adding that, (as) for the Grenache, it was planted back in 2000 out at Tierra Alta Vineyard, one of the steepest and most sought after vineyards in the newly appointed Ballard Canyon AVA. She is a geek for Mourvèdre and you can see why here, as this varietal, originally from Spain where it is called Monastrell, though it has become more famous in Chateauneuf du Pape and in Provence’s Bandol where it makes for incredible age worthy powerful reds and elegantly structured Rosés, with the Stars & Dust taking on that unique charm.
To achieve these exceptional results, Stars & Dust hand harvested the grapes at lower sugars, exclusively to make Rosé and vinified non saignee (bleed off for red wine production) with a short skin maceration to deliver this wine’s noted pretty pale pinkish/salmon and magenta tint and then pressed to neutral for fermentation. The Crowded Table Rosé was matured in the used wood for 7 months and bottled quickly to preserve its vibrant and crisp detailing, while allow the wine to fill out and impress with rich and rounded mouth feel, it is a very serious and authentic effort. The Santa Ynez Valley, as I have mentioned, is mostly formed from an area between the Santa Ynez River, between the Purisima Hills above Solvang and set on on a broad alluvial terrace plain. This area is a prime spot for Rhone varietals with well drained soils with gravel, Orcutt sandy terraces, clay loams and the locally unique complex of Positas-Ballard-Santa Ynez alluvial deposits. The climate here is heavily influenced by maritime conditions and a long growing season with some warm Summer days helping the Mourvédre, a late ripening grape, flourish here, as well as a great place for Grenache, which really enjoys the long Summer days. Nikki Pallesen’s, formerly of Liquid Farm, new label Stars & Dust is mainly focused on Rosé and in old vine Chardonnays, of which I recently reviewed and loved, it is a small winery to watch and I highly recommend getting on the mailing list as most bottlings sell out quickly. Pallesen has crafted an addictive and distinctive dry Rosé, as she did with the Liquid Farm Rosé, which as I noted before, was known in the industry as Pink Crack! I enjoyed it with fresh caught Monterey salmon that was lightly smoked and French farm cheeses. Stars & Dust has an excellent set of wines, with new releases including two beautiful Chardonnays, a quaffable Grenache based red and this brilliant Rosé. There were 400 cases made this vintage, that means the allocations are a bit more liberal, meaning it’s possible to stock up for the Summer, thank goodness, as I got a few extra bottles for personal use that will be perfect for some beach sunsets in the next few months.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive