2019 Samuel Louis Smith, Pinot Noir “Montañita de Oro” Monterey County.
I have held this bottle for an extra few years, and love its purity and delicacy that it now shows with an array beautiful rose petal florals and silken red fruits flowing seamlessly on the weightless medium bodied palate, proving the talents of the winemaker Sam Smith and the quality of the sites used to make this wine. Smith, who’s also the head winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery, sourced the grapes for his 2019 Montañita de Oro Pinot from organic or sustainable parcels at Carmel Valley’s Pelio Vineyard and the Coastview Vineyard in the Gabilan Mountain Range, which offers up a unique complexity of soils and mountain terroir influence with both sites seeing cool Pacific Ocean breezes that allows for a full ripening, but with low natural alcohol, making for a wine with Burgundy like class and balance. The mouth feel is light and dreamy with back cherry, strawberry and cranberry fruits leading the way along with partial whole cluster pop and hints of cinnamon and Asian spices, a touch of orange tea, dried herbs and subtle oak framing, this vintage is really hitting its stride, but still brightly fresh and it lingers a long time on aftertaste. Smith usually achieves just under 13% alcohol and relishes the acidity in his wines and this one in particular has delicious energy and tension, it is a graceful Pinot that will compliment a wide range of cuisine choices, from grilled salmon to spicy ginger beef, showing a very flexible character.

Sam Smith’s wines, under his own label, are exceptional offerings, which a collection of Pinot Noirs, like this one, a couple of Syrahs and maybe his best, a set of fabulous Chardonnays, with his Sta. Rita Hills Spear Vineyard being my favorite in his lineup. Smith, who I’ve mentioned here over the last five vintages, has now been fully discovered and these wines are getting fantastic critical acclaim and high ratings, so it is best to get on his mailing list asap to get a chance at these very limited bottlings. The vineyards used by Sam are some of the most exciting in their regions, Sta. Rita Hills, Monterey County, Coastal Carmel, Chalone, Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains. This year’s “Montañita de Oro” saw a blend of Pelio, is located just west of Laureles Grade in Carmel Valley, in what will soon be the Carmel Coast AVA. Smith explains that this ultra cool climate vineyard is at 1,000 ft and just about six miles from Monterey Bay or Carmel Beach, once thought to be too extreme, is truly on the edge of viticulture. Continuing Sam adds that it is set on clay loam and is littered with diatomaceous shale, Carmel stones and fossils, evidence that this area was under the sea until about 12 million years ago. Coastview provides mature hillside vines to the mix, with deep flavors and concentration coming through, especially in this 2019 Montañita de Oro, which benefits from small yields and natural fruit intensity. Made with indigenous yeasts and close to 40% whole bunches, this Pinot was aged in a deft mix of mainly used barrels with just enough new to give this wine its polish and sex appeal, it should be rewarding for many years to come, and the 2021 version should be even better.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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