2019 Mansfield-Dunne, Pinot Noir, Cortada Alta Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
I was very impressed with the 2019 Mansfield-Dunne Cortada Alta Pinot, entranced by the aromatics and depth of flavors in a wine with subtlety and lightness, it lacks for nothing from start to lingering finish and should evolve and age nicely as well. John Peterson’s Alta Cortada Vineyard is a unique organic and high elevation site, which was risky gamble to plant and tough to farm, has paid off with this 2019 vintage, with this wine showing this vineyard’s potential in glorious detail. The nose lifts rom the glass with a dark earthy array of florals, fresh berries and mineral notes that lead to the rounded medium bodied palate of black cherry, raspberry, red peach and plum fruits that are accented by baking spices, orange tea, rose petals, a saline element and a light toasty oak frame. The winemaking here is all about taming this wild site and allowing its nature to shine through, so Mansfield-Dunne carefully sorted the Pinot grapes and gently cold macerated them in small bins and hand punch-downs before maturing the wine in French oak for 14 months, using about 60% new wood to tame the mountain fruit. The dark ruby/garnet Mansfield-Dunne Cortada Alta’s impression of dark fruit keeps going long after each sip here and the texture is lush, but there is an underlying lively force here that lifts this wine and reminds you of the vintage’s complexity and balance. This is a quality effort that is flying under the radar, it should drink fabulously well for 3 to 5 years with ease and I highly recommend searching it out.

The Mansfield-Dunne winery was started back in 2011 and has quietly gained in popularity and is producing a solid selection of wines from their two Santa Lucia Highlands estate vineyards, with this Cortada Alta Vineyard being one of the most distinct in the region. Owner John Peterson deserves a lot of credit for his extraordinary efforts in establishing his passion project vineyard. He says he spent eight years searching California for the place for his ambitious plans, which ended in 2009 with him finding 300 acres of rugged scrub land that fit his dream, and that property would become the Cortada Alta Vineyard. Peterson, when looking for a someone to deliver the promise of the grapes from the vines to bottle, chose the talented hands of Ed Kurtzman, who has been crafting wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands since around 1994 and who has been a winemaker at some of the regions best sites, including Roar. Kurtzman’s efforts here has been exciting to follow and his 2018s and 2019s are exceptional wines, especially this one, which I admire for the elegant layering and beautiful long finish. Cortada Alta is the highest elevation vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands with some pretty steep slopes with some at a 44% grade at close to or above 1,500 feet up, it’s set on sandy loams with clay and decomposed granite. This site gets a cold blast of sea air and loads of sun, making for intense conditions, so to best exploit this special plot Peterson planted array of clones here, including Calera, Pommard, Swan, 2A, 23, 667, 828, and 943, all of which combine to make these wines complex and compelling. This is a label and a vineyard to watch in the coming years, as these vines come into their prime, I can only imagine things getting better and better!
($58 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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