2022 Russell Joyce, Vermentino, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County.
The 2022 Russell Joyce personal collection Vermentino is an exceptionally crisp and stony white wine, that reminds me very much of Sancerre, with its edgy gooseberry, lemon/lime, wild tart peach and muskmelon fruits, as well as the wet rock, bitter almond, snappy herbs and salty character. This steely effort really shows some of range of this Mediterranean grape, which can be either opulently textural, though with good acidity or bright, racy and Riesling like, usually depending on its pick dates, sugar levels and how it’s made. Consisting of just over 18,000 acres the Arroyo Seco AVA is one of the smallest AVAs in California, but it has taken on a more important status in recent years, after being a very sleepy region since some of the vines were planted here by the famous Mirassou family in 1961, over two decades before the region received its AVA status. Named for its unique geographic features of an ancient waterway named “Arroyo Seco” which was a seasonal creek that brought rain water and snowmelt from what we now call the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Los Padres National Forrest to the Salinas Valley. Over the millenniums the pressure of this natural water-release created a diverse geography by dumping hundreds of thousands of rocks here and filling a deep subterranean aquifer with fresh water. The original appellation cited this unique terrain that formed the Arroyo Seco area as the distinct features that sets it apart and was the basis of the foundation of AVA’s boundaries. Joyce, known for his value priced Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with his Gamay offerings, does a nice set of alternative whites, like this Vermentino, as well as Chenin Blanc and Albarino
The Vermentino grapes for Joyce’s almost electric shock dry wine were harvested in idea cool temperatures from Mark Chesebro’s Cedar Lane Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA, just south of the Santa Lucia Highlands bench. This AVA, one of Monterey’s oldest, was officially recognized in 1983, and is well known for having a lengthy growing season, giving ripe fruit, but with loads of energy, as the grapes retain lots of natural acidity. The strong daily winds that bring cool fog from the Monterey Bay, as seen in the SLH as well, as winemaker Russell Joyce explains, force the grapes to spend more time on the vine building flavor and complexity, for which his wines, like this one, are noted for. Extremely rocky well-drained alluvial soils are, as he continues, the base for creating wines processing a signature freshness and minerality. This terroir, at Cedar Lane in Arroyo Seco, with its combination of sand, granite, and shale loam soils, along with, as the winery adds, with the ever present marine influence, helps provide the perfect conditions for growing Vermentino, especially when, as I (or you) compare it to the similar conditions in the places that make for distinct versions of this grape, like Sardinia, Corsica and Liguria. This 2022 Vermentino, which was made to be zesty fresh and enjoyed in its youth, does open up with air gaining some light white flower and a bit of texture, but it stays on learner side and begs for lighter cuisine, with oysters, clams, sole and goat cheeses being ideal choices. Joyce prefers vibrancy and less oak on his white wines and this wine stays very faithful to that style, earlier picks help with that, and the lively personality, a laser like focus, plus the lower alcohol, increases the enjoyment with the food.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive