by Jeb Dunnuck
August 4, 2020
2018 MacRostie Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley – 92 Points: Outstanding wines. These wines are outstanding for their type and are worth the extra effort to seeking out.
“All destemmed and brought up in 46% new French oak, the 2018 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard has a pure, almost pretty, medium-bodied style that highlights its strawberry and raspberry fruit over the classic marine-influence of this site. Showing more floral and spice notes with time in the glass, it’s nicely balanced, has ripe, polished tannins and terrific balance, and should continue drinking nicely for 7-8 years.”
“The 2018s from Santa Barbara County”
“This report focuses on the 2018s from Santa Barbara County, but also includes a handful of late release 2017s (and even some 2016s) as well as a few wines from additional regions in California. Many producers in Santa Barbara County make wines from other areas of California, and I’m able to taste those wines during this trip. Rather than saving those reviews for a later report, I’ve opted to publish them sooner rather than later.
The 2018 Vintage
Throughout California, the 2018 vintage was a long, cooler, and even growing season that presented few challenges. The year got off to a cool start, followed by plenty of early season heat in July, then a colder than average ripening period in August, September, and October. Harvest was the latest since 2011. The grapes had loads of hang time, and the critical ripening period occurred under cooler temperatures. Yields were slightly up over 2017 and close to average, and growers had easy harvest decisions with no heat spikes or rain events.
I loved tasting through these wines. The style isn’t far off the 2016s (with maybe a splash of 2010), with the wines showing beautiful purity of fruit as well as ripe tannins, good concentration, and solid underlying structure. Alcohol levels are down over 2017 and acid levels are up, yet the wines have terrific depth of fruit as well as supple, elegant textures. The cooler ripening period also resulted in terrific aromatics, and these are fresh, lively wines across the board. The wines don’t have the same level of sunny, sexy fruit found in the 2017s (and to a lesser extent, the 2016s), but they still have plenty of opulence and texture. In addition, the wines show classic characteristics and regional and site-specific characters.
From a consumer standpoint, this is an easy vintage to understand, and quality is both high and consistent. You can’t go wrong with the 2018s, and the vintage is unquestionably in the list of top vintages for the region, including 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017. There are gorgeous Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Santa Maria and the Sta. Rita Hills, loads of Rhône blends and Syrahs from Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez, and more and more, incredibly high-quality Bordeaux blends from Santa Ynez and the Happy Canyon region of Santa Barbara County.
Looking ahead at the 2019s, this was another cool year that has plenty of similarities to 2018, if not even a touch more freshness and acidity. I’ll taste these in-depth next year, but certainly, this will be another strong vintage for all of the Central Coast.
While I was forced to cancel all my oversea trips due to COVID-19, I was able to drive to the Central Coast late in June of 2019 and do large AVA tastings as well as a handful of visits, which I tried to keep to a minimum. I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I enjoyed tasting through them and writing the report!”