Day 3: Dragonette, Tercero, and Ken Brown
A. Dragonette Cellars.
Dragonette has already made a name for itself among the wine geeks I know, so I really was looking forward to visiting their Los Olivos tasting room. It was started in 2005, with the first commercial release in 2006.
- 2014 Dragonette Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon. A somewhat grassy nose (but not overly herbaceous), with lots of depth and flavor. Good, crispy acidity with a medium long finish. A really fine Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc
- 2014 Dragonette Chardonnay Duvarita Vineyard (what used to be called Presidio, in the Santa Rita Hills). A slightly tropical nose, angling a bit toward pineapple. More of the same in the palate, but with more apple/pear, and noticeable minerality. A long citrus, mineral finish, and great overall acidity. A beautiful Chardonnay that will continue to improve for at least a few years.
- 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills. Lots of John Sebastiano vineyard, with a smattering of other SRH vineyards. Again, another rhubarby-baking spice kind of Pinot Noir, with bright cherry fruit. Very refreshing acidity (a seeming hallmark of the Dragonette wines) in fine balance with the fruit. Not yet a “wow” but with “wow” potential down the road. Medium fine tannins on the finish.
- 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard. A dark, broody kind of wine, with smoky notes throughout. Much more structured than the SRH, with a bit of dark chocolate. Needs 3-5 years in the cellar, but might have end up being very special.
- 2013 Dragonette “MJM.” The MJM refers to the wives’ initials, and the wine is mostly Syrah with a bit of Grenache and Viognier. Per my notes, aged for 30 months in 45% new oak, and while the oak is balanced it could still use time to more fully integrated. Lots of deep, dark notes in this wine, including dark chocolate. Already on the complex side, but it probably needs 4-7+ years to reach its full potential.
B. Tercero Wines.
Just around the corner from Dragonette’s tasting room in Los Olivos is the tasting room for Tercero. I’ve known Larry Schaffer for many years, and I tasted through many of his wines at both Rhone Rangers and Hospice du Rhône. Larry shares certain views with Brian Loring; namely, his decision to use screw caps and his preference for making wines that can age but don’t require years of aging before they are enjoyable. Larry, however, is focused on Rhône varietals (compared to Brian and his focus on Pinot Noir).
1. 2014 Tercero Verbiage Blanc. As much as I like Larry’s single-varietal whites, I find this white
Rhône blend to be even more successful. This blend was 64% Roussanne, 24% Viognier, and 12% Grenache Blanc. There is really bright, effusive fruit here, in both the nose and in the palate. While it’s slightly tropical, the overall acidity brings it together in an excellent package. It’s a wine that works well for summer sipping and for pairing with a variety of lighter dishes
2. 2014 Tercero Outlier. This is a wine that Larry designed as a slightly off-dry version of Gewurztraminer, with .6% residual sugar. In addition to being another candidate for picnic lunches, it’s specifically designed to pair with Indian food and/or spicy Chinese food. He’s been making this wine for a while, and it’s been very successful for him.
- 3. 2015 Tercero Aberration. Because Larry likes to experiment, this is a new wine for him—a Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre blend that never sees any oak. It’s stainless steel, 24/7! He calls it his stylistic ode to Chinon, and while the varietal composition is different than Chinon’s Cabernet Franc, it does share an herbal/savory quality. A fun new wine to taste.
- 4. 2010 Tercero Syrah Larner. A blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier, with lots of smoky, spicy, and meaty qualities. Along with the White Hawk Syrah, one of my favorite of the red varietals that Larry makes.B. Ken Brown Wines.
Over the years, I’ve had a chance to taste Ken Brown wines from time to time. But I’ve never really had the opportunity to taste across their lineup, which is mostly Pinot Noir. So I stopped in their Buellton tasting room to try the wines, and luckily (for me) there wasn’t a crowd so I got to try everything in a quiet, relaxed pace.
C. Ken Brown
1. 2014 Ken Brown Sauvignon Blanc Vogelzang Vineyard. The Happy Canyon AVA setting helps ensure that the Sauvignon Blanc achieves good ripeness, but there’s still an excellent acid backbone, with white flowers and freshly-cut grass.
- 2. 2013 Ken Brown Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills. A blend of Rio Vista, Rita’s Crown, Radian, and Buona Terra. A more high-toned version of a SRH Pinot Noir compared to some others tasted on this trip, with darker cherry and lots of baking spices. A slightly savory quality in the midpalate, and a very nice representation of the SRH AVA.
- 2013 Ken Brown Pinot Noir Rita’s Crown. Rita’s Crown was planted in 2007, and the vineyard has an elevation of 600 to 950 feet, with sandy loam and diatomaceous earth. A very deep, rich, complex wine—a much more concentrated Pinot Noir than the SRH blend. Already a “wow plus” wine, this could get even better with 5-8 years in the cellar. One of the top Pinot Noirs I tasted on the trip.
- 2012 Ken Brown Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard. Aged 18 months in barrel and 24 months in the bottle, this is another outstanding Pinot Noir. A very unique profile that includes citrus peel, darker cherry, and bittersweet chocolate. These descriptors are just the beginning; there is so much going on in this Pinot Noir. Again, excellent now with the promise of much more with cellar time.
- 2012 Ken Brown Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard. Another very unique Pinot Noir, with a more cinnamon and black tea quality framed by the dark cherry and raspberry fruit. It’s such a pretty wine that it may not require as much cellar time as the 2013’s above. I also tasted the 2013 Clos Pepe, which exhibited an unusual smoke/bacon fat quality.
It would be a flip of the coin between the Rita’s Crown, the Radian, and the Clos Pepe. They are a bit spendy at $65-$70 from the winery, but given the outstanding quality of what’s in the bottle, they are not overpriced in the least.
- 2012 Ken Brown Pinot Noir Cargassachi. At the other end of the descriptor spectrum, you have this Pinot Noir This is a very earthy, truffley, porcini type of Pinot Noir, with moderately chewy tannins. This wine will need cellar time, but this is the wine to pair with a mushroom risotto.Home: Day 1