Westerly, Santa Ynez | 538 Wine Notes
The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is located on California’s Central Coast in Santa Barbara County. The Pacific Ocean’s marine layer and afternoon ocean breezes traverse the coastal valley corridors between the Purisima Hills and the Santa Rosa Hills, creating the perfect environment for growing Pinot Noir. Located between the towns of Buelton and Lompoc in the northwestern part of the county, Sta. Rita Hills lies closer to the equator than any European wine region, meaning it should be much too hot for cool-climate varietals such as Pinot Noir. But Pinot thrives here and produces elegant, structured wines. The valley’s unique east-west orientation is the key to success with this cool climate variety.
The AVA, American Viticulture Area, is spelled as Sta. Rita for Santa Rita. Do to international wine laws, Santa Rita in Chile took then name first, in the 1880’s.
On the western end, Sta. Rita is close to the ocean, with the steep Purisima Hills to the north and Santa Rosa Hills to the south. These mountain ranges funnel cool sea breezes and fog throughout the region. The fog creates some of the coolest summertime temperatures — cooler than Carneros in Napa and the Russian River in Sonoma— while the breezes help circulate air and deter rot.
Another golden factor in grape growing here is the soil. The hills have some of the world’s largest and purest deposits of diatomaceous earth —a chalky substance consisting of fossilized hard-shelled algae, layered into the hillsides by earthquakes and volcanoes. It’s the same stuff as the white cliffs of Dover, and it indirectly correlates into a fascinating note of minerality and salinity in the glass. In addition, the soils provide excellent drainage: in the north, there’s sand and clay; to the south, decomposed rock called Botella. With little rain and well-drained soils, the vines maintain good acidity and develop concentrated fruit.
The Westerly winery is in the hottest part of Santa Barbara County, the western edge near Santa Ynez in Happy Canyon. This is where their Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc come from. But like most producers in the area, if you are making Pinot Noir, you source from vineyards further east, closer to the cool maritime breezes in the Sta. Rita Hills. The 2012 Pinot Noir was harvested in mid-September, the fruit was hand sorted, destemmed, and cold soaked at 45 degrees for four days. Whole-berry fermentation took place in small, open-top stainless steel fermenters. The must was drained and pressed after 21 days on the skins, and the wine was filled into 228 liter French oak barrels, 60% of which were new. Malolactic fermentation took place in barrel. The wine was racked to blend after 8 months, and remained in barrel for a total of 18 months. Bottled unfined & unfiltered in July of 2014.
The appearance is a deep ruby-purple color, the wine displays subtle aromas of ripe raspberries and crushed red cherries with underlying notes of violets, lavender, and cinnamon stick. Medium-bodied, it is very well-balanced with crisp acid, a low to medium level of fine-grained tannins and satisfying berry and spice flavor layers that linger long into the finish.
92 POINTS - WINE ENTHUSIAST: "Black cherry, cola and a very sharp camphor element power the nose on this bottling from the winery purchased in 2013 by Roger Bower. The minty character is laced throughout the palate too, with red fruits and a powerful acidity that keeps the tongue tingling for a very long time. Drink now through 2020.