The Valliant Pinot Noir showcases the bright, fruit-forward nature of Pinot Noir grown along California’s Central Coast. The cool, maritime influences of the Pacific Ocean provide the fruit an extended period on the vine whereby the grapes develop increased flavor. In the bouquet, this bottling shows notes of wild berries, spiced cranberry, black cherry as well as purple flowers and vanilla cream. Replete with acidity, the wine shows medium weight with supple tannins and a long, chalky finish.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Lots of bright cherry and strawberry aromas with hints of cream. Medium-to full-bodied with a medium, round-textured mouth-feel and a delicious finish. Fruity and yummy. Drink now
A great value, the label reads Central Coast but this is 100 percent estate grown. It’s at once fleshy and bright, with black tea and pomegranate accents, and a light minerality to ground the bright fruit. Irresistible. Best Buy
In the careful hands of early pioneers when California was still under Mexico’s flag, Eden Rift is one of the oldest continually operating estates in the US and is home to some of the earliest New World Pinot Noir plantings in 1861. The property’s first vineyards were planted in 1849 by a Bordeaux wine merchant. As the estate came into new ownership, the wines produced swept national and international competitions. Since then, the estate has changed hands several times, at one point producing wines under the label Valliant, belonging to the internationally known Hiram Walker House.
Today, the current proprietor of the estate, Christian Pillsbury, lives in the Dickinson House, a residence on the property fenced in by original Zinfandel plantings from 1906. Drawn to purchase the estate because of a personal connection, Pillsbury sees himself as chaperone of a place deeply important to the lineage of California wine. Before purchasing, Christian and his team researched the property’s daily temperature rhythms, soil, wind patterns and macro and micro climates to find the winery’s main focus, which has come to be Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In addition to wine, the Eden Rift Estate also houses a granite stone mill that produces certified organic olive oil and is open to neighboring wineries for use on their own olive oil production.
With Christian’s vision in toe, he teamed up with venerable winemaker, Cory Waller. Cory is no stranger to American Pinot Noir, having studied under Napa’s Tony Soter and Oregon’s Josh Bergstrom and Jim Prosser. He was also assistant winemaker at the iconic California winery, Calera. Cory is well suited to the uber local project. Born and raised nearby, he boasts local farmers, ranchers and fishermen as some of his closest friends. His winemaking style limits intervention while focusing in the vineyard on vine stress and low yields. Since Christian’s purchase, Eden Rift has received attention from both local and National publications in its first two vintages.
Let’s start with the obvious – Central Coast Pinot Noir is an incredibly broad category. This of course is because the Central Coast appellation is enormous, and it contains several stellar Pinot Noir regions within it, all of them kept cool by elevation or proximity to the ocean (or both). So we’ll break things down a bit with a brief look at each of these: Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey and the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills. These are not the only Central Coast sources of good Pinot Noir, but they are the major ones. So let’s get started.
In the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, just west of Silicon Valley, producers craft excellent Pinot in spite of serious challenges. The land is mountainous, rugged and can be foggy, the topsoil is thin and poor and yields tend to be low. Yet Pinots from the likes of David Bruce, Martin Ray, Mount Eden and Thomas Fogarty exhibit undeniable quality, along with bright red fruit, minerality, earth and herbal hints.
Just south lies the large Monterey appellation. Monterey Pinot Noir is grown in coastal areas, taking optimal advantage of the cooling effect of the Pacific. The most highly regarded of these is the Santa Lucia Highlands. Situated on hilly benchlands south of the city of Monterey, this central coast region relies on a long growing season, night and morning fog and consistent afternoon winds to produce world class Pinot Noir. Attributes include intense, rich fruit, subtle earthy notes, spice and a silky texture. Look for producers like Siduri, Kosta Browne, Talbott and Lucienne.
The Santa Maria Valley in northern Santa Barbara County (a section of it falls into southern San Luis Obispo County) is also a haven for quality Pinot Noir. A mere 15 miles from the Pacific, the valley runs east-west, creating a natural tunnel through which ocean breezes and fog flow. This effect lengthens the growing season and promotes both ripeness and development of acidity, lending Santa Maria Valley Pinots their characteristic full flavor, balance and elegance. The famous Bien Nacido Vineyard is located here, and notable producers include Cambria, Foxen, Byron and Au Bon Climat.
Finally, we arrive at the Sta. Rita Hills, also in Santa Barbara County. Located in the western part of the Santa Ynez Valley, it too benefits from an east-west orientation that leads to the same conditions mentioned above. Once again the result is extended hang time for the grapes, which can be tasted in the vibrant, ripe red fruits evident in these Pinots, along with dense coloration and an impression of richness and intensity. Try wines from producers like Ken Brown, Ampelos, Fess Parker and Melville.
As you can see, California’s Central Coast offers a wealth of options for any lover of Pinot Noir. Cheers!