Tag Archives: Santa Cruz Mountains

Visit to Thomas Fogarty Winery – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some Nebbiolo from a beautiful spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains

At Thomas Fogarty Winery I met with the knowledgeable, friendly and very engaged Marshal White who gave me a good tour of both cellar and vineyards. We also had an extensive tasting including both different vintages and a wide range of vineyards.

At Thomas Fogarty Winery they also experiment with the Nebbiolo grape and I had a chance to try some of their vintages from the barrel. Being a fan of the Nebbiolo grape I found this very interesting and I am excited about their work with the grape. Personally I think their philosophy of how to manage the grape, with a hands-off approach and avoidance of oak influence, is good, and my initial impressions were positive.

A few short notes about how Thomas Fogarty Winery produce their wines

  • They use natural yeast for fermentation
  • The Pinot Noirs age 12 months in oak of which approximately 15-20% new oak.
  • The Chardonnays age 12 months in oak and 6 months in stainless steel.
  • They use approximately 35% whole clusters for the Pinot Noirs.
  • Acidity and alcohol are never adapted artificially and they do not use other additives than as little sulfur dioxide as possible
  • They do not have any certification for the work in the vineyards, but they are inspired by organic, sustainable, and biodynamic practices.

Tasting notes for the wines from Thomas Fogarty Winery

2012 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Portola Springs Vineyard

Intense tropical fruit where some sharp pineapple notes dominate but also citrus and some slight oak notes. There is a fresh lime acidity with good precision and this gives a mouthwatering finish to the wine.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Albutom Santa Cruz Mountains

The nose is elegant but rather restrained with fresh stone fruit and some lime. On the palate there are similar fruit notes but also a vibrant lime acidity. This is a very precise and well balanced wine that has a long life ahead.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Langley Hill Vineyard

Ripe pineapple and other tropical fruit notes but also some smoke and floral notes. The acidity is rather soft and with lemon notes. This is a generous and rather broad wine.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

High pitched and intense fruit notes with some floral notes as well. Has an acidic attack on the palate but of good quality and it complements the fruit that is rather dense on the palate. Nice personality on this entry level Pinot Noir.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir La Vida Bella Vineyard

From a vineyard near the coast, with sandy soil.

An abundance of strawberries, raspberries and marzipan on this fresh and rather forward wine. The tannins are very silky and the acidity careful. Straight forward and rather fruity Pinot Noir with a slim profile.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Mindego Ridge

Planted 2009 with Dijon clone.

Rather dark fruit on this dense Pinot Noir with cherries and some blackberries but also some earthy notes and spices. High acidity and with a tannic bite. This wine has a Gevrey Chambertin touch to it. Will be interesting to see how this vineyard will develop.

2012 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Will’s Cabin Vineyard

This is a rather slim and tight wine with young berry notes of mainly raspberries and strawberries. The acidity is rather high and the fine grained tannins have a sharp bite. Will be interesting how this wine evolves, but it will need some time to integrate. Right now it is slightly harsh.

2014 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Will’s Cabin Vineyard

On both nose and palate the raspberries are in the front seat but there are also darker notes from blackberries, licorice and herbs. On the palate the acidity is soft and with a tingling sensation and the fruit gets a sweet touch. Very pleasant and easy to like Pinot Noir.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Kent Berry Vineyard

Own rooted Mount Eden clone, planted 1990.

Quite careful nose but still with some dense cherries, blackberries and hints of marzipan. Nice acidity with a cool expression and fine grained tannins with some bite. On the palate the fruit is slightly tart. This wine is rather closed right now but has great potential.

2012 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Rapley Trail Vineyard

This is an open and forward wine with cherries, dark berries and some herbal and spicy notes. The palate shows some fine grained tannic structure and a soft but precise acidity. Generous and easy to enjoy Pinot Noir.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Thomas Fogarty Winery

My impressions of the wines from Thomas Fogarty Winery are very positive. These are well balanced wines with nice transparency, beautiful multi layered fruit notes and good structure. Some of the wines show slight oak notes but these are not particularly dominant. This is a winery that focus much on their great vineyards and they have a rather hands-off approach in the cellar. For me the quality of their Chardonnays was a positive surprise.

The Chardonnays from Thomas Fogarty Winery are rather different depending on which vineyard they are from, but some common denominators are the tropical fruit and the citric acidity. My favorite was the 2013 Albutom Chardonnay that had a rather restrained profile but and amazingly precise and energetic acidity.

For the Pinot Noirs I had a chance to try wines from 2012 to 2014 and from several vineyards, and again the terroir and vintage shine through in the personalities of the different wines. Some general characteristics are a rather dense fruit notes that can range from slightly sweet strawberries to some intense blackberries. The acidity is of good quality and several wines has a clear tannic bite. My favourite was the 2013 Kent Berry Vineyard Pinot Noir.

 

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Visit to Mount Eden Vineyards – An important part of history in Santa Cruz Mountains

Introduction to Mount Eden Vineyards

During my visit I met with the well spoken and thoughtful Jeffrey Patterson in the beautifully situated estate with an amazing view. Jeffrey talks about the history of Mount Eden Vineyards and his own philosophies about winemaking.

We talk a lot about the replanting of vineyards since all of the vineyards have been replanted during Jeffrey’s time at the Domaine. Being from Europe where old vines are worshipped I cannot resist asking him if he ever wish he would have kept at least a few of the older vines. Jeffrey is very firm in his belief that the replanting was the absolute best decision and his argument is that the old vineyards were not well structured, did not produce well and were very tough to manage. I ask Jeffrey when he thinks the vineyards will be replanted the next time and he laughs and says it will not be within his lifetime. He also points out that he expect it to be replanting of individual vines rather then a complete replanting in the future. 

If you are looking for a more detailed description of the history of Mount Eden Vineyards I will recommend a good source. It is well documented and I will not make a better job than what they already have done:)

Link to Article: http://www.princeofpinot.com/winery/757/

I still think it is worth mentioning a few important things, like that fact that Jeffrey has been the manager (and later majority owner) of the Mount Eden Vineyards since 1981 and he took over after a period where there had been many changes in management. This makes him one of few persons among California winemakers to have such a long history in the same place. I personally consider this extremely valuable since winemaking at the absolute top level requires detailed knowledge about the vineyards and their personalities. The most amazing wines I have tasted have been a result of long periods of small optimizations from the same group of people or family. Perfection cannot be rushed.

A few short notes about how Mount Eden Vineyards produce their wines

  • Jeffrey strives to create wines with long age ability. He points out that this can make the wines less accessible in their youth.
  • They do dry farming
  • The chardonnays go through malolactic fermentation
  • Natural yeast is used
  • 75% new oak is used for aging of the Estate Pinot Noir
  • Some American oak is used for the Cabernet Sauvignon. To avoid vanilla notes they only use oak that has been dried for 3 years.

Tasting notes for the wines from Mount Eden Vineyards

2013 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains

This is a rather round and generous Chardonnay with an abundance of yellow pears and apples but also some Asian spices. Very smooth an slightly oily on the palate with a soft but tingling acidity and some ripe tropical fruit also appear on the palate together with some slight notes of oak.

2013 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir

Approximately 30 percent whole clusters.

Intense nose with dense fruit from mainly dark cherries and raspberries but also some earthy undervegetation.  The palate is smooth with a soft but fresh acidity and layered fruit notes. I also get some herbal notes in the finish. This is a well balanced Pinot Noir that I would like to have spent more time with.

2014 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Domaine Eden

Approximately 15 percent whole clusters.

An abundance of fresh red fruit, mainly from raspberries and strawberries. Rather light on the palate and with a cool acidity and some young fruit that is slightly sweet. Very fresh and energetic Pinot Noir with a light body.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Mount Eden Vineyards

Jeffrey Patterson is a good representative of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with his long experience from working the same vineyards and his ability to communicate the history of the region. His wines are extremely well made and all have a great balance and depth. My favorites were the Pinot Noirs where the cool acidity adds energy to these rather complex wines. These are definitely wines that will have a long life ahead, but I already find them surprisingly approachable.

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