2018 Pinot Noir, Fiddletstix Vineyard
Fiddlestix needs no introduction to long time club members or to fans of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Planted in 1998, this vineyard is one of the stalwarts of the SRH, along with Sanford & Benedict across the street, La Rinconada and La Encantada, contiguously adjacent to S&B, and Sea Smoke on the steep hills just across the river to the north. We like to call this the historic core of the SRH appellation. So many famous wines were born of this section of the SRH which appears as a fairly wide section of gently sloped land between the Santa Ynez mountains and the Santa Rita Hills and adjacent to the Santa Ynez River. Daily wind and fog make their way up this river valley from the cold deep blue Pacific, keeping this area extremely cool, even in summer. For most of July 2020, for example, the daily highs were between 70-72, with breezes 10-20 mph. The thick morning fog typically burns off around 11:00 am, leaving brilliant sunshine and a big, blue sky. By 1:00 pm the sunlight reflects wildly off the vine leaves as they are blown about by the winds, almost seeming to dance throughout the afternoon.
2018 was the coolest vintage since 2011. Winter rains and a cool early spring helped delay budbreak, while providing for a good soil water profile. Weather was good during set, allowing for reasonable yields. A warm early summer promoted ripeness, but in late August the weather turned quite cool, with only moderate daytime highs, lots of clouds and cold nights. The grapes, generally, moved very slowly toward full ripeness, and we picked our blocks at Fiddlestix at a leisurely pace on September 12, 13, 17, 19 & 21.
A blend of five separate blocks and clones (113, 115, 667, 777 and clone 4 Pommard), the wine was fermented with 14% whole clusters in classic Burgundian methods; 2-4 day cold soak and spontaneous fermentation with native yeasts. At dryness, the free run juice drained and transferred directly to barrels, and the remaining berries gently pressed to tank (to remove some of the heavy lees) and barreled separately the next day. Cooperage was all French oak, 30 percent new, with various coopers (Cadus, Francois Freres, Rousseau, Seguin Moreau), forests (Vosges, Allier, Troncais) and toast levels (M, ML, M+). The wine undergoes spontaneous malolactic fermentation in barrel and no additional sulfur was added (there is a small amount added to the juice the day of harvest/processing) until ML was complete in late March, 2019. The wine was ultimately aged on its lees for 18 months before selection, blending and bottling. The wine is fantastic in this cooler, more elegant year. Fiddlestix always presents as one of the more broad-shouldered wines in our portfolio, with plenty of punch and robust tannins. In the cool 2018, there is concentration and power, but in a more medium bodied frame, with beautiful freshness. Indeed, we think this wine gives that “holy grail” sensation of power without weight. Drinkable now, it will improve for 4-12 years or longer.
Jeb Dunnuck has provisionally rated the ’18 94 – 96 Points, saying “Lots of spice, ground herbs, and bright cherry fruits emerge from the 2018 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix, which has some classic Burgundian reductive notes, medium body, and a seamless, flawlessly balanced style on the palate.”
Extremely Limited – only 320 cases produced, the large majority of which will go to the wine club.