Sea Smoke Estate vineyard was planted in 1999 on a south-facing hillside site in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara County. The aspect of the vineyard lends the name “Southing” to this bottling. Each evening, the unique geography of the region funnels a marine fog layer (“sea smoke”) up the Santa Ynez River canyon, cooling the vines and extending the ripening period.
The 2012 Southing is the 12th vintage, and features the vineyard in its prime. The grapes were 100 percent de-stemmed, inoculated with cultured yeasts, and manual punch-downs carried out three times a day over the 14- to 18-day maceration period. The wine was aged 16 months in 55 percent new French oak barrels.
I gave this wine a 97, one of my highest scorings for pinot noirs from the several thousand I tasted in 2014. The gorgeous nose features spiced berries, violets, sous-bois, and a hint of vanilla. The flamboyantly flavored core of black raspberry and plum fruits is accented with spice and an undertone of earthy flora. Blessed with amazingly intense fruit flavor, yet angelic, this wine has a very soft and seamless demeanor, with oak adding complimentary seasoning. The typically bright Sta. Rita Hills acidity adds vibrancy. This wine commands your attention from the get-go.
This very special wine is expensive ($80 to $110, depending on the retailer), but will make any New Year’s Eve dinner extraordinarily festive. Pair it with winter fare such as roasted beef tenderloin with morel sauce, roasted venison wrapped in applewood smoked bacon with huckleberry sauce, or slow-roasted veal shank with chanterelles.
The 2012 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir is available at OC Wine Mart in Yorba Linda, Amazing Grapes Wine Store, and The Wine Lab in Costa Mesa. Sea Smoke has also released a 2012 “Sea Spray” Blanc de Noirs Sta. Rita Hills sparkling wine ($80) that is stunning as well. Most of Sea Smoke production is sold through a mailing list at Sea Smoke.