Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2002
Alcohol: 14.3% by volume
Byron was founded in 1984 by winemaker Ken Brown. With years of experience as a winemaker in Santa Barbara County, Ken recognized the Santa Maria Valley's potential for great wines in the Burgundian style, and was the first winemaker to introduce Rhone-style grape varieties to the area. The first crush at Byron Vineyard & Winery produced 7,600 cases, and Byron soon gained national recognition for high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
In 1990, the Robert Mondavi family purchased Byron, and Ken Brown became Winemaker and General Manager. He and Tim Mondavi, Robert's son, set about designing the new Byron Winery as an expression of their shared belief in natural farming, experimental viticulture and gentle grape handling. They wanted to eliminate pumping, which shears grape stems, skin and seeds, allows tannins and other harsh elements into the juice and can make wine bitter.
With the aid of noted architect R. Scott Johnson, who designed the Opus One winery in Napa Valley and San Francisco's Transamerica building, Ken designed a multi-level winery that replaces pumping with gravity flow, resulting in more complex, dynamic wines. Byron's vineyards were also expanded and replanted as Ken Brown experimented with trellising systems, new rootstocks and clones, row orientation, and planting density in his quest for the perfect grape.
Santa Maria Valley lies mainly in northern Santa Barbara County, with a small portion of it overlapping southern San Luis Obispo County. It is close to the Pacific, and runs east-west, which means warmer air in the eastern end draws cool air off the ocean in the west, and brings it through the valley. This effect, combined with abundant sunshine, lengthens the growing season. The longer growing season leads to long hang time, which promotes both ripeness and optimal acidity levels in grape berries. As early as the 1970’s, Santa Maria Valley was recognized as being a superior source of wine grapes, certainly including Chardonnay and Syrah. But arguably the top variety here is Pinot Noir.
Originally a domain primarily of growers, including the Miller Family of the justifiably famous Bien Nacido Vineyard, this AVA is now home to over 30 wineries. Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir consistently offers full flavors of cherry, strawberry and raspberry, often accompanied by notes of spice, cola, vanilla and earth. They show impressive balance and elegance, as well as great versatility with food.