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Cambria Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999
- Fred Holloway, Winemaker
Julia's is hand-harvested from a 235-acre Pinot Noir vineyard in the coolest section of the, family-owned Cambria estate. As expected from the consistency of Cambria's fruit, the 2000 vintage speaks boldly of Santa Maria Valley's ideal climate and vineyard conditions for growing Pinot Noir. Formed from alluvial deposits of the Sisquoc River, Cambria's soil is gravelly and exceptionally well draining—restricting vine vigor to promote the growth of Pinot Noir with concentrated and intense flavors. The maritime influences that funnel in from the Pacific Ocean, cloak the Santa Maria Valley in mild temperatures, extending the vineyard's growing season to provide ample time to balance the fruit's acid profile and develop optimal varietal character.
In the vineyard, development of mature flavors lays the foundation for flavor and quality and sets the stage for winemaking. In 2000, Mother Nature provided us with excellent conditions for the development of distinct, rich Pinot Noir. The vineyard management team was innately aware of the quality throughout the season and carefully managed the growth of this superb crop through meticulous management techniques. Leaf thinning allowed more sunlight on the clusters for full, even ripening. Irrigation was minimized to restrict vine vigor and focus the vine's energy on the development of concentrated flavors. Any underdeveloped fruit was taken off the vines at verasion to promote the growth of densely flavored clusters. The resulting 2000 Pinot Noir crop was superb quality.
Individual lots of Pinot Noir were hand-harvested into small, open-top fermenting bins. A cold pre-soak and frequent punch-downs maximized the extraction of flavor and color from the skins. After fermentation, the Pinot Noir was racked into medium-plus toasted French oak, for ten months, to balance the velvety tannins and round out the mid-palate.
Cambria is a private, family-owned estate winery that has carved out a reputation for producing lush, tropical Chardonnay, velvety-textured Pinot noir and rich, spicy Syrah since its inception in 1987. Cambria's proximity to the ocean and east-west orientation gives this 1,400-acre property the diversity it needs to grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah under perfectly suited conditions. As an estate property, Cambria's Vineyard Manager and Winemaker work in tandem to perfect the winegrowing process. Together, they select only the finest grapes from the estate to bear the Cambria name. Every grape is hand-harvested and crafted into wine with the utmost care and respect foe the varietal.
In recent years, Cambria has concentrated its vineyard and winemaking resources into amplifying different aspects of the Cambria estate. This effort launched an in-depth exploration of the vineyard and varieties on this cool-climate property. The result has elevated the quality of Cambria's core wines, created new site-focused and distinct winemaking styles, and dramatically highlighted the bold flavors of each variety. Today, the flagship wines, making up 90% of the production, include Katherine's Chardonnay, Julia's Pinot Noir and Tepusquet Syrah. Each wine represents the broad definition of flavor, for that variety, on the estate.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.