Dragonette Cellars Radian Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018
The 2018 Radian is deep and complex as usual, with concentrated red fruits, exquisite minerals, and a good solid backbone of herb-edged tannins; however, in 2018 it is so far showing a particularly fresh acidity which seems to lift the fruit up and let it slowly descend upon the palate, seemingly like a billowy parachute. Extremely Limited. Only 450 cases produced.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
This is an incredibly dynamic, complex and yet utterly delicious bottling. Aromas of roasted cherry, iodine, iron, bay leaf, sage and mushroomy meats envelop the nose. The palate is rich in texture and flavors yet fierce with acidity, combining opulent berries, toasted sage and gamy meats into a head-spinning sip.
One of the darker hued wines in the lineup, the 2018 Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard is tighter and more wound up, with a laser-like sense of precision in its white pepper, crushed stone, and tart stone and black raspberry fruits. The purity of fruit here is top notch, as is the overall balance, and this medium-bodied 2018 is going to benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age and cruise for a decade.
The 2018 Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard is a dense, savory wine that captures the essence of this marginal, cold-climate site. All of the power and energy is directed inward in this decidedly intense, searing wine. Crushed rose petal, bright red/purplish fruit, chalk, dried herbs and floral notes linger. I can't wait to see how this ages. Rating: 94+?
Judiciously placed oak and a distinctive streak of minerals lie just behind this beautifully composed wine’s very deep, perfectly ripened, cherry and raspberry fruit, and, at every turn, freshening acidity imbues it with plenty of life. It is medium-bodied and quite firm in balance without drifting to tartness, and, if approachable now despite showing a fine tannic spine, it is a structured and eminently ageworthy Pinot Noir whose elegant best lies some half-dozen years in the future.
Brandon Sparks-Gillis met John Dragonette while they were both working at a retail wine shop not far off of the UCLA campus in Westwood. John and Brandon were both there to educate themselves about wine and take the opportunity to immerse themselves into the professional wine world. John was a practicing attorney and Brandon was a recent college grad who picked up the wine bug while traveling and studying geology for a summer in Italy. They began to strike up a friendship based on their common interests and ambitions in the wine world and eventually both moved on to their own winemaking and winegrowing jobs.
For a time, Sparks-Gillis cut his teeth working in a bakery starting at 2a.m. and then commuting to work vineyards in the evening. He then went on to working at Demetria and Sine Qua Non. John Dragonette worked for Fiddlehead and Costal Vineyard Care. In 2003, John and his brother, Steve Dragonette, joined up with Brandon Sparks-Gillis and began to make wine under the Dragonette label with their first commercial release in 2005.
In 2008, Dragonette moved into a warehouse to scale up production, sharing the space and some equipment with Ampelos Cellars, and sourcing fruit from the surrounding Santa Barbara County vineyards. They had always been enamored with the Santa Barbara as a region that made great Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah, and they started to develop long-term and close relationships with vineyard owners. They were always hands-on as growers and to this day every site is hand-harvested under the keen eye of Brandon, John, or Steve. As production grew to 5,000 cases, Dragonette moved to their current winery in Buellton with a tasting room twelve minutes away in Los Olivos.
The depth of Dragonette’s wines begin in the vineyard with rigorous attention to detail to canopy management and crop yields. The clusters are gently handled during harvest and processing and then fermented with indigenous yeasts. There are no manipulations of the wine in the cellar either. Racking and the use of new oak is absolutely minimal. Only portions of the Pinot Noir lots are fermented with a very small amount of whole clusters, and Dragonette’s red wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
As vignerons, they have committed themselves, above all else, to the mindful farming of precise blocks in exceptional vineyards for low yields and high quality and to the shepherding of these grapes into wines of purity, complexity and balance. Given the remarkable climatic and soil diversity in Santa Barbara County, Dragonette Cellars produces small lots of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah of interest and distinction.
A superior source of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills is the coolest, westernmost sub-region of the larger Santa Ynez Valley appellation within Santa Barbara County. This relatively new AVA is unquestionably one to keep an eye on.
The climate of Sta. Rita Hills is a natural match for Chardonnay and Pinot noir, thanks to the crisp ocean breezes and well-drained, limestone-rich calcareous soil. Here, grapes ripen just enough, while retaining brisk acidity and harmonious balance.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”