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The Hilt Vanguard Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley, Central Coast, California
  • RP93
14.1% ABV
  • V95
  • RP91
  • RP93
  • RP93
  • RP90
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14.1% ABV

Winemaker Notes

Endowed with a nose that is brooding, dark and seductive. Floral with strong notes of black plum and black tea. Palate surprises with its graceful attack. Crunchy and herbal with sumptuous blackberry and English Breakfast tea. Slides across the palate with fruit and smoke. Refined and gentle tannins on the tongue are ushered out by a gentle push of sweet red fruit. A ponderous wine with elegance and so many dimensions. Full of pleasure immediately out of the bottle. Simple equation: bright sunshine, exposed ridgelines, rocky soils = powerful and silky fruit with delicious and chewy tannin. Suave and seductive as only Vanguard Pinot Noir can be.

Critical Acclaim

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RP 93
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
More plush, with gorgeous black raspberry, toasted spice, dried flowers and a touch of licorice, the 2014 Pinot Noir Vanguard hits the palate with gorgeous fruit, a rounded, supple texture and present, yet ripe tannin. It's much more approachable than the Old Guard, but I suspect it will evolve just as nicely.
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The Hilt

The Hilt

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The Hilt , Santa Maria Valley, Central Coast, California
The Hilt champions pinot noir and chardonnay from the climate margins of California's coastal winegrowing regions—Santa Barbara County's Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley AVA's prominent among them.The philosophy of "growing in the margins" propels winegrowers to employ practices that enable grapes to show full transparency of site—key to The Hilt's philosophy. Within this framework, The Hilt ferments two distinct styles of wine-The Old Guard and The Vanguard. The former relies on elegant clonal selections planted on poorer soils along with minimalist cellar methods to produce a wine with minerality and structure at its fore. The latter is sourced from more robust clones planted on slightly richer soils revealing a wine with balance, power and fruit driven qualities.

There are three things critical to the understanding of transparent varieties such as chardonnay and pinot noir: an understanding of terroir (dirt/climate foremost among them), an attuned sense of stylistic intention and deft touch in the cellar. Armed with a degree in Soil Science from the University of Vermont, The Hilt's winemaker, Matt Dees' approach is grounded in the vineyard first and foremost. His attention to the subtle differences found between chardonnay and pinot noir due to clonal selections and site informs the sides of The Hilt's philosophy. And last but not least, Matt's fine hand with the wines in the cellar allows the precise expression of both Old Guard characteristics and Vanguard elements to emerge.

When Matt's not exploring this duality in chardonnay and pinot noir, he can be found making the wines for its sister winery—Jonata.

As hinted at in the name, The Hilt goes "all the way" in its quest for expression and quality; nothing is held back in terms of effort.

Santa Maria Valley

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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.

Pinot Noir

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One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.

In the Glass

Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.

Perfect Pairings

Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.

Sommelier Secret

Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.

IPO20207_2014 Item# 239362