Harlan Alum’s Secret Weapon
Today’s 2013 Westerly Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills was produced by a winemaker who came straight from eight vintages making wine at Harlan Estate in the Napa Valley. Our NDA keeps us from mentioning his name, but we can tell you that this sumptuous, bold Pinot Noir was culled entirely from grapes off the famed John Sebastiano vineyard. You may have enjoyed a Sebastiano Pinot from the likes of Foxen ($60), Siduri ($50), and Paul Lato ($80) — all who crafted stellar Pinots in the exceptional 2013 vintage. But this Harlan alum produced a Westerly Pinot that is in a class all by itself. An excellent buy at its winery price of $45, even better and absolutely nothing as good at $22.50 — half off.
Perched at the far eastern edge of the windy, mist-sprayed Sta. Rita Hills appellation, the John Sebastiano Vineyard was planted in 2007 and has yielded some of the most dazzling expressions of Pinot Noir on the Central Coast. In 2013, the second-consecutive drought year in the Golden State, the berries off Sebastiano came in small, with impeccable concentration and vibrant acids. Outside of the world-famous crus of France, there are few places on Earth capable of coaxing the grapes into such powerful, elegant packages. Why? It’s all about the Pacific. Blowing directly across the vineyard’s steep slopes, the cooling ocean winds preserve the vibrancy and freshness of the small, tightly clustered berries of unbelievable dark-fruit intensity.
Westerly’s pristine fruit was harvested in the first week in September, hand-sorted, de-stemmed, then underwent a seven-day cold-soak to maximize color and aromatic intensity. Punch-downs were conducted by hand, three times per day for two weeks, then free-run juice was captured and the skins gently basket pressed. After one year in French oak Burgundy barrels, the final blend spent another six months in barrel prior to bottling.