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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Babcock Winery and Vineyard: The Cutting Edge of Vine Evolution [Part 2]

Great wines don’t make statements, they pose questions. To end with an exclamation mark is easy; when a question mark, perhaps not more difficult, but far more interesting.  - Hugh Johnson

I couldn't state it better myself, great wines don't just make statements, they pose questions. Like the one I have about the conference that was just last month, in Santa Barbara County. The question I have is this; should we as wine bloggers ask ourselves what is the purpose of the 2014 SBC Wine Bloggers Conference? Is it, to merely go to parties to the wee hours of the morning, sing a few songs, dance on tables or should we take the opportunity we are given by the host of the region to drill down a bit deeper, beyond the superficial surface of the moment? And give our readers something a bit more substantive to ponder? I'll leave the answers for each of you to digest.

Now that said, here is the promised part two of the afternoon I spent getting to know Babcock wines a bit better and I'd like to point out, that I'm very grateful for Bryan Babcock's time that afternoon, and thanks to who ever it was that took the time to reach out to me via twitter with the invitation. It's these moments, I spend with the folks behind the labels seen on the shelf of your favorite wine store, that I really get a better sense of why, they do what they do, and see the passion up close and personal. I'm here to tell you, it is real and in each wine you can sense it, and taste it. It's the same passion I have for writing my thoughts here, to share with each of you.


“The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three-run homers.” A singles hitter doesn't scare anybody." ~ Earl Weaver

What is true in baseball, is also true in winemaking, and while one hit wonders don't impress anyone, neither do one dimensional wines. But you'll see nothing but pure fundamentals at Babcock, and in my opinion quite a few three run homers. It is not too often that I find something to like or appreciate about every wine in a given tasting, so I'm happy to report that in each of the wines presented that afternoon, I did indeed found something I'd be happy to purchase and take home. But also, and more importantly, these are wines that I'm happy to recommend to you, my readers. So as I said last time, I have six wines to review here and I'll get started with the Chardonnay and finish up with Pinot Noir; like the grapes you see in the picture above.

"Wine is the prism we look through to the past while enjoying the present." - @twomey Winemaker Erin Miller

2012 Top Cream Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Sta Rita Hills: Not your typical over extracted, oak bomb from California. Instead this wine has style, substance and is layered with fine ground minerality you can taste in each sip, and slurp. The reason they call Top Cream is that you see, if you walk the vineyard, crouch down and grab a handful is loose, sandy loamy soils which I'm told goes down about three feet, hence the name Top Cream. In the mouth, it's creamy and dreamy really, apples and pears dance together, mouth coating citrus, finely knit minerality and a long, long finish. My score for this wine is 94 points.

2013 The Limit Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Sta Rita Hills: So put me on a highway, and show me a sign, take it to the limit, one more time." A great tune from the Eagles, this wine takes Chardonnay to a different limit, a place where even original recipe Chardonnay can shine. You'll find very crisp apples and pears, lemon meringue, a snap of acid, tangy minerality driving this wine to a happy place. My score for this wine is 88 points.



2012 Precocious Pinot Noir: For folks who like a more dialed back approach, a less up in your face style to new world PN; then this wine is your ticket to ride. My initial impression, this wine has a delicate feminine style; cracked rich earth, cut black tea, baked cherries, a tart cranberry note and baking spices, painted across taunt tannins. The structure says, I have many years left to develop and change and in the here in now, tasting drinking pleasure. My score for this wine 89 points.


2012 Je Ne Sais Quoi, Sta Rita Hills: Excuse my French, this wine has a little something, something that says I'm all that you want, with a little cherry on top. Another 100% estate Pinot Noir that so worth the price of admission, you'd be a fool to miss out. This vintage is on the verge of selling out, so move with alacrity to score a few bottles for your cellar. In the glass, a big brooding dark ruby color, the nose full of baking spices, floral and cut black tea.

It's a big wine, one I'd lay down for long term cellaring to properly enjoy down the road, after it has had a chance to shake off some of its youthfulness. Broken rocks, fresh pre-dunked tea bags, brown sugar, cherries, cranberries and cola. The finish is on and on and on. All the fruit for this wine is from Bryan's famously well known Block 9, where he declared aloud before buying it over the phone, this vineyard is the mecca of the Sta Rita Hills. If you visit and happen to run into Bryan, make sure you ask to hear the story behind the acquisition of this block. My score for this wine is 93 points.


"Making wine can be best described as attempting to write poetry in a language you don't understand." ~ Some winemaker, somewhere in time!

2012 Microcosm Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills: Is there anything better than enjoying finely crafted wines on a very breezy afternoon, just outside the tasting room, with a view that sails on and like the finish of so many of these wines? The answer yes, it could be better with some friend, food and family and then you'd have the perfect tasting table. This wine takes a very different approach, more feminine, dialed back fruit, and loads of wet, freshly cracked earth, floral and black cut tea on the nose. The first slurp of the wine easily gives way to more of the same from the nose, fortunately, bright cherries, cola, pie crust and baking spices join the fray, tho reticent to do so. The finish is a bit more abrupt than I hope for, but not so, that it takes away from its appeal. My score for this wine is 90 points.


2012 Babcock Radical Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills: Winemakers are not suppose to have favorites, but that doesn't work for wine writers. This wine was hands down, my absolute favorite and I was sad to hear there was not even one drop left to purchase. Yes, I do purchase wines, after some tastings. I like to take bottles home to reevaluate them, to see if I can duplicate the same initial experience, sadly in this case, they were all gone. So I have to reply on my first set of tasting notes, to make my recommendation. This wine comes from 'proven' clones Dijon, 667 and 115.

"The reason for the lighter [soil] appearance in Radical is its rocks. Dude, Radical’s rocks are soooo rad! They look like someone, God?, painted them."~ Bryan Babcock

That said, I'm trusting the "sold out" status of this vintage as evidence that I'm on the right track with my exurbanite recommendation. I was wowed, just by the nose, velvety, lingering aromas, alluring and maybe even a bit intoxicating; cracked wet earth, fresh summer cherry, sweet tobacco, cut black tea and vague white pepper. After the first slurp, sublime city, lean in all the right places and coating the palate like a velvet blanket; sweet cranberries, tobacco, a blaze of minerality that drills down deep into the bedrock, adding depth and complexity and perhaps this wine seen some whole cluster fermentation. I'm scoring this wine 94 points, it's a stunner. 

If you hope for a chance to secure any of the upcoming 2013, you better take the steps necessary to do so now, or you'll be left on the outside looking in. Nothing but real soul and substance found here, don't miss it. Until next folks remember, life is short, don't settle for commodity wines, sip long and prosper cheers!



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