Whitcraft is a graduate researcher and lecturer at the University of
Maryland in College Park, specializing in satellite imagery and
geography. In what little spare time she has, she is trying to find
representation in the areaâ€™s wine stores for her familyâ€™s wines.
If youâ€™ve never heard of Whitcraft Winery, that may be because they
only produce about 2,000 cases a year, mostly pinot noir, but also some
chardonnay, grenache and syrah. They sell most of it to a mailing list.
Right now, itâ€™s not available in the D.C. area. But it can be, and it
Alyssaâ€™s father, Chris, started the winery in Santa Barbara County
1985, a year before she was born. Heâ€™s now in semi-retirement, leaving
the winery operations to his son, Drake. Although Alyssa isnâ€™t
joining the family business, she wears it on her sleeve. Well, under her
sleeve, actually â€“ in the form of a tattoo of the winery crest and
the words, â€œIn Vino Veritasâ€ on her arm.
She describes her father as an unrepentant hippie in the mold of Jim
Clendenon of Au Bon Climat winery fame and says the Whitcraft wines are
â€œromantically rustic.â€ Thatâ€™s because the reds are trod by foot to
avoid squeezing harsh tannins from the seeds and stems. Indeed, the
pinots I tried are seductive in texture and alluring in fruit, with an
appealing citrus note. They are not shy in alcohol, yet aside from an
initial sensation of heat, the fruit quickly gains balance. Tasting
these, itâ€™s easy to see why people get so excited about pinot noir.
The Whitcrafts own no vineyards and source fruit from throughout
California, often with long-time contracts with growers. (Though Alyssa
mentioned they will be losing access to fruit from Bien Nacido
Vineyard.) Here are my notes on five of their pinots. Prices are
2006 Melville Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, $44.
Beguiling aromas, tight and focused fruit. Still young, it needs more
age or some fatty food to open it up. 2-1/2 stars (out of three).
2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Q Block, Santa Maria Valley, $40.
Intense black-fruit aromas, firm tannins, a flash of heat from the
14.9% alcohol. Thereâ€™s also spice and intriguing citrus â€“ something
new with every sniff or sip. 3 stars.
2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard N Block, Santa Maria Valley, $40. Chunky and slightly awkward, not yet integrated, though there is really good fruit here. 1-1/2 stars.
2006 Morning Dew Ranch, Anderson Valley, $40.
Mendocino County fruit lends a spicy character this wine, which really
explodes in the glass with some vigorous swirling. 2-1/2 stars.
2007 California, $21. A blend of juice from the
various single vineyard wines. This is a stunning value, seductive and
silky with amazing balance. If you see this on area stores, and I hope
you will soon, donâ€™t pass up a chance to buy it. 2-1/2 stars, GREAT
What the stars mean:
1 = Very Good
2 = Excellent
3 = Extraordinary