Clarice: 2018 Pinot Noirs from the Santa Lucia Highlands

We recently held a virtual tasting of the 2018 Clarice Pinot Noir with the talented veteran winemaker Adam Lee.  We originally planned to meet in Washington to taste the wines, as we had last year, but COVID19 got in the way forcing us to conduct our tasting via Zoom.  (Matt Revelette,  the new winemaker at Siduri participated in our tasting which included some his wines.  We will be reporting on Siduri later this year).

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Adam Lee

For starters, we believe the 2018 Clarice wines are first-rate and better than the 2017 vintage, which we previously reported on to our readers last May.  They are better for several reasons: first the 2017 vintage in the Santa Lucia Highlands was a cool and temperate vintage which allowed the grapes the luxury of extended time on vine; second the vintage produced “juicy grapes” in the must which required bleeding off 20% of the juice resulting in wines with somewhat greater concentration; third, the ripeness of stems enabled Adam to increase the percentage of whole clusters from last year, giving a bit more lift to the wines.  The wines are beautifully balanced with perfect ripeness and relatively low alcohol levels,  a feat that is increasingly difficult to achieve as the climate warms. 

In tasting these three wines, we found it very difficult to identify which of the trio we liked best.  They are different in character, but all are delicious and beautifully crafted.   readers will note, we have given the blend a slight preference over the single vineyard wines owing to its elegant and savory qualities.  However, you be the judge.   If you are a Clarice Family Member you will have the chance to compare these three lovely bottlings.  Our assessments follow:

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Garys’ Vineyard

The Wines  

Clarice 2018 Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands  95   
The 2018 Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard displays a medium dark ruby hue and offers aromas and flavors of spicy ripe pomegranate/plum fruit with distinct underbrush and earthy notes. On the palate it reveals good concentration, round firm tannins, and excellent balance. Slightly bolder in character than the Pinot Noir from the Rosella Vineyard, it offers noteworthy and sustaining richness on the finish.

Clarice 2018 Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands  95  The 2018 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir displays a medium- ruby color and offers aromas and flavors of ripe red berry fruit with nuances of spice and earth. On the palate it appears more elegant and refined than the Pinot Noir Gary’s Vineyard, revealing a more silky smooth mouth feel, soft round tannins, excellent balance and a long satisfying finish. A high percentage (81%)  whole cluster fermentation also contributed to the lift in the flavor of the wine.

Clarice 2018 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands  95+ The 2018 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands combines grapes from both Garys’ Vineyard and the Rosella Vineyard. Like the other two wines in the trio, it displays a lovely ruby hue and dark red berry fruit. The blend is primarily of fruit from the Rosella Vineyard which contributes to the wine’s silky and savory character. We find that the blend of grapes from the two vineyards gives slightly more richness, while reduced oak aging (37.5% new vs. 70+% for Garys’ and Rosella’s) contributes to the wine’s early drinking character.  

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