De Tierra is owned and operated by Tom Russell, one of California’s largest organic vegetable growers. The winery is protected by Vindegard, a Star Wars type character that stands on the balcony of the winery to protect it from all foes (armed, naturally, with an empty wine bottle). We had lunch with Tom and his consulting winemaker Ian Brand when we visited them last year and marveled at the spectacular food prepared by Kathleen Robison and Matthew “Gus” Gustat.
The estate is located just 5 miles from the Pacific in an area called Corral de Tierra, a high valley situated between the Santa Lucia Highlands to the east and the Carmel Valley to the west. Tom planted his vineyards in 1998 to Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Later on, he planted Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir at the Silacci Vineyard north of the Santa Lucia Highlands. His estate vineyards are certified organic by CCDF [California Certified Organic Farmers]. De Tierra also purchases from local vineyards, mostly from Coastview, Sargenti, and Chula Viña in the foothills of the Gavilan Mountains. The wines of this estate are crafted by winemaker David Coventry with the assistance of wine consultant Ian Brand. The new releases of this winery’s very fine Pinot Noirs and its Coastview and Vindegard Chardonnays were not yet available for this tasting. We’ll report on them later.
Our reviews of earlier vintages of the De Tierra wines can be found in Report #29: The Wines of Monterey County, published late last year.
De Tierra 2009 Chardonnay Monterey ($30) 90 An excellent California Chardonnay packed with flavor, judiciously oaked and with good acidity. Very little obvious oak yet the effects of oak are obvious in the complexity and depth of flavor and the firm tannic finish. Yellow tropical fruit, ripe citrus, and lightly toasted hazelnut all put in an appearance. Made with estate grown organic grapes.
De Tierra 2010 Pinot Gris Monterey ($20) 90+ One of the very best Pinot Gris wines made in California, this wine has exquisite balance with rich ripe fruit, full body, and excellent freshness with good acid levels. Chamomile, tangerine zest, and cured lemon show on the nose while the palate is creamy smooth, finishing long and fresh. Superb.
De Tierra 2008 Five by Five Monterey ($38) 92 The Five by Five is one of the top 2010 Bordeaux blends of California. Refined in nature, it is also packed with flavor. The nose shows red and black fruit, coconut, dark chocolate, and notes of toasted oak. These are also picked up on the soft, lush and finely textured palate finishing long with fine, firm tannins. Superb. Not released at the time of our tasting.
De Tierra 2007 The Puzzler Monterey ($18) 88 The Puzzler is a nicely aromatic blend of Merlot and Syrah showing forest floor, licorice, and blackberry scents. The palate picks these up and adds a touch of roast beef. But texturally the wine is a bit rustic with dry, somewhat hard tannins, especially on the finish.
De Tierra 2008 Merlot Monterey ($20) 89+ This is an earthy Merlot made from estate grown organic grapes. Dark fruit, light toasted oak and a hint of forest floor show on the nose, while the palate is earthy with lovely sweet fruit on the back of the palate, finishing with a hint of balsamic and fairly high acidity.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler