Antonio Galloni Presents Vinous

July 2013: Santa Barbara's Stunning 2011's

Santa Barbara County is one of the unquestioned stars of California’s 2011 vintage. Freakish, highly unusual weather conditions produced a set of fragrant, resonant, beautifully delineated Chardonnays, Syrahs and Pinots loaded with class and pedigree. Overall, the 2011s have lower alcohols and higher acidities than California wine lovers have become accustomed to in recent years. Wine isn't made by numbers, though, and it is a mistake to give too much importance to analytical figures alone. The best 2011s are gorgeous, drop-dead wines that fully capture the personalities of Santa Barbara’s top sites.

2011 Rusack Vineyards Chardonnay 93 points
The 2011 Chardonnay is a beautifully layered wine laced with crushed rocks, smoke, lemon and white peaches. A Meursault-like sense of energy and finesse supports all of the elements nicely. The 2011 was made from Bien Nacido and Sierra Madre fruit. The relatively low level of new oak (37%) lets the purity of these sites come through in spades. This is a fabulous showing from Rusack.

2011 Rusack Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve 93 points
The 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve is the richest and darkest of these 2011 Pinots from Rusack. Black cherries, plums, menthol, licorice and pine all jump from the glass in a voluptuous, resonant wine loaded with personality. The style is rich and enveloping, especially within the context of the year, but the wine's balance is superb from start to finish. Fiddlestix and John Sebastiano are the vineyard sources. The 2011 spent 10 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.

2011 Rusack Vineyards Syrah Ballard Canyon Estate 92 points
Rusack's 2011 Syrah Ballard Canyon Estate is beautiful. Varietal notes meld seamlessly into juicy, expressive fruit. Blackberry and plum nuances are alive in the glass in a Syrah that impresses for its weight, depth and pure resonance. A long, layered finish rounds things out in grand style. This hugely appealing Syrah is delicious today, but will also age nicely for at least a handful of years. The 2011 spent 16 months in French oak barrels, 32% new. I have a slight preference for the straight Syrah over the Reserve in 2011.

2011 Rusack Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 91 points
The 2011 Chardonnay Reserve is made in a bolder, more immediate style than the straight Santa Barbara Chardonnay. Bright lemon, pear and almond notes are given an extra dimension of volume and voluptuousness from French oak. This is another absolutely impeccable Chardonnay from Rusack. The 2011 was made from Sierra Madre and Bien Nacido fruit and aged in French oak barrels (63% new) for 9 months.

2011 Rusack Vineyards Pinot Noir Solomon Hills 91 points
Freshly cut roses, petals, spices, sweet red berries and mint are all woven together in the 2011 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard. A soft, supple, silky Pinot, the 2011 impresses for its nuance and length. Sweet floral notes reappear to add lift on a finish that is supported by refined, polished tannins. There is a lot to like in this gracious Pinot from Rusack. The 2011 spent 10 months in French oak barrels, 60% new.

2011 Rusack Vineyards Syrah Reserve Ballard Canyon Estate 91 points
The 2011 Syrah Reserve Ballard Canyon Estate is a bit darker, richer and more voluptuous than the straight bottling, but stylistically the Reserve isn't that much different nor more complex. The Reserve spent 16 months in oak, 50% new, all of which it handles well.

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