Steve Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

90 points 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley

91 points 2009 Pinot Noir ‘Reserve’, Sta. Rita Hills

90 points 2009 Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate

91 points 2009 Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate Reserve

Chardonnay Reserve Santa Maria Valley 2009 90 points
Vivid yellow. Intriguing aromas of pear, nectarine, white flowers and iodine, with a smoky overtone. Expansive orchard fruit flavors stain the palate and pick up a spicy quality with air. The iodine and floral notes linger on a long, penetrating finish.

Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley 2008 90 points
Vivid red. Lively, pure red and dark berry scents, with a sexy floral quality and a hint of Asian spices. Sweet black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors are brisk and penetrating, with refreshing back-end bite and a strong floral pastille note. Nervy and bright on the long, floral-accented finish.

Pinot Noir, Solomon Hills Vineyard 2007 91 points | Cellar Selection
Deep red. Seductive, nuanced aromas of wild strawberry, raspberry, Asian spices, cocoa powder, rose and anise. Compellingly silky and sweet on entry, then vibrant and focused in the mid-palate, with a vibrant mineral quality lifting the flavors of crushed red berries, blood orange and gingerbread. The wine's zesty minerality gives it a weightless quality and the spice notes linger tenaciously.

Rusack Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Reserve 2008 90 points
Greenish-yellow color. Musky, highly complex aromas of Meyer lemon, lime, iodine and hazelnut. Sweet on entry, then impressively tensile in the middle, showing sweet but lively citrus and pit fruit flavors and a strong mineral underpinning. Tactile, penetrating and balanced chardonnay, with mineral and smoke notes lingering on the very persistent finish.

Rusack Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills Reserve 2007 89 points
Bright red. High-pitched aromas of spicy red berries, licorice, white pepper and crushed stone, with a whiff of dried flowers. Sappy, racy and taut, with sharply delineated flavors of raspberry and flowers that are firmed by youthful tannins. A bit reserved today, and conveying an impression of high acidity. Youthfully tight pinot, finishing with very good purity and a whiplash of red fruit flavor.

Rusack Syrah, Santa Barbara County 2007 89 points
Inky ruby. Powerful scents of cassis, candied cherry, tarragon and dark chocolate. Sweet red and dark berry preserve flavors are complemented by smoky mineral and floral qualities and framed by supple tannins. Youthfully firm on the finish but not at the expense of the sweet, energetic fruit.

Rusack Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate 2007 89 points
Opaque ruby. Exotically perfumed bouquet of raspberry, boysenberry, potpourri and licorice. Succulent dark berry flavors are framed by solid tannins and complemented by fresh herbs. Balances deep, sweet berry fruit against tangy minerals on the long, slightly stern finish. I'd bet on this rewarding another five years of patience; in fact, it needs it.

2006 Pinot Noir, Rancho Santa Rosa, Sta. Rita Hills 90 points

2006 Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate 90 points

2005 Pinot Noir, Rancho Santa Rosa, Sta. Rita Hills 90+
Dark red. Exotic red and dark berry aromas, with suave Asian spices and floral oils adding complexity. Sweet raspberry and black berry flavors are energized by cinnamon and clove and finish with impressive sappy persistence. Became more cherry-like and gained density with air, suggesting that it will repay cellaring.

2005 Reserve Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 89
Medium red. Vibrant red berry and floral aromas are deepened by vanillin oak and musky underbrush. Lively, finely etched redcurrant and wild strawberry flavors gain weight with air but retain vivacity. The oak notes repeat and linger on the silky finish without becoming strident.

2005 Syrah, Santa Barbara County 90
Glass-staining ruby. Textbook syrah on the nose: cassis, cherry, cured meat, tobacco and dried flowers. Deep and sweet, with round dark berry preserve flavors firmed by gentle tannins. Finishes with impressive cling. This gained weight with aeration without becoming ponderous.

2005 Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate 90+
Inky purple. Brooding dark berry aromas verge on liqueur-like, with dark chocolate and espresso adding complexity. A serious, concentrated rendition of New World syrah, offering impressively concentrated bitter cherry and cassis flavors and noteworthy finishing punch.

2004 Chardonnay Reserve, Santa Maria Valley
Pale yellow. Aromas of pear, pineapple and spices, with some more exotic tropical notes adding complexity. Juicy and fresh in the mouth, with pear fruit dominating.
This midweight chardonnay offers limited complexity but has sound, ripe acidity. Persistent, slightly dry-edged finish. 88

2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
Deep red-ruby. Complex nose offers dark cherry, cola, flowers, meat, espresso and dark chocolate. Sweet, primary flavors of crushed red berries. Dense, sappy pinot with terrific fruit. Finishes with dusty tannins and very good length.
This winery's pinots caught my attention last year, and the new set of releases are a worthy follow-up to the '03s. 90

2004 Pinot Noir Reserve, Santa Rita Hills
Deep red-ruby. The nose is at once more reticent and more exotic than that of the regular bottling, hinting at musky flowers and spicy oak. Tightly wound and quite firmly built; comes across as less sweet and pliant than the basic bottling owing to an impression of stronger acidity. A bit youthfully clenched today. This began to open up with aeration, and showed an intriguing suggestion of saline minerality. 89 (+?)

2004 Syrah, Santa Barbara County
Bright ruby-red. Aromas of black raspberry, roast coffee and white pepper. Juicy and rather inky, with good life to the red fruit, pepper and gingerbread flavors, along with a strong, musky torrefaction quality. Still a bit youthfully imploded. 88(+?)

2003 Chardonnay Reserve, Santa Maria Valley
P ale gold color. Aromas of pineapple, brown butter and toffee.Sweet on entry, then a bit dry and hollow in the middle, with a dominant flavor of pineapple. A juicy, frm chardonnay that needs more flavor. 85

2003 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
Deep red-ruby. Slightly reduced but complex aromas of raspberry, minerals and spices. A juicy, sappy, fruit bomb on the palate, with dense, sharply delineated flavors of crunchy dark berries. Lively harmonious acidity and a brick pomegranate note on the finich just add to the wine's vibrancy. Delicious pinot noir. 90

2003 Pinot Noir, Reserve, Santa Rita Hills
Deep red-ruby. Spicy cherry, violet and sweet oak on the nose. Richer, suppler and sweeter than the basic pinot release, with an easygoing mouthfilling texture and dominant flavor of blackberry. A lush, seamless and very satisfying pinot, if a little bit less juicy and grippy than the SMV bottling. 91

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