Perhaps no brand is more shrouded in mystery quite like Sea Smoke. Their business model was unique. First every single bottle is made from the estate’s holdings – no purchased fruit ever – even if demand far outstrips supply. No required allocations. They have a list – it’s free to join. First come, first served. If you don’t want the wines, no worries, the person right behind you will.
Perhaps those factors alone would have catapulted the winery into the cult wine stratosphere, it’s certainly a recipe for scarcity. But the real appeal of these wines was their complete and utter uniqueness; people had never tasted anything like them. And that’s not likely to change.
Unlike the estates that line the Napa Valley floor, many indistinguishable from the next, there’s only one Sea Smoke. Here’s why.
The estate’s vineyards are located at the exact intersection of an amazing natural anomaly. First, the vineyards sit in the Northern Hemisphere’s Southernmost (read the sunniest) region 1 microclimate. The vineyards are cut into the Southern exposure of the hills running down to the Santa Ynez river.
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As Woodbrige said when tasting the ‘Stargazing’ Sonoma Pinot, “The wine is vibrant and complex with subtle dark fruits and berries, grandmother’s cherry pie, flowers, minerals, and a slight touch of rain-soaked earth, intertwined with a balance and very pleasing easy-going luxury. Should have been priced higher but what the hell.” I have no doubt this clerical error will be addressed in the vintages moving forward.
95 Points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
The former assistant winemaker and apprentice for Helen Turley at Marcassin, Matt Courtney left to start something special at Arista in 2013 and is well on his way. The winery has expanded, their waitlist for bottle allocations now stands at 18-months and every critic in America raves about these wines. His newly released 2019 Arista Russian River Valley Chard is a gem, one that earned 95 pts from Parker’s Wine Advocate who called it, “wonderfully inviting to drink and impressive quality.”
What would a Chardonnay collection be without something special from the master of Chardonnay, Steve Kistler? I was just allotted a few cases of the outrageously good Les Noisetiers from California’s exceptional 2021 vintage. It comes bristling with energy, nuance, juicy fruit and a mouthwatering mineral backbone. As always with these wines, it is expertly made with lemon, honeysuckle and stone fruit aromatics leading to a full bodied, juicy core, loaded with flavors of peach, apricots, pineapple and pear.