Radian Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

Block 32, Clone "Pommard", Block 33, Dijon Clone 115

It was 2007 when CalPERS decided to take a whack at the Sta. Rita Hills. By 2008 they had purchased three properties and had begun planting vineyards on two of them, Rita’s Crown and Salsipuedes. Since then Salispuedes has been cut into two entities, the Radian Vineyard and the Bentrock Vineyard. Why CalPERS? Why the wine business for the parking of California public employee pension money? I have no idea. I’m sure you can get a customer service number off of their web site if you want to pursue it. What matters to me is that they moved to town, developed three of the most riveting new vineyards in the appellation, and then gave me and my colleague, Ken Brown, the opportunity to scour over the plantings and choose our picks of the litter. Currently I am working with two stunning Pinot Noir sections and a block of Chardonnay at Radian, and I have one block of Pinot Noir at Bentrock and Rita’s Crown respectively. The day to day farming is being handled by an outfit called Atlas Vineyard Management. Their execution is as good as it gets.

After you drive through the gate at Radian you arrive at a funky little mid century dwelling that serves as the office for the vineyard operations. Opposite the office, in a little canyon that is just inside the Sta. Rita Hills appellation line, lies Appellation’s Edge. With respect to being cool, breezy, and well drained, Edgy is a 10 out of 10. When you are there you can feel the tension, starting with the fact that cluster sampling is not comfortable in blocks this steep. Why did I opt for the anxiety that this section of Pinot Noir could very possibly bring? Because if all the energy in its terroir translates into the enhanced fruit and acidity that I am predicting, then the climb up the hill for cluster samples will be like a stairway to enological heaven. Indeed, the first couple wines have been riveting. As you might imagine, they have been very dark, extracted and expressive.

Not long ago, I met with some Japanese wine buyers. They were extremely focused, consummate professionals. I mean, who shows up in a suit and tie to taste wine? Only someone for whom the process is like a religion. I showed them everything I had in the cellar. Toward the end of our meeting they began discussing something. Every now and then they would spit out words that I could recognize; “... Déja Vu... Ocean's Ghost . . .” etc.

Finally the interpreter turned to me and said, “They would like you to take them now to Appellation’s Edge." When we arrived I got the feeling that they were not disappointed.