2021 Zayante Vineyard Darling Wines
|Santa Cruz Mountains
From a vineyard at 1,200 ft facing the Pacific 11 miles away. Vines are ungrafted, dry-farmed and 35 years old and planted on fractured sandstone surrounded by redwoods. Three barrels produced. Pale purple with a pale rim. Richer and riper nose than the North Coast bottling. Then fresh fruit on the palate but without quite the drive and stunning varietal purity of the North Coast 2021. Drinking range: 2023 - 2027 Rating: 16.5 Jancis Robinson OBE MW - www.JancisRobinson.com (Mar 2023)
*Case price discount: Mix any 12 bottles of wine (or 9 litre equivalent) or 6 bottles of Champagne, Spirits, Sweet Wine or Fortified (4.5 litres) to get the discounted 'case price' for each bottle.
1,200 ft above sea level
Planted in 1988
Loam, sandstone, schist, shale
Fermented spontaneously with native yeasts, 100% whole cluster
Aged for 11 months in neutral French oak
Bottled unfined and unfiltered Winemaker's notes (Feb 2023)
Tom Darling, who was originally from Boston, met his wife to be Ashley, a yoga teacher, in North Carolina. Both attended University in Washington DC. Their first encounters with wine were exploring the Beaujolais list of famous US importer Kermit Lynch, and their first visit to a winery was not until 2014. Tom proposed in Bordeaux in 2016 and they moved to the west coast where Tom got a job in a tasting room and did a harvest. They started Darling wines in 2017, with just a couple of barrels of Syrah which they hoped to sell to friends, but which saw immediate success and was listed in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Tom and Ashley now make Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay from grapes bought from coastal vineyards in western Sonoma County, Marin County, Anderson Valley, and Mendocino Ridge. They target organically, biodynamically and regeneratively grown vineyards. As they put it 'the goal is to produce wines with character and energy that show purity and site through transparent winemaking. With this goal in mind there is minimal handling from grape to bottle, restrained use of sulphur, no new oak, no synthetic additives or perfecting agents, no fining or filtration, in an attempt to produce the most honest wine possible.'
For whites, they say that they follow inspiration from some of the great producers in Chablis and Burgundy they press their Chardonnays as whole bunches, settle with no sulphur, barrel ferment with no stirring, use little new oak, and only rack for bottling.
For their reds, it is all about preservation of aromatics, and they quote a famous winemaker who said 'the deeper the colour, the less aromatic', an axiom they have taken to heart. 'We attempt to have a very light hand when fermenting our reds and strive for aromatic depth, palate complexity, and freshness. Our reds see a high percentage of whole cluster, are gently pumped over, foot treaded, and punched down depending on the stage of the ferment. We gravity rack to barrel after pressing, do not rack until bottling, and use very little SO2.'
Tom was obviously quite the sportsman when young and having played a lot of (ice) hockey, for which he was a little on the small side, he switched to tennis. Starting late, he had a lot of catching up to do. Of his winemaking career, he says: 'Ashley and I don’t come from a wine family, we are not from California, we have minimal formal training in winemaking we are newcomers. These thoughts provide the same motivation as I had in tennis – to show up early, stay late, ask too many questions, and constantly read and learn as much as possible.'
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