- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -


Two Outstanding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Producers

For the past several years I have written about these two relatively new wineries that are driven by young men, Justin Willett and Gavin Chanin, who have a passion to make wines that are balanced and made in a very natural way. These are wines that show beautifully young and have the ability to age over an extended period. They are part of the new wave of Central Coast wine producers who are following in the footsteps of the pioneer producers in this region and are making some of the very best wines in California (click here [1] to read that article).

Recently with my old friend and Underground contributing editor, Ed Lazarus (to read more about Ed click here [2]), I visited both wineries who are now housed in the same winemaking facility in Lompoc. My notes on 2013 wines tasted from barrel and 2012 wines tasted from bottle follow. These are wines you do not want to miss!


 justin willett [3] 


(Click [4] here to visit the website and learn more about the winery, pricing, where to buy the wines, direct sales from the winery, and the wine club)

I began tasting wines here with the 2009 vintage (to read the first article click here [5]and to read the second article click here [6]) In every vintage there has been amazing consistency and many superb wines. The notes below reflect the marvelous 2012s now in bottle and the potential for more gorgeous 2013s now in barrel.


The 2012 year was a good growing season and produced beautifully balanced wines.


Reflecting the fruit and balance of the 2012 vintage these Chardonnays are very pure and refined. They are enjoyable now and will evolve with additional years of bottle age.

Santa Barbara County This is a lovely, elegant Chardonnay with lovely fruit and subtle hints of citrus and spice – Highly Recommended Plus.

Dierberg – Flavorful and rounded this is a delicious wine with lots of fruit and depth. Subtle hints of peach, citrus, and spice are interwoven with a lush mouth feel followed by a nice crisp finish – Outstanding.

Zotovich – Rounded and lush this Chardonnay is brimming with fruit and subtle citrus tinges. It is balanced and very flavorful with finesse and style – Outstanding.

Sanford and Benedict – This is a rich Chardonnay that maintains a great sense of elegance and equilibrium. There are loads of supple floral tinged fruit accented by subtle hints of citrus and spice. Absolutely delicious now, but this will evolve beautifully for many years. Classic – Outstanding Plus.

  Pinot Noir

The 2012 Tyler Pinot Noirs exhibited great fruit and balance when tasted very early last year from barrel. Now bottled, they show the same characteristics. These are wines that have lots of early charm, but most will really show their stuff with 5-10 years bottle age.

Santa Barbara CountyVery nice color with a lovely floral tinged perfume. Elegant with supple berry fruit tinged with a floral spice nuance. Very appealing now – Highly Recommeded Plus.

La Encantada – Deep color, great perfume with lots of floral tinged berry fruit. Flavorful and beautifully structured, with very pure fruit and a lot of charm and appeal – Outstanding. 

Sanford and Benedict – Deep color, great floral perfume with berry and spice tinges. Lovely fruit and balance with good structure and a nice richness. This should evolve beautifully for many years – Outstanding.

Bien Nacido – Deep color, great perfume with floral tinged cherry fruit. Lots of fruit. Structured and balanced with lovely flavors. A harmonious, delicious wine, this is enjoyable young and will age beautifully – Outstanding.

Bien Nacido Old Vines – There were 150 cases this wine produced from 40 year old vines. It is less evolved today than the Bien Nacido bottling, but with the potential to be a real tour de force with additional bottle age. Deep color with a subtle berry perfume showing floral spice notes. On the palate, there is lots of fruit and depth. Has richness and structure with well integrated underlying tannins and a long finish. This is very impressive – Outstanding Plus.


The 2013 year reflected and abundance of fruit everywhere. So that is good news to have more wine, but also good news in the sense that the wines are also beautifully balanced and very much along the lines of the 2012s.


Several different barrels and wines from five different vineyards were tasted: Zotovich, La Rinconada, Sanford and Benedict, Dierberg, and Bien Nacido. All exhibited beautiful very pure fruit and balance with subtle differences:

Zotovich  – Lovely floral peach tinged fruit with subtle citrus nuances. Very nicely balanced with a nice crispness – Very Good Potential.

La Rinconada – Only 100 cases produced. Gorgeous floral perfume with tinges of citrus and spice. Lovely fruit with hints of peach, citrus, and spice. Full and round with lots of structure – Outstanding Potential.

Sanford and Benedict – There were 175 barrels of this wine produced. It is beautifully balanced and really delicious. With lots of flavor and fruit, this is a winner – Outstanding Plus Potential.

Dierberg – This is a very pure and elegant wine. It is full and rich with a nice underlying crispness and a lovely finish – Outstanding Potential.

Bien Nacido – Made from old vines planted in 1973, this is a very special wine. It has a great floral spice tinged perfume and lots of supple rich fruit yet there is plenty of lift with citrus spice undertones and a long crisp finish – Outstanding Plus Potential.


Pinot Noir

Several different lots of 2013 Pinot Noirs were tasted. Several of them will be blended. For instance, there are 3 different blocks of Bien Nacido all with both young and old vines. It is difficult at this stage to be too precise about the nuances in the wines. Suffice to say that all of the wines exhibited balance, lots of fruit and great purity. The Bien Nacido young vines had beautiful color, lovely floral tinged berry perfume, and balance with a nice underlying crispness. These should show very well early on. Other Bien Nacido blocks showed even more fruit with the old vines barrels showing an extra depth and richness. These will repay some additional age after bottling. Other vineyard designated wines included Dierberg, La Encantada, and La Riconada. The Dierberg exhibited lovely fruit and balance and seemed very drinkable even at this very early age. The La Encantada exhibited fruit, richness and structure and the La Rinconada was also impressively flavorful with balance and loads of fruit. These Pinot Noirs should evolve beautifully and I look forward to tasting them after bottling.


 Gavin [7]

(Click here [8]to visit the website and learn more about the winery, where to buy the wines, direct sales from the winery, and the wine club)

I first tasted wines here beginning with the 2009 vintage and have followed each vintage since (to read the first article click here). I [9]n a very short time Owner/winemaker Gavin Chanin has established a reputation for making some of the most beautiful and distinctive wines in the state. Each bottle is literally a work of art featuring one of Gavin’s paintings. Inside the bottle are wines of great distinction and finesse. These are wines to buy!

  Chanin Los Alamos Chard 08 [10]

Below are notes on some terrific wines from 2012 now in bottle and a note on a lovely 2013 Chardonnay still in barrel.

2012 Chardonnay

Reflecting the growing season, the 2012 Chardonnays show beautiful fruit and richness with alcohol levels generally higher than other recent vintages. They have a lot of early appeal.

Los Alamos – There were 275 cases of this wine produced. It is a rich, full wine with a light yellow color and a deep floral perfume with citrus notes. Rounded and lush with lots of fruit and subtle floral and citrus nuances there is also an underlying structure that maintains the sense of balance – Outstanding.

Bien Nacido – Production here was 425 cases. More restrained than the Los Alamos bottling, this Chardonnay is classic. Light yellow in color with a lovely floral perfume with just a touch of spice and citrus, it is supple and rounded with a bright citrus spice undertone showing a nice crispness – Outstanding.

Sanford and Benedict – Only 175 cases of this wine were produced. More in the style of the Los Alamos, this Chardonnay has a gorgeous floral perfume and is lush and supple with faint tropical nuances. Very flavorful, this is really lovely – Outstanding.

2012 Pinot Noir

The 2 Pinot Noirs tasted both have elegance and finesse along with wonderful fruit. They exhibit great charm and are very stylistic.

Los AlamosThere were 325 cases of this wine produced. With a very nice color, there is a lovely floral tinged berry perfume that is followed by lots of very pure fruit on the palate. Subtle hints of spice provide a nice complexity and the wine is balanced with a lot of finesse and is very easy to drink – Highly Recommended.

La Rinconada – The production here was 175 cases. With a deep color, the wine exhibits a gorgeous cherry, berry perfume with floral spice nuances and has a stunning amount of fruit on the palate. Subtle hints of floral spice add to the complexity. All in all this is a gorgeous Pinot Noir with finesse, style, and complexity – Outstanding.

 2013 Chardonnay

Los Alamos – Whereas the 2012 version of this wine is richer, this wine promises structure and a lot of finesse and crispness. Light yellow in color, the wine has a lovely floral perfume with hints of tropical fruit and citrus. Supple and rounded with very pure fruit there is a bright underlying crispness that gives the wine definition – Outstanding Potential.


 Lutum wines logo [11]

Gavin is also involved making wine with partner and vineyard and winery owner, Bill Price, in a new venture called Lutum. Lutum is Latin for soil or dirt. Five 2012 Pinot Noirs were tasted – four from Santa Barbara County – Bien Nacido, La Encantada, Sanford and Benedict, La Rinconada – and one from Sonoma County – Durell. The wines are very stylistic and finesseful and showcase the fruit and terroir of the different sites.

 2012 Lutum Pinot Noir Bien Nacido – This is a very nice wine that is finesseful and very nicely balanced. There is a lovely berry perfume accented by spice and herbs and the wine has very nice fruit with a bright underlying crispness – Highly Recommended.

2012 Lutum Pinot Noir La Encantada – With lovely spice tinged berry fruit this Pinot Noir is very pure and exhibits floral spice nuances. It is appealing now and very easy to drink – Highly Recommended.

2012 Lutum Pinot Noir Sanford and Benedict – This is a gorgeous Pinot Noir. With a deep color, the wine has a lovely berry perfume with hints of floral spice. Lovely very pure fruit is very expressive on the palate framed by faint floral spice nuances. Flavorful and balanced with suppleness and a crisp undertone, this has immediate appeal, but should also age effortlessly – Outstanding.

2012 Lutum Pinot Noir La Rinconada – With a very nice color, this Pinot Noir shows elegance and finesse. There is lovely berry fruit that is accented with hints of spice. Balanced and very pure this is lovely – Highly Recommended.

2012 Lutum Pinot Noir Durell – This is a Pinot Noir that shows deep blackberry fruit and spice tinges. It is rounded and supple with lots of flavor and shows structure and balance that should carry the wine for many years – Highly Recommended Plus.