Tyler winery was founded by Justin Willett in 2005. Since that time the wines have been consistently great. The philosophy is simple and straightforward.
Here is how Justin states it:
Tyler is dedicated to producing wines of delicacy and balance, where structure and nuance are favored above all else. Tyler is dedicated to producing wines of delicacy and balance, where structure and nuance are favored above all else. Our focus is exclusively on exceptional vineyard sites throughout the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley within Santa Barbara County, and feel pinot noir and chardonnay are the best mediums to express each vineyard site. Within these two appellations, the unique combination of marine-based soils, transverse ranges and valleys, and cool ocean influence make this a truly wonderful place for growing pinot noir and chardonnay.
We believe wine should be elegant and honest, and must possess aromatic purity. In order to best convey the individuality of each site, we try to be modern in our thinking and classic in our approach. Great effort had been made not only to seek out vineyards of pedigree, but also to seek out vines with age. We now work with a number of the oldest vineyard blocks in the County and believe this is essential in our quest for both purity and intensity. Furthermore, close collaboration with each of our growers along with focused, minimal handling of fruit and wine allow us the best opportunity to achieve our goals.
This is how I believe wine should be made – pure and natural and not overly ripe or manipulated. The winemaking process starts in the vineyard where Justin has chosen special plots of different vineyards in Santa Maria Valley and the Santa Rita Hills. The grapes are harvested at the optimum time to retain fruit and acidity. The goal is to make balanced wines that reflect their sense of place. Alcohols are never excessive and there is nothing used in the winemaking process except a bit of sulphur. The Tyler wines are natural wines that are not manipulated or extracted. After the wines are made, Justin then selects different wines to blend. This may result in as many as four different bottlings from grapes grown on one vineyard plot. This selection results in wines that are remarkable from the basic bottling of wines from several different vineyards and areas to the single vineyard bottlings. Thankfully, Tyler has been increasing production while still maintaining the philosophy of vigorous selection. And it shows in the quality. Tyler currently produces 15 different bottlings from 23 parcels within 8 different vineyard sites with total annual production of approximately 5000 cases.
I began tasting wines here with the 2009 vintage (to read the first article click here , to read the second article click here  and to read last year’s article on the 2012s and the 2013s from barrel click here).  In every vintage there has been amazing consistency and many superb wines. Having said that, the 2013s are simply the best yet and represent some of the best young Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted. The 2013 year was yet another drought year, but the wines have a purity and freshness that really sets them apart. Here is how Justin describes the 2013 vintage:
We are currently in a string of exceptional vintages here in Santa Barbara County and the 2013 vintage is certainly a standout. The 2013’s possess a wonderful texture that I have not previously been able to achieve in my wines. I suppose the best way to explain my textural impression is to say that they are mouth coating and dense, but with an ethereal weightlessness. The chardonnay, as always here in SBC, has a bright acid profile keeping the wines fresh, tense, and mineral. I would say the 2013 chardonnay has a touch more richness than the last couple of vintages. They are really drinking great right out of the gates, though as with all the wines here at Tyler, patience is definitely rewarded! As good as the chardonnay from the vintage is, I feel the pinot noir here is really a standout in 2013. Again, the texture and aromatics are epic and I am quite confident that these wines will gain tremendously from some time in bottle.
What made 2013 so great for growing grapes centered on the relatively light frost and wind during the spring allowing the vines an opportunity to grow, bloom, and set a healthy crop. This coupled with very low rainfall and a warmer than usual summer not only helped to stress vines, but also naturally regulated what was going to be the largest crop since 2005, my first vintage. We made the decision to reduce crop by up to 30% in some vineyards to ensure vine balance and fruit intensity, and I think we hit the nail squarely on the head! Even with the fruit reduction, the robust crop helped slow the vine’s ability to ripen and the result was slower increase in potential alcohol, while developing more and more complexity. It is this factor that I attribute the brilliant palate weight and presence!
Although many will talk about the shear size of the 2013 vintage, our decision to crop down many of our vineyards to ensure quality and power means that we continue to have many bottlings that are not more than a few barrels in size.
These are wines you do not want to miss. Some were released in February, some were recently released, and others will be released this fall. The wines are available in limited quantities at selected retailers and restaurants across the country as well as from the winery. Again, I encourage you to act quickly to secure some of these wonderful wines (click here t o visit the website and learn more about the winery, where to buy the wines, direct sales from the winery, and the wine club).
2013 Tyler Chardonnay Santa Barbara County
The production of this wine is about 1250 cases. It was released in February and is a blend of 50% Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County and 50% Santa Rita Hills.
The wine is light yellow in color and has a lovely floral tinged perfume with hints citrus and a faint tropical nuance. Bright and crisp with very pure floral tinged fruit, this Chardonnay has a lot of charm and early appeal – Highly Recommended Plus. $36
2013 Tyler Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
There were 145 cases of this wine produced and it was released in March. With a subtle floral perfume the wine has very pure fruit and is bright and crisp with richness and depth balanced by a nice underlying crispness. A bit of time should bring the wine together and it should drink well for many years – Highly Recommended Plus. $50
2013 Tyler Chardonnay Zotovich Family Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
The production of this wine was 145 cases and it was released in March.
Light yellow in color the wine shows a subtle citrus tinged floral perfume. On the palate there is great texture and balance with very pure citrus tinged fruit. Flavorful now, but should blossom with some additional bottle age – Outstanding. $45
2013 Tyler Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
The production of this wine is 95 cases and it will be released in September. Made from grapes grown on the original vines planted here in 1971, this Chardonnay shows the depth and intensity of the old vine fruit.
It is light yellow in color with a gorgeous floral perfume tinged with citrus. Flavorful with lots of supple fruit accented by a faint citrus nuance, the balance here is impeccable and this is a Chardonnay that should develop beautifully over time – Outstanding Plus. $65
2013 Tyler Chardonnay Bien Nacido – Block W Santa Maria Valley
The production of this Chardonnay is 170 cases. It is made from grapes grown on vines that were planted in 1973. It is slated for a September release.
Light yellow in color the wine has lovely floral citrus perfume tinged with white peach. With lot of intensity and fruit, this is a gorgeous beautifully balanced Chardonnay with the potential of further development over the next several years – Outstanding Plus. $55
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County
The production of this wine is 2200 cases and is made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Santa Maria Valley and the Santa Rita Hills. It was released in February. The wine saw very little wood and the pureness and intensity of the fruit is very special.
It has a deep color and an intense perfume of mulberry with floral spice nuances. Layers of fruit suggest mulberry and plum with a floral note and the wine is beautifully balanced with a nice underlying crispness. This Pinot Noir is a real charmer with lots of early appeal. Don’t miss it – Outstanding. $40
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills
The production of this wine is 225 cases. It is slated for a fall release.
Deep in color the wine has a lovely floral perfume with berry nuances. With lots of fruit it has a supple texture and a firm underlying structure. It should develop beautifully over several years – Outstanding. $44
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Released in March the production of this wine is 240 cases.
It has a deep color with a lovely floral tinged perfume with a hint of spice. Flavorful with lots of berry fruit showing floral spice nuances there is structure and depth and the wine is balanced with the potential for further development over many years – Outstanding Plus. $50
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Dierberg Vineyard – Block 5 Santa Maria Valley
There are 245 cases of this wine that were released in March.
It has a very deep color and a lovely floral perfume with exotic nuances. With lots of rich supple fruit the wine is flavorful with an exotic complexity and shows richness with a nice underlying crispness. Delicious now, this is a Pinot Noir that should age and improve over many years – Outstanding Plus. $50
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Bentrock Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
Released in March there are 140 cases of this wine. It is made from grapes grown on a specific plot of young vines in the steep Bentrock Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. It is very impressive and brimming with fruit.
Deep in color the wine has a lovely perfume with hints of blackberry and a faint floral spice nuance. The wine is structured with a firm back bone underlying the fruit and has lots of depth and richness. This Pinot Noir should age beautifully – Outstanding Plus. $60
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard Santa Maria Hills
There are 170 cases of this wine which was released in March.
With a deep color the wine has a gorgeous floral berry perfume. On the palate, there is lots of very pure fruit rendered in a very elegant style with lovely balance. A very pretty and precocious wine, it is delicious now but should keep for many years as well – Outstanding. $55
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Old Vines Santa Maria Valley
The production of this wine is 140 cases and it is scheduled for a September release. This wine is made from grapes grown on the oldest vines at Bien Nacido which are over 40 years old. Each year Justin selects 6 barrels for this Old Vines bottling. This 2013 is just stunning.
Deep in color the wine has a great berry perfume with floral nuances and a faint hint of spice. With great texture and fruit the wine is seamless and rounded with a long lasting finish. Delicious now, but make no mistake, this is a keeper – Exceptional $70
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Bien Nacido N Block
There are 70 cases of this wine which will be released in September. It represents a selection of 3 barrels made from old vine fruit on the Bien Nacido N Block. Wines made from grapes grown on this block can go into 4 different Tyler wines.
With a deep color the wine has a great floral berry perfume and lots of very pure supple fruit. Balanced with richness and depth this is a really lovely Pinot Noir with a long life ahead – Outstanding Plus. $70
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
The production of this wine is 150 cases and it will be released in September. It is made from fruit grown on the original Sanford & Benedict plantings which date back to the early 70s. This old vine fruit produces a wine of exceptional richness. This 2013 is a great example.
It has a deep color and an intense floral perfume. With very supple and rounded lush fruit, the wine is very pure and is beautifully balanced with deep flavors and a nice underlying crispness – Exceptional. $80
2013 Tyler Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
This is the first vintage for this wine. The production is 90 cases and it will be released in September.
The wine has a very deep color and a lovely cherry tinged perfume with floral nuances. Brimming with a myriad of fruit flavors this is a Pinot Noir that is expressive and rich yet with a great underlying structure. A great debut, this looks to be very special in terms of fruit – Outstanding Plus. $75