If you know Cali Pinot, you know Richard Sanford. This Pinot Noir pioneer has been exploring the potential of the Santa Rita Hills for more than four decades. In 2005, he and his wife Thekla founded another project, Alma Rosa, which focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The 2013 Blanc de Blancs and the 2013 Brut Rosé El Jabali Vineyard are the first sparkling wines Alma Rosa has produced since the project was founded in 2005. While new to the sparkling wine game, Alma Rosa's wines show no evidence of a learning curve. They're bright, crisp, complex and will likely age well.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2013 Alma Rosa Blanc de Blancs El Jabali Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Pale lemon color. So perfumed on the nose with lilies, honeysuckle, sea salt, chalk, on top of limes and green apples. Precise acidity on the palate, a salty, breezy and crisp wine throughout. Flavors of limes and green apples mix with honeydew and white peach, and the fruit is peppered with chalk, flowers, minerals, honey and toasted nuts. Long and pithy finish. A very pretty and nervy California sparkling wine. A 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. (90 points)
2013 Alma Rosa Brut Rosé El Jabali Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Medium salmon color. So floral and vibrant on the nose with roses, daisies, strawberries, white cherries, sour patch kids and chalk – this is a crazy/awesome blend of aromas. Fresh, tart and brisk on the palate, this is a precise wine with flavors of crunchy red apple and wild strawberries. I get a complex blend of salty, chalky and mineral elements. Long finish. Very impressive bubbles (100% Pinot Noir). (90 points)
2014 Alma Rosa Chardonnay El Jabali Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Pale gold color. On the nose, I get green apple, lime, floral perfume and some subtle chalk and honey. Medium-plus-bodied with crisp acidity and a slightly creamy mouthfeel (this undergoes 50% maloactic fermentation). Some pineapple accents the yellow and green apple fruit, and I also get some honeyed white tea flavors. Hints of chalk and a saline quality make this attractive. Bright but enough oomph and weight. 15% new oak used and nine months of aging on the lees, this is a well-priced, middle-of-the-road style Chardonnay. (87 points)
2013 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Deep ruby color. Smells of juicy cherries, strawberries, rhubarb, clove and cola. Chewy, oily texture at 14.8% alcohol, but bright acidity and fine tannins balance it out. Tart cherries, strawberries and raspberries play with notes of cola, clove, roses and coffee. Forward and bold but vibrant. (88 points)
2013 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Barrel Select Sta. Rita Hills - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Deep ruby. Bright cherries and strawberries on the nose, with rhubarb, rose petals and more spice and cedar than the basic Sta. Rita Hills bottling. Smooth but chewy texture, this stays vibrant with fresh acidity and velvety tannins. Black cherry mixes with the tart red fruit, which is doused in coffee, cedar, cola and coffee. Warm but tart finish. (89 points)
2013 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Clone 667 La Encantada Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Medium-to-deep ruby color. A bit richer aromatically, with juicy strawberries and raspberry jam along with some sweet roses and clove. Lovely texture (dusty tannins, tart acidity) supports a medley of bright red currant, cherry and apple fruit. Accents of loam, tobacco, clove and cola. Full and chewy but stays elegant and refined. (89 points)
If Tara Gomez makes a mediocre wine, I sure haven’t tasted it. KITÁ’s winemaker crafts a wide array of different varietal and blended bottles, most of which come from the Camp 4 Vineyard in Santa Ynez (originally planted by Fess Parker). Her tribe, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, purchased the vineyard in 2010, and Tara has access to some seriously high quality fruit from this sprawling 256-acre site. KITÁ also bottles some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Bruce Hilliard Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.
2014 KITÁ Chardonnay Hilliard Bruce Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Very pale yellow color. Smells invigorating and bright with lemons, limes, green and yellow apples, floral perfume and crushed chalk. Tingly acid on the palate, this medium-bodied wine is delicate but packed with flavors. I get lemons, limes, apricot and tart green apple peel, backed up with some slight honey and white tea. This is a much more crisp and restrained style (all stainless steel) with lingering chalky minerals. Bring on the oysters. (90 points)
2013 KITÁ Pinot Noir Hilliard Bruce Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Very light ruby color. Gorgeous aromas of bright strawberries, red cherries, red apple peel, along with some herbal and sweet spice elements. Medium-bodied (13% alcohol), smooth but structured tannins and lip-smacking acidity. Very pretty red fruit (tart strawberry, raspberry, juicy cherry), and the fruit is topped with pipe tobacco, leather, clay pot and a host of dusty, earthy and floral elements. So balanced and vibrant with a long, refreshing finish. Gorgeous now but should age well over the next few years at least. This spends 18 months in 20% new French oak. (92 points)
2013 KITÁ Cabernet Sauvignon Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Deep ruby/light purple color. Smells of tart black and red currants and plum skins, along with smoke, earth and eucalyptus. Medium-plus-bodied, structured but accessible tannins, medium acidity, the balance is firing. Juicy black and red plums and currant fruit, which feel vibrant and crunchy on the palate. Flavors of smoke, loamy soil, tobacco and eucalyptus add complexity. I’ll go out on a limb and call this wine refreshing (which is a phrase that, unfortunately, doesn't apply to many current California Cabernets). Accessible and lovely now but I’d love to revisit this in two to five years. 13.5% alcohol, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this spends 18 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points)