Saturday, July 8, 2017

Kita: Stunning Santa Ynez Wines With a Restrained Style

Tara Gomez. Credit: Kita Wines.
Tara Gomez, winemaker at Kita wines, has been on a tear for quite a few years now. She crafts an array of varietal wines and blended wines that all share a similar aesthetic: lower alcohol, crisp acidity, bright fruit, less obvious new oak influence, tons of non-fruit complexity. I’ve been tasting these wines for a few years, and they never fail to thrill my senses.

Most of Kita’s grapes are sourced from the Camp 4 Vineyard, a massive vineyard (with more than 250 acres of vines) that is home to 19 different grape varieties. Originally planted by Fess Parker in 1999, the vineyard was purchased by the Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash Indians in 2010. With a scholarship from the tribe, Tara studied enology Cal State Fresno, before working at Fess Parker and J. Lohr. She became winemaker of the newly-formed Kita Wines, and says she views making wine from the tribe’s vineyard as a way of giving back to her community.

This sandy loam soil vineyard sits at the easternmost edge of Santa Ynez Valley, close to Happy Canyon, and produces some incredible Rhone and Bordeaux grape varieties. By harvesting with lower potential alcohol, and judicious use of new oak, the vibrancy of Tara’s wines shines through. And the Pinot and Chardonnay she sources from the Santa Rita Hills are also stunning. So if you’re a fan of the so-called “New California Wine” (as John Bonné lays out in his book), you should definitely check out these wines.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2015 KITÁ Chardonnay Hilliard Bruce Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $30
Pale yellow color. What a nose! So many white and yellow flowers, lots of chalk dust, seashells, notes of lime, kumquat and apricot — complex and lovely to sniff. Gorgeous acidity, it tingles the palate but the wine provides plenty of texture on a medium-bodied frame (12.8% alcohol). Key lime pie flavors, lemon curd, apricot, the fruit is mixed with pretty notes of white tea, honey, chalk and minerals, also some hay and almond. Tastes effortlessly pretty, even though a ton of effort obviously went into crafting this Chardonnay. I’d love to see what four-to-five years does to this wine. This spends six months in French oak, 14% new. (92 points)

2016 KITÁ Sauvignon Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $24
Rich yellow color. Aromas are bursting with kiwi, gooseberry, lots of lemongrass, sliced jalapeno and green herbs. On the palate, this is medium-bodied with fresh acidity and a rich, creamy texture. Lemon curd, guava, kiwi, the fruit mixes with honey, white tea, sliced jalapeno. I also get nettle, hints of perfume and candlewax, some almond. Lots going on here! This sees 14% new French oak for six months. (89 points)

2015 KITÁ T'aya Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $22
Light gold color. Pretty and exotic aromas of white peach, yellow apples, honeysuckle, orange blossom, ginger. Refreshing and bright but plenty of mouth-filling texture on a medium-bodied frame (13.5% alcohol). Oranges, guava, white peach and banana are mixed with peanut shell, raw almond, candle wax, honeycomb, candied ginger. A lingering sense of salinity. So crisp and refreshing for a California white Rhone blend. A blend of 57% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, 3% Grenache Blanc, which spends six months in French oak, 14% new. (91 points)

The stunning Camp 4 Vineyard, from which Kita sources most of its grapes. Credit: Kita Wines.

2014 KITÁ Pinot Noir Hilliard Bruce Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $55
Pale ruby color. Nose shows tart strawberries, sour cherries, red apples, and lots of herbal tea, white pepper and roses. Medium-bodied with silky tannins and lip-smacking acidity, such great depth for a lighter-styled Pinot. Apples, strawberries, cranberries, the fruit is tangy and crunchy and laced with basil, white pepper, herbal tea, tobacco and rose hips. So pretty, lean but not weak, light but shows such balance. 12.8% alcohol, this sees 20% new French oak for 18 months. (93 points)

2014 KITÁ Spe'y Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $30
Deep ruby color. Such a pretty aromatic display: red plums and currants, so much dusty earth, leather, bay leaf, pepper, sage, violets, perhaps mistakable for a lighter-style Chateauneuf. Medium+ bodied (13.5% alcohol) with structured but lightly dusty tannins, crisp acidity throughout. Red currants mix with black cherries and dark plum skins, add in some cowhide, black pepper, sage, red clay, an underlying mineral presence. Just wow. Delicious now but should evolve nicely for three to six years, easily. Lip-smacking, complex, a Rhone-inspired blend of 55% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 20% Carignan, aged 18 months in 20% new French oak. (93 points)

2014 KITÁ Kalas Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $40
Light purple. Aromas of smoky charcoal, scorched earth, herbal tea, eucalyptus, on top of tart red and black currants. Medium+ bodied with dry tannins and moderating acidity. Tart red and black currants and plums mix well with notes of loamy soil, fallen leaves, grilled mushroom, hints of coffee and cedar are hidden behind. Lots of depth but very alive and pretty. This should improve for three-to-five easily. 13.5% alcohol, 48% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, aged 18 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points)

2014 KITÁ Cabernet Sauvignon Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $40
Dark ruby colored. Smells of tart red and black currants, scorched earth and eucalyptus with black peppercorns and grilled herbs. Medium-to-full-bodied with structured but fine tannins, refreshing acidity, and lots of crunchy, tangy red and black fruit (plums, currants). The complex elements of earth, tobacco, pepper, graphite and charcoal are impressive, and the wine shows depth but also freshness. Lots to unpack in the cellar over the next ten years. Aged 18 months in 40% new French oak. (92 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist. 

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