Friday, August 3, 2018

Santa Barbara's Byron Amazes with 2015 Chardonnays and Pinots

I visited Santa Barbara for my first real California wine trip back in 2006, and swooned over many a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I still have a soft spot for the wines from Byron, and I’ve tasted them on and off throughout the years.

Founded in 1984 by Ken Brown, Byron sources Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from a host of well-known and
high quality vineyards like Bien Nacido, Julia’s, and Nielson, the latter of which surrounds the winery and is also the name of Bryon’s sister winery. The voracious California powerhouse Jackson Family Wines purchased Byron Winery and the Nielson Vineyard in 2006. The wines are made by Jonathan Nagy, a Santa Barbara native who joined Byron in 2001 and has worked closely with founder Ken Brown before taking the helm.

I recently received five Byron wines from 2015. They’re “new” releases in the sense that winemaker Jonathan Nagy holds the wines back for a period of time, depending on vintage characteristics. These two Chards and three Pinots all impressed me and seem to be drinking wonderfully right now. I love that Byron combo of juicy fruit on a lighter frame with lots of crispness and non-fruit complexity, and these wines sure deliver.

They were received as samples and tasted sighted. 

2015 Byron Chardonnay Nielson Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $40
Light gold color. Bold and beautiful on the nose with bruised yellow apple, baked pear, lime juice, notes of nougat and cinnamon buns mix with sea breeze and chalk dust, and the combo is so good. Creamy and plush on the palate but moderating acidity keeps it fresh. Plump yellow apples and pears with apricot jam, drizzled with lime, and topped in some toasted almonds and flowers. Lots of richness here but complex and vibrant as well. Aged 15 months in about 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Byron Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $40
Medium yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, yellow apple, buttercream, raw almond, sea salt, along with honey and cinnamon. Medium-bodied, precise acidity with a lively saline element. Rich texture with notes of whipped butter, apricot jam, lemon curd and baked apple, but also fresh with notes of chalk dust and crushed oyster shells. Nougat and honey on the finish, this is delicious and balanced. Aged 15 months in about 70% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Byron Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $55
Bright ruby color. Juicy and tangy fruits on the nose (raspberries, strawberries, cherries), beautiful and fresh with rhubarb, rose petals and tomato leaf. Medium-bodied and really fresh on the palate with dusty tannins and crisp acidity, lots of tart cherry and ripe strawberry fruit. Complex notes of rhubarb, pepper, tobacco and tomato leaf, some fresh green herbs and judiciously-sprinkled cedar. Lovely, fresh, delish. Aged 16 months in 35% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Byron Pinot Noir Julia's Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $45
Bright ruby color. Gorgeous nose of chilled strawberries, raspberry jam and black cherries, along with cola, rhubarb, white pepper and roses. Plush but fresh, dusty but bright, fruity but it’s tangy and lively. Tart black cherries, raspberry jam, fresh strawberries, the fruit mixes nicely with flavors of roses, rhubarb, sarsaparilla, cola and mushroom. Fresh and vibrant but can improve for at least a few years. Aged 15 months in 45% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Byron Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $55
Medium ruby color. Enticing aromas of raspberries, blackberry and strawberry jam, this is a darker, saucier aromatic display with notes of sweet cola, rhubarb, rose petals and barbecue sauce. Medium-bodied on the palate with velvety tannins and medium acidity. Pretty black cherries, raspberries and summer plums, backed up by menthol, earth, roasted chestnut. Elements of rhubarb, white pepper and mushroom add complexity. Fruit but deep, accessible but can age. Aged 15 months in 55% new French oak. (92 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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