Due to my choice of route and my penchant for the grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have been my primary focus thus far on my journey. Arcadian is producing wines that outshine many of the producers in Burgundy, France, where the grapes originated.
Joe Davis is a strong believer that great wine is made in the vineyard. He secures long-term contracts with the landowners and spends much of the growing season among the vines. In Santa Barbara County, he works with fruit from the Santa Maria Valley and the Santa Rita Hills. He also sources from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County.
Many of the producers in the Santa Rita Hills promote the unique natural conditions that shape the longest growing season in the world, with budbreak in February and harvest often lasting into November. In the case of the 2005 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir, Joe began his harvest on September 4th. Also in contrast to the prevailing wisdom that praises the 2007 vintage as the best the region has seen, Joe considers 2005 to be the best vintage of the decade.
Joe seeks fruit that is balanced with an emphasis on acidity which lends his wines their structure and potential for aging. He finds many of the wines produced in California to be like mushy, overripe apples; they are soft, but they fall apart. I had always thought of higher alcohol wines as possessing a fuller body, but Joe’s wines check in around 13.5% alcohol and have more structure and density than the high alcohol examples.
His Chardonnays are equally impressive. They had a nutty, creamy texture with fruits like lime, golden apple and pears. Joe compares barrels to salt, just the right amount adds a great deal to a wine, but too much assaults the palate. The barrels spiced 2005 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands with a cinnamon flavor.
Joe also makes Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Ynez Valley. He finds a natural progression to Syrah from Pinot Noir, with many of the same production processes. The grapes are treated a bit differently during the fermentation with a longer maceration time and less foot treading.
Over the course of my time in the restaurant and retail sides of the business I never had a Pinot Noir or a Chardonnay from California that approached the quality of Arcadian. Joe Davis’ wines are the gold standard.