Text Size:-+

2001 Whitcraft "Bien Nacido N Block" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California

Chris Whitcraft is not subtle. "This is the best Pinot Noir in California," he said, as he poured my glass. While I'm not willing to make the same claim, I will say that the wine I tried reflects some of his brash confidence. Thankfully, that confidence is lacking in arrogance, and is just the way that Whitcraft operates -- he's an ordinary guy who is one hundred percent passionate about what he does. If you want to get a sense of his personality, you need go no further than his newsletters, which are honest and lacking in all pretense.

Whitcraft Winery is the seemingly inevitable outcome of a career that Chris has spent in the winery business, first as a retailer, then journalist, then producer, and now vintner. For nearly 20 years, Whitcraft has been weaving his way through the California wine industry, and the relationships that he has built in the process seem to be serving him in good stead. He currently sources grapes from several top-tier vineyards including Bien Nacido, French Camp, Hirsch Vineyards and Melville among others. He's on his fourth or fifth vintage now, and going strong.

Whitcraft's passion is for single vineyard, small-lot Pinot Noir, but he also produces a Chardonnay as well as a Lagrein -- a dark, rich, red varietal I hadn't heard of until Chris introduced me to it.

All of his wines are treated with an old world delicacy and attention that is admirable:

"All of the reds and most of the whites are never fined, filtered or pumped and the smallest amount possible of sulfur is used. No other chemicals, other than natural yeast and, if necessary, natural acids are used. This requires a much larger effort than most other wineries are willing to do. We don't even use electricity unless absolutely required."

This old world, tradition-rich mentality is to a certain extent reflected in the wines, which are a fusion of both traditional Burgundy character and new world fruit.

Tasting Notes:
Bright ruby in color, this wine has a dusty nose with scents of earth and just the slightest touch of farmyard aroma that drifts over some hints of the red fruit to come. In the mouth it is less restrained than you would have expected with that nose -- ripe strawberry and raspberry flavors dominate the palate -- extracted but not entirely over the top, tapering to a nice finish.

Food Pairing:
Try this one with a slow roasted pork shoulder.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $30

This wine can be found at K&L as well as several other retailers and restaurants on the west coast.

Buy My Award-Winning Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Instagram Delectable Flipboard Pinterest

Most Recent Entries

Holiday Gift Guide for the Wine Lover Who Has Everything I'll Drink to That: Andrew McNamara of The Court of Master Sommeliers Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 22, 2015 I'll Drink to That: Bruce Neyers of Neyers Vineyards Vinography Images: Rows of Gold A Lonely Hillside: The Wines of Alto de la Ballena, Uruguay I'll Drink to That: Karen MacNeil The Most Untrustworthy Wine in the World Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 11/22 I'll Drink to That: CP Lin of Erewhon

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud