Sta. Rita Hills is home to some of Santa Barbara’s best-known Pinot Noirs and occupies the western portion of Santa Ynez Valley between Buellton and Lompoc. The region’s east-to-west orientation, extreme proximity to the Pacific Ocean and ancient marine bed soils are perfect for world class Pinot Noir.
“The "Forte" label is a smaller bottling of "the most expressive" wines from the Fiddlestix Vineyard. It also gets another couple of months of aging—14 months total in French oak, 25% new. Medium ruby-purple in color, the 2018 Pinot Noir Forte-Fiddlestix Vineyard has a beautiful earthiness on the nose, featuring notes of moss-covered tree bark, fertile loam and black truffles over a core of Morello cherries, mulberries and black raspberries. The medium to full-bodied palate offers a plush texture and oodles of freshness to support the delicate red and black berry layers, finishing long with impressive poise. 407 cases were made.” - Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
“The 2018 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Forté Vineyard is a selection from specific blocks of the property that see more time in barrel. Not surprisingly, the Forté is a powerhouse. Dark fruit, chocolate, licorice and spice build in an ample, sturdy wine. Both Fiddlestix Pinots are impressive in 2018.” - Antonio Galloni, March 2021
This vintage of Forté is harmonious and balanced, with incredible fruit concentration, structure and depth. Deep and sinuous, this Pinot is fully engaging with expressive aromatics of dark red berries, black cherry, red currant and cranberry alongside subtle hints of spice from the well-integrated oak and freshly turned earth minerality. On the palate, the fruit is bright and inviting with jubilant red berries interwoven with hints of hibiscus flowers and warm baking spices. Elegantly balanced with mouthwatering acidity and minerality notes, the wine finishes with a lingering savory-ness and persistent length, delivering more layers and complexity as its enjoyed now and for the years to come.
A near perfect season was very much welcomed after several tense vintages. What may be considered a ‘classic’ vintage, the wines from 2018 show tremendous intensity and complexity. Santa Barbara County provided a mild to warm summer, with a cooler autumn, allowing the grapes to remain on the vine until they reached ideal maturity. While the quality of the grapes was phenomenal, our overall yields were down slightly due to smaller berry size and clusters. The fruit was harvested in late September, yielding wines with beautifully balanced acidity, exceptional weight and texture, and complex varietal flavors.
In the heart of Sta. Rita Hills, Fiddlestix Vineyard was deliberately planted for Pinot Noir and the alluring varietal remains not only the vineyard’s, but the appellation’s Forté. Comprised of the finest blocks of the vintage, Etude Forté is a limited bottling that best exemplifies the characteristics of Fiddlestix Vineyard: dense concentration of fruit flavors, natural balance and vibrant acidity.
One of the smaller AVAs in California, Sta. Rita Hills occupies the portion of Santa Ynez Valley west of Highway 101 and is home to some of Santa Barbara’s best-known Pinot Noirs. Located a few miles inland alongside the Santa Ynez River bench at the western end of the transverse-oriented Santa Ynez Valley, Fiddlestix Vineyard receives a consistent draw of Pacific currents, but sits low enough against the hills to achieve some protection from the area’s strong afternoon winds. This unique exposure to coastal breezes and fog ensures cooling influences throughout extended sunny days, which helps to add depth and vibrancy in resulting Pinot Noirs. In 35 small blocks, a variety of rootstocks and clones are planted in well-draining clay loam and calcareous marine shale.
The grapes for this wine were harvested at night to preserve freshness and integrity. They were placed in open-top fermenters for 3-5 days of cold maceration followed by fermentation. A small percentage of the grapes were left as whole cluster to preserve the buoyancy of aromatics of the fruit and to add structure and refinement to the wine. Punch downs were performed during the early stages of fermentation with the extraction becoming gentler as the wine became dry, and followed with a quiet extended maceration to help modify the richness and mouthfeel of the wine. The wine was lightly pressed into small French oak barrels where it rested for 14 months.
For more than a decade Jon has fashioned Etude wines with a simple creed. Inspired winegrowing diminishes the need for a winemaker to intervene in the cellar. Whether sourcing from the estate Grace Benoist Ranch in Sonoma's Los Carneros, or vineyards like Fiddlestix and North Canyon in famed growing regions of California's Central Coast, his focus is on coaxing the very best from the vineyard. It shows in every glass of Etude.
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