The New York Times: Exploring California's Bold Pinot Noir
Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews: Santa Barbara Wine Country: Melville Vineyards & Winery
Situated amongst the beautiful rolling hills of Western Santa Ynez Valley, Melville is dedicated to producing exceptional cold-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah grown exclusively in their estate vineyards throughout the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.
Founded in 1989, Melville is a family-owned and operated estate winery with its roots in Sonoma County's Knights Valley, where Ron Melville once farmed high-quality and greatly sought-after grapes. In 1996, Ron's desire to grow cold-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah brought Melville Vineyards to the Sta. Rita Hills, located in the Western Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County. When Ron Melville and his sons decided to develop the estate vineyards and winery in Lompoc, they recognized the importance of distinguishing this unique area within the valley. As such, the Melville family was heavily involved in the creation of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, which was granted in 2001. Today, Ron and his son, Chad Melville, uphold Melville’s tradition as one of the most highly-regarded estates in Sta. Rita Hills and California as a whole.
The estate’s climate is significantly impacted by its proximity to the ocean (10 miles), consistent morning/evening fog, and steady afternoon winds. These cooling trends are not only perfectly suited to growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, but also serve to prolong the growing season, allowing for heightened varietal flavor intensity. Additionally, the region’s cool climate and calcareous rock and sand help produce grapes with natural acidity and flavor balance.
Melville currently has 120 acres under vine. The soil is mostly Lompoc dune sand, interspersed with clay loam and shallow hard pans of Monterey shale. These vineyards are predominantly north/south-facing, planted at a spacing of 8’ x 3’ (1,812 vines per acre). Vines are all vertically shoot positioned with aggressive canopy management to ensure proper ripening and varietal development. Melville's strength as grape growers consists of careful selection of vineyard properties, isolation and study of vineyard blocks, calculated composting, complex cover cropping practice and deficit irrigation, matched with a tremendous amount of crop reduction and canopy management. The estate achieves quality through the integrity of its farming practice and its respect to the microclimate. At the time of harvest, they consider the wine to already be made and in the winery strive to not interfere with the wine’s natural path. All blocks are fermented in small lots and isolated through their entire period of elevage, which provides Melville’s team with an ongoing exhibition of how they can fine tune vineyard practices in order to achieve the most transparent, natural and site-specific wines possible. The estate has 16 clones of Pinot Noir, 9 clones of Syrah, and 6 clones of Chardonnay - all on a variety of low-vigor rootstocks.
"Hold onto your hats, as these latest releases from Chad Melville and winemaker Greg Brewer are off-the-charts good! While both of the Chardonnays are beautiful, and play in the clean, crisp and medium-bodied spectrum, it’s the 2012 Pinot Noirs and Syrahs that are incredible across the board. The Pinot Noirs all see varying degrees of whole cluster and are aged completely in neutral French oak barrels. The Syrahs see slightly less whole cluster inclusion, but are also aged all in neutral French oak. In case you missed the prices/scores listed above, these are some of the greatest values in the world of wine today!"
The Wine Advocate 8/2013
"Winemaker Greg Brewer and grower Chad Melville continue to knock it out of the park with these Melville releases. Focusing on site, if not plot, specific releases, neutral oak, no SO2 until racking and varying degrees of whole cluster are the norm here. The wines have individual characters and, stylistically, lean toward the more complex, finesse-driven side of the spectrum. They 'wow' more for their balance and nuance than their power and richness. They also remain reasonably priced!"