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Jeb Dunnuck Score: 94
Anybody who has been in our store asking for California Chardonnay recommendations has surely heard us mention the wines of Peake Ranch. This producer has previously been on our domestic "Top Wine" list in 2018, and judging by the newly released 2017 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, there's a good chance that they will be on the list this year!

Peake Ranch is a boutique, family-run winery owned by John and Gillian Wagner. Like all of us who have visited Santa Barbara County, the couple fell in love with the beautiful countryside and the friendliness of the people. They purchased Peake Ranch with a vision of building a winery and a house on the property, and producing extraordinary wines. They also bring a humbleness and sense of humility, which is honestly quite refreshing, considering that in only their third vintage, they began to receive rave reviews from the top critics!

Located on the eastern end of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA on Santa Rosa Road, Peake Ranch is a 105-acre parcel with 50 acres of vines. The plantings are all along a hill that exposes the vines to the cool air that comes off the Pacific and into the Santa Ynez Valley. The combination of various facing slopes, coupled with the exposure to varying degrees of the cool wind give the vineyard a diversity of fruit flavor profiles, resulting in more complex wines.

The winemaking team consists of Paul Lato and Wynne Solomon. Paul has nearly two decades of experience, has earned critical acclaim with top critics (as high as 99 points), and has placed his eponymous line of wines in top restaurants in the United States, Europe and Japan! Wynne studied Wine and Viticulture at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and began making wine with Stephen Ross Winery in the Edna Valley before moving down to the Sta. Rita Hills to continue pursuing cool climate winemaking with Melville Winery. She joined the Peake Ranch team in 2018, worked with Paul Lato in blending the 2017 vintage, and made the 2018 vintage hand in hand with him. Her vision for Peake Ranch is to focus on the unique attributes of this area while emphasizing balance in Californian wines.

This Chardonnay is comprised of the Peak Ranch Estate Vineyard, coupled with Chardonnay from the famed Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Sierra Madre is comprised of sandy, well-drained soil, and the Chardonnay planted here takes advantage of sunny days and cool night to become both fully ripe and at the same time retain a high level of acidity.

JEB DUNNUCK 94 POINTS - "A relatively new estate in Santa Barbara County, Peake Ranch was created by John and Gill Wagner, who released their first wines in 2015. The estate lies on the eastern end of the Sta. Rita Hills, and they pull from both their Peake Ranch Estate Vineyard around the property as well as the John Sebastiano Vineyard, which John partially owns. The wines have been made by Paul Lato since 2015, yet starting in 2017, the winemaking has slowly moved over to the current winemaker Wynne Solomon. Wynne worked with Lato on both the 2017s and 2018s and has been fully in charge since 2019. These are incredible wines, and as I've written in the past, readers need to get on this estate’s bandwagon!"

"I loved the 2018 Chardonnay Santa Barbara County. This beauty has terrific notes of spiced orchard fruits, salted citrus, mint, and sappy herbs as well as a clean, medium-bodied, racy style on the palate. It's a balanced, classic, incredibly high-quality Chardonnay to enjoy over the coming 4-6 years."
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