Racines is a collaboration of four great voices of wine. Justin Willett of Lieu Dit and Tyler has been joined in his home appellation, the Sta. Rita Hills, by Etienne de Montille and Brian Sieve of Domaine de Montille, and Rodolphe Peters of Pierre Peters. Together, they are marrying the time-honored techniques of Burgundy and Champagne with the pioneering energy of California-and, in the process, they are rediscovering the nuances of the appellation's most iconic vineyards.
Following the consolidation of Domaine de Montille, a family estate that dates back to the 1730s, Etienne de Montille looked to California, eager for an opportunity to engage new terroir with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as his lens. In 2016 he set off on a month of travel among the state's myriad appellations, meeting their winemakers, tasting their wines. In short order it became apparent that the promise he was seeking lay in the Sta. Rita Hills-and the partner for such ambition was already there.
By 2016 Justin Willett, a son of Santa Barbara and career winemaker, had over a decade of experience coaxing forth the character of the region's best vineyards. Etienne and Justin turned to compelling vineyard blocks that Justin had long coveted, and together they have presented refreshing new entries in the most important discussions of the appellation. And then, of course, there's Rodolphe Peters. In 2018, Rodolphe joined Racines in deepening their understanding of Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay. Their first sparkling wines, now en tirage, are likely to debut in late autumn.
The wines here possess more structure and resonance than encountered in Tyler's ethereal approach. New cooperage and custom vats, tailored to Etienne's technique, have been imported. The Pinots are composed using further stem inclusion, more extraction, and longer vatting. The Chardonnays are raised with more finessing of the fine lees and longer elevage. The results are immediately apparent in the glass: these are tensile and crystalline expressions of the Sta. Rita Hills- at once familiar and rendered anew.
ANTONIO GALLONI 93 POINTS - "The 2017 Pinot Noir La Rinconada is powerful and explosive in the glass, with tremendous structural intensity driving a deep expression of site. Lavender, sage, mint, savory herbs and rich blue-toned fruit give the 2017 a distinctly virile, somber personality. Readers will have to be patient, as the 2017 is going to need time to be at its best."
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 92 POINTS - "The 2017 Pinot Noir La Rinconada is medium ruby-purple with strawberry preserves, lilac, sagebrush, bergamot and herbs with warm red cherries, raspberry jam and blackberries scents. It's medium-bodied with perfumed fruits, grainy tannins and juicy freshness, finishing long and with a savory tinge. Bottled a week before I tasted it, it's showing well."