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 Chardonnay Sanford and Benedict has plenty of depth, texture and nuance, but it is also surprisingly tightly wound for a vintage in which wines are generally more open-knit. Bright, savory and intensely mineral, the 2017 is going to need time to soften. At this point, the 2017 is not terribly expressive of S-and-B, although it is quite attractive just the same."
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 92 POINTS - "The 2017 Chardonnay Sanford and Benedict Vineyard has a youthfully shy nose, slowly opening to red apples, ripe white stone fruits, lemon cream and lime peel with notes of pastry and petrichor. The palate is light to medium-bodied, saline and precise, with tangy acidity and a pleasant touch of texture on the long, mineral-driven finish."