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james laube's wine flights

A Dinky Pinot Discovery

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Oct 31, 2006 1:24pm ET

What to do with a wine with only 99 cases?

Well, this one I’m recommending.

It’s the 2004 Native 9 Santa Maria Valley Rancho Ontiveros Vineyards Pinot Noir, and it’s a smooth, rich, supple charmer with sassafras and black cherry fruit that retails for $48.

Why bother tasting this wine, or writing about it? I don’t spend much time on wines with such tiny production, and at 99 cases, that’s about four barrels' worth. Usually I prefer to review wines with at least 500 cases and decent distribution.

But there are days when I do sample a few small-production wines, especially with Pinot Noir, in hopes of coming across a gem. And there are readers who are interested in these rarities.

This wine is outstanding, it comes from a well-regarded vineyard and there’s a story behind it. Plus, this is one way to use our Web site and mention a wine that would otherwise not get a published review.

It’s the work of James Rey Ontiveros, who represents the ninth generation of the Ontiveros family to reside in Santa Barbara County.

The grapes have gone into single-vineyard wines made by Loring and A.P. Vin.

So with a choice of recommending it or not, I’ve opted for a vote of "yes."

David Nelson
CA —  October 31, 2006 3:14pm ET
JamesThanks for the heads-up. Where can I buy this wine??
David Nelson
CA —  October 31, 2006 3:22pm ET
James - please disregard my previous comment. I found the wine on www.native9wine.com. Again, thanks for the tip.
Sao Anash
Santa Barbara —  October 31, 2006 4:28pm ET
Try visiting www.native9wine.com
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  October 31, 2006 4:50pm ET
James, what other pinot would you say it most resembles. That helps with comparison shopping.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 31, 2006 5:35pm ET
Jason, I'd call it a modern Santa Maria Valley style! It has the earthiness and structure I associate with SMV Pinots, but is a shade riper and fleshier, with more complex flavors than most. Impressed me with its graceful texture. I expect SMV Pinots to make a huge impact in the next few years, as many of the vineyards have been replanted and are being farmed differently. I expect we'll see showier wines as a result.
Paul Anderson
Longview, TX —  November 1, 2006 11:11am ET
I won't be able to get this wine this time but a big thanks Jim for bringing it to our attention. I'm a big fan of small producers and of the Santa Barbara County regions, especially Santa Maria. They deserve a bit more notice so thank you for this one!
Apj Powers
Dallas, TX —  November 1, 2006 1:09pm ET
Don't stop on the rare, unobtainable or small production reviews. I like hearing about them. Really, for me it is no different hearing about this Pinot than reading about Petrus or Broadbent speaking about Bordeaux from the 1800s -- I'll never taste them anyways but I still pick up some pts like the vineyd is well-regarded, replantings, farming techniques, etc. Plus, the pure escapism I get from thinking about them.
Joseph Tredici
Ramsey / NJ —  November 1, 2006 1:15pm ET
James,Please keep it coming. Thanks to you I have an annual allocation from Sea Smoke, I recently tried Chasseur (which was delicious) and just purchased pinot from Andrew at A.P Vin (hell of a guy).I would rather spend $50 on an exciting Pinot, whether tough to find or not, than $50 on a Napa Cab that's closer in quality to a $22.99 bottle. What do you think of Keller Estate (Sonoma coast)?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 1, 2006 1:47pm ET
Joseph, I love the Keller Chardonnays, Syrahs and Pinots. Both are distinctive, well made, with excellent acidity (and not fruit or oak bombs too many people wrongly equate with California wines. Also, Keller's non-oaked Chardonnay is excellent. I expect it will be a steady producer that improves as its vineyards and wine team mature.
Robert Caruana Jr
East Islip, NY —  November 1, 2006 3:26pm ET
James - What did you rate this wine after tasting it blind?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 1, 2006 3:34pm ET
Robert, we're not posting final scores for wines like this on the web until the review is published (and it the case of this wine, it will probably not make it to magazine). But if I said it was outstanding that means 90 or higher. Very good means in the 85-89 range, etc.
Michael Keen
Urbandale, Iowa —  November 22, 2006 4:28pm ET
hey all I just wanted to let you all know that I finally received my allotment from Native9. This is a first-ever release. They are working their best to honor all of the orders they received (I shipped mine off shortly after James brought it to my attention, so it took a little over a month to get here.) They are only allocating 3 bottles to customers. James Rey Ontiveros signed this letter personally, so I can say that they put the personal touch. I didn't want to wait, so I popped the first bottle and I was not disappointed. It's earthy, has great structure and just an overall outstanding SMV Pinot. You hit this on the head Mr Laube!!!! Keep up with the smaller lot production announcements!!!!!Cheers everyone and have a Happy and safe Thanksgiving

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