Mail Road Mt. Carmel Pinot Noir 2016 – Organic
Mail Road is the estate program for Mt. Carmel Vineyard, a 22.5-acre site that marks the epicenter of Santa Barbara County’s Sta. Rita Hills AVA.
The program is a partnership between winemaker Matt Dees, Michael Palmer, and Ron and Nancy Piazza, who planted Mt. Carmel in the mid/late 1980’s. At the time, most of the local activity around wine growing was focused on the valley floor and foothills south of the Santa Ynez River, where, in 1971, Santa Barbara pioneer vintner Richard Sanford (alongside his then-partner Michael Benedict) planted their now-famous Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.
In search of a quiet, out-of-the-way site for a weekend home and small, family vineyard, the Piazzas planted Mt. Carmel among remote, weed-choked hills, adjacent to an abandoned monastery of Carmelite nuns. They had no inkling that their little plot of land on the ‘wrong’ (i.e. north) side of the river, set 800 to 1,200 feet above the valley’s limestone cliffs would today, thirty years later, achieve the status it has as a world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyard.
Mt. Carmel is a difficult place to grow grapes. The vineyard, an exposed saddle of limestone, loam, and sandstone, is hammered by constant sun and wind. There’s little to make you think that this site is as magical as it truly is. And yet, in winegrowing, as in life, sometimes there are happy accidents. Where most domestic vineyards rely on irrigation, especially in California, Mt. Carmel is, for the most part, dry-farmed. Mt. Carmel is own-rooted. In no way is this a textbook, idyllic, picture-perfect property. It’s wild. Unkempt. Haunted, even. To make matters worse, the vineyard’s yields are minimal. And yet, it’s magnificent. In the wine world, there’s so much talk of terroir. Truth is, most vineyards don’t really show themselves in their wines. But Mt. Carmel? Year after year, we are amazed at how the power of this place shines through, perhaps more than any other property any of us has farmed or produced wine from.
96 points, Vinous: Mail Road’s 2016 Pinot Noir Mt. Carmel Vineyard is a vivid, stunningly beautiful wine endowed with real class and personality. A wine of translucent energy and drive, the 2016 is utterly compelling from the moment it is first poured. The red and purplish berry fruit is nicely delineated, but the wine still needs time to develop the full breadth of its aromatics. In a word: Wow