I first met Raj Parr at a dinner in London some eight years ago, when he was presenting his wines with Jamie Kutch. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman are making some of California’s most interesting wines right now. I recently tried through six of their wines, two from their Chardonnay-focused négociant project Sandhi, and four of the new releases from their own vineyard, Domaine de la Côte, which is entirely Pinot Noir.
Domaine de la Côte consists of six separate plots on 40 acres, planted to heritage clones (Calera, Swan, and Mt. Eden) at very high vine densities (4000-7000 vines/acre). Winemaking is terroir-sensitive: pick at the right time, then fill open-top concrete tanks with whole bunches, get fermentation going with a Pied de Cuve, and then press, settle and go to barrel (all from Ermitage). After 14 months, bottle with no filtration or fining.
Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay 2017 Sta. Rita Hills, California
Very fine and linear with a slight matchstick edge to the taut, pithy citrus fruit. There’s a lovely line of acidity here: this is a compact, concentrated Chardonnay with real intensity and precision. The lemon and lime notes mesh with subtle, restrained white peach and green apple characters, wrapped in well integrated oak notes. Harmonious and primary, and really unfurled: there’s a lot yet to come from this wine. Very fine, and I’ve no idea where I’d put this blind. 95/100
Sandhi Sandford & Benedict Chardonnay 2017 Sta. Rita Hills, California
12.5% alcohol. This is a tight, unfurled wine with some complex richer nut, peach and pineapple hemmed in by lemony acidity and a spicy mineral streak. There’s some richness, for sure, but it’s lurking behind the fresher, more acid, structured side of the wine. Lots of potential for development, but delicious (if slightly challenging) drinking now. This is a serious, multi-layered Chardonnay. 95/100
Domaine de la Côte la Côte Pinot Noir 2017 Sta Rita Hills, California
13% alcohol. From a 9.5 acre block, this is early picked and has a fine, nervy sappy nose with green hints to the sleek, floral red cherry fruit, as well as subtle smoky, spicy notes. The palate has amazing definition, with juicy red cherries and plums, as well as a bit of black cherry richness. Lovely concentration and precision, with fine sappiness and some black tea and pepper/cinnamon spice. There are layers of flavour here, and although it’s drinkable it has good structure and will age beautifully in the medium term, and perhaps beyond. Quite profound. 96/100
Domaine de la Côte Memorious Pinot Noir 2017 Sta. Rita Hills, California
13% alcohol. This is quite lovely, with bright red cherry notes, but also some intriguing sweetness and depth to the mid-palate, and a nice fine-grained tannic structure combining with good acidity to give a fresh finish. There’s a pronounced chalky, grainy, mineral texture here, as well as some slight sappy green notes that integrate very well with the sweet red fruits. A beautiful, thought-provoking wine. 94/100
Domaine de la Côte Sous Le Chêne Pinot Noir 2017 Sta. Rita Hills, California
13% alcohol. This wine has a lovely fleshy green streak to it: it’s bright with a sappy, leafy edge to the cherry fruit, with a tiny bit of sweet acid lift and subtle savoury undergrowth notes. It has a rounded character to the fruit, which tastes ripe and a little green at the same time. Textured and vital with nice weight in the mouth. It’s approachable now, but it will be interesting to see where this goes in the next few years. 93/100
Domaine de la Côte Bloom’s Field Pinot Noir 2017 Sta. Rita Hills, California
Lovely concentration here with seamless, elegant red cherry and raspberry fruit, showing nice grainy tannins: supple and melting, but providing enough structure. Lovely vibrancy with fine green hints. Compact. Ripe and balanced with lovely harmony. 96/100
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