The Hedonistic Taster: More California Wines

The Hedonistic Taster

 More California Wines

by L.M. Archer

Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer

The Hedonistic Taster provides an intimate format for sharing industry trade sample with readers.

Please enjoy this exclusive selection of California wines, including Eden Rift, one of Cienega Valley’s most exciting ‘new’ producers – more about this unusual winery in my notes below.

Disclaimer: No compensation is received; all opinions expressed are that of the author.

Beckmen Vineyards is the first winery in Santa Barbara to achieve biodynamic certification.

Backstory on Beckmen Vineyards:

  • Located in Santa Barbara, California.
  • Santa Barbara’s first Demeter certified Biodynamic® vineyard; 4th largest in California.
  • Family owned for over 25 years. Founded by owner Tom Beckmen, son Steve Beckmen serves as winemaker and vineyard manager.
  • Pioneered the use of native yeasts, whole cluster fermentation, and single-varietal Grenache in the region.

More about Beckmen Vineyards here.



Wine:  Beckmen Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc – Santa Ynez Valley, CA.

Vintage: 2018

Alcohol:  13.8%

Link to Producer Specs here.

Suggested Retail: $ 20 /2,200 cases produced.

Robe: Pale straw robe.

Nose:  Tropical fruit, pineapple and grass notes on the nose; hint of eau de chat. 

Bouche:  Tropical notes carry through on the bouche, with a slight mineral core. Light body, even acids, moderate finish. 


Wine:  Beckmen Vineyards Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rosé – Ballard Canyon, CA. 

Vintage: 2018

Alcohol:  13.8%

Link to Producer Specs here.

Suggested Retail: $ 25 / 1,000 cases produced.

Robe: Light coral robe.

Nose:  Jolly Rancher watermelon candy, white nectarine on the nose.

Bouche:  Lovely notes of stone fruit, red fruit, fynbos. (Though this area has some wild yarrow, these notes are more greenish, rather than yellow.)


Wine:  Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee Le Bec – Santa Ynez Valley, CA.

Vintage: 2017

Alcohol:  14.2%

Link to Producer Specs here. (47% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre, 7% Counoise)

Suggested Retail: $ 25/ 3,950 cases produced.

Robe: Dark garnet robe. 

Nose: Deep red and blue fruits, violets, and lavender on the nose.

Bouche:  Raspberry, blackberry,  and spice on the bouche. Medium body, pleasantly balanced acids and tannins; pleasing finish.

Bonterra Wines source from biodynamic vineyards in Mendocino County, CA>

Backstory on Bonterra Wine :

  • Mendocino’s Bonterra Wine instigated organic farming in 1987.
  • Butler Ranch Vineyard is one of three Bonterra vineyards certified  Biodynamic® by Demeter.
  • Butler Ranch Vineyard, founded as a sheep ranch in the 1880’s and later converted to a cherry orchard, rests 1,500 ft above sea level, and is comprised of rare red vine soils.

More about Bonterra Wine here.

Bonterra 'The Butler' is a biodynamic Rhône-style blend sourced from Butler Ranch Vineyard in Mendocino County, CA.


Wine:  Bonterra The Butler – Butler Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino County

Vintage: 2014

Alcohol:  14.8%

Link to Producer Specs here.   (81% Syrah, 14% Petite Sirah, 4% Grenache, 1% Viognier)

Suggested Retail: $ 50 / 400 cases produced.

Robe: Dark purple robe.

Nose: Intense dark fruit, with a strong whiff of dark roast coffee and tobacco on the back note.

Bouche: Surprisingly robust Rhône blend. A brawny, luscious juxtaposition of dark fruit and minerality, with a gamey overlay. Definite hunting lodge wine.


Eden Rift Vineyards are located in the Gavilan Mountains near Monterey Bay.

Backstory on Eden Rift Vineyards:

  • First planted in 1849, it claims fame as one of California’s oldest vineyards, and comprises mostly calcareous soils.
  • Current owner and San Francisco native Christian Pillsbury purchased the former Pietra Santa winery in 2017, renaming it Eden Rift.
  • The name “Eden Rift” pays homage back to homeboy John Steinbeck’s classic novel “East of Eden,” with a nod to nearby San Andreas Fault.
  • The winery nests within the Cinega Valley, under the shadow of the Gavilan Mountain Range, and within 20 miles of the cool breezes of Monterey Bay.

More about Eden Rift Vineyards here.


Wine:  Eden Rift Terraces Pinot Gris – Cinega Valley, CA. 

Vintage: 2017

Alcohol:  14.1%

Link to Producer Specs here.

Suggested Retail: $ 32 / 281 cases produced. 

Robe: Oeil de perdrix (pale pink) hue.

Nose: Tangy aromas of stone fruit, citrus, and sea breeze.

Bouche:  What the what?! $32 bucks for a Pinot Gris?!  Actually, quite a bargain, considering Eden Rift contains perhaps California’s only terraced planting of Pinot Gris in the state. Rarity aside, the wine merits the price tag. Quality. Precision. Freshness. This Pinot Gris stands out for its elevated, well-structured, poised expression. 


Wine:  Eden Rift Estate Chardonnay – Cienega Valley, CA.

Vintage: 2017

Alcohol:  14.2%

Link to Producer Specs here.

Suggested Retail: $ 42/ 1,651 cases produced (750 ml) 

Robe:   Pale gold hue.

Nose: Aromas of fleurs blanches and citrus, with a slight hint of oak.

Bouche:  Golden apple, comice pear, meyer lemon on the bouche. Medium body, creamy texture, solid structure, slightly toasty finish. For those who prefer richer Chardonnays.


Wine:  Eden Rift Reserve Chardonnay – Cienega Valley, CA.

Vintage: 2017

Alcohol:  14.1%

Producer Specs: Eden Rift’s inaugural bottling of Reserve Chardonnay. Four barrels selected, sourced from A Block; fermented on native yeast; wines aged sur-lie for over 10 months in French oak barrels (25% new oak) before bottling.

Suggested Retail: $ 65 / 186 6-packs produced. (Only four barrels produced.)

Robe: Pristine lemon robe.

Nose: Marine air, yellow flowers, pear, slight lime flower aromas.

Bouche:   Lemon-lime, stone fruit on the bouche, with a taut saline core. Light-to-medium body, sublime structure, well-balanced fulcrum between acids and tannins, lovely texture. If Steinbeck crafted wine instead of books, this would be his opus magnum. This wine posits a brilliant sense of place on the palate that renders a sense of awe for the under-rated Monterey wine region.


Wine:  Eden Rift Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir – Cienega Valley, CA.

Vintage: 2018

Alcohol:  13.8%

Link to Producer Specs here.

Suggested Retail: $ 25 / 324 cases produced (750 ml)

Robe: Clear coral robe.  

Nose: Intoxicating aromas of salt air, soft florals, and rose petal.

Bouche:  Complex interwoven notes of kefir lime, calcare, pink grapefruit, and a delightful saline backbone. Light body, exquisite acids, discrete tannins, lilting finish. Simply gorgeous.


Wine:  Eden Rift Estate Pinot Noir – Cienega Valley, CA.

Vintage: 2017

Alcohol:  14.2%

Link to Producer Specs here.

Suggested Retail: $ 48 / 2,115 cases produced (750 ml).

Robe: Clarion ruby robe.

Nose: Heady notes of savory red fruit (cranberry, pomegranate).

Bouche:  Crunchy red cranberry, chalk, and dark cherry bouche. Light-medium body. Solid structure, concise finish. 


Wine: Eden Rift Terraces Pinot Noir – Cienega Valley, CA.

Vintage: 2017

Alcohol:  14.2%

Producer Specs: Inaugural release of Eden Rift’s Terraces Pinot Noir. Seven barrels produced. Sourced exclusively from Q Block; vines low-yielding with tiny clusters; hand-harvested; aged 10 months in French oak barrels prior to bottling.

Suggested Retail: $ 64/ 156 cases produced.

Robe: Inky-tinged ruby robe.

Nose: Brooding blue and black fruited nose, with a snarl of spice.

Bouche:  Ferocious burled blackberry and dark red fruit on the bouche. Light-to-medium body, with a tensile core of acidity, bright minerality, and a strong finish. Checks all the right boxes regarding balance, structure, and suitability for aging.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of Ehlers Estate wines are returned to the esteemed LeDucq Foundation  to support international cardiovascular research.

Backstory on Ehlers Estate:

  • The 42-acre estate resides in Napa Valley’s Saint Helena AVA.
  • Madrid-born Laura Diaz Muñoz assumed her role as winemaker and director of operations at Ehlers Estate in July 2018.
  • 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Ehlers Estate wines are returned to the esteemed LeDucq Foundation to support international cardiovascular research.

More about Ehlers Estate here.



Wine: Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2018

Alcohol:  13.2%

Link to Producer Specs here.

Suggested Retail: $ 32 / 945 cases produced. 

Robe: Pale straw robe

Nose: Gasoline, green grass, gooseberry notes.

Bouche:  Lemon, gooseberry bouche. Light body, acid-plus, strong finish.


Wine:  Ehlers Estate Sylviane Rosé

Vintage: 2018

Alcohol:  13.9%

Link to Producer Specs here. (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc, 13% Merlot.)

Suggested Retail: $ 36 / 500 cases produced.

Robe: Vibrant watermelon hue.

Nose: Casaba melon, white peach, wild strawberry aromas.

Bouche: Royal Ann cherry, ripe strawberry, juicy watermelon bouche. Medium body, impeccable balance between acids and  tannins; lengthy finish.  A full-throated ode to summer. 

Backstory on LaBarge Winery:

  • Founded by Pierre LaBarge IV, formerly of Sine Qua Non Winery.
  • Certified Organic (CCOF) vineyards total 12 acres located in the Ste. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara, with a range of soils from clay loan and sandy clay topsoil to calcareous shale.
  • Minimal use of sulfur added prior to bottling.
  • A true domaine: Hands-on management of all aspects of production, from farming to winemaking and bottling.

More about LeBarge Winery here.


Wine:  LaBarge Grenache – Ste. Rita Hills, CA.

Vintage: 2016

Alcohol:  15.5%

Producer Specs:  100% estate grown; hand-picked; 75% whole cluster; aged 22 months in neutral and 1-fill barrels and foudres. 

Suggested Retail: $ 50  / 500 cases.

Robe: Deep porphyry robe with dark garnet rim.

Nose: Robust ripe raspberry, clove, and plum notes.

Bouche:  Dense, velvety, fruit forward mouthfeel. Medium body, balanced acids, soft tannins, voluptuous finish. Note: The winemaker suggests serving this wine at cellar temperature (55-60 degrees F), as he does his Pinot Noir. He also mentions that he spends three times as much time tending to his Grenache vines, which prove a bit of a handful when young. This wine shows its attentive élevage.


Wine:  LaBarge Syrah – Ste. Rita Hills, CA.

Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  14.3%

Producer Specs: 100% estate grown; hand-picked; 52% whole cluster; aged 28 months in 15% new French oak barrels. 

Suggested Retail: $ 65 / 175 cases.

Robe: Dark purple robe.

Nose: A muscular wine redolent with leather, cracked black pepper, and a distinct umami back note.

Bouche:  Dark black fruits (plum and dark cherry predominate) on the bouche. Light-medium bodied, evenly placed acids and tannins, supple finish.  Note: The winemaker suggests double-decanting and letting breath for 4-6 hours. Good idea. This wine needs time to unleash its inner beast. A thoughtfully constructed, age-worthy wine.

Backstory on Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards:

  • Founded in 1996 by former Superior Court judge,  businessman and community leader Royce Lewellen, and grape grower and proud Notre Dame graduate Louis Lucas.
  • Vineyards located within Santa Barbara’s three major wine growing valleys: Santa Maria Valley, Los Alamos Valley, and Santa Ynez Valley.
  • Winemaker Megan McGrath Gates has helmed production since 2007.

More about Lucas & Lewellen here.



Wine:  Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – Santa Ynez Valley

Vintage: 2016

Alcohol:  14.5%

Producer Specs: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Petit Verdot, 7.5% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 21 months in 100% French oak, 40% new.

Suggested Retail: $ 25 / 2518 cases produced. 

Robe: Rich plum hue.

Nose: Dark fruit and capsicum aromas.

Bouche:  Plum, raspberry bouche; balanced acids, pronounced tannins; oak predominates.


Find more Hedonistic Taster here.

Have a favorite wine you’d care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below.


Copyrighted 2019 L.M. Archer. All Rights reserved.

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