2019 Donnachadh Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara – WA95+, WE95

2019 Donnachadh Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara – WA95+, WE95



Family owned and organically farmed, Donnachadh (DON nuh kuh) Vineyards are located on Santa Rosa Road in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara County.  The property is 285 acres with approximately 40 acres planted to vine in 2013.  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Gamay Noir are grown.

The climate of the Santa Rita Hills is dominated by the Pacific Ocean, which lies about 9 miles from the vineyard.  Morning fog cools the grapes and consistent afternoon ocean breezes keep heat from building up over the course of the day.

The vineyard consists of two main parts: the hillside blocks, and the riverside blocks.  The riverside blocks sit alongside the Santa Ynez River.  They are more sheltered from the wind than the hillside blocks and the soil is a delicate and well drained sandy loam that sits on top of deep layers of gravel river deposits.  The hillside blocks are more exposed to the ocean winds.  The soil there is derived from marine shale deposits and features more clay, rocks and cobbles than the riverside blocks.  Overall, the hillside environment is quite challenging for the vines, limiting yields and producing grapes of exceptional character.

Inspired by the wines of Burgundy and the Northern Rhone, the goal is to make wines that recognize the estate’s unique site.  The cool climate and ocean breeze allow the grapes to ripen more slowly, developing rich, complex flavors while still retaining a bright natural acidity.  There is a noticeable salinity, too, that further reminds one of the maritime environment that the wines come from.  Finally, the varied terrain and soils, from the steep, rocky upper hillside to the gently rolling riverside blocks allow for the development of complexity and contrast within a relatively small area.

At harvest, the grapes are picked timely to capture ripe fruit flavors, but also the subtle flavors and aromas which really make the site unique.  Wines expressing the fruit, the sun, the soil and, overall, possessing a feeling of depth, transparency, and inner calm.  Wines which will pair well with what’s on the table, but also stand up to closer scrutiny and that can be rewarding on their own.

“2019 was a great year for Pinot Noir in the Santa Rita Hills, giving us a long, cool growing season, with no weather-related curveballs. The resulting wine is focused and concentrated, with classic Donnachadh flavors of tart black cherries and raspberries, with red berries, dried herbs and Earl Grey on the nose. The wine is a blend of Pommard, Calera, 667 and 115 clones, with about 15% whole cluster. It spent 14 months in French oak, with about 25% new.” – Winery

Bright ruby color with great clarity.  Wild raspberries are the base line this wine’s very complex and unfolding aromas and flavors.  With no exaggeration, layered nuances of more red fruits and floral spice, citrus rind, loamy forest floor, and fennel bulb,  Perfectly balanced with an elegantly polished and streamlined texture from the first opulent palate impression through the lengthy finish.  Fresh and vivid!  13.3% alcohol.  – My notes.

“Medium ruby, the 2019 Pinot Noir Estate offers impressive aromatic layering and detail, evolving as it spends time in the glass from cranberry and burnt orange peel to violet, tea leaves, pipe tobacco and aniseed. The medium-bodied palate is tangy and ultra fresh, with a chalky frame and loads of citrus, earth and herbal touches fanning across the finish. It takes significant time to really open up, and I suspect it has more to give with another 2-3+ years in bottle. 2023-2033” – 95+ points, Wine Advocate (Erin Brooks December 2022)

“Opulent aromas of baked black cherry, star anise, cardamom and thyme make for a rich entry to the nose of this bottling. The palate, meanwhile, is framed with grippy, chalky tannins, giving a firm structure to the raspberry, cherry, dark herb and loamy earthy flavors. Drink through 2039. – 95 points, Wine Enthusiast (Cellar Selection). – Matt Kettmann