What's Cookin' on Wine with Michael Horn
What's Cookin' on Wine with Michael HornWhat's Cookin' on Wine with Michael HornWW

11/09 WES HAGEN, J. WILKES WINES, LISA RIGISICH, 7TH ANNUAL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PINOT DAYS, THE SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER

November 11, 201552 min
WES HAGEN - CONSULTING WINEMAKER, BRAND AMBASSADOR, WINE LECTURER & HISTORIAN, J. WILKES WINES Welcome to J. Wilkes. We are dedicated to producing only small lots of handcrafted wines from the Santa Maria Valley while maintaining the natural delicacy of the grapes. Over the past two decades, J. Wilkes wines have been made by sourcing high quality fruit from Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Vineyards. We hope you enjoy the wines, and welcome your comments. OUR STORY Jeff was committed to promoting the Santa Maria Valley; a place he considered home and cared about deeply. By offering a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc under the J. Wilkes imprimatur of quality, we hope to introduce a new generation of wine drinkers to wines of typicity from a venerated appellation. We hope these wines serve not only as ambassadors of an iconic growing region, but also as an introduction to three varietals that merit much pursuit and discovery. The J. Wilkes brand was established in 2001 by Jefferson Wilkes, a widely respected wine industry veteran who loved the community of Santa Maria and sailing the Pacific Coast.  Since Jeff’s passing, the J. Wilkes brand has carried forth with a simple mission: to deliver wines of varietal character, at affordable prices, that highlight the virtues of the Santa Maria Valley appellation. SANTA MARIA VALLEY When one considers that Santa Maria Valley shares the same latitude (34 54N) as Charlotte, North Carolina and the North coast of Morocco, one begins to wonder how it is that such a place can produce wines of such delicate aromatics and liveliness as does Santa Maria Valley. After all, the very home of Pinot Noir, at least according to purists, is the damp, cool Burgundy region of France. One need only turn to the East-West transverse valley that runs through Santa Maria Valley. This transverse valley acts as a funnel, channeling in cool maritime influences and depositing them throughout the wide valley that is Santa Maria. Ocean temperatures just off the coast of Santa Maria are typically about 15 degrees C (55 to 59 F). The Coriolis effect, an upwelling of deeper, colder waters, further cools the ocean breezes coming in off the coast of the Pacific and into the Santa Maria Valley. The cool winds coming in from the Northwest, coupled with the Coriolis effect, serve to push cold ocean water the surface. The transverse valley then allows these cold water winds to funnel into the Santa Maria Valley, cooling it substantially. If the Santa Maria Valley was not situated at this southerly latitude, it would not be warm enough to ripen grape varietals to full maturity. It is, therefore, this singular combination of elements that allows Santa Maria Valley to produce wines of such distinction and typicity. The number of days between bloom and harvest is approximately 125, on average. Though day time temperatures rarely exceed 75 degrees F, the long growing season provides substantial heat units throughout the year to fully ripen Pinot Noir, and other varietals that do very well in the Santa Maria Valley. Maritime fog usually cools the grapes in the evening, until approximately 10:00 am. When the sun breaks, the grapes receive substantial heat units to ripen, but it is never so warm in Santa Maria Valley that the grapes begin to “shut down” from excessive heat. These mild temperatures, coupled with a long growing season, allow for grapes that possess great aromatics, distinction, a lively fruit component and balanced acid levels. Yields in Santa Maria tend to be average to low, due to excessively cool spring temperatures. Poor set on the vines often results from days that do not warm much past 65 degrees F. Pollination can be adversely affected by these cool temperatures. But, the strain of poor pollination on the vine, ironically, results in smaller clusters with intensely flavored berries. These small berries usually provide for greater color and complexity in the resulting wines. The average annual rainf

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