Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir 2018
California Pinot Noir has for too long been a conversation of opposing extremes of ripeness. Ryan finds originality in the middle, capturing the lost-boy spirit of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Vintage-wise, 2018 was business as usual — relatively damp and mild with a few heat spikes in early summer. Glenwood is an organic hillside vineyard set deeply in an old growth redwood forest. As is the Santa Cruz way, Ryan assembles a small crew of volunteers (mainly friends from the local restaurant scene) to help him harvest by hand, with any sorting taking place in the field. All the grapes are tossed into a large redwood barrel to ferment, after which the wine spends 18 months in neutral barrique.
Based in a barebones warehouse in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ryan is one of a handful of young producers contributing to the region’s rebirth as a vibrant natural wine destination. And thanks to his work with Wirz Vineyard, Ryan has also become one of California wine’s leading eco-pioneers, specializing in soulful expressions of Riesling and Zinfandel. With its assortment of ancient, head-trained vines perched in the foothills of the Gabilan Mountains, Wirz Vineyard is a living piece of California history. But from an environmental standpoint, Wirz has been a symbol of sustainable farming for over 50 years, dry-farmed (sans irrigation) since the 1960s. In a state that’s battled drought and water shortages for decades, this approach is an example of radical conservation, showing that thoughtful stewardship of heritage vineyards will have a vital role to play in ensuring a greener wine future.