John Faulkner might have the best job a 31 year old winemaker could dream of. He works under Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr to craft not only Stolpman wines, but also burgundy projects Sandhi, Domaine de la Cote, and Pence Ranch even fitting in time to play with the small experimental lots of the PiedraSassi project.
Just as Tom Stolpman encouraged Sashi to branch out and learn the intricacies of other sites; John recently did the same.
John’s crusade started with Chardonnay in the sandy northern Purisima Corridor of STA Rita Hills. His current mentors and past employer, Kathy Joseph all focus on the southern Santa Rosa Road Corridor where rockier soils can be found. No doubt great Chardonnay can be made anywhere in STA Rita hills, but perhaps it is best suited in the Northern, sandier chute along highway 246.
The opportunity seemed too grand to pass up: a chance to apply his mentors’ techniques in the uncharted sands of the North. Through an old roommate, John was able to secure fruit contracts that happened to be adjacent to other passionate young winemakers including Chanin, Tyler, and Liquid Farm.
Once the Chardonnay was in the bag, John worked his connections to secure the most coveted Vineyard Source in Santa Barbara – the site of the county’s original Pinot Noir planting – Sanford and Benedict Vineyard.
Applying the same intuitive, largely hands off approach that he practices with his other projects, John let the nuance of the vineyard shine in both of his efforts. No sulfur until after completion of malolactic conversion, native fermentation, no additives etc. Here are my tasting notes:
2013 Western Gate Purisima Corridor Chardonnay
Classic austere Oyster Shell aromas denote a serious Chardonnay rather than a flabby California Oak monster. In the mouth, lime zest and raw quince are supported by a solid mouthfeel. The high acid lifts the barrel-aged wine to walk a graceful tight rope between the old and new world. Racey, yet seductive and extremely drinkable
2013 Western Gate Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir
Pure, bright red fruit jumps out of the glass – strawberry underbrush and sage. In the mouth the wine is firmly framed by young, yet already integrated tannin. Flowing light on its feet as a Pinot Noir should, the seductive red fleshiness is rich enough to leave a lasting spray of fruit through the finish. Firm in its youth, the Pinot Noir already shows its vineyard pedigree and calculated hands-off crafting
The maritime weather pattern revolves around Point Conception, or what the Chumash Indians believed to be the Western Gate through which souls must pass to go to Heaven.