The 2013 Pinot Noir Hidden Block is a very pretty, lifted wine. Sweet red cherry, mint and floral notes grace the palate in an understated, surprisingly gracious Pinot from the Varner brothers. The Hidden Block is one of the more delicate, acid-driven Pinots I have tasted from Varner. This is the first block that is picked, which likely contributes to the wine's laid-back personality and expressive aromatics. I have to admit, my most recent tasting with Bob and Jim Varner was bittersweet. The Varners have ended their collaboration with the Neely family, so the 2013s are the last wines the Varners made in the Santa Cruz Mountains. That is a real loss to the region and the wine world more broadly, as the Varners made stunning Chardonnays and Pinots from these sites. The Varners have moved to Santa Barbara County, where they are making a new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the El Camino and Los Alamos vineyards respectively. Both wines deliver superb quality for the money. The Santa Cruz Moutains wines remain reference points for what is possible in these mountain terroirs; namely rich, phenolic Chardonnays and intense Pinots. (AG)
Possessing plenty of kirsch liqueur, soy, toasted spice and earth, the 2013 Pinot Noir Hidden Blocks Spring Ridge Vineyard is a medium to full-bodied, ripe, nicely textured Pinot Noir. It has good acidity and present tannin, and should drink nicely for 5-7 years. The big change at this reference point estate is the splitting of the partnership between the Varner and Neely families, and the Varner brothers will no longer have access to the Spring Ridge Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they've worked since the early 2000s. Going forward, this team will focus on their contracts in Santa Barbara County, where they've also worked for the past three years. Few winemakers do Chardonnay and Pinot Noir better than brothers Jim and Bob Varner, and I've no doubt this estate will continue to be one of the stars of the Central Coast. (JD)
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