2009 Wine of the Year: The 2004 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Well, it's that time of the year.  Time to look back on 2009 and think "What was the one wine I had last year that rocked my world?"

I wrote CellarTracker tasting notes for 154 wines last year with a median rating of 88 points.  The highest rating of 96 points went to a wine I already wrote up- the 2006 Kathryn Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The lowest rating of 68 points went to the 2006 Hangtime Cellars Pinot Noir Bourgogne. It was interesting to see what others thought of each of these wines after adding my tasting notes.

The second highest rating of 95 points went to a wine from Sea Smoke Cellars, a highly regarded Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir producer.  It was their 2004 Southing bottling that really caught my attention and made me want to learn more about their brand and taste more of their wines.

What I Mean When I Say "Wine of the Year"

I like to feature a wine from a producer that I've not tried before that made me say "Wow- that's good stuff. I want to find out more about this wine and the people who produced it."  I look at the whole picture- the wine itself, the label, the bottle, the brand, prior awareness, positioning in the industry, the story behind the wine, the wine's ability to stand up and over-deliver on expectations.  All kinds of stuff.

2004 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir

We were having a friend over who was visiting from out of town (@QPRKings
on Twitter- you should follow him!).  Anyway, we were meeting him for the first time after getting to know him through a common interest in wine and baseball.  A great opportunity to break out a nicer bottle.

In scenarios like this, I'm always worried that a wine is going to be "sort of off".  If it were corked in an obvious way (what's that? read more HERE) you just move on to the next bottle.  But if you suspect it to be corked and it's not clear you end up spending a half an hour discussing whether or not it's corked instead of enjoying the wine.

Fortunately, the 2004 Sea Smoke Southing was up to the challenge.  I opened it a couple of hours before our guest arrived.  I had a taste about an hour after it opened.  WOW.  This wine was on point.  Really good.  What I liked about it, as compared to similarly sought-after wines from Kosta Browne was the earthy/mushroom characteristics in the Southing.  Maybe this had something to do with bottle age, but I really enjoyed this wine.

Here are my notes:

"The first Sea Smoke I've ever had, and it didn't disappoint. Really enjoyed the balance this wine presented. It's a big wine, don't get me wrong, but it balanced earth with fruit and tons of flavor without being jammy. Thoroughly enjoyed this wine and looking forward to a bottle of 2006 Sea Smoke Ten."

95 Points/WWP: Outstanding/Classic

Wine Spectator: 93 Points
Wine Advocate: 90+ Points
CellarTracker: 92 Median

Production: 2,400 Cases
Release Price: $50
Current Price: around $90 on Vinfolio
Availability: Mostly mailing list and restaurants, with limited retail
Website: SeaSmokeCellars.com

Further Reading:
My 2008 Wine of the Year: The 2006 Zepaltas Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Looking to buy some Sea Smoke Pinot Noir in the Boston, Massachusetts area?  Try Upper Falls Liquors in Newton.  I hear they have some in stock:

Upper Falls Liquors
150 Needham Street
Newton, MA 02464-1506
(617) 969-9200

Question of the Day: What was your "wow" wine of the year last year? Why?

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