8 Best Recent Releases from the Santa Cruz Mountains

“Perched high above the Pacific, the hillside vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains are capable of producing some of the most exciting wine in California, but demand is always likely to exceed supply,” says reviewer William Kelley of his latest report from the Golden State’s Central Coast. 

With 196 tasting notes, this report is the most extensive review of the area ever to appear in The Wine Advocate to date

Not to be missed are these top eight wines, all rated 96 points and higher: 

The 2016 Pinot Noir Alpine Hillside Vineyard is stunning, unfurling in the glass with a youthfully reticent but very deep bouquet of cherries, peonies and subtle forest floor. 

On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, deep and multidimensional, with incredible concentration and purity, concluding with a focused and stony finish.

While this is firmly shut down today, its potential for the future is fully evident: expect it to begin to come into its own around its tenth birthday.

The supremely elegant 2016 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace—which was vinified with 100% whole cluster and matured in 20% new oak—was one of the high points of my tasting with winemaker Jeff Brinkman and proprietor Kevin Harvey.

Several years of patience will be rewarded by greater expressiveness and complexity, and I'd expect it to drink well for the better part of two decades thereafter.

The recently released 1995 Chardonnay Cuvée CH from Kalin Cellars hails from the Charles Heinz vineyard in Sonoma County, and it's one of Terry and Frances Leighton's greatest hits.

On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, layered and beautifully complete, simultaneously ample and tense, rich but weightless. 

This is one of the best recent releases of the Estate Chardonnay, and it comes warmly recommended.

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