2010 Neely "Upper Picnic Block- Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

SKU #1141897 93 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 The Neely 2010 Pinot Noir Upper Picnic Block Spring Ridge Vineyard reveals the wild strawberry, sweet cherry and raspberry side of top-notch Pinot Noir along with a deep, medium to full-bodied mouthfeel and a complete, savory, velvety-textured palate as well as finish. There are fewer than 100 cases of this excellent Pinot Noir, which should drink well for 6-10 years. These organically, dry-farmed vineyards located ten miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Santa Cruz Mountains are managed by two brothers. I was super-impressed by their attitude as well as their statement that '90% of what we do to contribute to our quality is work in the vineyard.' All of these wines are minimally processed with indigenous yeast fermentations, hand racking, and are produced in relatively small quantities  (12/2013)

93 points Vinous

 It is absolutely fascinating to taste the 2010 Pinot Noir Upper Picnic after the Picnic. Here the aromatics are bright, lifted and beautifully focused. Sweet red cherries, tobacco and mint lift out of the glass. In 2010, the Upper Picnic impresses for its finesse, subtlety and nuance. There is an upper register in the bouquet that is particularly appealing. Drinking window: 2015 - 2025 Brothers Bob and Jim Varner are two of the most unassuming, humble winemakers in California. They don't need to say much. The wines take care of that themselves. These are some of the most beautiful, striking Chardonnays and Pinots readers will come across. Best of all, prices remain exceedingly fair by California standards considering the quality of what goes into the bottle...The 2010 Pinots are also outstanding. Leaf pulling is not a common practice here, so the fruit was not excessively exposed to the late season heat spikes. The Varner and Neely Pinots are fermented in steel, an unusual practice that probably explains why the wines retain so much freshness. After two months in steel, the wines spent a year in barrel followed by a year in bottle prior to being released. Like all Varner/Neely wines, the Pinots are made with indigenous yeasts and handled minimally throughout their elevage. As a reminder, the Varners make wines under three labels; Varner, Neely and Foxglove, all reviewed separately here.  (7/2013)

K&L Notes

If you've shopped K&L over the past few years, you probably know that the wines made by Bob and Jim Varner are not only among our favorites, but we think they are among the finest Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs made in California. The pair make the Neely label in collaboration with the Neely family, but they use fruit from the same Portola Valley vineyard--Spring Ridge--that goes into their eponymous bottlings. The dry- and sustainably-farmed two-acre, east-facing Upper Picnic Block is planted to 32-year-old vines has the harmonious character that you'd expect from older vines. Floral, spicy with lots of pomegranate fruit and an herbal underpinning. Wonderfully structured, this is an ageworthy gem.

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Price: $39.99
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Staff Image By: Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 10/18/2013 | Send Email
If you receive our e-mails and/or newsletter and you haven’t yet heard of the wines from the Varner Brothers you probably really have not been paying attention. We’ve championed their numerous brands (Varner, Spring Ridge, Neely and Foxglove) for years and have made many a friend with their wines along the way. I stand by my assessment that they may be the best Chardonnay producer in California over the last decade, heck, even Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has gotten on the bandwagon giving the Varner Bros. wines consistently high scores over that same amount of time. That being said we really love what they are doing with Pinot Noir as well. All the Neely/Varner Pinots are 100% Estate fruit and while the Neely Pinots focus on single blocks, the Varner Pinot is a blend of three Estate blocks. The 2010 Neely Upper Picnic Block Pinot Noir is probably the most balanced and complex of the three Neely Pinots. Everything here seems to mesh perfectly with everything else in the wine. Plum, rosewater, cassis and a touch of sweet pipe tobacco fill the nose as a touch of red fruited lift comes from the bottom of the glass. Open and fleshy this wine comes at you in waves with great ripeness of fruit, layers of sweet, vanilla-y oak and a full array of spicy/earthy tones. Think wild berries, porcini mushrooms, leather, black cherry and licorice.

Additional Information:


Pinot Noir

- One of France's most legendary grapes and the grape that earned Burgundy its reputation. The parent of varietals like Pinot Gris/Grigio and Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir is blue to violet to indigo in color with relatively thin skins, and it is said to have been cultivated in France for more than 2,000 years. At its best, Pinot Noir creates elegant wines that are filled with primary red fruit aromas and flavors while young, revealing with an array of secondary characteristics like earth, smoke, violet, truffle and game with age. The varietal is also known, perhaps better than any, for its ability to translate terroir, or a sense of place. While the best Pinot Noir still comes from Burgundy, it is being produced with increasing success in cooler climates around the world. In France, it is part of the trifecta of grapes that can go into Champagne, and it is also grown in Alsace, Irancy, Jura, Savoie, Lorraine and Sancerre. Outside of France it is produced under the names Pinot Nero and Blauburgunder in Italy's mountainous regions, as Spätburgunder in Germany and as Blauburgunder in Austria. In the US, Pinot Noir has found suitable growing conditions in the cooler parts of California, including Carneros, the Russian River Valley, the Anderson Valley, the Sonoma Coast, Monterey County, the Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Barbara County, as well as in Oregon's Willamette Valley. In recent years, New Zealand has demonstrated its ability to interpret this hard-to-grow varietal, with successful bottlings coming from careful and attentive growers in Central Otago, Martinborough and Canterbury. Chile is also an up-and-coming region for Pinot Noir, creating fresh, fruit-forward, early-drinking and affordable Pinots from the coastal Casablanca Valley and the Limari Valley.

United States

- When people consider domestic wine, they normally think about the state of California. The fine viticultural Region within California, including the Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Cruz Mountains, Mendocino and Santa Barbara, are capable of growing grapes of world-class quality. But there's plenty of fabulous wine coming from other states, too. Oregon, Washington and New York are also causing eyebrows (and glassware) to be raised around the world. Click for a list of bestselling items from the United States.


- With the explosive growth that California's wine industry has seen the past several years, it's easy to view winemaking and grape growing in the Golden State as a recent phenomenon. And while it's true that California's viticultural history is brief compared to several European countries, this state's roots date back well over 200 years. Due to the enormous response to California wine within the United States and worldwide, there are thousands of excellent and diverse wines being produced within the state each year. For our entire selection of California wines, please visit this link.
Specific Appellation:

Santa Cruz Mountains

- Vineyards dot the valleys and ridges of this coastal AVA just south of San Francisco. Microclimates make it difficult to generalize, and vineyards are frequently separated by acres of forests and meadowlands (not to mention entire towns!), but this is nonetheless known as a cooler-climate zone ideal for pinot noir. Ridge is doubtless the most famous local producer, with its cabernet blend, Monte Bello, named after a Santa Cruz mountain peak. High-quality, low-production chardonnay and some Rhône varietals prosper as well.