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