2010 Neely "Picnic Block- Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Black cherries, game, tar, incense and licorice emerge from the 2010 Pinot Noir Picnic Block. There is an element of unrestrained wildness that gives the Picnic Block much of its exotic personality. Power dominates over finesse, at least today. It will be interesting to see how the 2010 develops over the coming years. My guess is it will always be a bit of a brute. Drinking window: 2014 - 2020. 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 Picnic Block Spring Ridge Vineyard displays a beautiful core of pomegranate and red cherry fruit as well as medium body. It comes across like a premier cru from the Cote de Beaune. Enjoy this attractive Pinot now and over the next 5-6 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 Picnic Block is a two-ace, east-facing slope planted with 10-year-old vines that produced a denser, more black-fruited wine of the range, with floral undertones and powerful structure. Showing well if you like your Pinots more masculine, it will surely develop nuance with patience.