For the first time in the three year history of Clarice, the majority of the 2019 Clarice Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir comes from the Rosella’s Vineyard. This is, as much as anything, a testament as to how truly special this vintage was at that vineyard. As always, this wine is a purposeful blend of the barrels from these two vineyards rather than a catch-all for barrels not used in the vineyard designated wines. In fact, only 61.5% of the barrels that could have gone into this wine made the final cut. And, as always, the Santa Lucia Highlands bottling is shaped by less oak than the vineyard designates. The 2019 is a classic expression of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir through the Clarice lens of little intervention—no additions other than sulfur, no fining or filtration.
While the SLH hasn’t consistently been the wine of every vintage for me, by year three I’m comfortable saying that it is my personal favorite of the lineup, and shines its best in the current release. The dark nose features blackberry, boysenberry, cherry concentrate, Earl Gray, and cassis. It developed a secondary cocoa overtone on day two. Medium bodied, its thick tannin offers Earl Gray tea and star anise notes. By day two the tannins had disarmed a bit, smoothing and elongating nicely while picking up a peppery note on the back end. The juicy acid core delivers stewed plum, cherry, baking spice, and salmon berry. Day two added mountain strawberry. The balance and structure is impeccably built, this one should be set aside for at least three or four years and followed over the following five years, at least.
“Gorgeous stuff, the 2019 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands was bottled in August of 2019 and saw two-thirds stems and aging in roughly 40% new French oak. It reminds me of the 2018 yet has a touch more mid-palate and richness. Red and blue fruits, spice, peppery herbs, and floral notes all define the nose, and it’s medium to full-bodied, with a layered, seamless texture, plenty of tannins, and a great finish. It’s already perfumed and complex yet should evolve for a solid decade.”