Jonata and The Hilt
We have been working with these fantastic sister wineries in Santa Barbara for several years now, loving their take on making wines that celebrate Californian fruit with a European sensibility.
Jonata is based in Santa Ynez's Ballard Canyon. Built on million year old sand dunes, the land was at first considered a crazy choice for viticulture ("plant asparagus", said a Bordelais bigwig at the time), but the success of planting Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon proved the naysayers wrong.
The Hilt, closer to the ocean in the south west corner of the Santa Rita Hills, became the home of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as the Santa Ynez climate proved too warm for the cool climate, elegant expression the team was seeking. The two main single vineyards are Bentrock and Radian and the wines benefit from the refrigerated sunshine of these coastal climes.
El Desafio de Jonata: Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend
El Alma de Jonata: Cabernet Franc dominated blend
La Sangre de Jonata: Syrah with a proportion of Viognier
Todos: red blend, Cabernet Sauvignon dominant
Fenix: red blend, Merlot dominant
The Hilt Old Guard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir: from Radian's high altitude, steep, rugged, rocky terrain - wind swept and brutal. The wines are focused and energetic with freshness and salinity.
The Hilt Vanguard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir: from Bentrock's gentler, rolling hills, more protected and producing richer, more luxurious wines.
The Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir: from fruit sourced from across the estate, these are a balance between the two single vineyard wines, expressing the overall identity of the property.
Owned by: Screaming Eagle and Bonneau du Martray (and Arsenal) owner Stan Kroenke
Founded in: Jonata was founded in 2004, The Hilt in 2008
Winemaker: Matt Dees. Born and raised in Kansas where wheat and cattle outnumbered vines, Matt always had an affinity for plants and latterly became a soil expert. The wine bug bit him after moving to Vermont as an 18 year old, where he planted a vineyard to make Icewine. Eventually he decided that freezing conditions weren't the best place to make wine and after studying in Adelaide and working for Staglin and Craggy Range in New Zealand, he ended up in Santa Barbara. He describes it as the Three Little Bears: Napa was too cold, New Zealand was too warm, Santa Barbara was just right.
100 points: 2015 La Sangre de Jonata
99 points: 2016 La Sangre de Jonata, 2016 El Alma de Jonata, 2014 La Sangre de Jonata, 2007 La Sangre de Jonata
98 points: 2009 La Sangre de Jonata, 2015 El Alma de Jonata, 2007 El Desafio de Jonata
97+ points: 2016 Jonata Fenix
96 points: 2016 The Hilt Old Guard Point Noir
95 points: 2016 The Hilt Old Guard Chardonnay, 2016 The Hilt Vanguard Chardonnay, 2015 The Hilt Vanguard Chardonnay
What next? Building a new tasting room
F+R recommendation: The 2016 vintages from both wineries are fantastic. Big and powerful wines from Jonata in 2016 and for Matt Dees "some of the best Pinot we have ever made" at The Hilt. We have also been enjoying back vintages of Le Sangre and El Alma - the 2006 are especially generous and compelling; gorgeous expressions of Syrah and Cabernet Franc.