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Visit to Coastview Vineyards with winemaker Ian Brand

August 6, 2010

VISIT TO COASTVIEW VINEYARDS WITH WINEMAKER IAN BRAND – Coastview Vineyards, Chualar, Monterey County, California (8/1/2010)

Ian, left, with Wes Barton, picnicking in the vineyard

This is a week of firsts for, starting with our first guest column–Philip Abrams’s book review of Allen Meadows’s The Pearl of the Côte–and, with this post, our first blog report including video. The video clips below feature views from Coastview Vineyard in Monterey County, and winemaker Ian Brand talking about what drew him to this site and what his plans are for further development at Coastview.

Ian is a very talented young winemaker who first came to California from Utah (he was born and raised in Connecticut) mainly with the intention of doing a lot of surfing. He landed in Santa Cruz and after a couple months of surfing, realized he needed a job. He answered an ad from Bonny Doon, and ended up learning about wine and winemaking there, starting out in their lab (he’d graduated college with a science degree). He moved on to Big Basin, where he assisted in planting vineyards and became assistant winemaker, from 2004 to 2007. In 2007, he met up with John Allen, who owns Coastview Vineyard, and they eventually formed a partnership. He’s had a couple of other winemaking gigs (Nicholson, Pierce Vineyards), and is doing an increasing amount of consulting, but the Coastview Vineyard and Le P’tit Paysan labels Ian makes in partnership with John and Julie Allen, are Ian’s own project. The Coastview wines are all estate fruit, using mostly native yeast, unfined and unfiltered.

I first met Ian when he was pouring for Nicholson at the Santa Cruz Mountain Wineries Association Pinot Paradise event in March this year, and I was impressed with what he is doing for Nicholson. (Prior to the ’08s, I’d found Nicholson Pinots to be middling, at best. There was a marked improvement once Ian came on as winemaker.) We next met at an offline dinner with a winemaking couple from Spain, and there I got a chance to taste one of the Syrahs he made under the Coastview Vineyard label. Ian invited us to meet him for a visit to the Coastview Vineyard, on the top of a mountain in Chualar in southern Monterey County. I’d heard this was a pretty spectacular spot from a couple of other winemakers who had been up there, so arranged to meet Ian there with fellow blogger Wes Barton this past Sunday.

We met Ian at the bottom of the mountain, at the end of Chualar Canyon Road, to drive up to where the vineyard encircles the top of the mountain, out of sight from the road. The dust flew around us as we ascended the dirt road to the vineyard, and we could hear the sound of bleating goats (the vineyard owner employs a small herd of them, and also sheep, to help maintain the vegetation and scrub around the vineyard). Once we reached the top of the mountain, where the Chardonnay is planted, the views were amazing, both south and west toward the ocean, as well as southeast and north toward the neighboring hills and mountains. Here’s a short video clip of the view from the vineyard, followed by a clip of Ian, a little winded by his jeep ride up the mountain, indicating what’s planted where:

Here’s a description of the vineyard in Ian’s words: “The vineyard is about 35 acres of ridge top and SE facing bowl ranging from 2200 to just shy of 2500 foot elevation. It’s essentially due east of Sleepy Hollow at the north end of the Santa Lucia Highlands, and about 20 miles inland. The distance from the ocean is misleading, however, as it is 20 miles across a river valley as opposed to a few miles of mountains. On a clear day you can see from King City to Santa Cruz. It was planted mostly in 1999 by John Allen with no experience in wines or vineyards because of an off-hand suggestion from Doug Meador (who owned Ventana Vineyard). Everybody thought he was crazy putting a vineyard up there (I tend to concur–crazy brilliant!). Soils are mainly decomposed granite and limestone, in some parts they are just DG and limestone. We have about 7 acres of Chardonnay (mostly clone 96) and 15 acres of Syrah (clone 1 and Alban), 1 of Grenache (Alban), 1 of Pinot (various Entav), .75 of Riesling (Alsatian clone) and 2 of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot at the top of the hill.”

Ian talks about what drew him to join John Allen in making wines from Coastview:

See below for my comments on the wines from Coastview and Ian’s other projects that we tasted, during our 4-hour picnic in the vineyard. Below also is a clip of Ian talking about his future plans for expanding and further developing the Coastview plantings.

Nicholson Viognier starter

I liked what I tasted at Pinot Paradise of the Pinots Ian is making for Nicholson, and this was my first chance to taste their Viognier. I was quite impressed–definitely one of the best California Viogniers I’ve ever had. I love the floral nose and the refreshing acidity, which is so often missing in domestic Viognier. I really look forward to what Ian creates from the Viognier he’s planning to introduce at Coastview.

  • 2009 Nicholson Vineyards Viognier Cedar Lane Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light lemon yellow color; nice peach, floral, nectarine nose; delicate, tart peach, mineral palate with good acidity, one of the best California Viogniers I’ve tried; medium finish (92 pts.)

Coastview Chardonnay

We next sampled the two vintages of Chardonnay that Ian has now made for his Coastview project. The ’09 had just been bottled the previous week. Both vintages have appealing acidity and good structure. Both have the potential to age well, and put on even more complexity. 2008 was all barrel fermented, but for ’09, Ian chose to ferment a portion in barrel and the rest in stainless steel.

from the top of the vineyard where the Chardonnay is planted

the vines’ view

  • 2008 Coastview Vineyard Chardonnay Terraces – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey
    Light lemon yellow color; attractive, lemon blossom, fresh lemon, golden apple, green apple nose; tasty green apple, lemon curd, mineral palate with depth and crisp edges; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Coastview Vineyard Chardonnay Terraces – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey
    Pre-release (and bottled in prior week) – very light yellow color; nice lemon, lemon curd, mineral nose; tight, angular now, tart lemon, tart green apple palate with medium acidity and good structure; medium-plus finish 91-92 pts. (91 pts.)

Le P’tit Paysan wines (Coastview 2nd label)

Le P’tit Paysan, with label art by Ian’s brother, is essentially Coastview’s second label. Ian reported that the rosé, which is selling at local supermarkets for about $12, is moving so well that they’re nearly out of it. It reminded me strongly of a good Bordeaux rosé. The meritage was actually made for John by Dave Coventry, prior to Ian and John becoming partners.

  • 2009 Le P’tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Bright orange pink color; nose reminiscent of a Bordeaux rosé, with herbaceous tart red fruit; tart cherry, herbaceous, tart red fruit, green herb palate with some body and good acidity; medium finish (blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a small amount of Cabernet Franc) (88 pts.)
  • 2005 Le P’tit Paysan Meritage Coastview Vineyards – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Dark red violet color; herbaceous, cassis nose; cassis, cedar, herbaceous palate with balance; medium finish 87+ pts. (87 pts.)

Coastview Syrahs

We ended by sampling both vintages of Syrah that Ian has made for this project. Both are impressive now, and will likely be even tastier with some secondary and tertiary characteristics developing over the next four to five years. The fruit comes from Coastview’s North Block–other producers, like Big Basin, Morgan and Savannah-Chanelle, receive the rest of Coastview’s Syrah. The ’07 is showing a sense of pepper, which I love on Syrah. The ’08 was only just bottled, but already exhibits a complex palate, including lavender and lots of poise and focus. Nice job!

view toward the ocean

  • 2007 Coastview Vineyard Syrah North Block – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey
    Deep red violet color; red plum, Satsuma plum, red berry, raspberry cordial nose; tasty, berry, ripe plum, Satsuma plum, black fruit palate with a touch of green herb and a sense of pepper, needs two-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (25% whole cluster) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Coastview Vineyard Syrah North Block – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey
    Pre-release (and bottled in the previous week) – deep purple red violet color; nice tart plum, berry, black cherry, currant nose; rich, focused, poised, Satsuma plum, berry, black raspberry, lavender palate, needs 2 to 3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (25% whole cluster, 20% new French oak) (92 pts.)

Here’s Ian on his plans for future planting and “sculpting” at Coastview:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. N. LEDUC permalink
    August 6, 2010 10:15 pm

    Thank you for bringing to attention a rising winemaker and vineyard that are producing wines you believe are worthy of attention. With so many producers locally, and in the world, it’s always good to hear positive feedback about those that are lesser known and not in wide distribution. I will keep an eye out for these wines in the future.

  2. Kathleen and Gus permalink
    January 29, 2011 6:52 am

    Dear Ian —we have read and listened to this site and your narratives with great interest. Kathleen & Gus

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