Justin Willett, an accomplished man on the golf course through college and beyond, started Tyler in 2005. Perhaps the only downside to that 10-year winery anniversary and complete dedication to his craft would be a few stokes on his handicap. If that hasn’t happened then we are talking superhuman attributes people. With many years of vineyard management allotted before starting Tyler and numerous trips around the Côte d’Or interacting with vignerons, Justin has compiled the knowledge needed to express the potential of the vineyards he harvests. Justin says it best:
“Our focus is exclusively on exceptional vineyard sites throughout the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley within Santa Barbara County, and feel pinot noir and chardonnay are the best mediums to express each vineyard site. Within these two appellations, the unique combination of marine-based soils, transverse ranges and valleys, and cool ocean influence make this a truly wonderful place for growing pinot noir and chardonnay.”
After tasting his 2013 release these notes came in from highly respected writer Antonio Galloni, “Willett has done a terrific job, especially over the last few years, in getting consistently high quality fruit. Take my word for it; that is much harder than it looks.”
Every year, the number one objective during harvest is the same – to catch the fruit at the optimal point of balance. This means carefully assessing the grapes acidity, flavors, texture, aromatics, pH, & sugar along with the weather, vine, and fruit health. In considering each of these factors, both alone and together, I then make my picking decisions.
The vintage of 2014 was like nothing I’ve ever seen – we began the year with continued drought conditions, coupled with the large crop of 2013, exceptionally warm winter conditions and very little spring frost. This combination of factors motivated the vines to wake up and begin their growing season 4-6 weeks ahead of normal. The only real rain event I can remember was a solid storm that passed through just as bud break started. Serendipitous timing, which helped the vines grow evenly and flush the soils and roots a bit..
We continued to see warm spring and summer temperatures with much higher relative humidity than we are used to. This relentless consistency of heat resulted in a very early vintage, which, here at Tyler, started on August 6th! Some may have perceived my decision to begin the vintage so early as premature, but I was noticing the freshness leaving the berries earlier than normal, which I attribute to the warm weather and lack of rain. I couldn’t be happier with my decision!The resulting wines are exceptionally elegant and have a long life ahead of them. This is not a vintage solely focused on power, but of grace and sophistication.