I have watched Justin Willett interact with vignerons in the Côte d’Or and noticed his intense concentration when discussing principles of vineyard care, pruning, yields, harvest, fermentation, élevage, bottling and vintage characteristics. A small notebook in one hand and a glass with minute remnants of the previous tasting in the other, he brings it to his nose a final time to extract one more assessment of the principles just discussed and the resulting wine. You can’t distract his focus.
Justin established Tyler with its first release in 2005 and he 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.”
Production of the Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay and Pinot Noir usually land under 200 cases each as this vineyard is highly sought after—there just isn’t enough fruit to go around. Planted in 1971 “S&B” has now proved that coastal Santa Ynez Valley is a complete location for varietals that thrive in a cool climate. Further, each one of those vines is a foundation stake in the creation of the Sta Rita Hills AVA.
From Justin on the 2014 vintage:
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.
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.
Tyler is dedicated to producing wines of delicacy and balance, where structure and nuance are favored above all else.