I am so excited to finally get a sip of Riverbench — a winery out of Santa Maria, California I’ve heard so much about but had yet to taste. Even if you’re not familiar with the winery itself, you may recognize the name, as many iconic wineries have sourced grapes from this little piece of Santa Barbara County since the vineyard was established in 1973. The Riverbench Vineyard consists of 115 acres of Pinot Noir and 15 acres of Chardonnay. The team recently planted a few acres of Pinot Meunier, which they hope to have ready to play with this year.
The Merrill family have been in the Californian agricultural realm for 8 generations. It was seventh generation Dana Merrill who began raising wine grapes in 1981 and founded the family’s vineyard management group, Mesa Vineyard Management, in 1989. From then until now, the Merrills have worked with some prestigious vineyards and big-name winemakers. It wasn’t until 2002 that Dana purchased Pomar Junction Vineyard on Templeton’s South El Pomar Road in Paso Robles. The family spent six years transitioning the 40-acre vineyard to SIP Certified standards and renovating the property’s lone building into the current tasting room. While the family continues to source grapes from other regions, their estate line — which celebrated a premier vintage in 2011 — is solely focused on what their piece of Paso does best: Rhone and Bordeaux varietals.
Chamisal Vineyard is a winery I’d never heard of until I started this SIP Certified series. According to the winery, Chamisal Vineyard’s 85-acre Chamisal property is the first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley in 1973. Today it’s planted to the California classics, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as Rhone varietals Grenache and Syrah, and a small block of Pinot Gris.
I first came into contact with Wrath Wines during a Pinot Noir-focused tasting in SF. I was immediately drawn to the combination of elegance and rusticity they were able to capture into their wines. Indeed, working with fruit from Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highland AVA means working with some seriously structured fruit — even Pinot Noirs can be a bit harsh. Not so here.
I was delighted to find them in my package of SIP Certified wines and have the chance to dive deep into the varietal that (I think) they do so well.
This week I’m focusing on wines that are Sustainable In Practice (SIP) Certified. According to the non-profit organization, SIP Certified is a rigorous sustainable vineyard and winery certification. To be certified a vineyard or winery must be committed to “standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency, and absence of conflict of interest.”
The rigorousness of the program has earned it the reputation of being the gold standard for sustainable certification. Let’s learn a bit more…