Thursday, June 30, 2016



by Fred Swan

Kurt Amman, GM of Melville winery in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, leans down to show me their new under-vine weeder. Not every winery tour begins this way. But Melville is serious about organic growing and, especially, about avoiding stuff like Round-Up. Cover crop is necessary to do organic right in this sandy soil. The new machine makes that easier to manage.

Later, as we walk toward the winery, Amman says simply, “We grow all our flavors.” We grow all our flavors. Melville wines are about purity. There is only stainless steel or neutral oak—genuinely neutral, eight-to-twelve years old. There’s no manipulation either. It’s all about the grapes and, occasionally, dry stems.

Melville wines tell you about the vineyard and the vintage. They express the Sta. Rita Hills AVA clearly and without artifice. And they tell you to buy them. Because they are really, really good wines and excellent values too.

The winery and its estate vineyards are located at about the mid-point of Hwy 246 as it passes through the northern part of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The estate vineyards aren’t quite contiguous, divided by Babcock. Some blocks, even if side-by-side, show remarkably divergent characteristics due to varying altitudes, soils and facings. Sta. Rita Hills is complex like that. So, too, these wines.
Not just pure and complex, the wines seem effortless. Comfortable in their own skin, beautiful without makeup. And they go down that way, undemanding and easy to enjoy but with plenty of depth if you pay attention.

Here are our reviews:
2013 Melville Chardonnay Estate Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills

2013 Melville Pinot Noir Estate Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills

2013 Melville Syrah Estate Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills

2014 Melville Pinot Noir Block M Sta. Rita Hills

2014 Melville Pinot Noir Terraces Sta. Rita Hills

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