Dragonette Cellars is a newcomer on the Santa Barbara wine scene, and a good one. The winery was founded in 2005 by the wine loving brothers John and Steve Dragonette and Brandon Sparks-Gillis, whom they met in Los Angeles when buying wines from the store he worked in then. “We became friends, and soon we realized we shared the same passion for wines, the same ideas, and also the dream of making our own wines”, Brandon says.
All good things are three, so the trio joined forces and worked hard to establish their own label. Brandon, who had a history in several Santa Barbara County wineries, again took the role as intern at several wineries, among them Sine Qua Non, to add knowledge and experience.
Dragonette Cellars have their own small winery in Lompoc, just as so many other small handcraft wineries in the region. They follow the traditional methods in making their wines, either whole cluster or fully destemmed grapes, a few days of cold soak, then fermentation with the native yeast in small, around one ton open bins, utilizing pigeage for gentle extraction. French oak barrels are used, and luckily, the amount of new oak is moderate.
The annual production has now reached around 3 000 cases, and that’s a level that Brandon is comfortable with. Three types of wines are made, a couple of lively wines of Sauvignon Blanc, a range of intense and seductive wines of Pinot Noir and a few wines of Rhône varietals. Focused should be at the sauvignons and pinots, that’s the real deal at Dragonette Cellars.
2010 Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc / 87 p
This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc from three single vineyards, the Vogelzang and Grassini in the inland appellation Happy Canyon and the Refugio Ranch on the slopes of Santa Ynez Mountains. The great thing about this wine is its absolute purity rather than complexity – few wines of Sauvignon Blanc are complex in the sense chardonnays or cabernets can be. Around 60 percent of the juice is slowly fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel, the rest is fermented and raised in French oak barrels, of which just a few percent are new. Therefore pure varietal flavors and freshness is the personality of this wine. As expected, the nose is intense and highly aromatic with nuances of green apples, gooseberries and citrus, and there’s also a fine floral note here. On the palate, it is light to medium bodied, totally dry with a lively acidity that almost give the taste a tannic structure, and as the nose, it’s very aromatic.
It’s a lovely wine to drink as a refreshing aperitif, or to be served to lighter dishes of steamed or seared white fish with lemon juice and olive oil, or greens or fresh herbs. Serve it at around 10-12 degrees Celsius, not more chilled that that.
Drink it 2011-2015
2010 Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc / 89 p
Again, one hundred percent Sauvignon Blanc, and again grapes are sourced from Vogelzang Vineyard and Grassini Vineyard in Happy Canyon of Santa Ynez Valley. The difference is that this cuvée is the top selection of grapes from the best blocks in these vineyards, also the vinification is different. The juice is fermented in 225 and 500 liter French oak barrels, just some new, and after malolaktisk fermentation the wines has been kept on the fine lees for around ten to eleven months to gain some weight and texture.
Not surprisingly, this wine is richer and broader with more depths and length. Still it is as intense and aromatic as the Santa Ynez Valley version, however much more polished and actually, yes, complex. It’s not really Bordeaux like, it too rich and fruit forward for that, but it’s more in that direction than in any other. The oak has given the wine a certain vanilla flavor and viscosity, but this is by no means a wine where the oak is overly obvious. If the regular bottling should be drunk young and slightly chilled, this one can med poured at 10-14 degrees Celsius to deliver more of its richness, and be kept in the cellar for a number of years. Try this wine with seared scallops, grilled lobster or not too spicy Thai food.
Drink it 2011-2018