Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Windy Oaks Estate Winery – Corralitos, California



Jim Schultze made his money in the tech industry but developed his winemaking skills in Australia and Burgundy. In 1996 Jim and his wife and Judy Schultze founded Windy Oaks Estate Winery and planted their first 3 acres of Pinot Noir on a windy ridge located at 1,000 feet overlooking the town of Corralitos and the Monterey Bay. Three years later they released their first vintage, the 1999 Pinot Noir. The following year they built a new winery, planted an acre of Chardonnay and expanded their Pinot Noir to a total of 26 acres. Grapes are also sourced from an adjacent 7 acres and a 4-acre vineyard in Aptos.
During my visit to the winery I met Jim and Judy Schultze’s son, Spencer Schultze, and while sampling the wines he told me about his enology training in the Winemaking Certification program at UC Davis and his time spent as an intern at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis. He now serves as the assistant winemaker along with Lucas Orme who also completed the Winemaking Certification program at UC Davis and works in vineyard management.
The vineyard is mostly above the fog line which protects the grapes from heat spikes during the Summer so the temperatures range from the 70s during the day and drop to the 40s at night. In fact, while I was visiting there was very little blue sky as the fog was drifting in and out of the vineyards from the adjacent forest. The vineyard is planted to 115, 667, 777, 828, 2A and Pommard Clones and is farmed according to sustainable, organic principles.
The winemaking style employs the use of a basket press and is non-interventional with no additives (ie enzymes, acid) and is followed by a 4 to 6 day cold soak for optimum extraction. They use at least 50% wild yeast with most of their wines and the fermentation lasts 25-30 days. No racking is done once the wine is the 3-year-old air dried tight grained French oak barrels and they age their Pinot Noirs for 18-25 months with a high percentage of new oak (50% up to 75% in the Reserve). The modern estate winery is all gravity-driven with a state-of-the-art bottling line that permits minimal oxygen which enables the wines to go through little or no bottle shock.
The Corralitos Wine Trail
Windy Oaks Estate Winery is part of the “Corralitos Wine Trail” which was initiated by Craig Handley, proprietor of Pleasant Valley Vineyards. The wine trail is home to 4 other small family-owned wineries including Natal Vineyards, Nicholson Vineyards, Pleasant Valley Vineyards, and Alfaro Family Vineyards.
The Wines

The tasting room is located within the winery which has a large opening to a patio across from the vineyards where visitors can lounge while sampling the wines. After touring the vineyards I sampled the following Pinot Noirs:
2012 Diane’s Block Estate Pinot Noir
This is a clear, bright ruby-red wine with medium- intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of tart strawberries, cranberries; it is very savory with intense clove and pepper followed by hints of cola, earth and dried herbs. It is dry with medium tannin, medium+ acidity, medium body and a medium length finish. This was one of my favorites in the line-up so I brought a bottle home for $45.
2012 100% Wild Yeast Estate Pinot Noir
This is a clear, bright ruby-red wine with medium- intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of strawberries, cranberries with minor notes of smoke and a hint of spice. On the palate it is dry with medium- tannin, medium+ acidity, medium- body and a medium length finish. This wine sells for $55 per bottle.
2010 100% Whole Cluster Estate Pinot Noir
This is a clear, light ruby-red wine with a tinge of garnet; it has medium- intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of tart strawberries, cloves, dried herbs cloves, cola and a hint of black pepper.  It is dry with medium- tannin, medium+ acidity, medium- body and a medium length finish. This wine sells for $55 per bottle.
2011 Proprietor’s Reserve Pinot Noir
This is a clear, bright ruby-red wine with medium- intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of tart strawberries, cranberries, and black cherries. It is very savory with intense clove and pepper followed by hints of cola, earth and dried herbs. It is dry with medium tannin, medium+ acidity, medium body and a medium length finish. This is similar to the Diane’s Block, but with a lot more intense aromas and flavors. It was my favorite in the line-up so I brought a bottle home for $60.
To visit or for more information:
Windy Oaks Estate Winery
550 Hazel Dell Road
Corralitos, CA 95076
Phone: 831- 786-9463

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