J. Wilkes Pinot Noir: This winery has a sad, happy story: original creator and namesake Jeff Wilkes started his business in 2001 after years of working for Bien Nacido Vineyards, but Jeff unfortunately passed away in 2010. Central Coast Wine Services decided to keep the brand alive in his honor, with his assistant Vidal Perez taking over as winemaker.

The happy part is the wines are doing fine under Perez’s watchful eye, especially this flagship pinot noir that captures the best of Santa Maria fruit, always a bit more restrained than that found in its southern “cousin” Sta. Rita Hills. So expect cranberry, rhubarb, plum, and cedar notes in what J. Wilkes says “is the best of Santa Maria Valley at a low price point.” And at $26, that’s not just ad blather.

See jwilkes.com.


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