We were first introduced to Winemaking Partner Paul Wilkins by Chad Melville a few years back at the Hospice de Rhone wine festival in Paso Robles. Of all of the many, many wines being poured that day, Chad strongly suggested we taste Alta Maria’s Grenache & Syrah wines. He was right! They were awesome.
The bad news though was in that particular vintage (2004 I believe), Paul only produced 1 barrel (roughly 25 cases) of Grenache & 3 barrels (roughly 75 cases) of Syrah. Nonetheless we were thankfully able to get a tiny bit of each in addition to a few cass of their red wine blend as well as a little Pinot Noir. We were absolutely thrilled & thankful.
Subsequently, we have also met Paul’s partner, superstar vineyard-ist, James Ontiveros, who is the catalyst for getting all of the super premium grapes they now work with. In case you do not know, James is involved with vineyards such as Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills, French Camp & his own estate–Rancho Ontiveros….& we have walked the vineyards with him to get his thoughts on the hows & whys of their wines from the vineyard perspective. James is an unreal guy…..& so very knowledgeable.
Terrific grapes to work with & a very talented winemaker makes for a very interesting project. 2009 makes the 6th vintage we have been working with their wines. They have certainly delivered…and on ALL cylinders. What a discovery this has been for us!!!!
With the 2007 vintage, Paul & James split up their portfolio. Native9 (which has been labeled as such since the beginning) is a more vanguard style of Rancho Ontiveros vineyard Pinot Noir. Alta Maria is now dedicated to very elegant, classy, wonderfully ethereal Santa Barbaran grown Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & the latest addition Sauvignon Blanc. Autonom is the home for their Rhone varietal based red wines.
Each of the wines are fabulous!!!! and well worth seeking out.
Here are two of the latest releases from Autonom, with winemaking partner, Paul Wilkins’ notes included. I always find it is interesting to hear the voice behind the genius, especially on this quality level.
2009 Red Cuvee
“From aspects of my past comes this broad, unsparing autonomous creation. In my mind, it stands alone amongst other wines I make. It can never be common, for each vintage shapes it uniquely.”
Varietals: 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache
Vineyards: 50% Laetitia, 20% Minetti, 30% Nielson. 25% Stem Inclusion, wild yeast fermented…aged in 100% New French Oak for 32 Months. 1000 bottles produced (80 something cases)
2009 Law of Return Grenache
Originally planted in 1964, the oldest wine grape vineyard in Santa Barbara County, Uriel J. Nielson, lies in the warmer, eastern most section of the Santa Maria Valley.
”This wine returns me to my origins. It speaks to me of nuance, history and experience like none other. It is home for me, it is where I started, but it is also where I hope to end.”
Varietals: 95% Grenache, 5% Syrah
Vineyards: 95% Uriel J. Nielson, 5% Minetti (located in the Tepusquet Canyon, two and a half miles north of the cooler Santa Maria Valley, this is a vineyard I farm myself)
25% Stem Inclusion, wild yeast fermented, aged in 100% New French Oak for 32 Months. 1000 bottles made