2018 Ghostwriter Amaya Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir
Many California wineries reference Burgundy, talk about balance, complain about high alcohol levels, discuss using old oak, and mention trying to harvest early. I have never heard my friend Kenny, owner and winemaker of Ghostwriter (and Folk Machine), mention any of those things.
Because he doesn’t need to – this wine is balanced, low in alcohol, and speaks to the terroir instead of new oak. It’s vibrantly fresh, layered, and complex all at the same time. I have said it before, and I still firmly believe that these are some of the best Pinot Noirs being produced in California.
I am not the only one with this belief. I can still remember the time Ducan Arnot — winner of the San Francisco Chronicle winemaker of the year award (very prestigious in California) — told me he always orders Ghostwriter Pinots in restaurants because they are so underpriced. Or, when I dined at Chez Panisse, how the Master Sommelier told me he doesn’t put Ghostwriter Pinots on the list – they are only for special clients who will understand.
I do think they are for everyone, and I think you understand these Pinot Noirs. But I do have to report that there is a very short supply. This will probably be your only chance to purchase.
Amaya Ridge sits up at 1,100 feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here, a husband and wife caught the wine bug in the 1960s and planted an incredibly steep vineyard. They hand-made wine together from this single vineyard for many years but now find themselves unable to keep it up – their age, and the steepness of the vineyard. Kenny found them, and their vineyard in 2011. By then the vineyard, entirely planted to Calera clone, had gone fallow. He took over farming two years ago and is in the process of nursing the vines back to health via dry farming. The results are dramatic.
Amaya is simply fantastic. When drinking it, the thought that went through my head was, “this is exactly how domestic Pinot Noir should taste.” Here the fruit is darker, with a full and rich red berry fruit, Pinot spice, structure through the mid-palate and then a very, very vibrant finish. It was just so easy to drink, I polished off the whole bottle without even thinking about it. This wine, to me, definitely proves that California can make great Pinot Noir – Pinot that shows restrained New World ripeness, and is complex, layered, vibrant and seamless. Perfect to drink now and age-worthy for at least a decade.
Though Kenny and I are now good friends, we once had an argument.
Standing in his flooded home, lacking drywall and flooring because of a burst pipe, I told Kenny to raise the price of his Pinots. I “appraise” a lot of wine – it’s my job, in a way. It’s pretty clear to me that these Ghostwriters are worth $60 to $70 a bottle. It was also pretty clear that Kenny and his family could use the cash.
He refused, hotly retorting, “I want people like me, in my situation, to be able to drink my wine.” The price is what it is, which is dramatically under the value of the wine inside the bottle.
Please love it like I do.