Riverbench Vineyard was established in 1973 as one of the first vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, the second oldest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the United States. For decades since then, some of the most renowned wineries have purchased our fruit for their wines. In 2006, we began producing our own wines in limited quantities, with many available exclusively through our two tastings rooms in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, California.
The Estate Pinot Noir is our flagship wine, a way to really showcase Riverbench Vineyard. Each year, we carefully select the clones and barrel lots that will make up this bottling so that it combines the best qualities of all different parts of the property.
Our winery is dedicated to crafting a small portfolio of wines from one remarkable vineyard. For more than 30 years, our Riverbench Vineyard has been recognized for producing world-class Pinot Noir from California’s Santa Maria Valley, where cool ocean breezes and benchland soils nurture the varietal’s elegant flavors and nuances. We enhance these natural qualities through fermentation and 11 months of aging in French oak barrels, resulting in a wine of uncommon character and dimension.
2015 Riverbench Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
The 2015 harvest was rather early for the Santa Maria Valley, beginning on August 3. The growing temperatures varied greatly throughout the year with some very warm months and rather cool ones as well. In general, the 2015 vintage was a lighter crop in comparison to many years but it made up for it in quality. The clusters were made up of small firm berries. The harvest crews worked diligently through the cool nights bringing in the year’s crop.
This medium bodied Pinot Noir has a deep purple color, and the palate boasts juicy flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and our signature Riverbench smoke and clove.
After ten months in barrel to develop amazing complexity and deliciousness, the wine is fresh and bright, and very typical for the Santa Maria Valley. Try it with duck breast with pear relish or anything that involves mushrooms.
2016 Riverbench Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
92 Points, Wine Enthusiast
The palate boasts juicy red fruit flavors that meld nicely with a hint of our signature Riverbench smoke and clove. Try it with duck breast with pear relish or anything that involves mushrooms.
The 2016 vintage was a return to our historical cool spring and moderate summer temperatures. Pinot Noir harvest began in mid-August and continued through September. Balanced flavors and physiological ripeness occurred at higher Brix than we have had for the last several vintages, and the cooler temperatures allowed for longer hang time. Quality and character is absolutely beautiful.
Winery: Riverbench Vineyard & Winery
Riverbench Vineyard was established in 1973, when the first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes were planted on the property. For years since then, some of the most renowned wineries have purchased Riverbench fruit for their wines. In 2004, they began producing their own wines in limited quantities, with many available exclusively through their tasting rooms in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, California.
Riverbench is dedicated to crafting a small portfolio of wines from one remarkable vineyard, where cool ocean breezes nurture the varietals’ luscious tropical fruit flavors. These natural qualities are enhanced through fermentation and aging in French oak barrels, resulting in a wine of uncommon character and dimension. All Riverbench wines are made solely from grapes cultivated on their very own property.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY
FedEx Ground: Thursday, November 29th - Monday, December 3rd
The background: Okay, so I received the 2016 Pinot Noir just in time, coincidentally, for our little home winemaking harvest party. On the plus side, that meant it was going to get the benefit of not just my review, but I could also share the consensus of the group. On the downside, this meant it was going to be up against some pretty steep competition, including a 1994 Hartford Court Pinot (one of the best vintages in 25 years, as I heard it.) The silver lining in that is that the dinner we’d planned around the 1994 pinot (lamb primarily) was also a really nice companion to this wine.
We poured about two thirds into the decanter, and tried it initially right out of the bottle.
Nice light burgundy color. Initial reactions were: initial note of apparent sweetness, and a bit of peat or smoke. Very gentle, no tartness, but the low acid gave it a short finish.
Then we let it sit for about half an hour in the decanter, upon which the primary taste was red cherry. That apparent sweetness didn’t let up, but the finish remained a bit short.
By the end of the night (~3 hours later), it opened up. Apparent sweetness in the mid-palette, still lots of red cherry, some dried orange peel, a hint of vanilla and spice from the oak. Not shabby.
And as it happens, I’ve got a very expensive pH meter and other winemaking bits and bobs that I look for any opportunity to justify having bought, so we pulled it out. I got 3.75 pH and 14.7% alcohol (though the alcohol measurement is more for fun than accuracy. It’s good enough to test if you’ve fortified your port-style wine enough, I am not going to use it to argue with the taxman. However, that said, wineries are allowed a certain degree of leeway in what they list the ABV at, and a little bird told me best marketing practice is to go with the lowest you can get away with. So take that for what you will.) It’s weird to see that my pH reading was different, because the pH meter is accurate to within +/- .02, and I’d just calibrated it. I have no explanation for that.
Final verdict: Tasty. Those red cherries are unmissable, which is fun. A little flabbier than my preference. The good news: this wine is ready to drink now. The bad news: do not buy this wine to stick it in your cellar for the long haul. (Maybe that’s good news in disguise?) An interesting point of reference against the older wine, with its pH of 3.55 or so, is that it still tasted younger than the 2016. On the other hand, we had to wait 20 years for it to hit its peak, and this is ready to go now!
I’m wondering if I maybe got something slightly different that the one on offer, because my 2016 bottle back label doesn’t quite match the write up here. It, for example, says aged 11 months in french oak, not 40% french oak.
@novium As someone that worked and managed chemical labs for many years, the 1st thought I had when I read that you have your own pH meter was: Did they standardize the pH meter before using? And was the standardizing pH buffer still within the shelf life? Note: The shelf life of standardizing pH buffer can be misleading. I’ve never seen it drift as it aged past shelf life as long as the bottle was unopened or good lab practices were used. I used past shelf life buffer as a probe soak or initial probe rinse followed by DI water. Always tested using “within shelf life” buffer to ensure product quality. Great job Novium!!
@Boatman72 yeah. I bought it about six weeks ago and have been using it and calibrating it using the buffer solutions that came with it, and rinsing it with distilled water. Even when it’s been sitting for a few days in it’s storage solution, the most I’ve seen it off the calibration mark was about .04. I’ll see if I can talk my dad into rerunning the test (the wine, like all my equipment, is up at my parent’s house) but I’d be surprised if it changed.
@W74@Winedavid49 We have two vintages in this offering, I think W74 was asking if its a split of 6 bottles of each of the 2015 and 2016. We’re joking that its 12 bottles of each based off your response. The joke is never good when you have to explain it.
This wine has great reviews on Vivino too. I’m interested, but am wondering about the drinking window on these. I have a lot of wine now and am looking for some to be around in five years or so. From the rat review above this may not be that. What do we suspect the safe window is?
I wouldn’t really worry too much about the pH issue. First off, it certainly is ‘acceptable’ that your pH meter would not read the identical pH to what is stated for a number of reasons. It could be that the winery’s pH was run by a lab a few months before bottling and that with filtering or other last minute stuff, the pH shifted. Or it could be that the pH has shifted over time in bottle. Have you been running pH’s on other wines with stated levels to see how ‘identical’ you are? My guess is that there is a variance in most if not all of them>
Second, on the higher pH issue, this does not necessarily mean that the wine will be flabby per se. You need to take into account the total acidity of the wine, plus the age of the wine, the variety, the ‘body’ of the wine, etc. My guess is that this wine would be best consumed younger rather than older, but I would not expect to this to show like a cooler Oregon Pinot, for instance.
And to add on to what others have said, this winery has been making some wonderful wines for quite some time, including a whole selection of sparkling wines! Anyone coming to the area should make the trek to visit them, either at their vineyard tasting room in the Santa Maria Valley along Foxen Canyon Road or their Funk Zone tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara.