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Tasting the Story in Every Sip: Unveiling the 2021 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Signal Ridge Vineyards

There's magic in winemaking, especially when the soil, climate, and human touch come together to transform grapes into liquid poetry. At Signal Ridge Vineyards (SRV) in a remote spot in Mendocino Ridge, California, the wild landscapes shape wines that aren't just amazing but are also a tribute to the raw beauty of their birthplace. Let's dive into the world of Signal Ridge Vineyards through the story of their exceptional 2021 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Each bottle tells a tale of the journey from discovering the vineyard to making the wine and celebrating another vintage.

Sunset at SRV
SRV Sunset | Courtesy of Signal Ridge | Photo by Clay McLachlan

From Vision to Vines

The story behind Signal Ridge Vineyards is as bold as it is inspiring. Roger Scommegna, a daring television producer and real estate tycoon, wasn't content with ordinary success; he hungered for a challenge that resonated with his deep love for wine. In 1999, his search for the ideal vineyard site led him to the rugged peaks of the Mendocino Ridge, where every breath of the crisp, high-altitude air whispered promises of a terroir so exceptional it begged to be harnessed. Over twenty-five years of dedication and refinement, Roger meticulously crafted and perfected the vineyard, reaching its pinnacle with the 2021 vintage—a testament to its growth and excellence.

Taste the Altitude - Understanding the Terroir at Signal Ridge

Speaking with owner Roger reveals the tough decision to establish roots in this elevated location, a choice that echoes his determined spirit. The interaction between the landscape, climate, and soil gives the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay their distinct character. Situated at a remarkable altitude of 2,742 feet, higher than any site in all of Mendocino, Sonoma, and Napa, the vines at Signal Ridge face a constant challenge from the elements, shaping their flavor profile. The marine soils, reminiscent of the ancient oceans that once covered these peaks, add a mineral-rich quality that blends with the high-altitude atmosphere, creating a range of aromas and flavors that are concentrated and complex. High-altitude viticulture isn't for the faint-hearted, and that's what makes it remarkable. The ruggedness of the terrain is reflected in the wine's character, a testament to the struggles and triumphs of its cultivation. These vines weren't planted for easy yields; they were nurtured to exceed expectations, evident in every sip of these wines. 

A view of SRV
Elevation, The Mendocino Ridge | Courtesy of Signal Ridge | Photo by Clay McLachlan

Nurturing Resilience in Every Cluster

Joanna Wells, the winemaker at SRV, lead me through techniques aimed at capturing the purest essence of the wine. She explained how six different clonal varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (classic Burgundian Dijon clones and California Heritage clones) contribute to a range of flavors. Each variety brings its unique character, adding diversity that enhances the complexity of the final wine. Organic farming on steep slopes creates wines with the perfect balance of acidity, flavor, texture, and ripeness leading to wines that can evolve in the bottle for years to come. 

Signal Ridge's dedication to environmental responsibility drove the adoption of dry farming, a method that conserves vital resources and instills resilience in the vines. This toughness yields grapes with distinctive traits, including natural acidity concentrated flavors, and a pronounced mineral essence. The challenges encountered serve as a foundation for strength, reflected in the 2021 release—refined, elegant, and embodying the unwavering spirit of its place. 

The Art of Winemaking at Signal Ridge

The winemaking process at Signal Ridge begins with utmost respect for the fruit. From fermentation in concrete and large wood vessels to aging in neutral, old French oak barrels, every step is carefully executed to reveal the wine's true character. Joanna's approach emphasizes minimal intervention, allowing the vintage to shine through. It's about letting the fruit speak for itself rather than imposing upon it, including the use of ambient yeasts. The result is an authentic wine with noticeable energy. 

Roger and Joanna Sorting Pinot Noir in the winery
Roger and Joanna Sorting | Courtesy of Signal Ridge | Photo by Clay McLachlan

The Charm of Every Element in the 2021 Vintage

Diving deep into the 2021 season, we saw cool, steady weather that pumped new life into the vines. It was a year without the blazing heat of California, creating a peaceful atmosphere for the fruit to flourish at a slow and steady pace. This slow pace allowed for the development of aroma and flavor compounds while the bunches achieved full phenolic ripeness (which also allowed Joanna to incorporate whole bunches in the Pinot Noir ferment). The result was a blend of old-world charm in the fragrant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, capturing the essence of Signal Ridge.

The wine's aroma, flavor, and texture beautifully mirror the landscape. The Pinot Noir, with its mountain herb notes and hint of the Redwood Forest, embodies the wild beauty of its origin. As for the Chardonnay, it has mouth-watering acidity with a touch of coastal winds, adding minerality, complexity, and depth. Each bottle, available in limited quantities, reflects a consistency only achievable through small-batch winemaking.

A bottle of SRV Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir, Bottle on Side | Courtesy of Signal Ridge | Photo by Clay McLachlan

The Taste of a Dream Realized

Signal Ridge Vineyards is renowned for its exceptional quality in the world of fine wines. The 2021 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay exemplify the vineyard's dedication to terroir and tradition, garnering praise from leading wine critics. In fact, a review in Decanter magazine calls it, “one to watch.” A visit to Signal Ridge through the wine glass offers more than just a tasting; it provides a direct connection to the essence of the mountain encapsulated in each bottle. This latest release reflects the vineyard's vision, inviting all to savor its distinctiveness and excellence.

Nicole’s Personal Tasting Notes:

Signal Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay 2021:

The Chardonnay is well balanced between ripe citrus notes of Meyer lemon, stone fruits like nectarine and yellow peach, and a touch of yogurt, marzipan, and crushed shells. A mouth-coating creamy texture rests on the mid-palate and there is incredible tension that I tend to find in the most age-worthy white Burgundy wines. The way the acid dances against the ripeness is fantastic. 

Single Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir 2021:

This Pinot Noir is incredibly generous when it comes to fruit. Ripe red cherry, strawberry, dried rose, smoke, and warm baking spices are wrapped up in a bow of earth. The fresh acidity lifts the fruit out of the glass, and each sip is reminiscent of the first day of Fall. Perfect harmony and balance exist between the concentration of fruit, medium (+) acidity, and the ripe, fine-grained tannins. 

To receive 25% off your order of the 2021 vintage, click here and use code GRAPECHIC25. Want to be updated on new limited releases? Stay in the know!

Joanna tending the vines at SRV
Joanna at SRV | Courtesy of Signal Ridge | Photo by Clay McLachlan

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