Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery
Like Alfaro, Windy Oaks is located in the tiny hamlet of Corralitos in the southwestern corner of the Santa Cruz
Mountains AVA. The proximity of Corralitos to the Pacific Ocean makes it ideal for winegrowing. The summers
are dry and warm with foggy mornings and the winters are cool and moist with annual rainfall between 12 and
30 inches. Large temperature swings are not unusual, with 90º days followed by 50º nights. The growing
season here is among the longest of any viticultural region in California, with bud break in February and
harvest in some vintages extending all the way into the first days of November.
Jim and Judy Schultze left the corporate world behind and used their many years of interest and experience in
artisan winemaking to create Windy Oaks Estate beginning in 1996. 18 acres are planted to Pinot Noir
(including 1 acre of a special Burgundian clone) and 1 acre to Chardonnay at 900 feet on a ridge overlooking
the town of Corralitos and the Monterey Bay beyond.
Viticulture and winemaking here is very much Burgundian-themed. The Schultze Family Vineyard is farmed
according to sustainable and organic principles with hand-tending of all the vines which are directly monitored
for water status. The site is extraordinary for growing the Burgundian varieties, yielding physiologically ripe
grapes without high sugars but with high natural acidity. The planted Pinot Noir clones are Dijon 115, 667, 777
and 828, Pommard, and 2A.
Winemaking is non-interventional and natural with no additives except yeast (most fermentations are 50%
indigenous and 50% inoculated). No racking is done once the wines are in barrel. The Schultzes travel yearly
to Burgundy to meet with coopers. They use 3-year-old air-dried tight-grained French oak barrels and age their
Pinot Noirs for 18 to 27 months using a relatively high percentage of new oak (50% up to 75%). The wines are
neither fined nor filtered. The estate winery is quite modern with a basket press and a bottling line that employs
minimal oxygen uptake insuring that the wines go through little or no bottling shock. Jim is experimenting with
oak tank fermentation, 100% indigenous yeast fermentation, and 100% whole cluster fermentation. Special
limited bottlings of Pinot Noir have been released employing these innovative techniques. The attention to
detail throughout the winemaking process and meticulous care of the vineyard have produced extraordinary
wines at Windy Oaks.
2007 Windy Oaks Estate Cuvée Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
360 cases, $38. A blend of clones from the estate vineyard. Aged 16 months in 55% new French oak.
nose is full of interest with scents of juicy cherries, spice, graham, herbs, oak and a hint of good funkiness. A
whiff of alcohol peaks out. Earth-kissed dark red cherry and berry fruit flavors are on the light side but
pleasing. Very polished and smooth with supple tannins creating some charming elegance. Decent (+).
2007 Windy Oaks Estate One Acre Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
cases, $38. Sampled with lunch at the winery. This proved to be the top Chardonnay tasted during my week in
the Santa Cruz Mountains. Barrel aged 18 months in 33% new French oak.
Bright, crisp and fresh with enough
white stone and tropical fruit flavor to thoroughly satisfy. Barrel fermentation has contributed complimentary
notes of butter, spice and vanillin. A little minerality creeps in on the finish. I have called this wine “a Kistlerkiller”
in the past and I am sticking to my claim. Very good.
2007 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release 100% Whole Cluster Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $55. Selection of 4 to 6 whole cluster barrels. Aged 21 months in 50%
new French oak.
The fruit is darker-toned in this wine and more intense. Scents of plums and berries, oak
toast, spice, and a little fecundity lead to a full palate of loamy black cherry and black raspberry fruit with
underpinnings of dark chocolate and grilled meat. Perhaps “down and dirty” is a good descriptive. The tannins
are fine-grained and dry, the oak is nicely partnered with the fruit, and the wine has the polished sensuality that
drives Pinot lovers crazy. Very good.
2006 Windy Oaks Estate Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 345 cases, $60. Primarily
sourced from the original 3-acre block of the vineyard. Aged 22 months in 80%
new French oak.
The nose is quite refined with attractive cherry and berry
aromas with a touch of oak, green herbs and barnyard. On the palate the wine is
strikingly soft and smooth, refined and seamless, with discreetly concentrated
fruit encased in caressing tannins. Flavors of currants, baking spice and savory
herbs add interest. Very good.
2005 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Burgundian Clones Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 40 cases, $95. This special half-acre block is tended
exclusively by Jim. The clone, a rarely propagated French Pinot Noir clone, is not available in the
United States. Aged 27 months in 100% new French oak. I have drank both the 2004 and 2005
versions of this wine and found both to be stunning. I do not have specific tasting notes since I enjoyed
the wines with special friends at dinners. I do have fond memories of both wines, however, and can
only say they rival the best Burgundies I have ever drank. As good as the other Windy Oaks Pinot Noirs are,
this bottling is a step above, a tour de force.
Windy Oaks Estate wines are sold primarily through the winery’s Wine Group.
The Limited Releases such as the Proprietor’s Reserve, Special Burgundian
Clone and One-Acre Chardonnay are only available to Wine Group members.
Since production is small (2,000 cases of Pinot Noir), the Wine Group has been
closed since 2007 (a waiting list is now in place), but an Early Release List
allows you to buy most new releases before their offering to the general public.
Some wines are sold on the website subject to availability. Visit the website at
www.windyoaksestate.com for more information. Special events and open
houses are held periodically at the winery for dedicated customers and
occasionally the public. 831-786-WINE.