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Native9 is James Ontiveros’s own label, the name signifying that he is the ninth generation of farmers in California. The Pinot Noir is from James’s family's 8-acre Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard which he manages, located at 6525 Dominion Rd, in Santa Maria. The vineyard, which was planted in 1997 and 1998, is part of his family's 400-acre property. The vineyard contains four different rootstocks and eight different Pinot Noir clones. Seven wineries buy about 75% of the grapes. An additional 21 acres was planted in 2009 including heritage clones such as Mt. Eden and Swan from the nearby Byron property. All plantings are organically farmed, and are small, compact vines.
Foxen winemaker Bill Wathen made the first Native9 in 2002, but that vintage and the next were not released commercially. The inaugural 2004 vintage was well received for its moderately intense flavors of cherries, berries and loamy earth. Production remains about 160 cases annually. Paul Wilkins, a college friend at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and former assistant winemaker at Alban Vineyard in Edna Valley, is the current winemaker.
One distinguishing feature of Native9 Pinot Noir is that it is 100% whole cluster. James wants to make a wine that is different from so many other Pinot Noirs in the marketplace. That, combined with his organicfarming of small, compact vines, creates a distinctive wine.
James often pours at the major Pinot Noir festivals. He also a partner with winemaker Paul Wilkins in Alta Maria (Pinot Noir and Syrah from purchased fruit) as well as the director of sales and marketing at Bien Nacido Vineyards. Native 9 is sold primarily through a mailing list.
2009 Native 9 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc.. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Plenty of oak shows up on the nose which features dark red and black fruits and spice. Velvety and plush on the palate with a plush core of sweet-edged fruit, finishing with a little heat. Good. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »
2009 Native9 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $60. This 8-acre vineyard was hand planted by James Ontiveros and named after the generations that came before him. His plantings were done between 1997 and 2000 (variety of clones and rootstocks). James is the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Miller family properties including Bien Nacido Vineyard. The winemaker is Paul Wilkins. I don’t know the proportion in this wine, but I know James uses a very high percentage of whole cluster. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red berries, spice, herbs and mocha jump out of the glass. Easy going and flat-out delicious, boasting a powerful core of deep red cherry and berry fruit sheathed in healthy, ripe tannins, but retaining admirable finesse. Remarkable staying power on the aromatic finish. This wine makes quite an impression. Approachable now, but should easily last another 7 to 10 years. Reviewed October 26, 2012 ARTICLE »
2008 Native9 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $60. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Dark cherry and berry perfume with striking Moroccan spice and an underlying green, stemmy note. A medium-bodied mix of cherries and berries taking on more intensity over time in the glass and assuming a savory herbal tone. I suspect the whole cluster fermentation contributes the attractive spice elements to this wine as well as the unattractive green component. Tasted later in the day with dinner, the wine really sang with the food. Tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the green edge to the aromas and flavors was still evident. Time will tell whether this will change. Good. Reviewed March 2, 2011 ARTICLE »
2005 Native9 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $NA. Rancho Ontiveros overlooks Rancho Tepusquet, the third land grant the James Ontiveros family settled over 130 years ago. Father Mark and James Ontiveros tend the vines. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Secondary bouquet of underbrush, cinder box, old book, cigar and sherry. Bold, very ripe, sweet dark plum and blackberry flavors losing out to dominant fine-grain tannins. A bit of acid shows up on the slightly tart finish. A well-aged wine that should be drunk now. Reviewed October 26, 2012 ARTICLE »
2005 Native9 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
$52. · I have tasted the 2004 and 2005 vintages several times and the wines always leave a smile on my face. Like a boysenberry cobbler just out of the oven, this wine alerts your taste buds. A ripe style with fruit to spare, it is long and plush with coating tannins. The addition of stems, which varies with the vintage, gives the wine structure and interest. Reviewed July 30, 2007 ARTICLE »
2004 Native9 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $52. · Dark purple in color. Deep, dark fruits including plums and raisin and even a touch of port anchor this wine’s aromatic profile.. Healthy and robust in structure with flashy, plush fruit and ripe flavors veering toward root beer and port. The prodigious fruit and velveteen texture will be a crowd pleasure. This is the darker side of Pinot but I like it. One for early drinking as the lower acidity may not support the fruit over the long term. Reviewed March 3, 2008 ARTICLE »