Follow The Prince
twitter icon rss icon

Brewer-Clifton

Owner(s) Greg Brewer, Steve Clifton
Web site www.brewerclifton.com
 
Link to this site
Brewer-Clifton

The Brewer-Clifton label represents the partnership of two outstanding winemakers, Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton. Clifton developed a passion for winemaking while working as a buyer for a restaurant in San Diego in the late 1980s. He moved to Santa Barbara in 1991, staying with a family friend and working as a cellar rat in a number of Santa Barbara County wineries. He moved up the winemaking chain quickly, first becoming assistant winemaker at Rancho Sisquoc Winery, followed by a stint as winemaker at Beckman Vineyards. He hooked up with another young winemaker, Greg Brewer, who became the winemaker at Melville Vineyards and Winery when it was formed in 1997. Brewer’s originally came into wine from an academic background, working as a French literature professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The pair decided to dedicate their new label to single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at a time (1996) when many Santa Barbara wineries were concentrating on varieties blended from multiple sources. They started with their combined meager savings, without assistance from family or investors, and began producing their wines in the unglamorous Lompoc “Wine Ghetto.” They hit pay dirt in 2002 when Robert Parker, Jr., reviewed their wines from the 2001 vintage, and proclaimed the Brewer-Clifton wines to be “the single greatest revelation of my 2001 tastings.”

The wines have always been crafted in a full-throttle, neuvo California style that Parker espouses, driven by very ripe prodigious fruit, high alcohol, and healthy tannins. Vineyard sites in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation have always been carefully chosen and emphasis has been placed on the vineyard as the ultimate determination of wine quality. A vineyard management team has been assembled under the direction of Francisco Ramirez and is currently farming Mount Carmel and Huber vineyards as well as 3-D Vineyard which they planted and developed. The winemaking regimen is aimed at extracting the maximum amount of flavor. 100% whole cluster fermentation is extended, consisting of a 7 day cold soak, followed by a 2 week fermentation, and at least 10 days of extended maceration. Barrels are sourced from the Sirugue cooperage in Nuits-St.-George. All racking is by gravity and timed with the beginning of the waning moon following Summer Solstice when the wine is most settled. The bottles are capped with an attractive red wax seal. The owners recommend driving the corkscrew through the wax into the cork, but I found cutting the wax on top with a serrated corkscrew knife much easier. The wines are sold in standard-sized Burgundy bottles which are easy to rack and handle and I applaud them for this. Brewer-Clifton has continued to evolve. With the 2007 vintage, they are offering an “appellation” blended Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which are handled in the winery identically to the other bottlings. These two wines will be bottled with Diam cork with the goal of converting all the vineyard-designate wines to Diam cork closure within a few years (Diam corks are produced with a high pressure carbon dioxide cleansing process which eliminates the risk of cork taint). Brewer-Clifton has also moved into a new winery production facility in Lompoc.

The high alcohols are generally quite well integrated in the wines. Balance is decent, but with acidity lacking in some instances. The wines are ripe, fruit-driven and concentrated, but can be linear and lacking in nuances of taste. There definitely is a consumer base for this style of Pinot Noir and Greg Brewer likes to point out that the alcohols listed on his wine labels are accurate, unlike some producers, whose wines are significantly above 14.1%, but fudge in portraying a true listing of the alcohol percentage (a 1% margin of error is allowed).

Brewer-Clifton wines are sold primarily through a mailing list. There is a spring and fall release. The wines used to be highly allocated, but with more production now (between 4,000 and 6,500 cases), availability has increased and buyers may choose among the offerings on a first come, first serve basis. The website is www.brewerclifton.com and the winery’s address is 329 North F Street in Lompoc. 803-735-9184. Greg Brewer is also the winemaker for his own label, diatom, and Melville Winery and Vineyards. Steve Clifton produces highly regarded Italian varieties under his label Palmina and is the winemaker for Tritono, an Argentine producer of Malbec.

Reviewed Wines

2010 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 1870 cases. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A little over the top ripeness wise with a nose infused with port aromas. Mid weight flavors of black cherry, cassis and raisin. Very big and sappy with some sinewy tannins and a fruit-driven finish displaying a bit of heat. Decent. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Brewer-Clifton Machado Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 290 cases, $46. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Inviting aromas of plums and dark berry jam. Delicious and majestic in the mouth with flavors that replicate the aromas. The tannins are supportive and the mouth feel is very soft and comforting. Impressive length on the fruit-filled finish. Seamless and beautifully balanced. Still great the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Like rough sex play: it can raise your interest. Reviewed February 22, 2012 ARTICLE »

2010 Brewer-Clifton 3-D Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 290 cases, $52. Second vintage from a 3-acre vineyard planted to Swan, Pommard and 667 clones in sandy loam. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Bright aromas of dark pie berries and plum, spice, slate and oak char. Medium bodied essence of darker Pinot fruits including black plums and black raspberries with a hint of cherry and Asian 5-spice. Complex and layered rather than simply fruity. Admirable crispness and smoothly textured with remarkable persistence on the finish. Very impressive composition and highly recommended. Reviewed February 22, 2012 ARTICLE »

2010 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay

13.3% alc., 750 cases, $52. · Medium burnished gold color in the glass. Aromas of apple, pear, hazelnut and butter. Soft in the mouth, finishing crisp with enticing flavors of honeyed pear, green apple, kiwi and roasted nuts. Good (+). Reviewed February 22, 2012 ARTICLE »

2010 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 882 cases, $56. Steep slopes of botella clay, diatomite and limestone planted to a quintet of Pinot Noir clones with diverse spacing. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is remarkably nuanced, offering scents of fresh raspberry coulis, fragrant tea, dark red rose petals and spice. Rich and sumptuous on the palate, replete with a delicious core of black raspberry and dark red berry fruit that is looking for attention but still encased in tannins. Very impressive mid palate statement that carries over to the big finish that is sure to get better over time. The least approachable wine in the lineup at this time, but this wine has a very bright future. Reviewed February 22, 2012 ARTICLE »

2009 Brewer-Clifton Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 270 cases, $46. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Closed for business initially, opening slowly to offer subdued cherry fruit over time. Intensely fruity on the mid palate, flush with black cherries encased in supple tannins. The wine presents a charming elegance and easy drink ability, but the flavor profile is linear and the nose lacks interest. Good. Reviewed February 22, 2012 ARTICLE »

2009 Brewer-Clifton Zotovich Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 196 cases, $46. Steve Zotovich owns this vineyard planted in the mid 1990s along Highway 246 between Melville and Foley. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Beguiling perfume of red plum sauce, forest floor, spice and the slightest oak becoming more exuberant over time in the glass. Tasty black raspberry and plum fruits with a hint of spice and vanilla. Relatively light in weight and delicate with an appealing softness and charm and some persistence on the finish. Solid the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good. Reviewed February 22, 2012 ARTICLE »

2008 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hllls Chardonnay

14.6% alc., 1,296 cases, $36, wax closure. · Straw color in the glass. Very shy and opens slowly revealing aromas of lemons, wax, and cheese. Pleasant but nondescript and rather austere with a citrusy, waxy and toasty core. The alcohol gives the wine body and creaminess, the bright acidity contributes a brisk finish. Seems like a lot of wine with little flavor (a Big Mac without the secret sauce). Decent. Reviewed August 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Brewer-Clifton Rancho Santa Rosa Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay

14.6% alc., 284 cases, $45, wax closure. Clones 4 and 76. · Straw color in the glass. The nose draws you in with aromas of apple pie, citrus fruits, buttered toast and caramel. The flavors echo the aromas. Luscious and well-endowed, possessing zippy acidity and a crisp finish. Very good. Reviewed August 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Brewer-Clifton Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.4% alc., $65. The only wine in the lineup with significant (100% in this case) stem inclusion. Because the fruit is picked late, the stems raise the acidity to balance the prodigious fruit and tannins. 100% Pommard. · Quite distinctive with a heavily perfumed nose of cut flowers and spice. Plenty of mouth coating sweet red and black fruit augmented by prominent spice flavors. The tannins are restrained and well-integrated. An enjoyable sipping wine. Very good. Reviewed March 11, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay

14.6% alc., 480 cases, $65, wax closure. Planted in 1991 by Ron and Nancy Piazza, this monopole vineyard is overseen by vineyard manager, Francisco Ramirez. Of the twenty acre parcel, six are planted to the Wente clone. · Clear, straw color in the class. Restrained aromas of white peaches, roasted nuts and brioche. Appetizing peach and lemon fruit with a hint of papaya and noticeable citrus peel on the steely finish. Seamless with faint tannin and admirable persistence on the finish. Very good. Reviewed August 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Brewer-Clifton Sweeney Canyon Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay

15.2% alc., 120 cases, $70, wax closure. Twelfth bottling from this site. Planted on its own roots to a Wente selection and dry farmed. · Light straw color in the glass. Distinctive aromatic profile of dried herbs, candle wax and cut flowers. Lovely flavors of peaches and nectarines with a faint note of oak in the background. Slightly creamy and more demure than the Mount Carmel and Rancho Santa Rosa bottlings with a better fruit and acid balance. No sign of alcohol. Reviewed August 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2005 Brewer-Clifton Rio Vista Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 720 cases, $46. This vineyard is owned by the Thorne family and is farmed by Buona Terra Farming on the eastern extreme of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. · Clones 667 and 777. The aromas become quite enticing with time in the glass showing off bright cherry and strawberry fruits with a touch of barnyard and pencil lead. Red fruit-driven with a hint of oak char, this is a simple but tasty wine with soft tannins lending richness and structure and marred only by slightly hot finish. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Brewer-Clifton Ashley’s Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.1% alc., 911 cases, $48. Ashley’s Vineyard was owned by the Parker family and named after Fess’s daughter, Ashley. It was subsequently sold to Demetria Estate and renamed Gaia Vineyard. There are still bottlings carrying the Ashley’s name. This wine is from two blocks planted on steep clay-loam slopes to cones 114, 115, and Pommard. · A cherry-driven wine with flamboyant aromas of fresh black cherries carrying over in the mouth with hints of red licorice and oak. Rich and long, with a creamy texture and admirable balance. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Brewer-Clifton Cargassachi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 576 cases, $56. From a two acre section of clone 115 planted in clay loam soil replete with calcareous deposits and diatomaceous earth. · Lighter in color than the other 2005 bottlings. Reticent but enticing redder fruits complimented by spice, new leather, funk and dried herbs on the nose. The demurely spiced and savory herb-toned red fruits are losing the tug-of-war with drying tannins that overwhelm. The aromas trump the flavors now and this may or may not blossom in the future as the tannins soften. Tasted twice. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Brewer-Clifton Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.9% alc., 264 cases, $56. This 30- acre vineyard is owned and farmed by the Pepe and Hagen families. This wine is sourced from a section of the vineyard planted to Pommard 5 clone. · Intriguing nose of black-fruited jam on toast with a touch of chocolate. Surprisingly light-weighted for a Clos Pepe bottling, the earth-toned dark fruits are softly textured and encased in silky tannins. A hint of alcohol peaks out on the start and dry finish but is not obtrusive. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.6% alc., 911 cases, $60. Mount Carmel was originally planted in 1991 by Paul Albrecht and Ron Piazza. This 20-acre vineyard, planted on Botella clay, diatomite and limestone, is now farmed by Brewer-Clifton’s vineyard management team. Clones are Dijon 115 and Mount Eden. · The nose offers darker fruits enhanced with floral notes, green veggie scents and new-mown hay aromas with a hint of alcohol. Linear dark fruit on the palate which is earthy and nicely balanced by lively acidity. On the lighter side and appealingly smooth with soft tannins and a clean finish. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Brewer-Clifton Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 240 cases, $64. Clone 667 planted on a steep south facing slope replete with limestone. Owned and farmed by Bill Foley. · Dark reddish-purple in color. A wine crafted from what seems like overripe fruit with a nose of stewed, syrupy fruit, and chewy, thick flavors of raisin grapes. A Pinot Noir masquerading as a Syrah with none of the charm of Pinot Noir. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Brewer-Clifton Cargasacchi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.1% alc., 168 cases. · Shy cherry, forest floor perfume with mineral accents. Black currents and blackberries are featured but although there is prodigious fruit, there is very little taste impact. Noticeable fine tannins carry the dry finish which is also a touch astringent. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Brewer-Clifton Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 504 cases. · The lightest in color of the 2004 Pinot Noirs tasted. Very attractive aromatics featuring crushed black cherries, red berries and spice. Very ripe fruit flavors tending toward raisin. Smoothly textured with a moderate tannic backbone. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Brewer-Clifton Melville Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.6% alc., 144 cases. From vines planted in 1997 on clay-loam soil with clones 114 and 115. · Grapey nose with hints of smoky oak. Decent cherry and raspberry fruit which is subdued and rustic. Big-boned but not showy and one-dimensional. Much like a smoky grape popsicle. The tannins arrive with a rush at the end. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Brewer-Clifton Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.1% alc., 240 cases · Reticent aromas of black cherries, strawberries and oak char. Loamy fruit with notes of tar and tea, mild grainy tannins, a smooth texture, and a dry finish with a citric tang. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Brewer-Clifton Rio Vista Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

16.0% alc., 192 cases. · Appealing scents of dark fruits, oak, herbs and Xmas spice. Powerfully flavored red and black fruits with mildly dry tannins, and a clean, citric finish. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »