Jeff was committed to promoting the Santa Maria Valley; a place he considered home and cared about deeply. By offering a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc under the J. Wilkes imprimatur of quality, we hope to introduce a new generation of wine drinkers to wines of typicity from a venerated appellation.
We hope these wines serve not only as ambassadors of an iconic growing region, but also as an introduction to three varietals that merit much pursuit and discovery.
The J. Wilkes brand was established in 2001 by Jefferson Wilkes, a widely respected wine industry veteran who loved the community of Santa Maria and sailing the Pacific Coast. Since Jeff’s passing, the J. Wilkes brand has carried forth with a simple mission: to deliver wines of varietal character, at affordable prices, that highlight the virtues of the Santa Maria Valley appellation.
SANTA MARIA VALLEY
When one considers that Santa Maria Valley shares the same latitude (34 54N) as Charlotte, North Carolina and the North coast of Morocco, one begins to wonder how it is that such a place can produce wines of such delicate aromatics and liveliness as does Santa Maria Valley. After all, the very home of Pinot Noir, at least according to purists, is the damp, cool Burgundy region of France.
One need only turn to the East-West transverse valley that runs through Santa Maria Valley. This transverse valley acts as a funnel, channeling in cool maritime influences and depositing them throughout the wide valley that is Santa Maria. Ocean temperatures just off the coast of Santa Maria are typically about 15 degrees C (55 to 59 F). The Coriolis effect, an upwelling of deeper, colder waters, further cools the ocean breezes coming in off the coast of the Pacific and into the Santa Maria Valley. The cool winds coming in from the Northwest, coupled with the Coriolis effect, serve to push cold ocean water the surface. The transverse valley then allows these cold water winds to funnel into the Santa Maria Valley, cooling it substantially.
If the Santa Maria Valley was not situated at this southerly latitude, it would not be warm enough to ripen grape varietals to full maturity. It is, therefore, this singular combination of elements that allows Santa Maria Valley to produce wines of such distinction and typicity.
The number of days between bloom and harvest is approximately 125, on average. Though day time temperatures rarely exceed 75 degrees F, the long growing season provides substantial heat units throughout the year to fully ripen Pinot Noir, and other varietals that do very well in the Santa Maria Valley. Maritime fog usually cools the grapes in the evening, until approximately 10:00 am. When the sun breaks, the grapes receive substantial heat units to ripen, but it is never so warm in Santa Maria Valley that the grapes begin to “shut down” from excessive heat. These mild temperatures, coupled with a long growing season, allow for grapes that possess great aromatics, distinction, a lively fruit component and balanced acid levels.
Yields in Santa Maria tend to be average to low, due to excessively cool spring temperatures. Poor set on the vines often results from days that do not warm much past 65 degrees F. Pollination can be adversely affected by these cool temperatures. But, the strain of poor pollination on the vine, ironically, results in smaller clusters with intensely flavored berries. These small berries usually provide for greater color and complexity in the resulting wines.
The average annual rainfall in Santa Maria is approximately 14 inches. The rainy season begins in mid-November and continues until the beginning of May, when it lessens considerably to only about .2 inches of rain a month is the very first days of Spring.
The Santa Maria Valley appellation is the third oldest appellation in the United States and was established the same year as the Napa Valley AVA distinction; 1981.
LISA RIGISICH – PRODUCER, PINOT DAYS - 7TH ANNUAL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PINOT DAYS – NOVEMBER 21ST @ THE SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER
OUR MISSION: As a non-profit, the Pinot Days mission is to educate those who wish to learn more about pinot noir, from seed, to vineyard, to winemaker, to winery, to bottle, to table. This has been our purpose from our inception, one which we fulfilled from our first year, and one which we continue to fulfill in novel and innovative ways. How do we educate? The Pinot Days festivals bring winemakers and attendees together, creating a venue for communication between the two and enabling attendees to learn, both intellectually and aesthetically. As those in the wine industry well know, those who pursue pinot noir don’t follow it simply to drink it; they want to understand it on various levels. It is a notoriously difficult and expensive grape to grow, drawing the most skilled and knowledgeable winemakers, and offering the broadest stylistic and regional range of all the grape varieties. Thus it presents itself as a compelling avocation and area of study.
Increasingly, it's the genuinely boutique producers who come and pour at our events. They're the ones who don't have a marketing department to promote them, the ones who want wine lovers to discover who they are and what they craft. They're the real deal, the visionaries. It's Peter Cargasacchi who will show up with vineyard dirt on his knees because that's where he spent his morning. Or Rickey Trombetta (Trombetta Family) who will tear up when you mention a great pinot vintage. Or Kathleen Inman who, I’ve heard, refers to her grape clusters by name. “Hand-crafted” is a literal term with these folks, and you can taste the difference. You’ll hear it in their stories. And you are going to want to hear more than they have time to tell you, and taste more than you can in an afternoon.
OUR HISTORY: In 2004, pinot noir was an after-thought in the California wine world which, from our perspective, was a shame. We sought to rectify this by producing an event dedicated to exposing those who would listen to pinot noir, educating them about the industry as a whole. 100 wineries exhibited at the first Pinot Days in 2005, and fewer than 1,000 people attended. The event, however, rapidly became a linchpin of the industry, connecting producers with prospective customers via education. We also became the leading voice of the industry, providing access to “insider” views into wineries and winemaking, giving exposure to new producers, assessing wines and answering questions on influential internet wine boards (Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Wineberserkers), serving as panelists and guest speakers at wine events and wine-related productions (plays, movies), producing industry-focused newsletters, emceeing pinot noir-focused dinners and pairings, and taking part in radio (KGO, KABC) and television (ABC) interviews wherein pinot noir and its production was the topic. The public, clamoring for information, began to turn Pinot Days as their source of information related to pinot noir. Along with other influences, Pinot Days’ various efforts translated into an incredible increase in interest in pinot noir. Pinot Noir’s market share increased from less than 1% of the total grapes crushed to over 4% from 2004 to 2010. Pinot Days was a chief contributor to ushering new wine aficionados to the variety’s doorstep. Pinot Days also grew considerably. Again, in 2004, 100 exhibitors and 1,000 attended the Grand Festival in San Francisco. In 2010, 220 producers and 3,500 attended the Grand Festival. And in response to popular demand, we have ventured beyond California, producing 4 festivals annually. It's nice to see pinot getting the groupie following it deserves!
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PINOT DAYS - NOVEMBER 21ST, 2015
Where - Skirball Cultural Center 2701 N Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
When - Saturday, November 21st, 2015.
Trade Tasting: Noon-2pm.
VIP Tasting: Noon - 5pm.
Public Tasting: 2-5pm.
Price: $75 - Grand Festival. $120 VIP Tasting and Seminar. - See more at:
Pinot Days Southern California is our fastest growing event, and it makes sense! People who enjoy blue skies and an easy, breezy lifestyle gravitate to pinot noir because it is easy to pair, easy to drink, and fascinating to talk about. Couple that with the area's innovative food, and you have a fantastic coupling of place with pinot. Enjoy Winemaker Pinot Pairings at restaurants and wine venues around town in the days preceding our Grand Festival, which is back on the West Side at the Skirball Cultural Center. Meet our winemakers, hear their stories and enjoy the most diverse, lovely wines on the planet....