A Winemakers Journey
Way back in the Santa Cruz Mountains is an old estate that few ever get to see, that has been producing wonderful Pinot Noir for over ten years. Established in 1881 by California pioneer Pierre Cornwall this grape growing property was once owned by the famous director, Alfred Hitchcock. Today, Armitage Wines and Heart O' The Mountain produces a limited amount of hand-crafted, Estate grown Pinot Noir made by winemaker Brandon Armitage.
Brandon Armitage started his career over 20 years ago in New Zealand. where he studied Viticulture in Central Otago and started getting his hands dirty working on helping to establish new vineyards and working in existing ones. While completing his technical degree in Viticulture he was volunteering all of his free time winemaking. Working for Carrick Wines in New Zealand a love for Pinot Noir was born. After years of traveling back and forth from northern hemisphere, Colorado/Oregon/California, to southern hemisphere New Zealand making wine, he was able to develop the skills needed to grow and nurture grapes into the best Pinot Noir the Santa Cruz Mountains has to offer! Brandon Armitage is the winemaker and President of Armitage Wines and has now takin over Heart O the Mountain for whom he had been making wine for for a number of years!
Brandon has making stellar wines from one of the most magical places within the Santa Cruz Mountain AVA, known as the old Alfred Hitchcock estate, Mt. Roberta and Heart O' The Mountain.
Heart O' The Mountain Vineyard was planted with specific clones, orientation and rootstock best suited for the terroir and micro climate of the estate. Five clones have been planted, 777, 828, 667, Pommard and most recently 115, offering different characteristics to be showcase the property and some to be crafted into the best Pinot from the area. Brandon has grown the production and developed different styles of Pinot from the same vineyard thus creating the single clone series. While blending the clones together fills in the spaces, balancing tannin, sugars and acids providing a balanced wine experience, being able to try the different components of the single clones provides a better understanding of what goes into blending. Showing off single clone wines is part of what separates the estate from other wineries in the area.
These wines were once only available to club members but now can be tasted at the Aptos tasting room. Brandon says the focus is still the Allocation Club and they want members (their family) to have exclusive access to certain aspects of the business such as club events and HOTM winery visits. Both labels can be purchased through the website at www.armitagewines.com. Club members can access or create an account on the website, purchase wine, and have the wine shipped to them or pick it up at the Postal Annex in Scotts Valley or at the Tasting Room in Aptos. When we asked Brandon what one thing he had learned in his time in New Zealand that he uses to this day, he straight out stated that the one thing he believes is that ‘paying attention’ makes the difference. You must pay attention to the details Brandon says, that way you never have to recover, only monitor and guide the wine to its be its best. Recently we had a wonderful tour of the estate and it gave us a bit of the history of this interesting place. While Hitchcock did not live there, he regularly used the place for entertaining guests. We can only imagine what a thrill it must have been for those guests as the place is spectacular.
These are very impressive wines from a small vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Brandon is really one to watch, or as we prefer to do, continue to taste and drink his wines (strictly so we can continue to inform). With wine this good it wont be long before there will be a waiting list to get an allocation of his wine. Come taste his wines at the Paso Robles Garagiste Festival this month and then join the wine club now while you can so you don't miss out! Happy Wine Adventures, Cheers, WineWalkabout