Digging into Adam Lee’s New Clarice Pinots

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-12-2018

Credit: Richard Green Photography

Credit: Richard Green Photography

California winemaker Adam Lee’s next chapter is just beginning. And things are looking good.

After 11 years, Adam and his wife, Dianna Novy Lee, sold their Siduri label to Jackson Family Wines in 2015. Adam agreed to stay on for three years, but he’s also been busy kicking off a different venture.

Named after his grandmother and inspiration, under the Clarice label Adam produces Pinot Noirs from two exquisite sites, Gary’s Vineyard and Rosella’s, both located in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Central California. Having worked with both of these vineyards since their first crop (Gary’s in 1999 and Rosella’s in 2001), Adam knows these vines very well and counts the growers as his good friends. From these sites, he crafts harmonious and delicious wines.

With this new project, Adam is taking a different approach to the marketing and sales. Here’s how it works. Clarice Family Club Members sign up for an annual subscription of $965 (broken into several payments over a few months to make it sting the bank account a bit less). Members get a case of Pinot in October, four bottles of each of Adam’s three wines: Gary’s Vineyard; Rosella’s Vineyard; and a Santa Lucia Highlands appellation wine that is blended from both Gary’s and Rosella’s Vineyards.

Adam also hopes to create something like a social media-savvy “extended wine family,” as he puts it. Members get special access to a portion of Clarice’s website, which will have plenty of wine-related content, and monthly articles from others in the wine business, who will address topics from label design to wine barrels to restaurant sales. There are also members-only Facebook and Instagram groups, where members can connect and share content.

“At Clarice Wine Company, I have decided that ‘selling wine’ isn’t what I like to do,” Adam says. “What I truly enjoy is the friendship, camaraderie, and sharing of knowledge and experiences that wine helps engender.”

Adam sent me barrel samples of the three Pinots he’ll be releasing to club members in October, and, I gotta say, they’re beautiful. Tasters of the finished wines are in for a treat.

He utilizes native yeast fermentation, and more than half of each wine comes from whole cluster fermentation. There’s plenty of juicy fruit, and a good amount of new oak, but the wines maintain a vibrant, lip-smacking style that reminds me of why I first fell for Adam’s Siduri Pinots almost a decade ago.

2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot NoirCalifornia, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Deep ruby color. Lovely aromas of chilled raspberries and strawberries, with rhubarb, roses, cola and wild herbs. Precise acidity and smooth tannins on the palate, balanced nicely with juicy fruit (raspberry, crisp strawberry, red cherries). I get complex elements of raspberry leaf, rose petal, rhubarb, along with some cola and coffee, all of it woven together so well. Crisp, lively, yet so yummy. A roughly even split between fruit from Gary’s and Rosella’s vineyards, the wine is aged in 36% new oak. (92 points IJB)

2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir Rosella’s VineyardCalifornia, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Medium ruby color. Nose boasts bright cherries and plums, along with violets, spiced tea, rose hips, clove, cola, rich but airy aromas (somehow this makes sense when you smell it). Fresh and tingly acidity with suave tannins. Plump cherries, tart strawberries, crunchy plums, the pretty fruit is loaded with spiced tea, cola, coffee, earthy-loamy and mineral notes. Complex as hell, I can’t wait to see this wine when it’s finished, although it could use some time in bottle to come to its full potential. Aged in 77% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir Garys’ VineyardCalifornia, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Rich ruby color. Smells of strawberries, raspberries, red apple peel, with sage, spicy oregano, sweet roses, deep but vibrant aromas here. Silky but structured on the palate with plush tannins and crisp acidity, the balance is wonderful. Juicy but tart fruit (dark cherries, gushing plums), along with notes of cola, sarsaparilla, earth and clove. So pretty and bright with gorgeous rich fruit. Aged in 77% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

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