U.S. Grant

Pinot Noir Union Vineyard – 2020

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

U.S. Grant

On storied land nestled in the redwood forests overlooking Monterey Bay, U.S. Grant produces a Pinot Noir of true distinction. The six-acre vineyard of U.S. Grant was planted by brothers John and George Jarvis in 1862, during the Civil War, and is the first known vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Following Phylloxera’s defeat, the vineyard was revived in 1914, later to be replanted to Pinot Noir by Ken Burnap who bottled the wine under the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards labels from 1974 to 2004.

Nat Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons became the proprietors of the estate vineyard and winery when Ken retired, replanting the vineyards in 2006 and reviving the original “Union Vineyard” name under the U.S. Grant brand – in honor of the Jarvis brothers’ patriotism. Nat and Laura chose winemaker Michael Terrien for his respect of California’s Pinot Noir history to manifest their vision for Pinot Noir with 2012 being the first vintage of this modern era. It marks the beginning of a new tradition from one of California’s earliest great Pinot Noir vineyards.

The Wine

Vineyard Profile

Historic Union Vineyard, 6 acres, located in the coast redwood band along the spine of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. The oldest known vineyard in the region, originally planted in 1862.

  • Altitude: 1100 feet
  • Soil: Maymen-Rock outcrop complex, sandstone underlayment
  • Climate: Above the fog line from Pacific Ocean. Marine layer periodically through day and night tempers the California sun and temperatures
  • Replanted: 2006-2008
  • No irrigation or tilling
Harvest Notes
  • Sparse winter rains
  • Vines appeared more youthful than 12+ year, dry farmed sandstone subsoils of Santa Cruz Mtns
  • 2020 crop the strongest to date
  • Dry lightning storms in mid-August ignited large fires nearby and forced an early harvest to avoid smoke exposure
  • Hand harvested at 19 Brix, the must was chaptalized (very rare in California)
  • Whole cluster fermentation using only native yeasts in 12 one-of-a-kind, open-top concrete vessels shaped like teacups
  • Long maceration of 40 days
  • Blended and returned to barrels
  • Aged 24 months in French oak barrels
Winemaker's Notes

Savory, saline, minerally and not generously fruitful as is expected of New World Pinot Noir. The pepper and herb character threading through the ’16, ’18 and ’19 shows itself here too. We had never harvested Union Vineyard so early (with regard to ripeness) as this year and speculating on the origin of the flavors is a compelling pursuit in itself. Flavors accompanying less-ripe fruit tend to be savory, herbal and spiced more than outright fruity, and with whole-cluster fermentation as a principal winemaking practice since 2016, that particular character is ever-present. Whether directly or indirectly, the flavors in this vintage bear witness to the fires during this challenging year.

Wine Summary

100% Pinot Noir; alcohol: 12.7%; Union Vineyard, the oldest planted vineyard in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains AVA; 1,100ft elevation overlooking the Pacific; sandstone soils; whole cluster pressed and fermented using only native yeasts in unique “teacup” open top concrete vessels; 40 day slow ferment; very rare chaptalization; aged 24 months in primarily blond-toast French oak barrels.

Technical Information
  • 100% Pinot Noir
  • Alcohol: 12.7%

General Info

Country U.S.
Region California
Appellation(s) Santa Cruz Mountains
Proprietors Nat Simons & Laura Baxter-Simons
Founded 2004
Winemaker Michael Terrien
Annual Production 200-900 9L cases
Farming (Sustainable, organic, biodynamic) Organically farmed, no-till, dry farmed