2008 Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards Cheval Sauvage Pinot Noir

Mission Codename: Dans le sauvage

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Wild Horse Winery, a Wine Spies Operative favorite

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Wild Horse

Wine Subject: 2008 Cheval Sauvage Pinot Noir – Santa Maria Valley

Winemaker: Clay Brock


Santa Barbara County’s Pinot Noir may have become famous by the movie Sideways, but the tradition of wine growing and winemaking dates back to the Spanish missionaries but after prohibition many of the vines disappeared. In the early 1970s vines began to reappear and in just a few years, however unlikely, the region began to develop a reputation for producing exceptional Bugundian varietals challenging Oregon and New Zealand in the production of exceptional Pinot Noir.

The Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley where the fruit for this wine was sourced have maritime climates influenced and tempered by the Pacific Ocean and soils of sand and clay loam which suits Pinot Noir exceptionally well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark for a Santa Maria Pinot, this wine shows a gorgeous dark ruby body that deepens at its core. At the edges, soft pink runs a wide band around the glass. After swirling, fast-moving tears start from high up on the glass wall.

Smell – Bright and sweet, leading with wild strawberry, red cherry, cranberry and boysenberry. As the wine opens up, it reveals more subtle aromas, including dried orange peel, rhubarb, floral violet and subtle spice.

Feel – Soft and round on entry. Then, as the wine crosses the mid-palate, fine-grained tannins and soft minerals introduce a gradually spreading dryness.

Taste – Black cherry dark wild strawberry and boysenberry take a delicious lead. As you swirl the wine, it really opens up, revealing additional flavors of sweet dried red rose petal, rhubard, subtle forest floor and orange peel.

Finish – Long and clean with red fruit yielding to the earthen flavors of rose petal, forest floor and dried orance peel. At the tail end, subtle flinty minerals and soft spice linger on.

Conclusion – The 2008 Cheval Suavage Pinot Noir, from our old friends at Wild Horse Winery, is initially a she wine that needs a little breathing time to really come alive. After decanting – or some good old fashioned swirling – the wine really begins to open up, revealing more refined fruit flavors and complex earthen characteristics. We paired our sample bottle with pan-grilled New York steaks and an assortment of roasted and grilled veggies. The combination was heavenly. Your purchase of this wine, especially with a little patient decanting, will be handsomely rewarded!

Mission Report:


Subject: Clay Brock

Date of Birth: October 18, 1962

Place of Birth: Bakersfield, Ca. (Raised in Napa, Ca.)

Wine Education: In the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo tradition, I learned by doing.

California Wine Job Brief:

Director of Winemaking, Wild Horse Winery, Templeton, Ca., 2 yrs.; VP-Winemaker, Zaca Mesa Winery, Los Olivos, Ca., 8 yrs.; Winemaker, Edna Valley Vineyard, San Luis Obispo, Ca., 4 yrs.;
Asst. Winemaker, Byron Winery, Santa Maria, Ca., 3 yrs.

Winemaking Philosophy: Minimalist

Signature Varietals: Pinot Noir and Rhone Style Wines

Career Highlight: Working with talented Winemakers who were willing to share their knowledge with me.

Winemaker Quote: “If we add it we will make it taste good, if we don’t add it we will make it taste better.”


AGENT RED: Greetings, Clay. We are thrilled to be showing your [wine] today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

BROCK: My Father was a Vineyard Manager in the Napa Valley when I was growing up.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

BROCK: Each winery I have worked for has provided a steep learning curve, and an overall appreciation for wine.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

BROCK: Minimalist approach to Winemaking. Be organized, be in tuned, but let the wines make themselves. Quality is determined in the vineyard.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

BROCK: “Byron” Ken Brown of Byron Winery has probably been the most influential, but there have been many.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

BROCK: Since 1987

RED: Who do you make wine for?

BROCK: Selfishly, I make wine for myself. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Santa Maria Valley so special?

BROCK: The Pacific Ocean influenced, cool climate resulting from the unique west to east orientation of the mountain ranges.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

BROCK: Never believe you have it all figured out, and in the words of John Wooden, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

BROCK: I don’t like condiments.

RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

BROCK: Beer.

RED: Great answer! How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

BROCK: Give it a shot, if you like it drink it. Don’t obsess over it.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

BROCK: White Burgundy

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Wild Horse Winerycan be seen in this satellite photo.

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