Neely is the sister label from the Varner winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is named after Kirk Neely, who is the owner of the Spring Ridge Vineyard, where the Varners have sourced their fruit for their estate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs since the early 80’s.
The Varner brothers made a special cuvée of Chardonnay – called Neely - as a counterpoint to their three single-vineyard sites: Amphitheater, Home Block and Bee Block. For this wine, they blended all three terroirs in order to make one wine that reflected the best qualities of each parcel. In essence, endeavoring for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.
For some Varner fans, this is their favorite wine, though for others, they prefer the individuality of the single-vineyard expression. In any case, it is a fascinating exercise to taste all 4 cuvées side-by-side.
For Pinot Noir, on the other hand, the Varners do the reverse. Originally, there was only one Pinot Noir, the Hidden Block, so it became a Varner single-vineyard wine. But now that there are three single vineyards - Picnic, Upper Picnic and Hidden Block – they do the opposite of what they do on the Chardonnays in order to give Mr. Neely his due. So, the Varner Pinot Noir is a blend of all three of the Pinot Noir sites, and the single-vineyards are under the Neely label.
In sum, the Varners and the Neelys are clearly intertwined in more ways than one. And both are some of the most balanced and Burgundian-inspired wines that California has to offer. less