We have a world class wine region in our own backyard and I just spent four days getting to know it better. I had the privilege of attending The Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip Los Angeles which provided seminars and tastings with some of the best winemakers who are plying their craft just two hours to the north.
The first point of interest is the unique geography of the region. Santa Barbara County is the only area in North or South America where the coastal range is oriented from east – west, called a transverse mountain range. This creates a direct maritime influence with a daily influx of fog and cold ocean wind. It is also shielded from rain by mountain ranges to the north which accounts for the cool, dry desert climate.
What can we expect from wines coming from such a unique area? Our first day we explored Chardonnay with well-known vintners such as Jim Clenenden, Greg Brewer and Tyler Thomas. The wines were fresh and bright, with aromas of Meyer Lemon and apple. They also had a pleasing saline quality that stimulates the appetite.
The next day learned about Pinot Noir with vintners such as Richard Sanford and Steve Clifton. Although I have long been a fan of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation the Santa Maria Valley wines from Nielson and Solomon Hills were a revelation with rich dark fruit and good concentration and complexity.
On day three we explored the Rhone varietals Roussanne and Grenache. Andrew Murray is making a wonderfully piercing Roussanne/Grenache Blanc from the Curtis Vineyard that shows notes of honey and grapefruit with an almost oily palate and hints of black tea. If you know Viognier think of Roussanne as a less forward version. I also really enjoyed the Beckman Grenache Purisima Mountain Vineyard for its silky style and notes of dark red fruit and watermelon seed.
Finally we visited Bordeaux varietals on the final day. Many people look farther north for their Cabernet, but there are areas in Santa Barbara County where the grape does extremely well. Tyler Thomas is making a great Cabernet Sauvignon at Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon. Think of black fruit and cooking spice with a silky palate.
I’m hoping to add more selections from our backyard and in the meantime we feature Pinot Noirs from Au Bon Climat, Brewer-Clifton and Hitching Post. We also have Syrah and Viognier from Melville. Please come by and explore with me some of the world class wine of Santa Barbara County.
See you soon,