Friday, August 8, 2014

13 Santa Barbara County Wines I Can’t Get Out of My Mind

These are the wines I keep thinking about since I tasted them in Santa Barbara County during the July 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference. You’ll see three Chardonnays on this list, and while I am not an ABC’er by any means, I don’t usually buy that much Chardonnay outright. But that's changing, and I’m happy to find many new-to-me producers that have captured my attention and patronage.

A word on tasting notes: I present my notes to highlight what I found in a particular wine, and my initial thoughts and experience while tasting. Consider this a nudge in the right direction to make your own discoveries. Below are some quick impressions I jotted down, wines are listed in no particular order of preference.

1.  2012 Tercero Roussanne Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley
One of the first wines I tasted upon arrival in Los Olivos. There is so much harmony and balance going on in this Roussanne. A delicate floral nose unfolds into a rich body of creamy spiced fruit and acidity. I bought a few bottles on the spot and then, having no restraint, immediately drank them when I got home. Now I’m pining for more.

2.  2012 Fes Parker “Rodney’s Dry Riesling, Santa Ynez 
Captivating nose of cut grass, petrol, jasmine and gardenia floral notes. Bright with acidity and flavors of lemon, lime and orange with a bit of honeysuckle.

3.  2013 Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon 
Peachy-Lychee, creamy vanilla with a pleasant mid-weight on the palate and long rolling waves of flavor.

4.  2013 Grassini Saugnion Blanc, Happy Canyon
I only got a quick sip at the speed tasting event, but it slowed down time around me. The bright, fresh hit of fruit and punch of acid made me want to grab the bottle and find a quiet place to enjoy it at a more leisurely pace.

5.  2010 Jonata “Flor” Sauvignon Blanc, Ballard Canyon 
Ginger cookie on the nose with great spice and pineapple notes. Sea salt and sandstone minerality, like a luxurious day at the beach. Elegant and understated but with wonderful tension and energy. 

6.  2012 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills 
Wes Hagen’s “homage to Chablis” was a direct hit to my brains flavor center. Vigorous minerality tempered with a soft round mouth feel and light spicy floral notes of carnation.

7.  2013 Melville Estate Chardonnay Clone 76 Inox, Sta. Rita Hills 
Good grief, the nose on this was jump-out-of-the-glass gorgeous. On the palate, a slight chalky note, but tons of white florals and tart apple flavor with great minerality and a light ocean breeze of salinity. Inox, a french term, means stainless steel.

8.  2012 Alta Maria Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley 
My first thought --where can I buy this? This Chardonnay had a brilliance from within, like entering a snowglobe of earth and light and bright fruit flavors all falling softly around me. It shook me up. 

9.  2011 Foxen Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 
“No dump” --my shorthand note meaning all of this beautiful juice is going down my throat not in the dump bucket. When tasting numerous wines in a day, “no dump” is a mark of high praise indeed. Deep cherry, loamy, dusty floral nose and marvelous mouth feel. This wine had a spring in it’s step and a song in it’s heart.

10.  2012 Presqu’ile Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
I tweeted out this mini tasting note while I was at Presqu'ile: Whole cluster Pinot from @PresquileWine light and accessible but then reaches an unexpected depth. And indeed it did. The layers of flavor developed further with each sip. 

11.  2012 Lindley Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
I tried this at the Authentic Press party Shawn Burgert hosted, and I wish I’d gotten more details, but it grabbed my attention at first taste.  On the bus back to the hotel I scribbled the name down in my notebook with the words-- "Check out what's going on at Lindley."

12.  2008 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido BLock X, Santa Maria Valley 
X Block is the original Syrah vineyard at Bien Nacido. This dark, bold Syrah had great character with deep savory flavors of earth and spice. Fined with organic egg whites and bottled without filtration, the end result is a pure reflection of what happens in the vineyard.

13.  2010 Smasara Syrah Turner Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 
This beaufiul Syrah made with 100% whole cluster, presents with a bit of pyrazines (bell pepper) on the nose, then provides an intense peppery flavor and long finish.

NOTE: Many of the above wines were sampled at the Drinking in the Differences Seminar held at Star Lane Winery in Happy Canyon and conducted by MS David Glancy of San Francisco Wine School. Stay tuned for a new post about that excellent event coming up.

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