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Vol. 9 No.4 - May '01

Santa Barbara - Santa Ynez Valley

Vineyards & Wineries Visited -

Santa Barbara Winery

 photos courtesy of: Michael Poston

Journal and tasting notes from visits to several Santa Ynez Valley wineries.

Tasting Notes / Scores: Brief tasting impressions are included following the winery write-up. An "n/n" indicates that no notes were taken.

Friday, May 25, 2001

Arrived Santa Barbara Winery 10:05. Established by Pierre Lafond in 1972, this winery is one of the few (actually, maybe the only one) located in Santa Barbara proper. The SBW tasting room, situated in a small downtown industrial area south of Hwy 101, is well merchandised and very inviting. Zack Stillings, from the tasting room staff, was both knowledgeable and friendly, chatting with us throughout. SBWinery sources much their fruit from 70 acres in SYV, many from the Lafond Vnyd, which has now opened as a separate winery. Production of SBW is about 30,000 cases, and winemaker Bruce McGuire makes the wine for both facilities. Usually very dependable offerings, and a nice group of wines this time out, as well. Tasting Fee: $5 to taste 6 wines. Out at 10:40.

Tasted at Santa Barbara Winery:

1999 Santa Barbara Winery Sauvignon Blanc - Santa Ynez Valley. $12. Nose of sweet grass and hay, with a tropical citrus peel quality. Nice mouthfeel, off-sweet mostly grassy-citrus flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Santa Barbara Winery Chardonnay - Santa Barbara Co. $16. Tropical, floral and slightly sweaty nose. Nice mouthfeel, good acids, and long citrus peel finish. 6 mos oak. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Santa Barbara Winery Chardonnay Reserve - Santa Ynez Valley. $22. Apple and tropical fruit nose. Rich mouthfeel, citrus and apple flavors, long finish and nice aftertaste. 10 mos oak - 50% new. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara Co. $15. Big nose of black cherry and cinnamon, with a light stemmy quality. Light-medium mouthfeel, off-sweet-to-tart flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

2000 Santa Barbara Winery Beaujour - California. $12. This is a Nouveau-style Zin, with a big floral and fruity boysenberry nose. Somewhat young mouthfeel, lots of fruit and flavor, long finish. Mostly Lodi fruit. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Santa Barbara Winery ZCS - California. $14. Nose of burnished blueberry and clove. Young, slightly coarse mouthfeel, long slightly rough finish. Blend of Zin, Sangiovese, and Carignane. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Santa Barbara Winery Syrah -Santa Ynez Valley. $22. Big blackberry and slightly floral nose. Tasty, if young mouthfeel, Stemmy and somewhat astringent, long finish. 70% Lafond vnyd fruit. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Santa Barbara Winery Cabernet Franc - Stolpman Vnyd, Santa Ynez Valley. $22. Nose of stemmy black cherry and plum, with a sweet floral and cinnamon background note. Medium-full mouthfeel, plush and somewhat stemmy fruit, long nearly sweet finish. fruit. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Santa Barbara Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - Santa Ynez Valley. $18. Nose seems a bit green, if not quite veggie in aroma, with a smoky and inky background note. Full mouthfeel, stemmy from mid through latter palate, long finish. 20% CF. Aroma/Taste: B/B

We nearly always take Hwy 154 (San Marcos Pass) out to the Santa Ynez Valley, stopping somewhere along the way to pick up sandwiches for lunch. Decided to try Lazy Acres market and deli in SB. Nice place - very good sandwiches.

Arrived at Gainey 11:40. Opening their doors in 1984, Gainey's large winery and tasting room became something of a showcase at the time, or at least appeared to be more upscale in appearance than many of the other "rustic" wineries in the valley. Shortly after opening, Gainey began holding evening concerts, much to the chagrin of the local residents, who didn't appear at all ready to embrace the crowds that would come. Original winemaker, Rick Longoria, now has his own winery, and Kirby Anderson is currently performing the winemaking duties. Our pourer, Micki Soria, was quite well-versed with the Gainey product line, especially considering she'd only been 3 weeks on the job. Gainey has 118 acres planted, and an 18,000 case production level. This '98 Cabernet Sauvignon is slated to be their last, as most of the local producers bow out of bottling a Cabernet Sauvignon. Ironically, the Cab Franc and Merlot still continue to do well in the hotter portions of the valley. Tasting Fee: $5 to taste 8 wines. Out at 12:30.

Tasted at Gainey:

1999 Gainey Sauvignon Blanc -Santa Ynez Valley. $14. Slightly sweet grassy clover nose. Moderate-full mouthfeel, lots of slightly sweet flavor, very good balance, long finish, nice aftertaste. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1999 Gainey Sauvignon Blanc Limited Selection. Santa Ynez Valley. $22. Nose of sweet oak and grass, with a touch of lemon. Grass and lemon nose with very good balance, nice integration of oak, and long finish.Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Gainey Chardonnay - Santa Barbara Co. $18. Slightly restrained nose of oak, citrus, grass, and apple aromas. Full and chewy mouthfeel, nice citrus and apple flavors, obvious oak, and very long finish. Complete ML; 8 mos oak. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Gainey Chardonnay Limited Selection - Santa Barbara Co. $28. Nose of spicy oaky and citrus peel. Full mouthfeel, thick and chewy with flavors of citron and butter, long finish. 14 mos oak. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1999 Gainey Pinot Noir - Central Coast. $20. Slightly burnished cherry and candied cinnamon nose. Moderate-full mouthfeel, nice balance, flavors of black cherry with a bit of stem and green olive. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Gainey Cabernet Sauvignon - Santa Ynez Valley. $20. Nose is slightly green and steely, with a burnished cassis note. Tasty, if a bit spare on fruity flavors, balanced, but slightly coarse finish. This is slated to be the last Estate Cab from Gainey. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Gainey Cabernet Franc - Santa Ynez Valley. $25. Candied and juicy aromas of cherry and pomegranete. Full mouthfeel, very nice balance, tasty long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Gainey Merlot - Santa Ynez Valley. $22. Plush and floral in the nose. Moderate-full mouthfeel, very nice cherry, plum and strawberry flavors, long finish. 15% CF. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Gainey Triada - Santa Ynez Valley. $18. Lightly stemmy floral nose, with lots of meaty fruit aromas. Lush mouthfeel, very nice balance, spicy red and black fruit flavors, and long finish. Blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, and Viognier. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

2000 Gainey Riesling - Santa Ynez Valley. $12. Mostly spiced pear and white peach aromas, with a bit of swamp water. Lightly fruity on the palate, with a somewhat thin tart-apple finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

Arrived at Sunstone 12:35. The Rice family bought a 55 acre ranch in 1989, and opened the Sunstone winery and tasting room five years later. Without a doubt, this is one of the more picturesque wineries in the Valley. Located in Santa Ynez, Sunstone winery and vineyards actually sits in the watershed of the Santa Ynez river, as they found out the hard way during the '98 El Niño weather patterns, when water consumed most of the syrah. Corporate sales manager, Karen Spaulding, took us through nearly all of their current selections. $3 to taste 5 wines from regular line; $5 to taste 5 wines from 'Reserve' line. Very nice place, and the wines are continuing to improve with each vintage. Tailgated and shot some pictures of the grounds until 1:10, then out at 1:40.

Tasted at Sunstone:

1998 Sunstone Sauvignon Blanc - Valley View Vnyds, Santa Barbara Co. $17. Very nice nose of grass, hay, clover, and floral aromas. Slightly sweet mouthfeel, big presence on the palate with a nice rich taste, very good blaance, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Sunstone Sauvignon Blanc - Santa Barbara Co. $17. Nose of grass, hay and herbs, with a flinty and weedy quality. Moderate-full mouthfeel, with ots of green grass and herb flavors, and a long finish.

1999 Sunstone Viognier Estate - Santa Ynez Valley. Slightly restrained Riesling-like nose, with light nectarine and peach aromas. Moderate mouthfeel, lush with some crisp acidity, slightly sweet long easy finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1999 Sunstone Viognier - Santa Barbara Co. $26. Similar to the Estate version, but somewhat lighter in aroma and flavors. Light-moderate mouthfeel, and a bit brief in finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

2000 Sunstone Chardonnay - Santa Barbara Co. $18. Nose of apples, tropical fruit, and hay. Clean and crisp mouthfeel, nice pineapple fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Sunstone Chardonnay Reserve - Santa Barbara Co. Nicely integrated nose of buttery fruit, hay, and grass. Full mouthfeel, lots of tropical fruit, very nice balance, slightly sweet finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1999 Sunstone Rapsodie del Sol - Santa Ynez Valley. $29. Complex floral and fruity nose. Fleshy and chewy mouthfeel, gets a little tart toward finish, but quite tasty. 70% Syrah, 20% Viognier, 10% Mourvedre. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1998 Sunstone Syrah Estate - Santa Barbara Co. $36. Ripe, almost Zinny boysenberry, blackberry nose, with a bit of stemminess and cinnamon spice aromas. Surprisingly moderate in mouthfeel, the fruit, tar and ink flavors have a slight candied quality that comes together nicely in the finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1998 Sunstone Merlot Estate - Santa Ynez Valley. $22. Ripe nose, with a stoney, beet, rubber, balsamic aroma. Fleshy mouthfeel, but seems a bit hollow and bitter on finish. Interesting, if unusual nose, but the mouth lacks some punch. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Sunstone Merlot Reserve - Santa Barbara Co. $28. Very ripe and fruity nose. Fleshy and slightly sweet mouthfeel seems nicely concentrated, with lots of cherry fruit and a long finish. Mostly Bien Nacido fruit. 23% Cab Franc. Aroma/Taste: B+/A-

1998 Sunstone Eros - Santa Barbara Co. $32. Ripe and rich nose of blackberry, toast, and stems. Fleshy mouthfeel, with ripe fruit predominating at the front end, and Cab Franc's herbaceousness coming on in the latter palate. 40% Merlot, 30% Cab Sauv, 23% Cab Franc. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Sunstone Sunterra - Santa Barbara Co. $17. Nose of ripe cassis, sweet stewed tomatoes, and a touch of green olive. Medium-full mouthfeel, overly ripe sweet cassis flavors, slight tomato flavor throughout. This thing definitely had a veggie streak, yet could probably accompany a BBQ. 76% Cab Sauv, 24% Merlot. Aroma/Taste: B-/B


Arrived Foley 2:20. Located on the former site of both the J. Carey winery, as well the first site of Curtis winery, Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery is the flagship operation of William Foley II, also owner of LinCourt Vineyards. Founded in 1994, Foley's lineup appears to be concentrating on Chardonnays, Cabernets and Merlots from several familar valley sources, including the original La Cuesta Vnyd. Foley currently has a couple of Pinots in production, but for now, depth in this particular varietal appears to be more the focus of the LinCourt label. Our pourer, Hannah, did an excellent job. The Foley wines seem generally very well made, if arguably on the pricey side. Aside from the very promising, relatively new Dierberg Vyd, the La Cuesta Vnyd Cab and Merlot continue to be the best offerings. Tasting fee: $5 to taste 8 wines. Out at 3:05.

Tasted at Foley:

1999 Foley Sauvignon Blanc, Alamo Pintado Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $14. Somewhat grassy, with sweet clover and lemon lime aromas. Big mouthfeel, nice toasty fruit, delicious aftertaste. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Foley Chardonnay, Dierberg Vyd, Santa Maria Valley, $35. Sweet and slightly buttery nose, with aromas of lemon and apple. Full mouthfeel, lots of buttery fruit, excellent balance, and nice long slightly tart crisp finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/A-

1999 Foley Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vyd, Santa Maria Valley, $35. Nose of buttery fruit and plenty of oak. Smooth and rich mouthfeel, with a somewhat lemonade pucker to the fruit, and a long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Foley Chardonnay, Barrel Select, Santa Barbara Co, $38. Nose of lemon, pineapple, and toast. Very nice medium-full mouthfeel, excellent balance, and long tasty finish. But, $38?? Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

NV Foley Capri, Santa Barbara Co, $10. Nearly neutral-smelling nose. Nice mouthfeel, with dry and tasty fruit, good balance, and medium-long finish. A rosé blend of Cab, Syrah, Cab Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Foley Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Hills Vyd, Santa Maria Valley, $38. Nose of slightly candied and burnished fruit, with a hint of stem. Tasty off-sweet mouthfeel, with nice balance and long finish that shows a bit of heat. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Foley Merlot, Westerly Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $30. Nose of slightly burnished and candied fruit that also smells a bit hot. Fleshy mouthfeel, nice balance, long finish. 143 cases. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Foley Merlot, La Cuesta Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $30. Dense, rich, and herbaceous nose, with black cherry and anise aromas. Very fleshy mouthfeel and tasty fruit, that seems to drop off a bit during the otherwise very long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Foley Cabernet Sauvignon, La Cuesta Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $35. Ripe and herbaceous nose, with rose stem, dried brush and mint background notes. Full mouthfeel, nice cassis and tar flavors, with a long peppery finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Foley Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest, Santa Barbara Co., $16. A bit burnished and weedy in the nose, with nearly an asparagus background note. Tasty if light mouthfeel, medium finish. Full mouthfeel, nice cassis and tar flavors, with a long peppery finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B


Arrived at Sanford 3:25. Always a standout in its Pinot and Chardonnay production. Established in 1981, Sanford has one of the more rustic and tranquil locations in the Valley. Located just West of Hwy 101 in Buellton, the tasting room is located a mile of so back off Santa Rosa Road. Current production is at 50,000 cases. But, the recent addition of 125 acres to the original 112 Sanford & Benedict Vnyd, means that production will ultimately increase to about 100,000 cases. Still no tasting fee at Sanford, one of the last no-charge holdouts in the area. Chris Burrows does an excellent job of covering the tasting room, as well as knowing just about everything about the wines. Bruno D'Alfonso has been the winemaker for some time now, and also has his own label as well, D'Bruno. If you see the Sangiovese around, it's delicious. Out at 4:05.

Tasted at Sanford:

1999 Sanford Pinot Noir Vin Gris, Santa Barbara Co, $14.50. Nice full fruity nose of strawberry and melon. Fleshy mouthfeel, lots of strawberry flavors, excellent balance, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Sanford Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast, $14.50. Nose of apple, grass, tropical fruit and macadamia. Off-sweet fruit, full mouthfeel, excellent balance, long crisp finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

1999 Sanford Chardonnay, Santa Barbara Co, $19. Grassy and toasty nose, with lots of pineapple and apple fruit, along with a touch of clover. Still developing, the mouthfeel seems a bit restrained in flavors and chew, yet has excellent balance and long toasty finish. Blend of Sanford/Benedict and Rinconada Vnyds. Aroma/Taste: A-/B

1998 Sanford Chardonnay, Estate, Santa Ynez Valley, $27.50. Nose of smoke, butter and caramel. Beautiful chewy, slightly soft, yet firm mouthfeel, with caramelized fruit and toast through flavors through long finish. All S/B fruit. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

1998 Sanford Chardonnay, Barrel Select, Santa Barbara Co, $30. Slightly swampy nose, with hints of sweet toast, grass, hay, and bread yeast. Full mouthfeel, lots of hay-infused fruit and toasty oak, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Sanford Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara Co, $26. Nose of candied black cherryand cinnamon. Fleshy, but somewhat brief fruit on the palate, and medium-long slightly bitter finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Sanford Pinot Noir, Barrel Select, Santa Barbara Co, $42. Nose of ripe strawberry, cherry, and cranberry fruit, with cinnamon and nutmeg notes. Full mouthfeel, fleshy and somewhat stemmy fruit, long, slightly sweet finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

Arrived at Lafond 4:10. A separate label for the last several years, Pierre Lafond (proprietor of Santa Barbara Winery) established this newly opened winery at the site of their vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills, just West of Buellton. Located a mile further down the road from Sanford, this facility is intended to focus primarily on the red varietals for both labels. We were able to chat with tasting room manager Chelsea Williams and new hospitality staff memeber Amanda, who poured through all of the available selections. Some very nice wines here, and new facilities are beautiful and well-appointed. Tasting fee: $5 to taste 9 wines with logo glass; $3 to taste 9 wines w/o glass.

Tasted at Lafond:

1998 Lafond Chardonnay, Lafond Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $28. Nose of pineapple and tropical fruit, with interesting notes of minerals, clay and smoke. Full mouthfeel, tasty tropical fruit, grassand stem flavors, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

1997 Lafond Chardonnay, Sweeney Canyon Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $28. Nose of caramel, hay, and smoke. Slightly tart apple flavor, moderate toasty oak, with a buttery caramel apple finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

2000 Lafond Northside, Santa Ynez Valley, $12. Nose of lightly raisined fruit and apple cinnamon spice, with a touch of hay. Dry mouthfeel, slightly tart-sour fruit, yet sweetens up at the finish. Can you say quaffer? Blend of 60% Riesling, 40% Sauvignon Blanc. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Lafond Pinot Noir, Lafond Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $35. Very restrained nose, with a faint strawberry and stem aroma. Slightly tart mouthfeel, strawberry-cranberry fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1996 Lafond Pinot Noir, Lafond Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $35. Slightly restrained nose of burnished strawberry. A bit oaky and tart in the mouth, with a long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Lafond Syrah, Lafond Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $28. Slightly burnished raspberry-boysenberry nose. A bit young on the palate, with nice blackberry-boysenberry fruit, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Lafond Syrah, Stolpman Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $30. Ripe and slightly singed nose of blackberry and brushy notes. Jammy mouthfeel, showing no signs of softening up, with a long toasty finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1996 Lafond Syrah, Lafond Vyd, Santa Ynez Valley, $28. Nose of blackberry, blueberry, and shoe wax. Big, young mouthfeel, with lots of blackberry flavors that get just a bit tart through long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1999 Lafond Zin Essence, Santa Ynez Valley, $40.(375ml). Fresh, young, sweet nose, with lots of raspberry-blackberry aromas. Sweet and slightly port-like on the palate, with a long finish. 20.1% alcohol. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Lafond Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, $30 (375ml). Nose of apricots and raisins, with a touch of almond. Fabulous mouthfeel; nearly a dead ringer for a very good Sauternes. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

Out at 5:10, and headed for the Hitching Post for a slab of beef.

Wrap up: managed to cover 6 wineries, tasting 58 wines, and all while moving at a fairly easy pace. Having not visited at Santa Barbara, Gainey, Sunstone and Foley for quite a while, it felt like a reunion of familiar places and wines. Sanford was delicious as always, and the Lafond wines were all very nice. My kind of day.

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