12 No.5 - November
3 of 3 - Journal and tasting notes from visits to several
California wineries and vineyards.
November 4, 2004 - Santa Barbara County
early for the drive down to Santa Maria and the first stop
of the day. Ken Zinns and Al Osterheld were joining me for
the next couple of days on the Central Coast. Ken had stayed
in Paso last night as well, and we'd arranged to meet in downtown
Paso at 7:30 at a place called Dining with Andre
for some coffee and pastry before we left town. Unfortunately,
when we arrived they didn't have any coffee ready...or any
fresh pastry, for that matter! Ken and I looked at each other
quizzically. As it turns out, Andre doesn't open
until 7:30 (which seemed kind of late to me). But, we waited
for the coffee to brew, and made do with some day old pastry.
Osterheld (foreground) and Ken Zinns sampling some Pinot
light rain had started to fall as we drove the 45 minutes
down to Santa Maria and over to the Central Coast Wine Services
has a great location just inside loading dock on the west
side of the building. Although I'd been here just a couple
of months before (9/04),
Joe Davis and his crew were busy with crush, so we didn't
have the opportunity to do any barrel tasting - though Joe
did one better by opening a whole slew of bottles for us!
So, when I started setting up this trip, I called Joe to see
if he'd be around. Unfortunately, he was scheduled to be out
of town, but he did arrange for Barry Rossum to taste us through
several barrels. I'd met Barry last February when we both
worked a Garretson bottling run, and had run into him again
at the Clos Pepe BBQ, and he was looking forward to seeing
Arcadian Chardonnay - Santa Lucia Highlands. (Montrachet
yeast.) Lost of tropical qualities, with a touch of lemonade.
Arcadian Chardonnay - Santa Lucia Highlands. (3709 yeast.)
Lemon and pineapple pie, with just a touch of tartness on
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Molenoff Vnyd, Russian River. Clone
115. Nose of strawberry and Kirsch. Fuller than expected in
mouthfeel, with a nice sweet-sour taste.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands. Gamay clone.
Regrafted from Chardonnay in '99, very earthy scent and flavors.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands. Gamay clone.
Harvested from a split canopy section, this one's sweeter
and slightly richer in mouthfeel.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands. Gamay clone.
From a bilateral cordon section, this one's balanced even
a bit better that the previous two. Lots of earthy scents
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Gold Coast. Martinelli Clone. Floral
and earthy, with a pretty biong cherry and strawberry flavor.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Rio Vista Vnyd, Santa Rita Hills.
Clone 115. Big front end to this wine, stern backbone in the
middle, with a tapered finish.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix Vnyd, SRH. Clone 113.
Nose of earth, cherry, and sexy floral scents. Big in mouthfeel,
nicely balanced, picks up more acids on the back end.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Rio Vista Vnyd, SRH. Clone 667.
Lots of juicy sweet fruit in the nose and mouth. Nice on its
own, but some 115 ought to move this up a notch.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Rio Vista Vnyd, SRH. Clone 2A. Rich
dark cherry nose with a surprising amount of coffee scents.
Nice aromatics and front end flavors, the wine seems to fall
off a bit on the back end.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix, SRH. Clone 4. Earthy
bing cherry, with touches of forest floor and wet stone. Grippy
mouthfeel, nice fruit and balance, but back end seems to fall
off a bit.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Dierberg Vnyd, Santa Maria Valley.
Clone 5. Nose of strawberry, rare meat, and cherry. Medium-full
mouthfeel, very tasty and well balanced. Very nice.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Dierberg Vnyd, Santa Maria Valley.
Clone 31. Initially reticent dark cherry in the nose, that
gets much stronger with swirling. Very good mouthfeel, nice
strawberry flavors at mid-palate, turnign to bing cherry at
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Dierberg Vnyd, Santa Maria Valley.
Clone 13. Earthy, big on fruit with lots of strawberry and
cherry and a sweet-sour quality. Picks up a bit more acid
on back end.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Dierberg Vnyd , Santa Maria Valley.
Clone 115. Whole cluster fermentation. Big and rich on mouthfeel,
exceptional balance or flavors and acids, long gripping finish.
Arcadian Pinot Noir - Pisoni Vnyd, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Pisoni clone. Powerful, yet amazingly subtle in its changes
in scent and flavor. One moment it's all about the big fruit,
the next, it's all about the complexity of sweet-sour flavors.
Arcadian Syrah - Star Lane Vnyd, Santa Ynez Valley. Estrella
clone. Nose of black fruit and licorice. Rich on the palate,
very well-balanced, smooth finish.
Arcadian Syrah - Westerly Vnyd, Santa Ynez Valley. Clone
877. Similar to Star Lane, but with much more floral aromatics,
and more blueberry in flavor.
Arcadian Syrah - Stolpman Vnyd, Santa Ynez Valley. Clone
7.Nose and flavor of dark chocolate covered black cherries.
A wine to curl up to on a cloudy day.
Arcadian Syrah - Evans Ranch (Gainey), SRH. Estrella clone.
Blackberry scents and flavors. Younger or cooler climate in
profile, there was more of an edginess to the slightly tart
Arcadian Syrah Max Cuvee - Santa Ynez Valley.
A blend of all of the above Syrahs. Dark cherry and floral
in nose, with a smooth yet grippy mouthfeel.
and I met up with Al at Arcadian, and the three of us wandered inside
the huge facility to find Barry. Although Barry's retired, you'd
never know it - he's a bundle of energy, and has been working with
Joe for several months now. Joe had given Barry a whole list of
wines to go through for our tasting, along with the stats about
the barrels, etc., so it we were able to move along though them
Rossum grabbing another barrel sample
was very interesting to taste through these barrels - tasting what
was basically a 'spice rack' of smells and flavors, knowing that
Joe would eventually add a little of this clone with a bit of that
clone to achieve his final blend. Some of the clones, for instance,
tasted big up front or were all about the aromatics, yet seemed
to be a bit abbreviated in flavor or mouthfeel on the back end of
the wine. Blending these clones with other clones from the same
vineyard would fill out these wines. In any event, it seemed obvious
to me that Joe's newer vintages would match or exceed the quality
levels of previous vintages.
covered Joe Davis' philosophy about winemaking before, but to recap:
Joe says that he likes to pick earlier than most other Pinot producers,
hand sorts, and uses anywhere from 40%-100% stems. The whole cluster
fruit is placed in open-top fermenters, covered in dry ice to retard
fermentation, and cold soaked for two days. He stays with authentic
Burgundian methods, like foot treading (pigeage), in making his
Pinot, and the wine finishes fermentation in mostly new Fançois
Frères barrels, staying in oak for upwards of 18 months,
and undergoing no racking. The Chardonnays are aged 15 months on
lees, and hand-stirred about every two weeks. By using consistent
winemaking methods, Joe is able to create wines whose only differences
are the sources of their fruit.
was aware that I'd tried to arrange an additional visit with someone
at CCWS for mid-morning, before moving on to the Santa Ynez Valley.
Had I been successful at lining up something, he asked. Nope, I
told him, we hadn't been able to hook up with a particular small
producer at the facility, and then a tentative agreement to meet
with Frank Ostini from Hitching Post fell through when Frank had
a family emergency. Finally, we took a shot at arranging something
with Tim Spear of Clos Mimi. Unfortunately though, he was only available
in the afternoon. However, at the last minute, we'd been presented
another option - Tantara winery, located in the nearby Bien Nacido
Vnyd. So, we'd lined up Tantara, Foxen and Carhartt for the balance
of the day.
would it be okay if I tagged along, Barry asked. Of course, come
on along, I said, the more the merrier. We'd all be getting together
for dinner that evening, and Barry had made a reservation at the
Ballard Inn - where he also manages a small tasting bar (did I mention
Barry's a busy guy).
Adobe' - Bien Nacido Vineyards, looking southwest
the westside of Santa Maria, we headed due east out of town and
into the Santa Maria Valley AVA, finally arriving at the Bien Nacido
vineyard about 30 minures later. A light rain was still falling
as we drove in past the gate, parallel to the Santa Maria River,
into a box canyon and over to the winery that's been home to Tantara
Winery since 2002. Winemaker Jeff Fink wasn't going
to be available to meet with us, but he'd arranged for us to visit
with assistant winemaker, Scott Anker.
Tantara Pinot Noir - G Block, Bien Nacido Vnyd. Clone
115. Nose of earth and strawberry. Lots of sweet notes, loamy
full mouthfeel, bit of a short finish.
Tantara Pinot Noir - Block 1, Bien Nacido Vnyd. Mt. Eden
clone. Beautiful noseMasses of bing and black cherry, full
and rich on the palate with just a touch of tobacco.
Tantara Pinot Noir - Garys' Vnyd, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Strawberry and light cherry notes, touch of earth, off-sweet
fruit, very nice balance, and long finish.
Tantara Chardonnay - Dierberg Vnyd, Santa Maria Valley.
Nose of citrusy and tropical fruit, with trace of candied
lemon peel. Similar profile in mouthfeel, with additional
notes of pink grapefruit.
Tantara Pinot Noir - Solomon Hills, Santa Maria Valley.
Clones 115 and 2A. Wow!Lots of depth and richness, touch of
earth to the bright red fruit, great balance and long finish.
Tantara Pinot Noir - Adobe section, Bien Nacido Vnyd.
Peppery and slightly floral, we were told this was a blend
of specific organic blocks. Sweet in mouthfeel, with a slightly
sweet aftertaste, lots of cherry - less so strawberry.
Tantara Pinot Noir - Garys' Vnyd, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Sweet dark cherry cola, very seductive at mid-palate, with
more earthiness apparent through latter palate.
in 1997, Tantara was formed by long time friends Bill Cates and
Jeff Fink to produce vineyard designated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
from Central Coast vineyards such as Bien Nacido, Talley, Pisoni,
Gary's, Laetitia and Dierberg. The label's name was derived from
a horse owned by Bill Cates some years ago.
addition to leasing the two acres of Bien Nacido G Block Pinot Noir,
Tantara planted ten acres of Pinot and two acres of Syrah in 1999,
bringing their total to about fourteen acres. The new plantings
will come on-line in 2005, and will make up their estate bottling.
Current production for '03 is about 3,000 cases, with '04 expected
to be 5,000 cases, where Tantara intends to cap production. Clonal
varieties include: Wadenswil 2a, Dijon 115, 667, and 777, Pommard
and Mt. Eden.
to r) Scott Anker, Al Osterheld, Ken Zinns, Barry Rossum
Pinot Noir is hand sorted and de-stemmed, then fermented in open
top vats using both native and prepared yeasts. Scott says they
do a tiny bit of whole cluster, but not much. After primary fermentation,
the wine is pressed and put into French oak to finish ML. The wine
is then racked and left undisturbed until assembled and bottled,
unfined and unfiltered. The Chardonnay is whole cluster pressed,
the juice settled then put into French oak, and both primary and
malolactic fermentation take place in barrel. The lees are stirred
occasionally until ML is completed, then the wine rests sur-lie
for 10 - 12 months until bottled.
found Scott inside the small office adjacent to the winery and introduced
ourselves. After chatting for awhile, Scott led us over to the winery
and we started out with a few barrels, talking about styles of pinot
and the Bien Nacido Vineyard. Most people know the name of this
world-renowned vineyard, yet I was surprised to hear that the Miller
family first planted vines here back in 1970 - 35 years ago! then
we headed back to the office to try some finished wines. I remembered
that I had some smoked mozzarella in the car, and brought it in
so we were able to have a light lunch of sorts with our wine.
rustic tasting room
Tantara and Bien Nacido Vineyard behind, we picked up Foxen Canyon
Road and continued into the Santa Ynez Valley for a visit to Foxen
winery. It's an easy place to miss, if you're flying too fast down
Foxen Canyon Road, you could drive right by it and not have noticed
that it was a tasting room or winery.
previous old blacksmith shop serves as Foxen's tasting room, and
is perched literally right next to the raod. If you're cruising
through Santa Ynez Valley and you want to see the anthesis of a
tasting room - look no further. Foxen is the first name that pops
up, if you're looking for "rustic." In fact, during a
recent PBS documentary about wine, actor John Cleese referred to
it tongue-in-cheek as 'a shed in the Australian outback.' Well,
we're not in Australia, but he has a point. In this valley, only
Sanford's tasting room can hold a candle to Foxen's quaint digs.
Quaint or not, they've been turning out some marvelous wines since
found Bill Wathen tending to some duties inside the tasting room,
and re-introduced ourselves. I'd first met Bill and his fellow proprietor
Dick Dore (a relative of Benjamin Foxen) on a visit many years ago,
and had always meant to do more of an in-depth tasting of their
program, but somehow never got around to it. So, I was very much
looking forward to this opportunity.
Foxen Pinot Noir - Julia's Vnyd. Pommard clone. Spicy
dark cherry in nose and mouth. Slight wild cherry quality
to the taste, soft, rich and balanced, this vineyard delivers
with the "drink me now" style of Pinot. About $30.
Foxen Pinot Noir - Bien Nacido Vnyd. Pommard clones. From
some 1.25 tn/ac yields from Block 8. Big, rich and more earthy
than the Julia's, lots of fruit and a crisper finish. About
Foxen Pinot Noir - Sea Smoke Vnyd. Clones 115, 667, 777.
Besides Sea Smoke, the only winery doing a bottling of this
vineyard's fruit is Foxen - owing to their participation in
arranging the deal. This '03 represents Foxen's 3rd vintage
with this fruit. Big, rich and chewy, this is a real mouthfull
of wine. Built along the lines of a Southing on steroids,
it'll turn your head about bigger-than-life Pinots. About
Foxen Zinfandel - Rancho Arroyo Grande. Tons of peppery
and spicy boysenberry fruit. Rich in mouthfeel, very nicely
balanced, long finish. As far as I know, this the first Foxen
Foxen Merlot - Carhartt Vnyd. From a vineyard near Solvang,
the location belies just how nice and ripe a SYV Merlot can
be. Bill loves this vineyard, and encouraged the Carhartts
to start making their own wine with the fruit. Rather than
plummy tones, it's all about cassis, black cherry, and very
chewy in mouthfeel and gripping in finish. Not at all soft,
this Cabernet in style - a steak of a Merlot.
Foxen Cabernet Sauvignon - Vogelzang Vnyd. Puillac clone.
From a source further east in the valley, the heat out this
was completely knocks out the potential "green"
quality of the variety grown elsewhere in the valley. Rich
smooth cassis flavors, touch of toast and vanilla, excellent
balance, smooth long finish.
Foxen Syrah - Tinaquaic. Fascinating Beaucastel-like gamey
blackberry, with accents of barnyard and a touch of asphalt.
Big and chewy mouthfeel, surprisingly smooth and sweet in
Foxen Syrah - Williamson-Dore. From a location near Bridlewood.
Smoother, slightly softer and less feral, with lots of blackbery
and a touch of licorice.
Foxen Jean Marie - Williamson-Dore. Very nice
blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Lots of dark fruit,
punched up by the raspberry in the Granache. Rich and chewy
mouthfeel, long flavorful finish.
Foxen Chenin Blanc - Old Vine. From vines planted in 1966,
this is some of the better Chenin Blanc to be found in California.
Crisp mouthfeel, with dollops of pear and pineapple. Wonderful!
Foxen Chardonnay - Tinaquaic. Wente clone. Nice crisp
sweetness to nose and mouth, with moderate body and lots of
flavor and polish.
Foxen Volpino - . Mostly Sangiovese, with about
25% Merlot. Interesting melding of flavors - dried dark cherry-strawberry,
spicy and a bit plummy, smooth finish.
Foxen Sangiovese Dominique. Fuller in body and
texture than the Volpino, with nice scents of clove and vanilla
accenting the dark spicy cherry. Gripping in mouthfeel, long
finish. No, you won't mistake it for Brunello , but it's damn
worked at Chalone from 1978-82, before beginning the Foxen venture
with Dick Dore in 1987. He does do a little whole cluster fermentation,
and uses about 60% new Fançois Frères cooperage on
his Pinot Noir. Production here is somewhere between 10,000-15,000
what would you like to taste, asked Bill. Everything, I said with
a wry smile, not wanting to miss out on anything. How about we start
with some barrel tasting, I asked. Sure, let's go try a few barrels.
While Bill grabbed a thief and some glasses, I scanned the inside
of the tasting room. Lots of kitchy memorabilia here. Both Dick
and Bill went to Catholic schools, so there were a few "nun"
dolls and jokes about. I was also reminded about Foxen's fabulous
T-shirts. The first one I recall from several years back had a whole
list of adjectives quoted from critic Robert Parker's writeups listed
down the back of the shirt: "Profound," "Audacious,"
"Decadent,"... "In your face," with Parker's
credit at the bottom of the list. But, my favorite has always been,
"If you don't know Foxen, you don't know Dick (or Bill)."
was still chuckling to myself when Bill came back. Okay, here are
some glasses, let's get some wine, he said, leading us over to the
old barn just out back that served as the winery and barrel room.
We tried samples of Pinot Noir, a Zinfandel, and a Merlot. Hey,
do you want to try some Rhones, he asked. Definitely, we all replied.
Okay, let's go over to the "Rhone shed," he said, leading
us across to the other side of the property and another small wooden
building near the roadside. The rain was now coming down a little
harder, as we tried to huddle inside the barrel-filled room.
to the tasting room, Bill took us through the finished wines, and
we chatted about the Foxen name. The sea anchor on the Foxen label
is a tribute to Dick's great-great grandfather, William Benjamin
Foxen, who was a ship's commander in the Royal Navy. After a broken
mast landed him unexpectedly on the Central California coast in
1837, he was welcomed by the Mexican governor and decided to put
down roots, falling in love and marrying the Governor’s daughter.
Together they had 14 children and left a large estate including
the Foxen vineyards.
where are you guys going next, Bill asked. Well, we have a 3:00
visit scheduled with Mike and Brooke Carhartt. Oh, they're great
- we buy our Merlot from them...and they're making some nice wines
themselves now, too, he added. I told Bill that I didn't have a
street address for them - did he happen to know it. Oh, I don't
know, but you can't miss it. Just go down Alamo Pintado and look
for the dead crawler out front. 'Dead crawler,' I repeated slightly
aloud, with what must've been a blank expression on my face. Bill
noticed that I didn't get it. Yeah, a little tractor that's not
working any more, he said. I smiled, feeling just a bit dumber than
when I arrived (yes, that was possible). As it turned out,
I also should have been listening longer, as Bill explained where
to make the turns after the dead crawler.
Mike and Brooke Carhartt
met Mike and Brooke Carhartt at one of the Wine Cask tastings a
year or two ago, and Mike suggested I pay them a visit and see the
vineyard. Barry was ambivalent, should he head home to change clothes
and pick up his wife for dinner, or follow us over to the Carhartts.
Since he hadn't met Mike Carhartt yet, he decided to push the envelope
and followed us over to Alamo Pintado Road, in Solvang. The light
rain continued as we headed out for Carhartt
Vineyards, following Foxen Cyn Rd.
played follow the leader at a pretty quick clip down Foxen Canyon
Road and into the rural outskirts of Solvang. Dead crawler...dead
crawler, I kept muttering to myself, as ww worked our way down
Alamo Pintado Road. Okay, we found the crawler just where Bill said
it would be, and turned up the road. Unfortunately, I couldn't recall
how far he'd told us to go up the road before turning, so we just
continued to follow each other to the end of the road and the top
of the hill. From here it was choice of three driveways. Fabulous
view of the surrounding vineyards from this vantage point. I figured
one of these spreads had to belong to Mike and Brooke, so I made
a call to them, hoping they could guide me further, but no one answered
and I had to leave a message. Since we'd driven past LinCourt winery
on the way up the road, Barry volunteered to go back down and ask
them if they happened to know where the Carhartt's lived. He was
down the hill and back up in just a few minutes,and it turned out
we'd passed their turnoff on the way up the hill.
Carhartt's use their back label for some useful information
Carhartt Merlot - Estate. Very Bordeaux-like in profile,
with nice plummy cassis fruit, but also more than a little
grip throughout the mouthfeel.
Carhartt Syrah - Estate. Surprisingly smooth, this wine
hasn't developed the tannins as yet, and the pure blackberry
fruit shines right through.
Carhartt Merlot - Estate. Very polished, with a beautiful
vanilla and toast accent to the dark cherry scent. Rich on
the palate, chewy mouthfeel, long smooth finish.
Carhartt Syrah - Estate. In contrast to the barrel sample,
this wine was huge and powerful, with gripping tannins, and
licorice-accented bright fruit-filled finish.
back and finally pulling onto the Carhartt property, we parked our
cars near a barn and stable and I looked around for a familiar face.
Barry was headed up to one of the houses on the property, just as
my cell phone rang. It was Brooke Carhartt. We were actually still
talking to each other as Barry approached the house. It seemed a
bit surreal, watching Barry approach the house just as Brooke was
asking me if I was the guy walking toward her. Brooke led us over
to the barn that serves as their winery and barrel room, explaining
that Mike was out on a delivery, but would be right back.
the meantime, Brooke led us over to their winery and barrel room
in a converted barn on th eproperty. She told us about their operation,
and started us on some barrel sampling. Mike joined us soon thereafter,
and we continued to sample a couple of barrels, and chat while we
tried some finished wines. The rain was coming down harder now,
and unfortunately, the mud was going to prevent us from taking a
drive or walk through the vineyards, which are span up the hill
behind the house and barn.
Carhartt Vineyard and Winery is located on the historic Rancho Santa
Ynez, where Mike Carhartt’s family has raised cattle, and
horses since the early 1900’s. The ten-acre Carhartt Vineyard
(6 acres Merlot, 4 acres Syrah) was planted in 1996, and sits high
on a mesa with maximum sun exposure suited to Rhône and Bordeaux
varietals. The cool mornings become hot, sunny afternoons that remain
warm through the rest of the day. The growing season often stretching
into late October. Although they originally intended to only sell
the grapes to local wineries, Brooke and Mike decided to vinify
small amounts of their grapes for their own label and produced two
barrels of wine in 1998.
clock was ticking, and Barry needed to make his exit, heading back
up to Arroyo Grande to change clothes and pick up his wife. Meanwhile,
Al, Ken and I stayed on a bit longer, leaving enough time to check
into our motel and change for dinner. Meeting Barry a little early
at the Ballard Inn, we wanted to try some of the wines at the Inn's
tasting bar - which Barry happened to manage (did I mention he's
a busy guy?). He has some nice wines available, and a visit there
is highly recommended.
that evening was fabulous! Barry had made reservations for us at
the Ballard Inn,
and Chef Budi Kazali brought his considerable talent to bear on
several excellent dishes, including my own seared ahi - which tasted
absolutely incredible with each of the Pinots on the table. Our
crew for the day was joined by Barry's wife, Darlene, Dave and Becky
Corey, and Tim Spear. Wines poured included: 1999 Littorai Hirsch,
2002 Failla Hirsch, 2001 Loring Garys, 2000 Brewer Clifton Rozak
Ranch, 2001 Laetitia Les Galets, 1998 Martinore Pierce's Elbow -
Williamette Valley, 2002 Harrington Hirsch, 1999 Arcadian Pisoni,
2002 Red Car Amour Fou, 2002 Core Elevation Sensation,
2002 Core Hard Core.
November 5, 2004 - Santa Barbara County
early for our trek over to Honea Vineyards. There were lots of clouds
in the sky, but it had stopped raining. We decided to take one car,
and after a stop for coffee, pastry and some bottled water, we were
off - driving over to Honea Vineyard to meet with Chrystal Clifton
of Palmina wines. From here, plans had us heading over to the Lompoc
"ghetto," a light industrial center at the eastern edge
of the city that housed a large number of the valley's winemaking
operations. (While we're on the subject, I want to help the city
fathers out by explaining that this is pronounced "Lom-poke."
Just in case you disagree with the phonetics here, remember that
local names frequently are pronounced in an historically way - sometimes
not bending to convention. Okay, now back to wine.)
the vineyard visit, our schedule for the day was going to be heady
- first, we'd meet with Steve and Chrystal Clifton to taste some
of their Palmina wines, followed by a visit to Rick Longoria, some
barrel sampling of Worx vineyards, a visit with Chad Melville at
his Samsara project, and still try to fit Peter Cargasacchi in somewhere
during the day. Then, Barry mentioned that he'd arranged a visit
with Sea Smoke for this morning and wanted us to join him. Well,
the day just got a little more complex at that point. But, you'll never
hear me say, "oh, I'm sorry, we just don't have enough time
to fit you in." Needless to say, this is the root all of my
potential scheduling problems.
contours of Honea Vineyards
about 9:00am at Honea
Vineyards off Alamo Pintado Road, we drove up to the
house. Chrystal Clifton, along with Milt Honea and his wife Marilyn
came out the meet us. By mutual arrangement, this vineyard will
be the future fruit source for the majority, if not all of Palmina's
Italian varietal bottlings. The rain had thankfully stopped and
the ground seemed firm enough, so it looked as though we'd be able
to drive up to the vineyard. How much time do you have, Chrystal
asked. Well, we were asked if wanted to meet the Sea Smoke folks
at 10:30 over in Lompoc, I mentioned. (It turned out we were actually
supposed to be there at 10:00.) I'd spoken to Chrystal the day before,
and we'd discussed how we might best handle the vineyard visit and
the subsequent visit to their winery in Lompoc. We decided to try
just a couple of wines at the vineyard, and do the majority of the
tasting at the winery.
across the valley east to the San Rafael Range
I guess we'd better get going if we're going to keep you on schedule,
both Chrystal and Milt agreed. We followed Milt's truck up a road
through the vineyard and up a hill to a pergola at the top. The
view was magnificent, with the fast-moving clouds creating some
beautifully colored effects in the vineyard. Milt told us a little
about himself and the property. He had spent 40 years of managing
companies, and wanted an active retirement. He and Marilyn decided
to grow grapes and made it a family enterprise, with three children
and ten grandchildren. Purchased in 2002, the Honea Vineyards consists
of 40 acres, from the road up the hill behind the property to the
acres have been planted in grapes and two in olive trees. The first
plantings occurred in the summer of 2003, and the first harvest
is expected this year (2005). Italian varieties selected by and
for Steve and Chrystal Clifton's all-Italian label, Palmina, include
whites: Arneis, Muscat Canelli, Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano, along
with reds: Lagrein, Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese.
In addition to the Italian varieties, a small acreage of Merlot
had been planted several years ago by previous owners was retained.
acknowledged unusual choice of Italian varietals came not just from
his appreciation for all things Italian, but it turns out he also
really wanted to grow 'something different' in the valley, rather
than the 'same old thing.' Development and production of the vineyard
were managed by Jeff Newton and Larry Finkle, and Steve Clifton's
involvement from the outset made it sort of a 'dream team.' They
use a vertical shoot positioning trellis system, and vines are spaced
four feet apart with six feet between rows, giving a plant density
of 1,815 vines per acre. The canopy is trained to allow good air
flow and sun exposure, and plans call for modest to low yields of
fruit, controlled by moisture retention, shoot and leaf thinning,
and fruit dropping.
back down from the hill, we took a look at the recently completed
winery building, which had been tucked into a conveniently deep
swale (almost a valley) in the land. Currently, case goods are stored
here as well as serving as the drying rack location. Ultimately,
they'll be putting in a cut-and-cover cave, as well as pulling permits
for a winery. Want to taste some wine, Chrystal asked. Sure, I said
while glancing at my watch, we'd love to. (I was a little worried
about meeting Barry at Sea Smoke at the appointed time, but I figured
he was going to be there anyway and they would hopefully just go
on without us.)
Palmina Pinot Grigio - Ashley's Vnyd, SRH. Medium to full
body, light lemon and lime flavors, with an amazing smoothness.
Palmina Malvasia Bianca - Larner Vnyd, SYV. Very floral
almost a gardenia scent to the background. Crisp sweet lemon
and honeyed flavors, moderately chewy finish.
Palmina Bianca - SBC. A blend of 35% Traminer, 30% Sauvignon
Blanc, 15% Tocai Friulano, 15% Malvasia Bianca and 5% Pinot
Grigio. Lightly floral, delicious, and the sauv blanc comes
through adding some gooseberry to th eblend. Has just the
right balance and crispness, with a hint of sweetness on the
followed Milt back to the house and inside where Chrystal had set
up three "Friuli super whites" for tasting, accompanied
by a couple of cheeses. 'God, I love the smell of wine in the morning.'
Everything was delicious, and we could've easily stayed another
hour. But by about 10:15 or so, I felt we needed to make our way
to Lompoc to hook up with Barry -- hoping we wouldn't be too late.
We thanked Milt and Marilyn for opening their home to us, and thanked
Chrystal apologetically for rushing away. Okay, we'll see you at
Noon, she said. Yes, Noon at the winery, I promised, as we piled
into the car and headed for Lompoc at warp speed.
along 246, I thought about our current itinerary for the rest of
the day: ...let's see...there were visits with Sea Smoke, Palmina,
Longoria, Samsara, Worx, ...I had to find Sashi Moorman, and still
call Peter Cargasacchi.... It all seemed kind of daunting. It was
yet another classic case of too many wineries and not enough time.
The only saving grace was that the Lompoc "Ghetto" was
basically one-stop shopping - with everybody located within a one
pulled into the Ghetto parking lot and rushed over to the Sea Smoke
location. Kris Curran seemed to be concluding her morning tasting.
Sorry, too late, I'm just finishing up with these guys, said Kris,
with a semi-serious smile. Barry told us that Kris was taking her
crew out to lunch to celebrate the end of harvest, so it looked
like our window of opportunity had closed. Tell you what, she offered,
if you come back around 3:30 we can barrel sample some stuff then.
That'd be great, Kris, we'll be here - and on time, I promised.
As Kris started rounding up her crew, I took the time to introduce
myself to her assistant winewmaker, Don Schroeder. Don is Peter
Work's stepson, and makes the Worx wines here at the Ghetto as well.
I'd asked Peter about tasting some barrel samples on this visit,
and he put me in touch with Don. We agreed to meet back at Sea Smoke
after we were done with the rest of our visits, and he'd take us
across the alley to the other building where he makes the Worx wines.
Phew! It was going to be a long day.
with time to kill before our Noon appointment with the Cliftons,
I figured it wouldn't hurt to see if one of our afternoon visits
was interested in meeting us earlier -- I mean, since we happened
to be in the neighborhood. But, we couldn't find any takers - everyone
had pretty much budgeted their time for the day accordingly. So,
Al, Ken and I decided to go grab something to eat or drink. Ken
remembered a coffee house in town (Lompoc), so we drove over for
some coffee and scones and just kicked back for a bit (can't remember
the last time I did this - I'm usually rushing from one place
Palmina Alisos - Alisos Vnyd. Blend of 76% Sangiovese,
24% Merlot. Big lush and rich in mouthfeel. Dried cherry,
light raspberry and a touch of anise in the nose.
Palmina Barbera - Alisos Vnyd. 1st crop of this vineyard,
after Steve asked the owners to graft over some Chardonnay
to Barbera. Dark sweet fruit, with touches of herb and Kirsch-soaked
pipe tobacco. Big and chewy mouthfeel, but fabulous balance
and taste. Very nice!
Palmina Barbera - Bien Nacido Vnyd. More tradition than
the Alisos Vnyd bottling, with brighter fruit, and a toastier
- almost Parmesan quality in the nose. Rich and higher-toned
in mouthfeel, with a nice earthy quality to the finish.
Palmina Barbera - Bien Nacido Vnyd. Froma a section of
17 yr old vines. Lots of dark cherry custard, rich creamy
mouthfeel, excellent balance, and a light grip of tannins
on t e back end. Beautiful!
Palmina Nebbiolo - Stolpman Vnyd. From a section of 10
yr old vines. Nose of sweet black cherry and blackberry, with
a lightly cocoa-dusted quality to the dark fruit, and amazingly
smooth fine-grained finish.
Palmina Barbera - Rancho Sisquoc Vnyd. Planted in '98
- 1st crop from this vineyard. Light vanilla and clove accents
to the dark fruit, with a nice round mouthfeel and long finish.
Palmina Savoia - SBC. A blend of 50% Nebbiolo
(Stolpman), 30% Barbera (Bien Nacido), and 20% Syrah (Alisos).
Very seductive nose of dark cherry, with light chocolate and
cake spices in the background, big, yet smooth and round,
with lovely fine-grained tannins and long finish. The assembled
wine sits in barrel for an additional year.
Alder Grenache - Alisos Vnyd. 1st crop from this vineyard.
Bright fruit with floral accent in the nose. Lots of raspberry
flavors throughout,and a little peppery through the finish
- no doubt aided by the 7% Syrah.
Alder Syrah - Alisos Vnyd. Nose of dark berry, with an
edge of sweet herb and tobacco. Slight anise accent to the
blackberry fruit, very smooth and well balanced.
Palmina Dolcetto - Moro Vnyd. From a vnyd off 246 in the
Santa Rita Hills AVA. Huge fruit throughout, slightly bright
raspberry and bing cherry, with a light sweetness from mid
to later palate.
Palmina Pinot Grigio - Bien Nacido Vnyd. Light apple and
pear notes accent the lemon meringue quality. Crisp and delicious.
Palmina Malvasia - Bien Nacido Vnyd. Dried to 40 degrees
brix (17%) in a Vin-Santo style by spreading them out on a
drying table over 7 weeks. Scents of poached peach and apricot.
Chewy mouthfeel,lovely texture and silky finish.
back at the 'Ghetto' at Noon, we found Steve and Chrystal Clifton
chatting with Greg Brewer (Palmina and Brewer-Clifton are conveniently
located right next door to each other). Welcome back, said Chrystal
- let's try some Palmina
wines, said Steve. Standing amidst lots of fermenting bins, we chatted
about the Palmina label and Steve and Chrystal's Italian wine venture.
produced the first Palmina wines in the basement of his home in
1995. Steve started in the wine business at the Rancho Sisquoc tasting
room. Slowly, he began to perform cellar tasks and finally worked
his way up to Assistant Winemaker under Stephan Bedford (now of
the Bedford–Thompson winery). Over the next few years Steve
spent time at Beckmen and Brander perfecting his craft, and finally
rounded out his marketing and sales experience from 1995 to 1998
managing the Wine Cask retail store in Santa Barbara. Steve met
Greg Brewer in 1995 and the two formed a partnership producing Brewer-Clifton
wines, solely dedicated to vineyard-designated Chardonnay and Pinot
Noir from the Santa Rita Hills. Brewer-Clifton’s first release
began with the wines produced from the 1996 vintage.
Steve's interest in Burgundian varietals is unwavering, he came
to love Italian grape varietals while working in restaurants, and
visiting Italy. Wanting to start a separate venture for Italian
varietal wines, Steve started the Palmina label. In 2000, Chrystal
Seals joined Palmina and has been working with Steve through all
facets of the business. It was a natural match, with Chrystal educated
at the University of Bologna and fluent in Italian, her ability
to work with wine producers in Italy has also given the label much
insight in forming Palmina's philosophy and style. Steve and Chrystal
were married in Italy in 2004.
and Steve Clifton
performs extended maceration (up to 30+ days), and finishes the
wine in barrel innoculating for ML. Cooperage is a combination of
Slovenian and French oak. Interestingly, Italian winemakers seem
to prefer Slovenian oak, and much of the oak used by Palmina is
from Gamba, and coopered in Italy. Palmina's production is about
3200 cases, going to 4000 cases in '04. Once the fruit at Honea
Vineyards comes on line, production will move to 8000 cases annually.
nicer people than Steve and Chrystal, I've never met. They are both
very excited about their venture, and more than happy to share their
enthusiasm and wines with others. And, as if two winery ventures
not sufficient, Steve is also involved in Alder,
a joint venture devoted to Rhône varietals with David Goldmuntz
and Jon Stern. The name is taken from the English translation of
Alisos, the source of fruit for these wines. We were also able to
taste a Grenache and Syrah from this label.
Longoria Chardonnay - Sweeney Cyn Vnyd, SRH. Still going
through ML, but plenty of rich, lemon meringue pie in the
nose. Picked at 24.5 brix.
Longoria Chardonnay - . Rick also did a small lot in a
55 gal stainless steel drum to see where it would go. Slightly
sweeter in mouthfeel that the Chard above, pure lightly floral
citron and lemon peel.
Longoria Pinot Noir - Fe Ciega Vnyd, SRH. Clones 115,
667. This and the rest of the Pinots were an early pick this
year - due to extreme heat spike during harvest. Coffee and
rose petal accent the black and bing cherry in the nose. Ripe
and rich on the palate, well-balanced, and nice long finish.
Picked at 25 brix.
Longoria Pinot Noir - Mt. Carmel Vnyd, SRH. Mt. Eden clone.
Slightly reduced nose, but plenty of dark sweet fruit here.
Nice now, it'll be interesting to see how this develops. Picked
at 26 brix.
Longoria Syrah - Alisos Vnyd, SYV. Fabulous! Plenty of
dark berry, spicy and peppery in mouthfeel, excellent balance
and smooth long finish.
Palmina, we walked the 40 or so paces over to Rick Longoria's
place. I hadn't tasted any of Rick's new wines since March '04,
so I was looking forward to seeing how things were doing.
Longoria has been in the Santa Barbara County wine scene for nearly
30 years, working at places like Firestone and J. Carey Cellars,
and finally at Gainey, where he became winemaker in 1985. Beginning
in 1982, Rick made 500 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Santa
Maria valley vineyards under his own label. The success of his own
label (owned by he and wife Diana) prompted him to leave Gainey
in 1997 to concentrate exclusively on Richard Longoria Wines.
a super easy-going guy, which translates to his outlook and approach
to winemaking. He's 'old school' but never sits on his laurels.
Preferring to let the fruit show itself in each of his wines, Rick's
methods are truly non-interventionist. He destems and hand sorts
all fruit, and uses about 1/3 new oak, including several new big
barrels, or Puncheons, along with some larger wooden tanks. Rick
likes bigger barrels for Chardonnays, feeling it brings out the
best in the varietal (which he says can be rather bland), without
to leverage his available supply of fruit, Rick told us how he'd
originally bought and planted a nearly 8 acre property in the Santa
Rita Hills 1998, doing so on "blind faith." He decided
this would be a wonderful name for the vineyard. Unfortunately,
the name was already in use. So, his solution was to translate "blind
faith" to Spanish, or Fe Ciega. Current production
is about 5,000 cases, with plans to add maybe another 1,000 cases.
Samsara Syrah - Larner Vnyd, SYV. Clone 383. Co-fermented
with 8% Malvasia. Fascinating noise of orange blossom and
licorice spice up the largely present blackberry and tar.
Native yeast and 40% new oak contribute to a lively palate
feel and wild game flavor.
Samsara Syrah - Purisima Vnyd, SYV. Concentrating more
on leather and tobacco scents,the luscious nose paves the
way for the bright blackberry fruit and grippy mouthfeel.
Longoria, it was a short walk over to see Chad Melville's new operation,
As most people know, Chad and bother Brent Melville are the sons
of Ron Melville, owner of Melville Vineyards and Winery. Brent is
primarily a vineyard guy, but Chad loves the winemaking aspects.
So, rather than just hang his reputation on the family namesake
winery, Chad decided he wanted to make wine on his own. Thus was
born the Samsara label.
digress a bit, I was fascinated by the name. The Samsara website
tells us that the name is based on the Sanskrit for the eternal
cycle of life; the world we live in now; one of passion, oneness,
harmony. Interestingly, I found that in Buddhism, samsara
is the process of coming into being as a differentiated, separate
and separative human being. And, in Hinduism, samsara is
the endless cycle of birth and death to which all beings are subject.
Even more interesting is that the opposite of samsara is
nirvana, the "natural" state marked by complete
illumination and liberation from all worldly characteristics or
conditions. So, what's in a name?
back to wine. For 2002 and 2003, Chad is making two syrahs, one
from Purisima Mountain Vineyard (Beckmen) and another from Larner
Vineyard, both located in the Santa Ynez Valley. Both wines are
very nice, especially the '03 Larner, wheich he co-fermented with
8% Malvasia - very unusual. I also took this opportunity to ask
Chad about the Melville Estate Syrah and whether the family had
yanked out all the Syrah from the vineyard near the winery, and
if the new Cat Canyon Vineyard was supposed to replace it. Chad
explained that they'd regrafted 6 of 18 acres from Syrah over to
Pinot Noir. The plan was to increase the Pinot plantings at the
Estate vineyard, and Verna's Vineyard (Cat Cyn) would more than
cover the loss of Syrah acreage. Made sense to me, and having tried
the Verna's at the 2004 Wine Cask Futures tasting, it seemed like
a wise decision.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir - Block Q. Clone 667. Nose of earthy
dark cherry, and a bit of spice. Meaty black cherry flavors,
very full and rich on the palate, long smooth finish. 80%
new oak, but wears it well.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir - Block U. Blend of 6 different clones.
Light floral scent to the bing cherry and earth, seems "cooler"
than the Blk Q, and slightly sweet in mouthfeel, with good
balance from front to mid palate, yet seems to fade a bit
at the back end.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Grafter over from Mt. Eden to clone
459. Nose of rose petal and cherry. The fruit seems a bit
more burnished and caramel-like, with a definite earthy streak,
slightly sweet on the palate, with a smooth yet gripping tannins.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Clone 115. Lightly sweet dark cherry
nose. Off-sweet mouthfeel, smooth, full and rich, with excellent
balance and long finish. Very nice!
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Clone 2A. The bing cherry, strawberry
and rose stem nose had me thinking Sonoma Coast. Wonderful
mouthfeel, silky and rich, with very fine-grained tannins.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Clone 2A. From the same vines as
the '03 above. Bing cherry and wild strawberry nose. Beautiful
nose! Silky on the palate, with a touch more toast and grip
on the finish.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Clone 2A, from section next to Mt.
Carmel. Nose of bing and dark cherry. Juicy on the palate,
with medium-full body and very nice balance.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Clone 113. Ripe cherry, strawberry,
and pomegranate in the nose. Obviously young in mouthfeel,
yet surprisingly fruit-forward and smooth.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Clone 667. Big blousey nose of floral
scents and dark sweet cherry. Smooth and rich on the palate,
and throughout the long finish.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Pressings. Froma very light press,
and used as the topping wine. A bit sweet, and very gripping
on the palate.
Curran Grenache Blanc. Nose of lemon and citron. Crisp
on the palate, with lots of chewy texture, and very long tasty
Chad's place, we doubled back to Sea
Smoke which is actually right across the alley from
Palmina (I told you 'The Lompoc Ghetto' was literally one-stop shopping).
few years ago, local talent Kris Curran was asked to start up a
winery for Koehler, located near Fess Parker in the Santa Ynez Valley.
In short order, she moved to Sea Smoke, after being handpicked by
Bob Davids to handle the winemaking tasks for a new winery - Sea
Smoke, anmed for the marine fog that rolls in during the evening.
by Bob Davids, Sea Smoke began life in 1999, and focuses only on
Pinot Noir, producing three different bottlings: the Botella,
the Southing and the top of the line Ten, a reserve
blend of the best fruit from the ten clones planted. Lots of new
oak is used here, and Sea Smoke tries to match the cooperage with
its 300 acre property, Sea Smoke has 100 acres of vineyards planted
in 25 different blocks with unilateral cane trellising. The vineyards
are perched on south-facing hillsides above the Santa Ynez River,
and literall look down on Sanford’s La Rinconada and Sanford
& Benedict Vineyards, as well as Fiddlestix Vineyard.
2004, Kris added a new assistant winemaker, Don Schroeder, who also
brings a wealth of local experience to the winemaking team. Don
began at Babcock Vineyards during the harvest of 2000. He quickly
was made cellarmaster, and in March of 2002 was offered the seasonal
dual position of assistant winemaker and assistant vineyard manager
at Rideau Vineyards. From there, Don went to Lucas & Lewellen
and was given the opportunity to work with more than 15 varietals
in his capacity as winery crew manager. In addition to Sea Smoke,
Don also handles the winemaking chores for his parents' winery,
Worx Vineyards, a small vineyard property in the Santa Rita Hills
owned by Peter and Rebecca Work.
our Sea Smoke tasting about 5:15 or so, it was a simple matter to
wander across the alley to where Don Schroeder makes the Worx
Vineyards wines (now Ampelos). Since Worx output is small, they sub-lease
space from another winery (Presidio) and don't actually have a key
to the premises. Given the time of day, there might be some difficulty
gaining access, so Don went over to find out. No problem.
Worx Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix Vnyd. Clone 115. From a neutral
barrel. Dark fruit, earth and dark olive in the nose. Chewy
mouthfeel, very nice balance and long finish.
Worx Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix Vnyd. Clone 667. Slightly
burnished dark fruit, bit of ripe sweetness and earth on the
palate, and long smooth finish.
Worx Syrah - Evans Ranch Vnyd, SRH. Nose of blackberry
and blueberry, with a nice smoky tar-licorice scent. Young
mouthfeel, gripping tannins, fruit-filled finish.
Worx Grenache - Harrison Vnyd. Tablas clone. 1st crop
from a vineyard on Ballard Cyn. Black raspberry nose, terrific
mouthfeel with smooth fine-grained tannin, excellent balance
and long finish.
Worx Rose of Syrah. Surprisingly light in color.
Slightly sweet and meaty in nose and mouthfeel. Nice flavors,
balance and finish.
Worx Syrah - Westerly Vnyd. Slightly reduced nose of black
fruit, tar, asphalt, and a bit of barnyard. Bright flavors,
and crisp mouthfeel, moderately tannic, with a nice chocolatey
taste to the finish.
Worx Grenache - Harrison Vnyd. Hadn't finished ML as yet,
but this was very extractedwith loads of dark raspberry. Full
and rich mouthfeel, with substantial grip on the finish.
visited the vineyards back in September, but hadn't had a chance
to taste any of the wine at the time (9/04
visit). Fortunately, I was headed back this way, and although
Peter and Rebecca were out of the country, they had me contact their
son who coincidentally was the assistant winemaker at Sea Smoke.
Worx Vineyards are located in the Santa Rita Hills AVA in a corridor
that connects the Santa Rosa Road valley with the 246 valley. The
first blocks were planted in 2001 with Pinot Noir (115 and Pommard
clones), Syrah (Estrella and 99 clones) and a little Viognier -
a total of 15 acres. These blocks provided the first crop for the
2004 harvest. In 2004, Worx Vineyards were expanded with 10 more
acres - Pinot Noir (2A, 667, 777 and 828 clones), Syrah (383 and
470 clones) and more Viognier. As an experiment the newer Pinot
Noir sections have 2-4% Pinot Grigio interplanted. These grapes
will be ready for the 2006 harvest. In addition to their own use,
the fruit has been made available in small batches to other Santa
Barbara County winemakers, including Bruno D'Alfonso, Ken Brown,
Craig Jaffurs and Chad Melville.
finishing up about 6:00 or so, we were all exhausted. We thanked
Don for all the time he spent with us, and hoped he wouldn't have
to stay too late closing down Sea Smoke and could head home at a
reasonable hour. Meanwhile, we headed back into Buellton to change
for dinner and meet up with John Tomasso and Peter Cargasacchi at
Brothers restaurant in Los Olivos. We got a nice table
in the back of the side room. We'd each brought a few bottles with
us, so we tried to get a break on the corkage. No dice. In fact,
according to both John and Peter's past experience, Brothers steadfastly
refuses to give any breaks on corkage to anybody - winemakers
included! The meal was good, and the corkage at $12 bottle was,
I suppose, reasonable if not actually favorable. Wines for the night included: 2003 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir
Cargasacchi, 1998 Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, 1999 Ojai Syrah Roll
Ranch, 1999 Linne Calodo Bone Rock, 1998 Linne Calodo James Berry
Vineyard (GSM 5/90/5), 2003 Eno Syrah (barrel blend), 2002 Point
Concepcion Pinot Noir Salisipuedes, 2002 Point Concepcion Syrah
November 6, 2004 - Santa Barbara County
had spoken to Dave Corey previously about visiting the source for
his Core Winery fruit, the Alta Mesa vineyard in eastern Santa Barbara
County. Up early for a jaunt out to Alta Mesa vineyard. This vineyard
is out in the far reaches of northeastern Santa Barbara County.
Dave met us at the junction of Hwys 1 and 166 just north of Santa
Maria. Since we were all going our separate ways after the visit,
we followed him in a caravan of cars.
headed east out Hwy 166 past Cuyama to Hwy 33, and then turned south
to Ventucopa on the eastern edge of the county line. Here, on the
backside of the San Rafael range was a series of pistachio groves
and vineyards. It's nearly desert-like out that way, so irrigation
is a must. Although I'd already looked at the approximate location
on a map, I was still surprised that it took us well over an hour
to get to the vineyard.
Eastward from Alta Mesa
we arrived at the top of the mesa. From here, it was a nice view
to the east and south. This is the source of fruit for David and
Becky Corey's Core Wine.
Dave had previously worked for Cambria (KJ) in the vineyards, and
shad worked several harvests at CCWS. The Alta Mesa and adjacent
vineyards are owned by Barnwood, and Dave noticed that they weren't
selling th efruit to anybody, and asked if he could buy it. The
result was a long-term lease on 17 acres of vines here (9 acres
of Grenache and 8.5 acres of Mourvedre). Dave uses most of himself,
but does sell some to others, such as SQN. We didn't bring any wine
to taste (major oversight on our collective parts), but then we'd
certainly had our share over the past week. This vineyard presented
such a strong contrast to others we'd visited during the week. It
was serene and beautiful, and we must've spent a couple of hours
just walking through it. We thanked Dave for bringing us out to
see this fascinating vineyard, out on the far reaches of Santa Barbara
was the final visit of a very long, non-stop trip. From here, Ken
headed to Santa Barbara via the scenic route, Al headed north, and
I headed south and east to pick up the I-5 near Frazier Park just
south of the Grapevine. My thanks again to all of those winemakers,
winegrowers, and winelovers who made this trip so enjoyable.
© 1993 - 2005, Eric Anderson -
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- Eric Anderson