Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Santa Barbara County Trip Part 1

I ventured down south to Santa Barbara a few weeks ago. This was just a short trip to visit my wife and her Pacifica Grad Classmates, and of course to visit the nearby wineries. This was my second trip there so I had a pretty good idea of my itinerary. My first visit was to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (to see why it's called that check out Fiddlehead's facade, below). I had to visit my favorite Pinot Grigio spot Palmina, as well as the famed Fiddlehead.

Instead of wring about every single wine I had at each winery, I'm just going to mention the ones that I thought were really good, okay? Cool.

Palmina was featuring 5 wines - two white, three red. They focus on Italian only varietals, so this is fairly unique for this mostly Pinot Noir area. I actually didn't care too much for the Pinot Grigio this time around...after speaking with Joan, the nice tasting room lady (who didn't want her picture taken) she said I may have previously tasted the Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara County (non-vineyard specific). This wine was supposed to be a richer bodied wine with tropical fruit aromas and flavors, rounded out by a nice orange custardy finish. This sounded more up my alley so I bought a couple bottles, despite not being able to taste them.

Their 2006 Dolcetto, Santa Barbara County, was really quite nice. A very easy drinking, medium bodied wine. Red fruits and floral notes, smooth texture. $20. I also enjoyed their 2005 Barbera, Santa Barbara County. This is 100% barbera, blended from three vineyards (Honea, Alisos, Zotovich). This is a bigger wine, with hearty but smooth tannins. Dark rasberries, pepper, and a little mint. $22. Palmina produces less than 5000 cases a year (total production) so you'll like need to order online or visit their tasting room to get some.

Fiddlehead got a little surge a few years ago because they were featured in Sideways. There was that scene where Miles and Jack met Mia and Stephanie for dinner. Miles sat down in front of Mia and asked what she was drinking, he tried it and said, "That's good. That's really good." That would be the Fiddlehead Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc. This is really good stuff actually. I tried the 2005. A very well balanced wine. This has a little more body than most sauv blancs, but it remains crisp and lively. I got a lot of pear and honey on the nose and palate, with hints of grass and cloves. $24. I also enjoyed their 2004 Pinot Noir, Oldsville Reserve. Very supple mouthfeel. Dark Cherry with a little cedar and possibly currant. Aged for 15 months in french oak, 35% new. Interesting thing about this wine is that the grapes are from Willamette valley! No wonder I liked it. I got to speak with winemaker Kathy Joseph about the process of getting the grapes down to her winery in Lompoc. She said there's a lot of care and precision to make sure the delicate grapes are not damaged in any way. Judging from how the wine tasted, it sounds like she did a bang up job. More on my conversation with her in another post. We got to talking about winery direct shipments and the changing landscape of wine sales.

Lastly, Sanford. Nestled in the Santa Rita Valley, this is one of the first (maybe THE first) wineries in this area. Sanford was also featured in the movie Sideways. The tasting room guy with the long hair is no longer there. (He is now at Alma Rosa, which coincidentally is where the Sanfords are as well. They sold the Sanford Winery and name in the last couple years to another wine mogul.)

I sampled 7 of their wines. Which by the way let me say that any wineries reading this - can you please limit your wines to five or seven at the most? One winery who won't be named had 12 (!) wines on their tasting list. You don't have to sample ALL your wines ALL the time. Standouts were their 2005 Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara County. Intense and rich stone fruits, bright and lively, with a little floral finish. At $17 a very good deal! Another favorite for me was their 2006 Pinot Noir Vin Gris, Santa Barbara County. This is rosé . I saw a few folks naming rosés vin gris. Maybe it's a marketing thing since rosé is still a little passé to many. The juice is in contact with the skins for 3 - 5 hours before it is tank fermented. It's then aged in french oak (neutral) for 4 months. Lots of cranberry and some melon for good measure. Great balance. Great summertime shiznit. $14!

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