Visits in This Issue:
(Journal and tasting notes from a recent tour of the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez wine areas. Tasting notes: each wine was scored using the requisite sight, smell, and taste impressions. Scores reflect the tasters opinions (EA, first column, MP second), and uses an alpha-oriented rating system. "n/n" indicates no notes , and "n/t" indicates not tasted. Although more extensive note-taking took place, specific descriptions are not included here.
Friday, March 29, 1996
Arrived Santa Barbara Winery at 9:40 and killed a little time before its 10:00 opening. It may have been in reaction to having people arrive this early on a weekday, but the staff seemed a little distracted during our visit, preferring instead to compare the previous evening's social activities. We've visited here many times, usually experiencing very friendly and attentive staff, so this wasn't going to put a damper on the visit. Poured 8 tastes N/C, but many of the bottles had been opened the day before, and stored underneath the bar in a mini-fridge. Out at 10:35.
Tasted at Santa Barbara Winery:
Arrived Santa Ynez Winery at 11:15 to a quiet room. First time visit to this winery, which is a barn-like facility with a tasting bar in the front. Nice fellow doing the pouring of 8 wines for $2.50. The Merlot wasn't on the tasting list, and was pulled from under the bar. It appears they're trying to make some decent wines here, but from my perspective, they just can't seem to manage to produce much that doesn't smell and taste over-cooked. Finally out at 11:45.
Tasted at Santa Ynez Winery:
Just 1 mile down the road, we arrived at Sunstone Winery at 11:50 to a quiet room. Nestled up against a hillside is the very attractive mission style bldg with immaculately manicured grounds. Entering the grounds through a small courtyard and into the spacious tasting room, one can only be impressed with the effect they've achieved here. Though of recent construction, the place appears older-looking, and as a consequence blends nicely with the surrounding landscape. 4 pours for $3, incl glass. Nice staff, decent wines, and lovely place. We'll definitely be back. Did a little lunch in the courtyard, and left at 12:50.
Tasted at Sunstone Winery:
Arrived Sanford Winery at 1:15 to quiet room (man, this weekday visiting is great!). The weather is fabulous and the valley is all lush and green, so we stopped for a photo opp of some maintenance work going on in the Sanford vineyard. At their rustic tasting room, a very friendly Mr. Burrows was pouring 6 wines very generously, and N/C. Great visit. Out at 1:45.
Tasted at Sanford Winery:
Arrived at Zaca Mesa Winery at 2:15 to yet another nearly-empty room. It was nice, for a change, not to have to muscle our way to the pouring table. Friendly and informative fellow pouring 7 wines N/C. Chatted about the 2 different vineyard-designated Syrahs (Chapel Vnyd, Zaca Vnyd) and how the addition of a small % of Viognier to the Zaca bottling appeared to make it the darling of the Wine Spectator rating crew (they gave it a "94" in the end-of-year issue). Did some tailgating, and out at 3:05.
Tasted at Zaca Mesa Winery:
Arrived Brander Winery at 3:25 to a quiet room. It had been a few years since we'd last been here, so we were looking forward to the visit. The tasting room is still located in the pink faux chateau adjacent to the winery (I miss the ambiance of the old days when tasting was done inside the winery/storage facility). Pouring 5 wines for $2.50. Fred Brander's wines are interesting if nothing else. Producing one of the more grassy of the local sauvignon blancs, you either love it or leave it. It seems to me that he should either blend or drop the Cab, though. It's still too veggie, both in nose and taste. Out at 4:00, and made a call back to the office to tell Deb that this weekday wine-tasting thing was really livin'.
Tasted at Brander Winery:
Arrived Los Olivos Wine and Spirits Emporium at 4:05 to a just a pair of tasters. Last visit 6/94. Proprietor Bob Senn was pouring 9 wines for $4, and keep the glass for $6. The Emporium is a retail wine store that specializes in pouring wines for "...small premium producers..." that either aren't open to the public or don't have their own tasting facilities. In addition, they cover the local wines quite well. However, that being said, each time we've been here, it's been pretty much the same stable of product. For instance, they never seem to be pouring any Alban, Fiddlehead, Whitcraft, Lane Tanner, etc. Considering the comprehensive list of wines he's elected to carry, the selection of available pours on most days we've been here seem pretty pedestrian. To be fair, this may not be any different than say, a winery that doesn't pour their Merlot very often. Anyway, although he wasn't pouring any of the aforementioned brands, or any Cab or Cab Franc either, I did find a couple of interesting wines. Yet, the majority of these seemed to have surprisingly odd noses, especially the Chimere. Chatted a bit about wine and cyberspace and headed out at 5:05. (Bob does an excellent job of evangelizing Santa Barbara wines - check out his web site.) Considering the lack of patrons, we wondered how we managed to take an hour. Can you say gadflies?
Tasted at Wine & Spirits Emporium:
Dinner at Hitching Post in Buellton. Departed HP at 6:45. Arrived back home at 9:30. Another good trip. Like they say, the worst day winetasting is better than the best day at work. Stats: 8 wineries, 47 tastes.