Wine & Travel

Snooth User: vin0vin0

Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara Trip Report

Posted by vin0vin0, Dec 7, 2015.

Had a great first full day here in south central California. Started off with a very good breakfast at the ForFriends B&B in Santa Ynez. Too early for any of the tasting rooms to be open so we headed down to Jalama beach for some salt air and scenery. Beautiful beach with some interesting campsites and about a half dozen surfers enjoying some moderate waves. Enough sightseeing, we're off to the Lompoc (pronounced LomPoke) wine ghetto.
 
First stop was at the combined Arcadian/Bratcher tasting room. Arcadian winemaker/owner Joe Davis has been making wines here since 1996. Chris Bratcher is the winemaker/owner of Bratcher.  We enjoyed a nice lineup of 2 chards, a sauv blanc, 2 Pinots and a 2007 syrah. The chardonnays were nice enough, just a bit more on the ripe fruit/slightly oaky side than what I've been liking recently but still very well made wines. The Sauv Blanc was interesting in that I'd swear it had seen some oak but our host told us it was raised in all stainless. There was not a hint of any grapefruit, more pineapple and creamy lemon.  The pinots were really good, very Cali in style with a good bit of ripe red fruit, nice acidity, a touch of earthiness and just a hint of smoke. We both loved the syrah. Ripe black fruits wrapped up with nice acidity, fine grained tannins, a bit of smoke, black licorice, and a fairly long silky finish. Joe Davis is known for holding back on releasing his wines until he thinks they are ready to drink, hence we purchased an '08 Arcadian Pinot and an '07 Arcadian Syrah.
 
Took a lunch break and came back for our next tasting at Palmira. Apparently this is the first label of Steve Clifton, of Brewer-Clifton fame. We did the Artisinal Tasting flight which included a 2011 Barbera, the 2012 Savoia (Nebbiolo, Barbera and Syrah blend), a 2008 Nebbiolo and the 2012 Alisos (Sangiovese and Merlot). All of these were really good, we came away with one each of the blends.
 
 
Next up was Samsara where the winemaker is Chad Melville. We started by tasting through four pinots. The first pour was their base pinot which is blend from three different vineyards. This wine was nice and reasonably priced but the other three single vineyard offerings (all from different vineyards in Santa Rita Hills) were noticeably better with deeper flavors, more layers and longer finishes.  The highlight of this visit were the two syrahs. The first syrah was a 2012 made from grapes from the Zotovich Vineyard. This was a big, bold syrah that didn't hold any punches. When our host poured this, I at first thought he made a mistake and was pouring us a petit sirah, it was so dark in the glass. Layers of ripe dark fruit, pepper, lively but not jammy, a hint of smokiness, long long finish, this is going to need some lay down. The other syrah was a 2014 Santa Barbara County blend of two vineyard sites. Again, this was also a fairly big red just slightly more refined (toned down) than the Zotovich but equally well made. I had to have a bottle of that Zotovich, it's going in the way back in the wine fridge and have a long rest when we get home.
 
 
On the way back to the B&B we had time for one last tasting so we stopped in at the Ken Brown tasting room in Buellton where we sampled a chard, several pinots and a syrah. I was looking forward to this tasting having heard that Ken Brown was one of the pioneer winemakers in this area. I don't know if it was just the end of a long day or the miniscule pours but these wines didn't really punch my buttons. All were nice enough but nothing stood out and we left with just paying the $10 tasting fee.
 
Next up is a tour of Buellton and Solvang.

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Replies

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Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 7, 2015.

I'll put a link in the other Santa Barbara thread to this one.

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Reply by EMark, Dec 7, 2015.

v v, you're on vacation.  Posting exhaustive reports like this is work.  We really appreciate it--I am lusting, now for that Samsar/Zotovich Syrah.  So, thank you, but, please spend more time enjoying.

I just figured it out. You're trying to match RBA's real-time reports from his river cruise.

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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 7, 2015.

Yes, but part of the enjoyment of a wine country trip is reporting back to your friends back at home, I know the dichotomy all too well, a balancing act for sure. Thanks V.V. so far so good it seems.

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Reply by dmcker, Dec 7, 2015.

Seems like you're liking the syrahs and Italian varieties better than the Burgundian. Not surprising, since I've never thought the region had the right weather for PN or even chard.

Report as you can, since we're all enjoying your sharing, but forgetaboutit if it's getting in the way of enjoyment on the ground in the here and now. You can always do a writeup after returning home...

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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 7, 2015.

Quite a bit better for Chardonnay than Pinot from my experience, though I have to admit to enjoying at least a couple Santa Barbara area Pinot's

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Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 7, 2015.
Thanks all for the concern but we are fully enjoying everything so far. I'm writing up these notes after tasting hours and before or after dinner so no problem missing out on any fun.
 
Day two was as good as day one or even better. Another great breakfast to lay in a good base, then a walk around town (didn't take very long) and then off to our first tasting at Alma Rosa in Buellton where Richard Sanford is the winemaker. We had a free tasting coupon from our B&B so we opted for the Classic and also the Limited Production lineup. The classic was their basic offerings and the Limited their higher end wines. We sampled a couple pinot gris', a pinot blanc, a chardonnay and seven different pinot noirs. The gris' were nice but the pinot blanc was very interesting with a bit of an oak influence, more round and soft than most other blancs that I've had with some really nice tree fruit. The pinots were all very good but the '12 Mt. Eden El Jaball was something different. This pinot was a bit bigger, with ripe black cherry and some interesting pepper notes on the back end. That pinot and the blanc went into the bag.
 
Second stop was Melville. Again as at Alma Rosa there were two different flights available so we opted for one of each. Two chards, four pinots, three syrahs and a viognier were on offer. Their all stainless chardonnay (Inox) was excellent - crisp, acidic, nice notes of lemon cream and a hint of pineapple. We also enjoyed the 2012 estate syrah - High Density. The name is an indication of the vineyard being planted in a high density with the vines low to the ground. We bought and popped a bottle of the syrah and sat on their porch overlooking their vineyards with a baquette and some sheeps milk cheese we had purchased earlier from the Santa Ynez cheese company. Very nice.
 
 
After a stop to feed the birds at Ostrichland USA we were off to Loring Wine Co. Just one flight here that consisted of one chard and four pinots. The chard was aged in oak and had gone through full malolactic fermentation. Well made and fairly well balanced but not what I've been enjoying recently. The pinots were more in line with my liking, all had been aged in 20% new French oak for 10 months. Interesting to compare wines that were all treated similarly with the only difference being the vineyard where the grapes were sourced. We enjoyed each one, they all showed ripe red and black cherry, a bit of spice and nice acidity. Their Rosella's vineyard just came across as a touch bigger, with more layers and a slightly longer finish, in the box it went.
 
Last stop and by far the most enjoyable visit so far was at Liquid Farm with Jeff at his winemaking facility in an industrial park in Buellton. Jeff is non-stop and we tasted through all four of their 2014 chards. All are just fantastic, more French in style with bracing acid, great citrus notes, minerality, some nice spices and long finishes. On top of that, Jeff grabbed a glass and his wine thief and did an impromptu rose blend of grenache and mourvedre. They sold out their current release of their rose so this was a special treat. After about an hour and a half of tasting, stories and an overall great time, we were graciously given two of the newly opened bottles which we are currently sharing with our B&B hosts and fellow guests. Spreading the love.
 
Here is the Liquid Farm winery:
 
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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 7, 2015.

Funny, when I mentioned that about Chardonnay above, I was thinking about my experiences with Liquid Farm, mainly the 2010 and 2011 vintages. Good to hear the 14's are rocking.

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Reply by Larry Schaffer, Dec 8, 2015.

All sounds awesome. Next time, if you have the time, stop by my tercero wines tasting room in Los Olivos - I'll be more than happy to host you - and perhaps even have some homemade bread on hand to enjoy with the wines :-)

Cheers!

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Reply by outthere, Dec 9, 2015.

Yeah vinOvinO, I'm surprised Tercero wasn't on your list.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 9, 2015.
Thanks Larry, I've seen you on Berserkers (where I lurk more than I post), nice to see you here on Snooth. We were thinking of stopping by yesterday after we finished our tour of the Foxen Canyon trail but saw that you aren't open on Tuesdays.  We'll take a rain check on the invite as we're on our way to Santa Barbara for the rest of the week.
 
Speaking of Foxen Canyon trail, what a beautiful drive!
 
I enjoy finding wine made from unusual or rare grapes and a while ago found a bottle of Cabernet Pfeffer by Kenneth Volk so Volk was our first stop. We were not disappointed. We sampled a 2014 Malvasia Bianca, 2012 Verdelho, 2012 Negrette, 2012 Blaufrankisch, 2012 Touriga Nacional and a 2011 Aglianico. All were really good but the Negrette and the Aglianico were outstanding and reasonably priced, nothing over $36.
 
 
Next up was our 1 pm appointment at Demetria. I think the drive up to estate might have taken as long as the drive to the Canyon. We sampled an excellent viognier and then three rhone blends followed by one of the better syrahs of the trip so far. We really enjoyed the atmosphere here on top of the world, sitting outside overlooking the vineyards for a seated tasting.
 
 
Some folks staying in our B&B recommended stopping at the Foxen shack where they pour their Bordeaux blends. This is literally a shack which used to be a blacksmith shop. The wines here were good but nothing that wowed us.
 
We had a bit of time left so we decided on one last stop on the trail at Fess Parker. We enjoyed all on offer here which included a delicious chardonnay, a nice white blend, our first riesling of our trip, a pinot, a red rhone blend and another very tasty syrah.
 
All in all another great day in the Santa Ynez area.
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Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 9, 2015.

Larry, OT, when I laid out our plans Tuesday was either going to be Los Olivos or Foxen Canyon. We visited Los Olivos a few years back so opted to explore some new ground. It does appear that there have been quite a few new places open up so we'll definitely head back next time we're in the 'hood.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 11, 2015.
Wednesday was a travel and cleansing day. We decided to take our time going from Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara so after dropping off a case of wine at the Wine Country Shippers we hopped on over to Highway 1. What a beautiful stretch of land! We made a number of scenic overlook stops, took in a few of the State beaches and just enjoyed the ride.
 
Well, it wasn't a totally wine free day. After touring the Court House and taking in the awesome views from the tower we did manage to find our way to the Au Bon Climat tasting room. I've always enjoyed Jim Clendenen's pinots but didn't realize he made a ton of other wines under the Clendenen Family label. Guess these don't get much distribution outside of CA.
 
Thursday was our walk Santa Barbara day.  Heading out from the Simpson House Inn we followed an architectural tour route that ended at the Old Mission. From there we hoofed it all the way to the Jaffurs Wine Cellars tasting room. Jaffurs is the only winery to have their wine making facility in the city. We were both very impressed with the quality of everything we tasted here and would highly recommend them.
 
After a long stroll to the wharf and some seafood for lunch we made our way over to the Funk Zone and stopped in at Kalyra Winery. Unfortunately we were somewhat underwhelmed with the wines here. At most of our tastings there are usually a couple samples that stand out above the rest. Here, nothing really spoke to us so we paid our tasting fee and headed up State street.
 
We returned to the shopping area where Au Bon Climat is located and meandered into the Happy Canyon Vineyard tasting room. We really enjoyed their selection of Bordeaux varietal blends. All of these were top shelf but we were most impressed by the Piocho Reserve which is a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Malbec.
 
Pretty much right next door is the Margerum Wine Company. So we went from Bordeaux with Happy Canyon to Rhone with Margerum. Their lineup was a really nice chardonnay, a 2012 grenache, a rhone blend (grenache, syrah and mourvedre) and a syrah. Again, all of these wines were really, really nice and we ended up buying the Blend.
 
It was starting to get late and our legs are getting tired (I estimated that we covered over 5.5 miles on foot) so we headed towards the Inn but just happened to see a sign for Sanford. Why not. Again, some very well made wines were to found here. They offered up a chard, an excellent viognier, two pinots and our first rose (of pinot). There was also an option to taste their 2011 Founders' Vines Pinot for an extra $10. This is their high end, low production (5 barrels), top of the line pinot that sells to the public for $110/bottle. Hey we're on vacation and I'm always up for the educational value. Without even knowing all the stats, upon tasting this was obviously a cut above all of the other pinots we've tasted so far. Rich, bright red and black fruit, mouth watering crisp acidity, fantastic balance and a finish that seemed to go on forever.
 
To cap off this totally excellent day was dinner at Bouchon. Great food, top notch service and just an altogether excellent dining experience.
 
SInce we covered a significant amount of Santa Barbara the last two days, we are going to head up to Los Olivos for our final days adventure.
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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 11, 2015.

VV, if you liked the Kenneth Volk Malvasia, K&L has it on sale

Clendenen makes a Nebbiolo--he has a tiny patch up on a hill separate from his other vines.  It's actually pretty good, and occasionally can be found at K&L and a few other places.  I matched it against an Aldo Conterno basic Barolo a while ago, and it was pretty hard to tell which was the old world and which the new--but AC also scrapes their botte to get a little more oak influence, so there's that.  There's not a ton of Nebbiolo in the US anywhere, something I'd like to see changed, but it's so site sensitive and doesn't thrive in the places people become winemakers for the lifestyle, if you know what I mean.  There's also some Nebbiolo made out near you in North Carolina, and it's okay but I don't think they know what to do with it (or many other vinifera grapes).  Anything that Clendenen bottles that isn't Burgundian gets under the Clendenen Family label. 

Palmina of course also makes Nebbiolo, as you pointed out, not all of it in blends.  GdP tells me that the Alisos is good.  Palmina is that family's "Italian" wine company, kind of like Viansa is to Jaccuzzi/Cline.  I haven't had the Palmina nebbiolos, so thanks for the report.  I did try their dolcetto a while back and was not a fan. 

Great trip, thanks for all the reporting.  One for the bookmarks.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 12, 2015.
Sitting at the kitchen table after a long day of travel and sorting through my notes and tasting sheets.
 
Yesterday was our last day in Santa Barbara so after covering a large part of city we decided to head out to Los Olivos. We've been here before back in 2013 but there are quite a few new tasting rooms to go along with the two dozen or so that have been here a while. We opted to try some that we didn't visit our last time out.
 
Our first stop was at the shared tasting room of Tensley and Carina Cellars. Starting with Tensley, we tasted several of their single vineyard (2013) syrahs and a white Rhone blend (Grenache Blanc and Roussanne).  All were well made but nothing really rung my bell. We then walked across the room to the Carina tasting bar. They produce mainly Rhone style wines, a couple 2011 GSMs, a viognier, a 2009 syrah and our first zin of the trip. May be due to the aging or the winemaking, the Carina offerings came across as a bit more complex, richer and a bit fuller.
 
After an excellent lunch at the Los Olivos Cafe we headed over to Qupé. Here is another Rhone producer who is doing an excellent job with syrah, grenache and mourvedre as well as the white Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. They also threw in a Chardonnay, an excellent Albarino and a very tasty Tempranillo. I think this was the QPR score of the trip when we walked away with a 2008 Marsanne for just $20.
 
 
Next up was a tasting at the Sanger Family of wines which includes the Consilience, Tre Anelli and Marianello labels. These folks off up a melange of different blends, there's a semi super Tuscan blend of Cab Sauv, Sangio and Tempranillo, another blend of Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Sangio and Tempranillo. We purchased the Consilience Cuvee Mambo which consists of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Grenache. Again, lots of really nice wines here but nothing that rocked our world.
 
 
We checked on Tercero Wines when we first got here but the sign said closed. We checked back a couple times and still no luck. We were pretty much finished for the day but decided to give it one more try and we were lucky enough to catch Larry Shaffer pouring his wonderful wines. Seems that he wasn't supposed to be there this day but his tasting room assistant called in sick and (lucky for us) he had to scramble his schedule to cover the shop. Larry is a great guy, full of energy and extremely happy to share his wines and his knowledge. I love the note on the bottom of his tasting sheet - No Notes * No Pompousness * No Pressure. We enjoyed everything that was poured but thought that the Viognier and the Roussanne were extra fine.
 
What a great way to end our trip.
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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 13, 2015.

Qupe has always impressed me with their reasonable pricing.  Lately I've just found the wines a little lackluster.  Maybe I've just gotten spoiled by those Sonoma Syrahs that OT (mostly) turns us onto.  Still, they never make bad wine. 

I bought some Tensley a couple years ago from WineAccess after all the RP hype.  It was a huge disappointment--I actually wonder if there was something wrong with the bottles.  But it also caused me to realize that I can't take Parker's word for anything related to Syrah.  I think he has done more to mess up Rhone wines than Cabs, but no one really notices.

Glad you got to go to Tercero, since Larry has been on here lately.  Interesting that the whites were the stars.

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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 14, 2015.

In my tasting at Tercero, it was also the Viognier blend (The Outlier) that impressed me most, though I didn't get to try the Mourvedre, which everyone raves about.

Have also heard good things about Qupe's Roussane/Masanne. 

Anyhow Vv, sounds like a great trip, and thanks for all the reports.

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Reply by EMark, Dec 14, 2015.

Excellent reporting, v v.  Thanks for taking us along.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 14, 2015.
Everyone, hope you got something out of all this. We definitely had a great time which was made better by all the recommendations I received here.
 
Just some follow up notes and highlights:
 
Best of show - Melville, everything we tasted here was top shelf, the setting was beautiful and the folks pouring were fantastic.
 
Best tasting experience - Demetria, not necessarily the best wines but the setting and the seated tasting were first class.
 
Best Chardonnay - Liquid Farm, all of them, not much of a surprise here.
 
Best Pinot - Au Bon Climat, 2012 Isabelle
 
 
Best Syrah/GSM - Melville 2012 Syrah, High Density
 
 
Best Bordeaux varietals - Happy Canyon Vineyard, 2011 Piocho Reserve
 
 
Nicest tasting room - Alma Rosa, once we found it on Santa Rosa Rd, next to Industrial Eats
 
Most unusual offerings - Kenneth Volk. We tasted Malvasia Bianca, Verdelho, Negrette, Blaufrankisch, Touriga Nacional and Aglianico with a bonus pour of their Old Vine "F"Red which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Touriga Nacional. They had to pen in the "F" due to some kind of infringement lawsuit.
 
 
Biggest surprise - with all the hype about this areas Pinots and Chardonnays, we found the syrahs to be the standouts. With a few exceptions, the majority of pinots were good but not great and the chards were all over the place from steely/minerally to oaky and buttery.
 
Cheers!
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Reply by EMark, Dec 14, 2015.

That pencilled in F is hilarious, v v.

I remember way back that Enz had their own bottlings.  I tried hard to like it, but it never really impressed.

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Reply by dmcker, Dec 14, 2015.

Thanks for all the detailed reportage, Vino. Frankly, no surprise here, whatsoever, about your syrah findings.

Good to hear you liked the Au Bon Climat pinot. Haven't personally had a good one in a long time, at least a decade. However, few of their offerings make it over here, plus there's always the potential for travel damage. They were a label I liked in the '90s because they marked a recognizable step forward for the area. I've never had a good Sanford which you mentioned earlier, but then again can't remember the last time I had one since I also can't remember ever seeing one in Japan or anywhere else outside North America. Usually I ended up drinking them on the wharf at Santa Barbara when someone else was ordering, far earlier in their winemaking career, though when they were already being pushed as the supposedly early best solution to Santa Barbara's pinot puzzle. Stemmy (once or twice), unintegrated (always), tepid/insipid/weak mix of alcohol and tannins and acid--at least they weren't oversweet, but they seemingly had no proper goal they were aiming at (to me Burgundian is the proper direction, not cherry syrup or kool aid or alcohol bombs or something fuzzily who-knows-what...). Assuming they've come a ways since then so I guess I'll have to try them again sometime, even if my earlier experiences with them were enough to literally put me off for decades.

Also great to see that you made it to Tercero since Larry has made an effort to show up here, and there's never a downside to getting to know the winemaker. Finally thanks for notes on a number of labels I've not yet had a chance to try...

Guess you didn't rent a wetsuit and board and get out on a couple of those waves you posted on in another thread? Happy anniversary. Sounds like an excellent celebration.

 

 

 

"Qupe has always impressed me with their reasonable pricing.  Lately I've just found the wines a little lackluster."

My sentiments exactly, Fox.

 

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