Monday, July 22, 2013

Tasting White Wines from Santa Barbara County

On July 17th, I was fortunate enough to be included in a #winechat tasting of several white wines courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association. The county consists of more than 21,000 acres of vineyards with most of these within Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley. There are over 100 wineries and vineyards in the county all benefiting from the micro-climates associated with the valleys and Pacific Ocean. This evening we sampled six wines which displayed the diversity of the regions

This diversity included two Sauvignon Blancs, the Fontes & Phillips Santa Ynez Sauvignon Blanc  ($18.00) and Baehner-Fournier Vineyards Vogelzang Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barabara 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($20). That's a mouthful. The first is said to be made in the New Zealand style and possesses that lemony flavor and layered texture associated with this style. Plus the finish is clean and refreshing. The latter is quite different which I described as "creamy apricot flavors - no lemon grass - instead sea salt". And yes, the Pacific seemed to contribute some extra nuances to this wine - one of my favorites of the evening. Plus, apparently Happy Canyon is the warmest area in Santa Barabara County - so perfect climate for Sauvignon Blanc.

Like the Sauvignon Blanc, there was also a pair of Chardonnay - Brewer-Clifton Winery Gnesa 2010 Rita Hills Chardonnay ($48) & Summerland Winery 2012 Sierra Madre Vineyard Chardonnay ($35). The Gnesa Vineyard is a four acre site on a north faving slope in the Ste. Rita Hills AVA and according to the owners "Sta. Rita Hills (AVA in SB county) provides such great conditions for naturally-hi acidity & balanced wines!". This is a fruit forward wine, no ML, with loads of lemon-lime flavor followed by a nice salty minerality and refreshing acidic finish. Nicely done. The Summerland is sourced from the famed Sierra Madre Vineyardin which the proximity to the Pacific instigates a large diurnal temperature variation in the evening. In other words the grapes cook during the hot days and cool dramatically in the cool evenings.  This is an elegant wine in the classic Chablis style - displaying a creamy mid-palette from ten months in mostly neutral oak. The flavor profile wavered between green apples and grapefruit with another refreshing finish.

The final two wines of the evening really demonstrated the vineyard diversification of Santa Barbara County: Imagine Wine 2010 Viognier Santa Barbara County ($24) & Palmina Honea Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley 2011 Arneis ($20). The Viognier is far from the Virginia Viognier we are accustomed to. It has a characteristic floral aroma, but diverges with a more peachy flavor instead of the Virginia apricot and possesses a creamy butterscotch mid based on 10-12 weeks in new or neutral oak.  Another nice wine. We finished off the evening with the Palmina Arneis in which the winery is probably one of a half dozen to produce wine from this Italian grape. The best part of the is wine was its spicy character with its orange tinted finish. This one paired well with clams - giving life to the salty mollusk. A very intriguing wine - as was the entire evening. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The United Grapes of America - North Carolina - Shelton Vineyards Riesling

One of the many benefits of attending the annual conferences is exchanging wine with friends from other states. One of the wines I received was from our friends at Nomacorc, who brought along a wine from their Tar Heel state - the Shelton Vineyards 2011 Yadkin Valley Riesling ($12.99).   The Yadkin Valley is Carolina's premier wine growing region, located just south of Virginia along Highway 77 and has successfully transitioned from tobacco to grapes.  Closing in on their 15th anniversary, Shelton is "the largest family-owned estate winery in North Carolina" and a popular Yadkin Valley destination. The Riesling is made off-dry and exudes a flavor profile of apricots and peaches. The one area lacking is acidity, would like to see more acid to balance the sugar. Maybe the valley is a bit too warm. In any case, this is a decent wine, affordable, and one I'd quaff down again. Cheers.

The United Grapes of America The United Grapes of America