Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Bazin's on Church Showcases Santa Barbara's Foxen Winery and Vineyard

This autumn, Dick Doré, co-founder and co-owner of Foxen Winery and Vineyard, conducted an east coast blitz showcasing their Santa Barbara County Wines at various establishments such as Vienna's excellent restaurant Bazin's on Church. At this tasting event, we were able to chat with Mr. Doré about his wines, the grapes sourced from famed Bien Nacido Vineyards, and the effects two consecutive years of wildfires and mudslides. Regarding the last topic, tourism is slowly rebounding and the grapes show no effect as he predicts a stellar 2018 harvest.

Bill Wathen and Doré founded Foxen Winery in 1985 using a property purchased by Doré's great-great grandfather, Benjamin Foxen, in 1837. This property and most of the vineyards used by Foxen are located in the Santa Maria Valley AVA which is the most northern of Santa Barbara's six AVA's. This region receives the most rainfall, has sandy to clay soils, and is close to the ocean which provides cooling from winds and fog. Chardonnay dominates Santa Maria for whites; whereas Pinot Noir & Syrah dominate for reds. Here is the Foxen lineup we sampled that night.

2015 Foxen Old Vines Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chenin Blanc ($26)
This vineyard was planted in 1966 by Doré's cousin Buddy Wickenden at lower elevations which block the coastal breezes and provides a warmer micro-climate. For Chenin Blanc this warmth allows the grapes to attain full ripeness producing wines with depth and finesse to complement the inherent acidity. Further complexity is provided by aging the wine seven months in neutral French oak barrels which doesn't overwhelm the creamy melon and stone flavors.

2016 Foxen Bien Nacido Vineyards Block UU Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay ($34 - Wine Club Exclusive)
As stated above Bien Nacido Vineyard is famed because it is the most widely bottled single vineyard designate wine in the world. That's impressive and Doré related how Foxen has been one of that vineyard's primary customer for years. And this Chardonnay helps explain why. Bien Nacido is composed of very sandy soils such that vines are own-rooted and do not need to be planting using root-stock resistant to the phylloxera louse. In this case, the original Block UU was planted in Riesling, but when that grapevine failed to mature as expected Chardonnay was grafted onto the Riesling roots. Quite unique -- both the vineyard management and the resulting wine -- which is barrel fermented and aged on its lees for eight months. It is a fantastic wine, full of that classic chardonnay flavor with brighter fruit balanced by juicy acids.

2014 Foxen Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($36)
The fruit for this wine is derived from throughout the county but don't discount this wine for its lack of single vineyard or AVA status.  It is medium bodied, but with intense fruit and complexity. Expect leather, smoke, slight black pepper and other spices with medium tannins and decent acidity. A solid wine.

2015 Foxen John Sebastiano Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($52)
The Sta. Rita Hills AVA was established 2001 as a sub-region within the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA and is the closest AVA to the ocean; thus also the coolest within the SYV. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the favored grapes like this one from the John Sebastiano Vineyard -- which is located on the extreme Eastern edge of the AVA. Foxen participated in the original planting and was able to select the grape clones and vineyard blocks prior to planting.  This is a dense wine with raspberries overtaking cherry with spices and abundant acidity.

2014 Foxen Block 8 Bien Nacido Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($64 - Wine Club Exclusive)
Bien Nacido is known for their Pinot Noir and this wine is terrific. After 17 months in 40% new French oak, it is deep and complex - dark fruit mingles with leather and spices. The power in this wine continues to the tail as the integrated tannins and acids lift to its conclusion.

2013 Foxen 7200 Vogelzang Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
This AVA is the easternmost end of the Santa Ynez Valley and thus is a little warmer than the other SYV appellations. Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon are prevalent here and Vogelzang Vineyard provides the bulk of Foxen's 7200 wine program since 2000. This vineyard witnesses a large diurnal temperature swing - particularly in the summer where the temperature can drop 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. This phenomenon matters as it helps grapes retain acidity. This wine was a complete surprise, my favorite of the tasting as it provides excellent fruit, depth, tannins, texture, chewy tannins, and uplifting acids. I Certainly wish east coast cabs could reach this level of quality.

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