About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Discovering some sweet whites in Santa Barbara

It’s been at least five years since The Wine Guy visited Santa Barbara Wine country. When I recently took some friends there for an exploration getaway, I discovered a lot of things haven’t changed, but a few have.

The hype over the movie “Sideways” has abated a bit but Santa Barbara still remains a consummate tourist destination, sometimes stopping just short of “kitchsy”. However, even in the highly tourist oriented village of Solvang, there is always abundant things worth exploring and fun to be had. Our entourage, armed with a quick breakfast that included the requisite (and delicious) homemade Danish pastry headed out to explore shopping and wine tasting in a community that offers both in abundance. We made an obligatory stop in one of the great Christmas shops that operates here year around. (Mrs. Wine Guy decorates five trees every holiday season and is always on the lookout for something new!). With well over 100 wineries now listed as members of the Santa Barbara Vintner’s Association and nearly two dozen wine bars and tasting rooms in the tiny village of Solvang alone, there’s much to choose from. Santa Barbara wines are far from limited to the Pinot Noir made famous by the movie. In fact, the variety of wines being offered by Santa Barbara winemakers is very reflective of the wide diversity of microclimates in the region.

At the Mandolina tasting room, the Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards offer a wide sampling of Italian varietals. Co-owner Louis Lucas has a thirty-five year history in the area. His vineyards utilize cuttings brought from Italy and bottled under the Mandolina brand. Mandolina’s bolder Italian reds (Nebbiolo and Barbera), while quite drinkable, offered a little imbalance with a slight tendency to bite or burn on the finish. The best red offering was a nicely balanced, bright cherry Sangiovese with a moderate finish. The room’s standout offering was a Malvasia Bianco, a refreshing, gently sweet and aromatic offering that smacked of apricot and white peach. It’s an unusual varietal for not only Santa Barbara County, but also California as a whole, and, sadly, only four acres of their Los Alamos vineyard are dedicated to this grape.

Whites held the day, as well, at the co-owned Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards tasting room just a couple of blocks away. Lemon and orange aromas and flavors were accented with a touch of clover honey in a very respectable late harvest Viognier. We also discovered a pair of excellent aperitifs in two Late Harvest Sauvignon Blancs, both containing a stout 14% residual sugar. The latter, labeled “Sommeil en Barrique” (French for “slept in barrel”) benefited from 12 months aging in French oak barrels. Friend Kent (pictured above with The Wine Guy and our tasting steward) preferred the un-oaked variety while Mrs. Wine Guy and I opted for the greater depth offered by the oaked style. Both went home with us for later enjoyment.

Tasting room visitors may also want to sample the Lucas & Lewellen Silver King Port. It’s an unusual fortified late harvest merlot. It’s fruit forward sweetness makes it nice for serving with chocolate (in fact, the tasting room offers the taste in a chocolate tasting cup). It was a nice dessert offering but probably not the body style that true port aficionados would rave about.

There are a lot of excellent Santa Barbara wines to be found in an area that abounds with great food, good accommodations and great fun but all priced slightly on the high side. Here are a few wines, I’d recommend you sample when you’re in the area:

LaFond Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Stolpman Vineyards Estate Syrah
Foley Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir
Sanford Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Zaca Mesa Vineyards Estate Z-Blanc
Carr Winery Paredon Syrah

There are a number of excellent Syrahs coming out of Santa Barbara County and they have an expression that is somewhat unique to that area. In a blog entitled “Que Sera, Syrah?” (see Roger’s Grapevine archive for blog of 9/30/09), I discussed the ability of this grape to grown in diverse regions and offer great representation of the environment in which it’s grown. There may be a potential for Santa Barbara winemakers to create a signature Syrah for their region.

I have a few more stories to tell in upcoming blogs about our Santa Barbara Wine country visit, including a look at the wines of one of the area’s up and coming young winemakers, David Carr. Please stop back for those and, in the interim, enjoy a great glass of wine.


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