Home to the only transverse mountain range in North America, the Santa Barbara County Appellation is made up of diverse regions and six AVAs – Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Sta Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Los Olivos District. The region is also home to an unrivaled growing season with coastal influences, where pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, grenache, roussanne, marsanne, viognier, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and more thrive. (From the organizer, PleaseThePalate.com)
As I’ve said before and will say again: One of the best ways for wine 101ers to learn about wine is to do a comparative tasting of the same grape or region. This time it was wine only from the Santa Barbara AVA, and to narrow it down further, I only did the Rhone portion of the tasting that included Viognier, Marsanne, Roussane, Counoise, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (the last three often blended together and referred to as a GSM).
Wine 101 note: Rhone wines traditionally come from Rhone, France, where only certain varietals are allowed to be grown and turned into wine. Of course someone living in the Rhone valley could plant a grape that isn’t considered the best for the terroir (soil, climate, etc.) but they wouldn’t be allowed to sell it commercially.
Now, back to this stateside tasting. A few fun photos can be seen here of my afternoon at LA’s Republique restaurant tasting all things Rhone from Santa Barbara County. And my favorites of the day are listed below in bold, however, I didn’t make it to every table.
Participating Santa Barbara County Wineries
Beckmen 2013 Syrah, Purisima Mountain Vineyard, Ballard Canyon AVA blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and a bit of Counoise.
Bien Nacido 2012 Estate Syrah, Santa Maria Valley.
Casa Dumetz with the lovely-as-always winemaker Sonja Magdevski pouring at least two that I thought were very pretty: 2014 Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley and 2014 GSM, Santa Ynez Valley.
Central Coast Group Project (CCGP) Really big: 2012 “Names” Syrah, White Hawk Vineyard, Santa Barbara County. And on the huge scale: 2012 “Barrington Hall Wine Dinner Special Cuvee” (so named after wine dinners Scott Sampler attended in college) GSM, Santa Barbara.
Larner 2014 Estate Viognier was a wonderful mix of refreshing fruit and vibrant floral, and my fave white of the day. Followed that up with Michael Larner’s 2011 Estate Syrah, Ballard Canyon.
Margerum 2015 Riviera Rose, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County was my fave Rose of the day. But I didn’t stop there, I also enjoyed Doug Margerum’s 2013 Grenache, Santa Barbara County; 2013 Syrah “UBER”, Santa Barbara County; 2014 M5 Rhone blend of GSM, Counoise and Cinsault, Santa Barbara County.
Saarloos & Sons
Sanger Family, pouring their Consilience label, shared at least three wine I thought were great: 2013 Syrah, Santa Barbara County; 2013 Viognier, Santa Barbara County; 2013 Grenache Blanc, Santa Barbara County.
Stolpman, poured by Jessica Stolpman, had a perfect line-up – as I had tasted them all recently. But I still enjoyed tasting them all again, including the 2013 L’Avion, blend of Roussanne and Chardonnay, Ballard Canyon and the 2014 Grenache, Ballard Canyon.
Tercero was my first stop as winemaker Larry Schaffer was free when I walked in. Another I had tasted recently, it didn’t stop me from enjoying (again) his 2015 Mourvedre Rose, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara; 2014 Verbiage Blanc blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, Santa Barbara County; and a lovely Verbiage Rouge red blend.
Zaca Mesa is an old favorite I used to love to visit and I was not only happy to revisit, but to discover two new wines to enjoy: 2012 Z Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley and 2011 Mesa Reserve Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com