Santa Barbara County is our local world-class wine region. The region boasts a perfect combination of climate, soils, geology and geography, allowing growers and vintners to produce excellent wines from grapes associated with three major global areas – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone.
Santa Barbara County Vintners Vice President Michael Larner, a grower, vintner and geologist by training, led our lecture on this very local winemaking region.
“Today I will be your conductor…” began Larner. Who would share “what is diverse in the wines found in a 17 mile stretch.”
Larner explained that there are 211 AVAs (designated wine grape growing regions) in the United States.
Almost all of what we have in California has the varietal name on the label.
There can be up to a 50 degree shift between day and night temperatures in Santa Barbara County, which allows for “great natural acidity left in the wine…longer hang time…(and) giving a great complexity to the wines.”
A majority of the wineries are family-owned and produce fewer than 10,000 cases. The vintners association strives to create public awareness of this.
Climate is diverse in the different zones, and allows for different varieties to be grown. The heat burns off the nightly fog and pulls in the marine layer. Then, as the sun burns it off, a vacuum is created and brings in the coastal breeze.
Fog burns off at different times in the various regions, so some vineyards get warm while others remain cool.
Grapes were planted first in the area in 1782. The first commercial wineries started planting in 1960s.
“In a short story…we have two continents that crashed against each other…over 40 million years ago.” Then 20 million years ago an area north of San Diego fragmented off and ended up where Santa Barbara now is. Land is still moving due to the San Andreas Fault.
By 2013 23,000 acres had been planted. More Bordeaux varieties have been planted since 2003, as well as Syrah mostly in Ballard Canyon.
Larner then went through the stats for each of the Santa Barbara AVAs, when they were established, climate, elevation, rainfall, degree days (a heat summation; how many days an area gets hot after fog is burned off), soils and principal varieties grown in the region.
Note: One AVA, Sta. Rita Hills, was established with that abbreviated name over Santa Rita because there already is a wine growing area in Chile with that name.
Tasting Notes (Aromas and flavors separated by 😉
2013 Fess Parker Viognier, Camp 4, Rodney’s Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
Lemon, white pepper, orange; lemon-lime, citrus, crisp, nice fruit, long finish.
2012 Byron Chardonnay, Nielson Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Buttery oak, buttered popcorn, sugary lemon drops, a bit of anise; balanced citrus fruit and acid works well, oak dries my palate and made me want more, well done. If you’re an oak fan this one is for you.
2012 Brander Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley
Lime, Kiwi, white peach, lemon, wet gravel; bright, lemon, pineapple, medium acidity and finish.
2012 Sanford Pinot Noir, Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
Raspberry, plum, tart cherry, green peppercorns; same fruit, tart but nice balanced bright fruit with a light acid.
2010 Larner Syrah, Larner Vineyard, Ballard Canyon
Deep, dark plum, mushroom, black licorice; nice mouthfeel, bowl of dark fruit, balanced with nice pepper. My favorite of the tasting so far.
2011 Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Dusty blueberry, river bed, chocolate, little bit of mint; Dark dusty plums, blackberry, stems, black pepper, stewed mushrooms.
After the conclusion of the seminar Larner invited us to taste some other wines from the Santa Barbara Vintners. It was nearing the end of the workday for me having already had a great class and a tasting…but I still thoroughly enjoyed:
2011 Palmina Alisos red blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, Santa Barbara
2012 Scott Cellars Sangiovese, West Slope, Santa Barbara County
2012 Fess Parker Syrah, Santa Barbara County
2013 Rusack Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate, Santa Barbara County
2013 Casa Dumetz GSM, Santa Ynez Valley
2009 Larner Elemental GSM
Story in photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10205360193031725.1073741909.1455706632&type=1&l=f4f064285c
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com