Monday, January 5, 2009

Return To Santa Ynez Wine Country - Part One

This past weekend my wonderful beau arranged for a short getaway with our friends Cory and Elbert (see pic above). As they are both interested in studying wine and just enjoy the whole wine experience we went up for a two-day trip to the Santa Ynez wine area north of Santa Barbara. So, we rented a car and early Friday morning off we went. Since this is an off season trip the rental cost and the hotel room was very reasonable and given that I have wine club memberships at six wineries in the area tasting would cost nothing. After only one mistaken exit in the LA area, we arrived at the first winery, Brander.

As regular readers know, I love Brander and it tends to be my traditional first stop. Fred Brander makes what I consider to be some of the most pure Sauvignon Blanc I have tasted in California and his Cuvee Nicholas, a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend is a delight to the senses. At Brander we were fortunate to taste nine of their wonderful offerings:

  • 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, au Naturel: no oak, no malolactic fermentation, just pure grape expression. Hints of lemon and a bit of "citrisy zing", refreshing, excellent acid structure. If you want to taste Sauvignon Blanc this is it. This one was offered to us "off menu" and made a great beginning for the tasting.

  • 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Purisima Mountain Vineyard: another unoaked Sauvignon Blanc which brought hints of tropical fruit to the nose and a beautiful, terroir-induced hint of minerality in the finish that one finds in the classic Sancerre.

  • 2006 CuvĂ©e Nicolas: Aged sur-lie for 3 months in French oak you start to get a little more richness and silkiness to the texture of this Sauvignon Blanc. Hints of vanilla and butterscotch on the nose, the mild oak adds a little more body to a wine which continues to have a little citrus zest to it.

  • 2007 Uno Mas de Brander, Grenache Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc: another one not offered on the menu, this is a fabulous wine with the two grapes putting together any orange and lemon combo of scent and taste with the more fuller bodied Grenache Blanc supporting the leaner Sauvignon Blanc. Bravo!

  • 2007 Merlot: four months in oak was just enough to add a little body and soften the tannins of this tasty red. I immediately got the impression of chocolate covered cherries. Very drinkable now but I might hold it another 6 months.

  • 2007 Syrah: Light pepper, black currents and blackberry all come together with moderate tannins and good acid for a solid Syrah.

  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: Cherry and vanilla were the first to hit me. Not a bad combination, especially with the soft tannins and good acid combine to deliver a lovely medium-length finish.

  • 2006 Bouchet; Bouchet is another name for Cabernet Franc and this blend is 50% Cab Franc, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Syrah (we're in the Central Coast after all). Full of black fruits, silky tannins, nice acid, a long finish... this wine can be enjoyed now or held for up to 5 more years. Excellent stuff!

  • 2007 Moscato Di Fredi: a lovely finish to this part of the trip... the tasting notes got it right "low alcohol, moderately sweet, and slightly sparkling".

    Next on our trip, we literally went around the corner to Bridlewood (another wine club to which I belong). Perhaps the prettiest property, when I first went tasting here their wines were "ok" but I had detected a steady improvement over the years and was happy to see that this improvement was continuing. Here we were offered eight tastings (three off the printed list):

  • 2006 Chardonnay: A nice Chardonnay (93% with at least 6% Viognier) with aromas and flavors of green apples, hints of vanilla and a touch of spice ending with a little minerality on the medium-length finish.

  • 2007 Central Coast Reserve Viognier: Pretty nose, all honeysuckle and light tangerine leading to a flavor blend of peach and guava all with a creamy texture. Lots of fruit with enough acidity not to be flabby makes it a fun drink.

  • 2006 Arabesque: A southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah, and others aged in oak for a wine that is very fruit forward bringing aromas of cherries, plum, hints of chocolate and a touch of spice added to the taste bringing this taster a long, enjoyable finish.

  • 2006 Grenache: Nice, but not the best I've had from them. Hints of spice and strawberry jam. Not bad, but didn't bowl me over.

  • 2005 English Pleasure Syrah: Now we are off the tasting list and what a wonderful detour it was. Black fruit, smoke, violets, cedar, spice (cinnamon maybe?) all combined to join soft tannins and excellent acid to make all of us go "wow". Well done!

  • 2004 Dusty Trails Syrah: Well named, hints of leather and smokey-oak, plums, quite dry. Big wine with strong earthy components.

  • 2005 Estate Syrah: Allowed to rest in small French oak barrels to age for 24 months prior to bottling this wine, once uncorked, gives up spicy cocoa with hints of vanilla. After letting it breathe the rich black fruit comes forward with Cassis leading the way and finishing with licorice and herbs.

  • 2005 Syrah Port: 100% Syrah barrel aged for 24 months, 9.03% residual sugar, 18.25% alcohol. A nice port-style offering... hints of blackberry and licorice, chocolate, some nutty aspects that all come together for a nice finish.

    That's the morning... will write more a little later.

    Elynca said...

    Why is it every time we go wine tasting there is another awful picture of me up???

    Mike Pape said...

    Awful? I think it's fun. Everyone is laughing, having a good time (and that was just the third winery)!

    Anonymous said...

    You should consider hitting up Riverbench Winery. It is a new winery just North of Foxen. They specialize in excellent Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Definitely worth a stop.

    Mike Pape said...

    Thanks for the recommendation. I have not heard of them but will definitely be on the lookout and perhaps pop in on the next trip.