Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Return To Santa Ynez Wine Country - Part Three

Our final day in the Santa Ynez wine country found us having breakfast at Paula's Pancake House. After a quick walking trip through Solvang it was off to the last of the two "free" tastings along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

First up was Curtis, an old favorite of mine. Here we tasted 10 wines, four of them not on the tasting menu:

  • 2006 Viognier: This is 100% Viognier, two-thirds aged in stainless steel, one-third aged in oak to add just a hint of creaminess. Beautiful bouquet of honeysuckle and apricot with come citrus at the finish.

  • 2007 Heritage Blanc: This vintage is a traditional Rhone-style blend of Viognier (55%), Roussanne (27%) and Marsanne (18%). I detected hints of pineapple and peach on the nose. Good acid, has a little bite in it, fresh and clean tasting.

  • 2005 Crossroads Grenache: I have to say, a little disappointed in it. Tobacco and blackberries on the nose but not much fruit on the tongue. Good tannins and acid but the fruit just didn't produce for me.

  • 2005 Heritage Cuvee: Another classic Rhone style, this time red, of Grenache (50%), Syrah (19%), Mourvèdre (18%) and Cinsault (13%). My notes read light spice/peppery, "jammy" black fruits, soft tannins, good acid, nice medium-length finish. Excellent wine for everyday enjoyment.

  • 2005 Syrah, Ambassador's Vineyard: Yummy! Peppery and floral on the nose, flavors of black cherries and blueberry with a long, lingering finish make this one a keeper!

  • 2005 Syrah, Rock Hollow Vineyard: When the Firestone Winery was sold, Curtis and Rock Hollow (Adam Firestone's little patch of heaven in the area) combined and we tasted one of the remaining bottle of the Rock Hollow Syrah before they become totally assimilated into Curtis. Beautiful Syrah, big aromas of raspberry and red fruit with just a touch of pepper giving over to bold fruit, chewy tannins, and a lingering finish.

    Off the menu we tasted...

  • 2007 Roussanne: Barrel aged in French oak and some malolactic fermentation gave this nice little wine some needed weight. Not bad, didn't do much for me.

  • 2005 Cabernet Franc, Rock Hollow: Our second pour from Rock Hollow and it was lovely. Chocolaty flavored red and black fruits, good acid backbone and tannin structure made this a delicious little Cab Franc.

  • 2005 Cabernet Syrah: First time I have tried a Cab blend from Curtis. Very nice. Deep color, spicy plums, a hint of smoke with a lingering finish. Wish they were producing more of this.

  • Jarhead Red: I've seen it, even bought a bottle for a gift (loved the name and the label) but never tasted it. I would call it a decent everyday red wine. A tad thin for me but not bad at all.

    Our final stop of the wine club wineries was Fess Parker. Every time I have been to Fess Parker I have come away more impressed than then last time and this time was no different. Here we tasted seven wines:

  • 2006 Chardonnay "Ashley's": 100% Chardonnay with 10 months in oak produced a lovely Chardonnay with good apple and pear on the nose and green apple, sweet oak and touch of butter on the tongue.

  • 2006 Viognier, Rodney's Vineyard": Aged 9 months in oak this pleasant little wine brought hints of peaches and lychee with just a touch of cinnamon to the nose and a clean taste of peach and honeysuckle with a nice bit of minerality packed into the finish.

  • 2007 White Riesling, "Santa Barbara County": nice tropical fruit and floral notes on the nose with a hint of gasoline (don't worry, this is somewhat traditional for Rieslings) delivering melon and a little citrus flavor for this taster. Sweet, but not overly so.

  • 2006 Pinot Noir, "Ashley's Vineyard": Beautiful pinot, all smoke and black cherries with moderate tannins, solid acidity and a long finish. The 15 months in oak brings a little weight which makes this a fantastic wine.

  • 2005 Syrah, "Santa Barbara County": One word... BIG! Black cherry, plum, black pepper and hints of chocolate. Indication of being "hot" on the nose but it wasn't in the throat which was a delight. Well made wine!

  • 2005 Syrah "The Big Easy": Robert Parker gave this one a 91 and I know why. Rich, smooth, hints of game, smoke, violets, vanilla and pepper make your mouth water as the elixir brings flavors of blackberry, blueberry, vanilla and light chocolate to the palate with a finish that just goes on and on.

  • 2005 Syrah, "Rodney's Vineyard": Rodney's Vineyard is where the attention is today and with good reason. Smoke, spice, plum, and even a little tar on the nose with luscious dark chocolate, cherry, vanilla and a little "fat" on the tongue. Another Parker high scorer.

    To make this a true adventure we decided to make one more stop. Following Matt Kramer's advice we decided to hit Foley Estates towards Lompoc (Tio Ely claims I was calling him a Lompoc but nothing could be farther from the truth). It definitely wasn't a bad selection and it came with an added bonus... by joining Foley I gained "free" tastings at three wineries! Can't beat that. We tasted a few wines, I will write about the ones that stood out to me:

  • 2006 Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay, Rancho Santa Rosa. I really enjoyed this Chardonnay. Aged 10 months in French oak, 100% barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation... everything said not to like it but dang it I did. Hints of tangerine and grapefruit rather than the green apple I usually got along with creamy texture and a mineral finish made this a pleasure.

  • 2006 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, Barrel Select: Yum! Powerful wine yet not heavy. Lovely hints of cherries and spice with an underlying touch of vanilla, fuller mouthfeel than one expects but lovely texture and beautiful acid with a touch of "Pinot sweetness". Excellent balance and lingering finish made this a joy.

  • 2006 Santa Rita Hills Syrah, Rancho Santa Rosa: Bold. Deep color, rich aroma of blueberry and spices delivering a mouthful of bursting fruit, strong but not raw tannins and excellent acid.

    So, there you have it... our little adventure in a nutshell. Seven wineries, about 53 wines (sorry, left a few off), and two fun days with friends.
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