Doctor’s Corner October 2016 - Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest

As you may already know, we like to visit the Santa Barbara County wine region at least once each year. This trip marks our second visit this year...it’s called research and someone has to do it.

Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest

As you may already know, we like to visit the Santa Barbara County wine region at least once each year. This trip marks our second visit this year...it’s called research and someone has to do it.

On Thursday, October 6th, John Black and I (Biba chose to remain at home) left Sacramento about 8:45 am, driving south on Interstate 5. We stopped, as usual, at Harris Ranch in Coalinga (exit 334, Hwy 198) for a late breakfast or early lunch, then continued south on I-5 until exit 309 for Paso Robles (Hwy 41 -> Hwy 46), crossing the coastal range of mountains behind a seemingly endless caravan of campers and trucks. In Paso Robles, we connected with Hwy 101 and proceeded south to our final destination - the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott - in Buellton, CA. After settling in, we had time to visit only one tasting room - aw shucks. But it was well worth the visit.

Loring Wine Company - the tasting room is located on Highway 246 close to the Hitching Post restaurant. We tasted five wines, one Chardonnay and four Pinot Noir, and all were excellent. I will briefly describe the two that I thought were best. Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands - a luscious wine with citrusy flavors, slightly oaked and buttery but not overpowering. It was a perfect start to our long trip. Pinot Noir 2014, Clos Pepe Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills - velvety soft with a nice touch of acidity on the finish, I thought it was a great wine that would pair well with fish, fowl, or red meat.

On Friday, October 7th, after a hearty breakfast at Ellen’s in Buellton, we drove toward Lompoc on Highway 246 (also called State Route 246) stopping at three winery tasting rooms...Babcock, Melville, and Dierberg-Star Lane before lunch.

Babcock - we recently poured a Babcock Grenache Blanc as a wine by the glass and everyone loved it, so we thought an in-depth examination of Babcock wines was in order. Jamie, in charge of the tasting room, put us to the test, with one Sauvignon Blanc, two Chardonnays, six Pinot Noirs, and one Cabernet Sauvignon. Not bad for a start. The top two wines (really all were excellent) were: Pinot Noir 2013, Sta. Rita Hills and the Pinot Noir 2013 “Radial.” Both wines were silky smooth with great mouthfeel and a long finish.

Melville - I will briefly describe the two best of the six wines we tasted...once again, with no exaggeration, all the wines were excellent. Chardonnay 2015, Clone 76 - Inox - all stainless steel, no oak. Chardonnay at its best. Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Sandy’s - great nose, mouthfeel, and finish. With a lingering taste of dark cherry and plum. Wow.

Dierberg - Star Lane - six more wines, a Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc, a Dierberg Chardonnay, two Dierberg Pinot Noirs, and two Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon. While Santa Barbara County is well known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, my two favorite wines were the Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and the Star Lane Astral 2012 (also Cabernet Sauvignon). Both were smooth, elegant, top-notch. All before lunch. We made a quick trip to Los Olivos for lunch at Sides and then more wine tasting.

Larner Vineyard where Christina Larner was pouring. We particularly liked the Malvasia Bianca 2015, Elemental 2013, a GSM blend, and Grenache 2013.

Stolpmann Vineyard - we liked the Estate Syrah 2014 and the 2013 Sangiovese.

On Saturday morning at 11:00 am we made a quick stop at Lincourt. The Pinot Noir 2013 Willie Mae, Sta. Rita Hills, and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Santa Ynez Valley were great.

At the outdoor Festival with all the wineries in attendance, we tasted too many wines to enumerate. I will only list the wineries or wines that we thought were outstanding.

  • Brewer-Clifton
  • Clos Pepe
  • Palmina
  • Fiddlehead Cellars
  • Foxen
  • Fess Parker
  • Core
  • Cinque Stelle
  • J. Wilkes
  • Grassini
  • Margerum
  • Alma Rosa
  • Larner
  • Kaena
  • Baehner Fournier
  • Tercero
  • Toretti
  • Flying Goat

As you may imagine, it was a long day. Rest assured we used Uber.

While Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the principal varietals of this region, we observed an increase in the production of Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone varietals, Sparkling wines, and Rose’ wines. And we noted one Gruner Veltliner. Additionally, as we have noticed an increase in the number of wineries we have also witnessed a steady increase in quality across the board. We will continue to visit this great wine region.

Nota bene: For all our wine tastings we swirl, sniff, sip, and spit. Drink responsibly. Wine in moderation may be beneficial to your health. Wine(or alcohol) in excess may be harmful to you as well as others.