A Beautiful Day to Play Hooky

Our marketing strategist wanted us to work on our mailing list today. But we had a better idea. We decided to play hooky and drive up to Santa Ynez. It’s a beautiful little town near Santa Barbara. It’s known for keeping horses and for little gems of wineries and are wonderful to discover on a summer’s day.

Tasting wines at the winery is a special experience, the ambiance, the discussion with the wine seller who is quite often also a winemaker. And just the special feeling of being among the vines, the fruit, sometimes the barrels and the aromas all add to a wonderful elation that adds to the pleasure of loving wines.

Our first stop was at Gainey Vineyards, where the Gainey family has been celebrating their 47th year of farming and ranching in Santa Barbara County. Dan J. and Dan H. Gainey have worked hard to explore the diverse micro-climates available to them in the Santa Ynez valley. What a beautifully constructed old mission style nicely decorated, appointed and very well presented in the marketing sense. The wines we tasted were all Limited Selection wines. Here are some tasting notes from John.

2008 Sauvignon Blanc from the Santa Ynez Valley. After an unpredictable year of weather, this bottle was surprisingly good, with a fresh nose, fruit light and delicate but with a lingering citrus finish.

2007 Chardonnay from Santa Rita Hills. It’s hard to go wrong with 2007 Chards from this area. Deep color, butter, vanilla, lots of fruit, apple and spices. Wonderful long memory in the mouth.

2009 Riesling from Santa Ynez Valley, wonderful fruit, peach, apricot leading to a dry finish. Obviously young, we plan to lay six or so bottles down for a year. We love Rieslings with lunches or just by themselves. The slight residual sweetness when served cold makes for a pleasant afternoon wine.

2007 Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills. This is a seductive wine that opens large, spicy flavors, lots of berries and gets better in the mouth. The finish lasts and lasts. Expect it to be “Wow!” in a few years.

2007 Cabernet Franc (100%) from Santa Ynez Valley. A somewhat unusual unblended Cabernet Franc, this one is rich, ripe, oaky, flowery without the usually grassy taste of Cabernet Franc. I expect this to be much better in a few years with foods and especially cheeses. This was my favorite from this tasting.

2007 Syrah from Santa Rita Hills. A blend from two areas, very indicative of Syrah’s dual personalities. 2007, hard to beat, has raisin, cherries and flowers, spice, light oak and finished better and better. We loved it.

Our next stop after lunch was Mosby, where we picked up a 2005 Teroldego, a 2008 Pinot Grigio and a Stelline Di Moscato, which is an orange muscat in the style of Prosecco. It received 87 points from the Wine Enthusiast. But, for me, a bit flat in the mouth at the end, not unexpected as the muscat taste went away. Not a lot of stars. Different story entirely with the 2005 Mosby Teroldego. Big aromas and fruit going to a soft finish, tobacco roughness in the mouth. I expect it will do well with heavier pasta dishes and due to lots of body and color will probably improve.

At Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards in nearby Buelton, Richard Sanford was the first to plant Pinot Noir vines in the area. They plant using sustainable methods of agriculture and pride themselves on practicing organic farming. Our selections here were their 2007 Pinot Noir from Alma Rosa’s La Encantada Vineyards, and a 2007 Pinot Blanc also from their La Encantada Vineyards, their Westernmost vineyard and one that’s open to cooling afternoon sea breezes. We tasted these wines at one of our favorite lunch places in Ventura, Zacks.

Our thoughts on the 2007 Pinot Blanc? We love Pinot Blancs, but not everyone makes one, so it’s a treat to find a really good one like the 2007 from Santa Rita Hills. Almost no oak, crisp, grapey, smooth and flavorful. This wine could well be our “house” sipping wine with pleasant citrus freshness, especially on warm afternoons at anchor in the cockpit with a fishing rod in hand. We really enjoyed it and took several home with us. A good review also for Alma Rosa’s 2007 Pinot Noir. Wow, the berries jump out with a rich dark earth tone, smooth, mouth filling, nice acidic balance, relatively short finish. I’ll pair this with foods in the future.

We had lunch at Los Olivos Café. Linda ordered one of the specials – Grilled Quail Salad (Quail rubbed with Five Chinese Spices, Blue Cheese, Blackberries, Shallots, Arugula with Red Wine Vinaigrette) – Delicious! The wine pairing was a Margerum 2007 M5 Red Rhone Blend from Santa Barbara and it was perfect with the salad.

A great day!

– John and Linda Andreotti, MV Poseidon, and environs in and about Santa Ynez, and Los Olivos, CA

Photographs courtesy Gainey and Alma Rosa Vineyards.