Showing posts from January, 2010

Santa Barbara is much more than pinot noir (and snapshot of Santa Barbara's current releases)

In Sideways, Miles describes Santa Barbara as the pinot noir grape’s “promised land.” But make no mistake: Santa Barbara not just about pinot noir; nor only about chardonnay. In fact, much of the Santa Barbara is not even suited to those particular grapes, but rather completely different ones.

As a growing region, Santa Barbara is made up of four officially recognized American Viticultural Areas (i.e. AVAs); plus at least another four unofficial sub-regions, known to vintners and aficionados by their varying climates, soil types and topographies.

The county’s largest AVA, for instance, is Santa Ynez Valley; which runs along the Santa Ynez River in a west-to-east direction, starting about 12 miles from the coast at the town of Lompoc, extending 28 or so miles until running up against the Los Padres National Forest. At the western end of Santa Ynez Valley is the sub-AVA of Sta. Rita Hills; where due to its coastal proximity, temperatures can run a good 15 to 20 degrees lower on any given …

Dumb, da dumb, dumb (wine journalists), and snapshot of Oregon's current finest pinot noirs

As someone who's penned newspaper wine columns for over twenty years, I think I can say this: newspaper wine columnists write the dumbest things. So wine lovers beware: particularly the piece written by a Chicago Tribune writer, which I read this morning (Jan. 13, 2010) in The Denver Post (which brings up another old beef of mine: why reprint dumb columns from newspapers in other cities, when there obviously are plenty enough good, or better, wine columnists living and working in your own town?).

In any case, the offending piece is titled: Oregon or California pinot noir? Taste test decides. Decides what? In the piece, the columnist opines, "California used to be the undisputed American star in the world of wine. But, increasingly, Oregon has been stealing the limelight, to the Golden State's sometimes obvious chagrin." Says who? I spend about a third of my time in California, talking with California wine lovers and producers; and although over the past t…

Dream on (favorite drinking wines)

I have this recurring dream. It's almost mid-day. We wake up late, and haven't yet eaten. So after stopping at a tiny charcuterie for some sausages, marinated olives, a round of local bread – tasting of freshly risen dough, crusted on the outside, silky on the inside – and a bottle of wine, we follow a winding brook at the foot of a steep hill outside the village, in search of a table in the sky.

The residual morning chill is still sharp in the air as our shoes crunch over some loose, schistous rocks, but we quickly begin to warm as we steady our footing, making headway up the slope. The landscape is a primeval mix of twisted scrub, giving off resiny, herby smells as we brush against them, along with lethal, gigantic sized agaves shooting up their thirty foot spikes.

Finally, the passing brook leads us to a small pool. We feel like jumping in, but when we dip our hands into it we're almost shocked by the stinging cold. So tucking our pack behind a rock and weighting our bott…