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Return to Santa Barbara- 2011

Unfortunately, a 3:30am wakeup call has become synonymous with my travel experiences.  When travelling from the most consistently delayed airport in the United States, you tend to adjust your departure time to get out as early as possible to avoid the ever present delays.  However, when returning from the West Coast you have no ability to avoid Newark Liberty International Airport’s delays, as you are already 3 hours behind the East Coast. Being that I had control over my “delay destiny” on the departure end of the trip; a 6:30 am flight would ensure no delay in our escape. 

 So, by 4:00 am we were off to Newark Airport for a week of wine tasting in California. The previous year, we had flown direct from Newark, NJ to Los Angeles and then drove to Santa Barbara.  This time, we decided to avoid LAX and try to fly into the Santa Barbara airport. While normally a Continental Airlines aka “The new United Airlines,” traveler, on this trip we would be flying US Airways to Santa Barbara via Phoenix.  There are currently no direct flights from Newark Airport to Santa Barbara, so a stop over in Phoenix was the next best option.  Arriving at the airport early made check in and security easy and by 6:45 we were airborne and on our way to Phoenix.  Following a short layover and a quick 1 hour flight, we were touching down in Santa Barbara. We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with family, unpacking and then finished a busy travel day watching the sun set from the Beachside Bar Café on the Goleta Beach while enjoying margaritas.

 The next morning, we left Santa Barbara around 9:15 to head up to the Santa Ynez Valley.  We again travelled the North San Marcus Pass road, which has some of the most amazing views of the Santa Barbara Coast.  You can see more about accessing the Santa Ynez Valley in my previous post “Early to Rise…Santa Barbara Part 1.”  We had 3 separate visits to the valley spread out in our week long trip.  Our plan of attack for the first day was to visit wineries we had never been to before and then mix old and new over the next few visits.

Our first stop of day was Rusack Vineyards, which is located in the Ballard Canyon.  As discussed on the Rusack website, it is a small boutique winery that was founded in 1995 by Geoff Rusack and Alison Wrigley.  In 2001, John and Helen Falcone joined Rusack and are one of the few husband and wife winemaking teams in California.  The winery is also about to launch the first ever wines grown on Santa Catalina Island.  You can read more about their Santa Catalina Island venture here: http://www.rusackvineyards.com/about/catalina.html

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The tasting room and Vineyard is located on the Ballard Canyon Road almost halfway between Solvang and Los Olivos.  The Tasting room also offers one of the most beautiful picnic areas you will find anywhere in the valley.  It is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch while out tasting. A tasting at Rusack is $10, you can split it if you choose and you are allowed to keep your glass.

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Below is a partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Rusack:

Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, 2009

“The truly distinctive flavors from the cool Northern and Western
extremes of Santa Barbara County come together in this bottle.
Here, our love of blending has resulted in a marriage of exceptional
fruit aromas with carefully balanced acidity, capturing the
best qualities of the area. Honeydew melon, Asian pear, orange
blossom, as well as citrus notes are highlighted in this appealingly
crisp white wine.”

Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, 2009

“From one of Santa Barbara County’s great growing regions. The Rusack Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir captures some of this region’s classic characters of strawberry and cherry, with a hint of mesquite, which are followed by flavors of rhubarb and cranberry. The soft, silky tannins make for an approachable young wine that is also age worthy.”

We purchased this Pinot Noir, it was excellent.

Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate, 2009

“The grapes for our Ballard Canyon Estate Syrah release are from the estate vineyards around the winery, located in the beautiful Ballard Canyon. Located in the larger Santa Ynez Valley appellation, Ballard Canyon has its own nuances and micro-climates that make it a near-perfect place for grape varietals such as Syrah. This very small bottling contains classic Ballard Canyon Syrah aromas of cassis and blackberry, with hints of licorice. Concentrated flavors of dried cherries, blackberries and cocoa mix with velvety tannins that linger on the palate.”

Of all the new wineries that we visited on our trip, this was one of our favorites.  The scenery is amazing and it will definitely become a regular stop on our future visits. If you’d like to visit the Rusack Winery, it is located at 1819 Ballard Canyon Rd, Solvang, CA 93463; you can also visit their website at http://www.rusackvineyards.com/

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Our next stop was Mosby Winery, which is located off the Santa Rosa Road in Buellton.  Specializing in Italian Varietals, Mosby provides a unique break from the selections you will find at other wineries in the Valley.  Aside from Italian wines, Mosby also specializes in Plum Brandy and Grappa. You will also find some of the most amazing wine labels on the Mosby bottles.

Wine maker Bill Mosby and his wife Jill purchased their de la Vega property in the early 1970’s.   Shortly thereafter, they started a commercial wine making business bottling under the Vega label, which was named after their land.  In 1986, the Vega label was changed to Mosby to better reflect the family name and philosophy of wine making.

A tasting at Mosby is $10; you can split it if you like and are allowed to keep your glass.

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Below is a partial list of the wines we tasted while visiting Mosby:

Pinot Grigio

“Light and refreshing, the Mosby Pinot Grigio delights with aromas of ripe pear, apple, and vanilla bean. The crisp, citrusy taste is followed by a dry, clean finish with an element of wet stone. Historically, Pinot Grigio originates from the Fruili-Venezia Guilia of Italy. Said to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape, the Pinot Grigio seems unsure whether it is a red or white wine grape. Hence, grigio, meaning gray.”

Sagrantino

“The Mosby Sagrantino is the first domestically-produced Sagrantino available for sale. Sagrantino is an Italian grape varietal that grows around the hilltop town of Montefalco in Umbria. Bill imported the cuttings and tended them in his estate vineyard for four years before his first Californian Sagrantino harvest in 2006. The wine is true to its Italian heritage; dark garnet-red in the glass, this wine offers up exotic fragrances including rose petal and horehound. The flavor combines brooding elements of tobacco, “sotto di bosco” (fruit of the forest floor) abd sassafras bark intertwined with bold dark fruit and a chewy, mouth-filling texture. The firm tannins complement these rich flavors and create a pleasantly-defined finish. This release is still a youngster so we recommend opening the wine to breathe for about a half hour, then serving it with full-flavored foods. We enjoy our Sagrantino with cheeses such as Manchego, Cabrales or Parmesan; red meats including bison, lamb, game or pepper steak; poultry such as squab or duck and any dish flavored with truffles, mint or rosemary. This wine will cellar well for 5 to 7 years.”

Sofia 

“A dessert wine made from raspberries. Jammy, raspberry fruit with a bright finish. Dessert in a glass!”

We purchased this dessert wine; it was one of our favorite dessert wines of the trip.

If you’d like to visit the Mosby Winery, it is located at 9496 Santa Rosa Rd, Buellton, CA 93427; you can also visit their website at http://mosbywines.com/index.html

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Following Mosby, we were off to Alma Rosa Winery which is also located on the Santa Rosa Rd.  Founders Richard and Thekla Sanford, have founded multiple successful winegrowing enterprises over the last 40 years, most recently Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards.  Alma Rosa operates two vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and both have been organically certified.  They have a beautifully rustic tasting room and many may recognize the Tasting room manager, Chris Burroughs from the movie Sideways.  A tasting at Alma Rosa is $10, and you can split it if you like.

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Below is a partial list of the wines we tasted while visiting Alma Rosa:

2008 Pinot Noir- Sta. Rita Hills

“Text book old-world varietal character, showing the brilliant, fresh, flashy side of Pinot Noir. Bright raspberry and bing cherry notes are enhanced by a sassy, spicy element and refreshing acidity.”

2007 Pinot Noir- Sta. Rita Hills

“Positively brimming with fruity aromatics and flavors (made with grapes from our certified organic estate vineyards) dominated by a mix of fresh crushed berries and dark cherries, shot through with a floral-spice element and a beet-root-meets-cola essence. The wine showcases the dark rich side of Pinot Noir and already has a supple smooth texture with clean acidity.”

2009 Chardonnay- El Jabali Vineyard- Sta. Rita Hills

“As vibrant and luminous as watching the sun rise over the Sea of Cortez, sitting on a pristine beach among seashells and sand-dollars, tropical clouds above radiating their skyblue pinkness, the air still cool from the night and the water surface mirror-smooth. Apple-y, citrus-y, minerally pure classic Chardonnay, a little bit bread-y, like a fresh bolillo from the panaderia… this is another offering out of the heritage vines here at Rancho El Jabalí.”

If you’d like to visit the Alma Rosa Winery, it is located at 7250 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton CA 93427; you can also visit their website at http://www.almarosawinery.com/index.html

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Our final stop of the day was Kalyra Winery located in Santa Ynez.  The land that Kalyra is currently located on has a long history in the Santa Ynez valley.  Originally planted in 1968, as part of the Vina de Santa Ynez, it is considered one of the inaugural vineyards in the region.  The current owner Mike Brown grew up in Australia and relocated the valley in the late 1980’s.  Kalyra offers two tasting rooms, the Kalyra Winery in Santa Ynzez and Kalyra by the Sea in downtown Santa Barbara. 

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As is true with many of the wineries in the Santa Ynez, fans of Sidways will recognize the tasting room. This is the winery that Sandra Oh aka “Stephanie” worked at. The view from the Kaylra Winery tasting room in Santa Ynez is amazing and they offer a large covered porch to enjoy lunch or a glass on wine. A tasting at Alma Rosa is $10, and you can split it if you like.

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Below is a partial list of the wines we tasted while visiting Kalyra:

2009 Gewurztraminer

“This California Gewurztraminer from Santa Ynez Valley’s Kalyra is a great choice for anyone looking for a dry white wine. Kalyra is one of the best Santa Ynez wineries with a popularity and reputation that goes back to the younger years of the grand Santa Ynez Valley wine region. Winemaker Mike Brown has over twenty years of experience in winemaking, spanning two continents. He is well versed in the wines of Australia and California and this white wine made from the Gewurztraminer grape is not outside his comfort zone. This wine is possibly the most fragrant white wine you may ever find. With its distinctively floral nose and spicy finish, this refreshing off-dry favorite from just across the street is like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day. Buy a bottle and you might just be naming it the ‘best white wine’ you have ever tasted.”

We purchased two bottles of the Gewurztraminer; it had a very nice taste and was very reasonably priced.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc

“The fruit for this California Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from Vina De Santa Inez – in Santa Ynez Valley, one of the great appellations of California, let alone all of the world. This California white wine is created in the New World style of stainless steel fermentation with no oak barrel aging, made in a style that truly reflects the bright nature of the varietal. This light wine is crisp and has a classic floral flavor with gooseberry and grapefruit overtones. Another good white wine from Kalyra Winery, the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with many summer dishes like seafood and salads.”

2008 MC² Blend

“Showing off rich, dark berry flavors and a smoky, chocolaty finish, the wine is superbly structured. This California red wine is a delicious food and wine pairing, especially with rugged Italian dishes and rich meats. MC² is just one more reason why Kalyra is one of the good red wine brands from California – with some of the best red wines.”

If you’d like to visit the Kalyra Winery, it is located at 343 N.Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez CA 93460; you can also visit their website at http://www.kalyrawinery.com/index.php

Following Kalyra it was back to Santa Barbara after a quick stop at Cold Springs Tavern for tri-tip sandwiches.  Check back next month as we continue our week long visit to Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.

 Until next time Salude!!

 

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2011 Napa Valley Grape Harvest

With the 2011 Napa Valley harvest season winding down, one has to really wonder how this vintage will turn out. Napa Valley experienced a cold and wet spring with late flowering and flowers dropping off of the grape clusters which is known as grape shatter. The cool wet conditions had many vineyards on the lookout for botrytis rot and mildew.  Cooler summer temperatures have many vineyards delaying harvest by weeks. And no doubt grape crop yields will be down also. In fact weather throughout North America for 2011 was rather extreme with unseasonably cool temperatures in Oregon, heavy early frost in central California, heat waves and drought in Texas, unusual amounts of rain, Hurricane Irene and the recent Noreaster that hit much of New Jersey, New York and New England on the east coast. That makes me wonder how the 2011 vintages hroughout the entire US will turnout. On a positive note many grape growers employ proactive and innovative techniques to combat extreme weather conditions. While yields may be lower they could also be higher in quality and late season warm temperatures have helped many vineyards extending hang time. Only time will tell how we will judge the 2011 wines, and as I do with every new vintage I will patiently wait to taste them and search out those special gems that always tend to come out of a tough year.