There was no way that I was going to miss the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Grand Tasting. More than 100 wineries pouring tantalizingly complex world-class Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and equally renowned and satisfyingly full-bodied (though less and less oaky lately) California Chardonnay? Out in the glorious sunshine of the prodigious, prestigious and bucolic Central Coast AVA? I’m there!
And I was there, along with my good friend and fellow enophile Helen and my delightful new friend Sarah. We plotted our optimal tasting strategy on the drive up: stay someplace close overnight (in other words, walk, don’t drive to the tasting), seek out wineries with whom we’d struck up an email relationship, and look for wines that we hadn’t experienced before or were hard to come by in LA.
Helen made my multi-tasking (tasting while videotaping) easier with the gift of a wine glass holster. Sarah scouted out the not-exactly alphabetically arranged wineries. So we were all set.
My Personal Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Highlights
Brewer Clifton. Brewer Clifton’s Machado Pinot Noir was possibly my favorite wine of the entire event. Meaty, minerally with aromas of flowers and forest floor on the nose and deep black cherry on the palate. Plus, Greg and I used to have a friend and neighbor named Machado.
Clos Pepe Estate. Clos Pepe was one of the first ten wineries in what was to become the Santa Rita Hills AVA. Sustainably farmed, intense, expressive. The Axis Mundi label isn’t quite as complex as the flagship CP Pinots, but at about half the price they offer a great quality price ratio.
Pence Ranch. Field trip, literally. The day after the Grand Tasting we took Sean, Kelly and Mark up on their offer to tour the vineyard. Proprietor Blair Pence graciously led us though his current releases, starting with a refreshing and as-yet unlabeled Rosé from Pinot Noir and culminating in the nuanced and age-worthy Uplands Pinot Noir. KEN
Ken was provided a press pass to attend the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Grand Tasting. No other compensation was provided.