Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Wide World of Santa Barbara Wine White Now

Not to be one of those people who say, "Boy, you sure missed a good party," but if you didn't make it to the Grand Tasting on April 23 for the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, well, you sure missed....

My joke, as I tasted and was repeatedly wowed, was saying, "_______ is the best winemaker in Santa Barbara!" only to say "No, _____ is the best winemaker!" after having the next superlative taste. Doing a wrap up of all the fine pours and tasty tastes would seem like rubbing it in, so instead, I want to focus on just one crucial thing I'm not sure people get about Santa Barbara wine--it contains multitudes. We all hear about how our positioning on the crook of the coast means the mountains aim east-west, not north-south, and what that means for growing regions and the ranges of temperatures our vines get to experience. But it's really really true, and not just some pleasing marketing come on (if there is such a thing as a pleasing marketing come on, and I say that as a person who does marketing for a living). As we begin to AVA-out, that, too, is not just wine geekery but a reflection that Ballard Canyon isn't Happy Canyon even if you'll end up happy drinking the wines from either spot.

A moment in the Connoisseurs Club tent crystallized the inspiring range SB offers right now. Dustin Wilson, Raj Parr, and Eric Railsback led a tasting (yeah, you could do a lot worse for presenters), finding wonderful pairs. One of those featured the Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc and Stolpman L'Avion. The Lieu Diet is acid and precision and lean and lively--invigorating citrus and stone. The L'Avion is lush and oily and rich--ingratiating tropical fruit and flowers. While heading away from each other at practically the speed of light in their styles, both remain balanced at the extremes, where balance becomes all the more important. That Chenin Blanc with Industrial Eats barbecued Morro Bay oysters was perfect, almost a mignonette on its own. Industrial Eats also offered the perfect bites for the Stolpman, too--lobster pasta, rich, unctuous, both hearty and the sea at once.

All this and Chardonnay too.

For, after all, Chenin Blanc was almost done as a varietal in California, except for what the Central Valley made for bulk wine. And Roussanne, so picky it often gets hand-turned so each angle of the grapes gets the sun it needs and no more than that, well, there's all of 324 acres of it in California (basically 1/3 of the UCSB campus, which might be a better use for much of campus, now that I think about it). But these grapes from the Loire and the Rhone, they grow in our county, and mighty well. Now that's something to toast to.

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