Day 3: Santa Barbara visit
Down here in Bien Nacido Vineyard, the vines are looking healthy and green. I read yesterday that Paso Robles experienced severe frost last month. Here, 100 miles further south, there was evidently some damage, especially in the Santa Ynez Valley, but not as severe. Summer arrives much earlier in Santa Barbara County than in San Luis Obispo. Yesterday, it was about 90, although today a front is moving through with a big cooldown, which I think the growers welcome. Such a beautiful vineyard, Bien Nacido, bringing back memories of such great wines. Much construction too, of new roads and even dwellings on this large, almost feudal estate, which suggests to me business is good despite the economy.
I tasted a red wine yesterday, a Syrah from Happy Canyon I won’t identify, but it was the kind of wine I’ve been writing and thinking about: distinctly Californian, massively ripe and fruity. However you don’t get a wine that ripe without paying the price of excessive softness. The vintner consequently acidified the wine, so much so that in spite of a luscious aroma the first impression in the mouth was “Wow, is this ever sharp!” Acidity is a very tricky little beast. Wine needs enough of it to be lively and fresh, but it should never stick out. Well, maybe in certain white wines (Riesling, or a nice dry sherry), but not a dry red table wine, in which the acidity should be a secondary impression, not the primary one.
I read in Lewis Perdue’s news fetch that the TTB has reopened public comments on the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. This is turning into another of those appellation wars over boundaries. The issue was that the original petition had defined a certain area, but a few growers to the north of the boundary challenged it and demanded to be included. The original petitioners said, No, we think we got it right in the first place. TTB, ever sensitive to controversy, has thrown up its hands and said, “We can’t decide, so let’s open the public comment period.” (Their actual statement was “Given the conflicting evidence…TTB has determined that it would be appropriate to re-open…” etc.) So here we go again. I’m not taking sides because I’m not familiar enough with the precise acres in question, but I hope they resolve this quickly, and by this time next year we’ll have a Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. It’s a unique, distinct growing area, the name has historical meaning (hearkening back to the first Russian colony), and we need to start carving up this silly Sonoma Coast mega-appellation ASAP.
If you want a chuckle, check out Tom Wark’s blog from yesterday. He takes on this guy, Parnell, and lets him have it right in the eye, Osama-style. Way to go, Tom, always a respecter, appreciator and defender of fine wine writing.
Blake Gray, honorable colleague, is now Blake Gray, CWP (Certified Wine Professional). Seems he took an exam and passed it. I’m glad Blake took a good-natured poke at himself (“Please do not use the abbreviation W. C. [i.e. water closet/toilet),” because now, I don’t have to. Congrats, Blake!
And now early Friday morning, sun coming up over Bien Nacido. I am waiting for a 7:30 a.m. pickup after a rousing late night at a restaurant in charming old Orcutt with a bunch of winemaker friends, some old, some new. I’ve developed a case of laryngitis from talking so much, but I managed to squeak out a thank you toast expressing the connection I feel to beautiful Santa Barbara County and its wonderful wines, which seem to get better with every visit.