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Hawke’s Bay

on the way to visit Bilancia VIneyard in Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay hosted the Classic Reds Symposium last month, as well as a day in the area’s subzones of Bridge Pa and Gimblett Gravels, immediately following the Pinot Noir NZ event. The organization of the Classic Reds Symposium impressed me.

Producers in the region were quite willing to offer an honest presentation of their wines and discuss appropriate critique of their quality as well. Additionally, it was bold for the Symposium to immediately follow the Pinot Noir NZ event, even if that makes sense in terms of tasting order by palate weight. It’s a rather easy move, generally speaking, for a wine critic to like Pinot Noir these days – the variety’s lighter general weight and style is on trend compared to naturally fuller framed or more structured wines that so readily receive criticism these days. So, to follow an event of a popular wine type with a less celebrated weight category is a bit of a brave move. I felt the tasting of both Cabernet Sauvignon blends and Syrah wines from New Zealand, as shown at the Classic Reds Symposium, was among one of the more insightful tastings in which I’ve been able to participate. It is a rare thing to find a region so willing to be open to that level of discussion and it speaks well to their long term commitment to quality. By the end of the Symposium I felt genuinely excited for the quality of wines coming out of Hawke’s Bay and especially for where it feels the region is headed. Vineyards there have reached stable vine age and the winemakers are genuinely committed to incremental improvement. There are good wines from the region today and we are going to keep seeing better wines in the years to come as well.

The day following, where we tasted from Bridge Pa and Gimblett Gravels, was also fascinating and well done. The regional vintners’ groups came up with truly creative ways to show us the character and growing conditions of their regions. Their techniques are shown in the following photos, as shared at the time via Instagram.

❤️#Repost @somm_arthurhon ・・・ Afternoon #selfie #winenz #hawkesbaywine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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About to take off with Jen. #nzwine #hawkesbaywine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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One of the original 1982 Syrah vines rescued and planted own rooted by Allen Limmer here in Stonecroft Vineyard, now known as the MS clone or Mass Selection. The MS is believed to be the selection originally brought to New Zealand by James Busby, more famously known as the father of viticulture in Australia. The variety seems to have been throughout vine regions of New Zealand beginning with Busby’s arrival in the 1840s. Thanks to Prohibition it was greatly diminished and almost completely lost until in 1982 Limmer rescued the last canes of it in the country and brought it to what is now known as the Gimblett Gravels subregion of Hawke’s Bay. These vines as the mother block for the country. As other clones have been brought to the country vintners have experimented with the new selections but many say they return again to the MS. #nzwine #hawkesbaywine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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Pinot Noir NZ

the curly girl and lipstick club, aka the best club

Our travels through New Zealand revolved around the Pinot Noir NZ event – a three day extravaganza focused primarily on Pinot Noir with wine professionals from 20 countries, wine lovers from all over the world, and New Zealand’s top winemakers from across the country. The event occurs every four years and while it celebrates wine it also offers truly Kiwi hospitality and talent. It honestly was the most well planned and gracefully executed wine event I have ever attended and it was not only an honor to attend but also to speak. The organizers asked if I would give the closing address looking specifically at the question of future communication while also tying together threads and themes from across the three days. Duncan Forsyth, who extended the invitation to me, asked if I would use it as an opportunity to inspire people to really dig in and commit passionately to whatever their projects – winemaking or otherwise. (If you want to see my talk you can watch it or read the transcript here. If you have any interest though you should really check out those given by others across the three days. There were incredible speakers present from across all aspects of the wine industry including internationally known celebrities. The keynotes from the first and third days are available here.) In truth though the event was utterly inspiring for me as well. The caliber of talent we were surrounded by professionally was mind blowing and best of all the entire time was full of truly good and caring people. Here’s a look at the festivities in photos as shared to Instagram at the time.

 

New Zealand is one of the only countries in the world that has established a shared healthy relationship between its First Nations Maori people and the subsequent settlers. While my Indigenous heritage serves as the foundation of who I am it is largely unseen in a US context where recognition of Native American communities is essentially non existent. To be asked then to be part of a Maori welcoming ceremony to open Pinot Noir NZ 2017 was not only a huge honor but also overwhelming. After the initial arrival and greeting portions of the ceremony I sat on stage with Dame Anne Salmond seated beside me at my left and Jancis Robinson at my right as we progressed through a series of Maori blessings and songs honoring our ancestors, our land and each other. The depth of gratitude for the experience is more than I could explain. Thank you to Pinot Noir NZ for making it possible. #nzwine #pinotnoirnz @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @pinotnoirnz Thank you to @yrmom_safoodie for the photo.

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Marcel Giesen discusses how the Sta Rita Hills defines greatness through simultaneous persistence and reinventing itself. How greatness in Pinot comes from farming that respects the land, and that quality from the right site will come in time “with unwavering passion and commitment” in a relationship “between land and winegrower of humility and honesty” over time. From the choice of essentially any two Pinots in the world Marcel selected the Au Bon Climat 2005 Larmes de Grappe Pinot Noir from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard and the Domaine de la Cote 2014 Bloom’s Field describing both as exemplary cases of balance, power, finesse, purity, complexity length and authenticity. “Power isn’t size. It’s persistence. There should be sinew, movement, aliveness, energy.” #nzwine #sashimoorman @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @pinotnoirnz Excited, humbled and impressed to see one of the regions I love most – the Sta Rita Hills and Santa Barbara County – and two wines I have great admiration for showcased into such a prestigious international tasting. @rajatparr @sashimoorman @sbcwinelady

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Ken Ohishi MW from Japan shares how a Kyoto temple built in 1397, also a Unesco World Heritage site, represents a Japanese world view of balance while discussing too how understatement, purity, clarity, humility and harmony serve as the markers of greatness in Pinot Noir. He compares great Pinot Noir to the attributes of premium drinking water, not in the sense of being watery but in the sense of carrying transparency, pure clean aroma and flavor, smoothness never asserting itself too strongly instead with a sense of silence and understatement. For Ken silence is not absolute but instead closer to the experience of sitting in a quiet room with only the quiet, steady tick tock of a single clock. The simple experience of the clock helps define the time and space of the silence. The temple too gives insight into the balance of wine. The pure stillness of the pond showing an almost perfect reflection of the temple that even so is not the actual temple – the water expands what we experience and balances it without increasing the literal substance, weight or detail of the actual temple. It instead reverberates in an understated while still complex image of the original expanding our experience of the majesty of the structure. #nzwine #pinotnoirnz @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @pinotnoirnz Wonderfully insightful and perspective shifting discussion.

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Visiting Nelson

Peter and Peter enjoy a beer – my favorite photo from the entire trip. More of the story below…

Many of my very favorite moments from our travels through New Zealand happened in Nelson. What an incredible community and place! The area sits facing the Tasman Bay at the edge of the world’s largest ocean, but with its placement in the Bay the region receives a bit more protection than those directly facing the Pacific. As a result, the waters off Nelson play host to an incredible array of sea life, including regular whale migrations, but can also be visited safely for water sports. A natural barrier wall borders the town and people are regularly there paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming or looking for sea life. On top of the natural splendor of the area, Nelson is also an incredible artist community. That feeling of creative celebration infuses itself through the winemaking, the food, and the town itself. It truly is one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited.

While in Nelson our international wine troupe focused primarily on the Aromatics Symposium, tasting aromatic white varieties from all over New Zealand. As a result we saw fewer wines simply from the region itself but the generosity Nelson showed in hosting the Symposium gave us great opportunity to meet winemakers from all over the country and taste such wines as well. A few of my stand outs from the trip were found here and some of our best adventures too. Here’s a look through photos as shared at the time on Instagram.

Wonderfully aged 2007 Pinot Gris from Prophet’s Rock. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @paulpujol

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Delicious, fresh, finessed. Lovely wines from Neudorf. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @neudorfvineyards

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EVEN NEW ZEALAND CAKES ARE GORGEOUS. WTH. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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To learn more about Nelson, check out Nick Stock’s video on the region as produced for the Pinot Noir NZ 2017 event. It gives you a feel of that intersection between artist and winegrowing community.

Nelson Marlborough Wine Regions Pinot Noir NZ 2017 from Pinot Noir NZ on Vimeo.

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Marlborough

with Lauren Eads on a boat heading to Waterfall Bay

Marlborough turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our travels through New Zealand. The diversity of wine styles with good quality available on the ground there was both surprising and inspiring as I was able to find stand out wines of Chardonnay, Pinot, Syrah, Methode Traditionelle, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and, yes, Sauvignon Blanc. What is available from Sauvignon there in Marlborough covers a far more significant range than we have any idea of here in the US market. Our selection here is far more limited.

While there is something very old school country about the central parts of Marlborough in its feel, the region also holds unbelievable beauty. Here’s the Instagram collection from our time on the ground in Marlborough.

Surprise pleasure of the trip so far – Impressive tasting on Methode Traditionelle wines from Methode Marlborough. All made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay in blend or individually, aged at least 18 months on lees though most shown here much longer. Wines from left: Daniel Le Brun Rosé NV, Tobu Rewa Reserve Blanc de Noir 2012, Johanneshof Cellars 2008 EMMI Brut, Nautilus Cuvée Brut NV, Hunter’s MiruMiru Reserve 2011, Spy Valley 2011 Echelon, Huia Blanc de Blancs 2010, Allan Scott Cecilia Vintage, No 1 Family Estate Virginia Cuvée. A range of styles here but good quality and pleasure through each of the wines. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @hunterswinesnz @huia_vineyards @nautilusestate @tohuwines @spyvalleywine @johanneshofwine @allanscottwines @no1familyestate @methodemarlborough

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Nice to see the elegance that develops in aged Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. A much broader range of styles showing through a large regional tasting of current and library releases of the variety than what appears in the United States. Here one of the stand-outs: the Catalina Sounds, Sounds of White, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley, made only in large oak foudre to bring texture with minimal flavor influence, bottled after six months. Nice subtlety with notes of rose leaf, elderflower and pleasing delicate green accents. Delicate and subtle with still persistent palate stimulation through a long finish. Nicely done. Really pleasing example in the 2015 release as well. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @catalinasounds

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Oh heck YES. Get your neck on one of these. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @zephyrwine

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Oh thank the lord god I am on a boat. Marlborough Sounds heading to Waterfall Bay. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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To read more on beautiful stand out examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/27/the-pleasing-surprise-of-marlborough-sauvignon-blanc/

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Photos from North Canterbury

After traveling Central Otago we flew to North Canterbury where we toured and tasted for two days through the Waipara and Waikari Valleys with an adventurous train ride through the Weka Valley, before then spending the evening in the Banks Peninsula. The excursion included a night in Christchurch too that was amazing as you can see below.

Following is the collection of photos I shared to Instagram from our time in North Canterbury including our travels from the area. There are multiple videos included along the way. Be sure to watch them too. Wine professionals being ridiculous. Too funny.

Mountains of limestone in Waipara. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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More idyllic New Zealand countryside here the Three Peaks in Waipara of North Canterbury. The folds, cut and lift of the fault lines are visible throughout this region where the plates are pushing against each other causing mountain uplifts surrounded by canyons. Sizesble earthquakes happen here regularly with the last serious one being Mid 2016 and before that Early 2011. Both caused significant damage through the area and multi-billion dollar demolish and rebuilding projects in Christchurch. Stone masons and builders came from all over the world to repair the city. Today it holds the safest buildings in the world, built to withstand earthquakes over 8 and even up to 9 on the Richter scale. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

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the Kawarua River in Central Otago

As any of you that have followed me for a while know, after in depth trips through a region I like to compile my Instagram photos from the excursion here so that the collection is easier to locate. It’s something various people have asked me to do and has proven fun to revisit.

The last two-plus weeks I’ve been traveling New Zealand wine countries. The New Zealand Wine Growers have put together a truly incredible itinerary. It’s been remarkable. There has also been enough to do in each area that I’ve decided it’s too much to put into just one New Zealand Instagram collection here. Instead, I’ll go ahead and compile the photo collections here by region starting where my trip started, with Central Otago. Between Instagram collections I’ll also post write ups of the associated place and the wines we tasted. Be sure to check out the three pieces already posted here on Central Otago wines. They’re linked below.

Really lovely wines made by a lovely winemaker. Beautiful intensity and intelligence housed in a delicate, pretty, finessed wine with a light palate and pleasing texture. Here Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock making wine from a moderate elevation glacial terrace with underlying chalk and lime in Central Otago. He destems his Pinot then avoids punch downs or pump overs keeping the cap wet with a light sprinkling from a watering can in order to allow delicate fruit expression with balanced structure. As he explains, working harvest in Musigny, he learned the lesson that “a mineral terroir supports no extraction.” Having already seen something like this from his site here in Bendigo the comment clicked and when he returned his approach shifted. Pinots all unfined, unfiltered and lovely. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @paulpujol @nzwineusa

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Mountains of schist through Central Otago. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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To read more on my travels in Central Otago here are three articles I’ve posted here so far.

Stand out Rieslings in Central Otago: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/24/two-stand-out-rieslings-from-central-otago/

A subregions Pinot noir Tasting: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/25/pinot-noir-in-central-otago/

Vintage Variation and the History of Central Otago: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/25/vintage-variation-and-the-history-of-central-otago-pinot-noir/

Cheers!

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Walla Walla Retrospective

Norm McKibben

Standing at the top of Les Collines Vineyard, one of the valued fruit sources in Walla Walla, with Norm McKibben, one of the important founders and developing forces of Walla Walla wine

As I’ve mentioned here before, some readers asked if I would compile some of the Instagram photos collections from intensive wine trips made on my @Hawk_Wakawaka account there, and share them here on my site to make the information more readily accessible. With that in mind, this week I’m sharing images from my trip this last summer to Walla Walla. (In the next few weeks reviews from the trip will also be appearing over at JancisRobinson.com.)

The first few days I spent with a group of journalists in preparation for the annual Celebrate Walla Walla event, last year focusing on Merlot. After the festivities were complete, I turned to four days of intensive wine visits digging into the particularities and history of the region. The following photos are a compilation of a few pics from the group travels and then more from the final four days. Together they show some of my activities from the trip and give a glimpse of the region.

Walla Walla Wine

Let’s do this…

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Myles Anderson

Myles Anderson helped found the Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology + Viticulture in 2000 after serving as part of the local wine industry since the 1970s + making home wine since 1978. “The first release of Merlot from Walla Walla was in 1981 by Leonetti Cellars. The first significant planting of Merlot was made in 1980. That was Seven Hills Vineyard. They call it the Old Block now. Leonetti + Seven Hills still make wine from it. […] In 2001, the Wine & Spirits Guide identified 12 Merlots from the United States that were the best of the best. Four came from Walla Walla. Each of them the fruit came from Seven Hills. […] Merlot from Walla Walla has had astonishing recognition and it’s been one you can count on.”

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Tero Estates

Seven Hills Winery

“We are standing here in the original Cabernet block in the area [Walla Walla]. The old Cab block was planted in 1980. The old Merlot block in 1982. 4 acres of each. This was the first commercial sized grower, the first intentional commercial size vineyard in the area. It was two farming families that had been out here for generations, mostly farming wheat. That took a lot of guts + vision because it wasn’t obvious back then putting in Bordeaux reds. It was quirky. Now here we are 20 years later + it works. There is a lot of knowledge now but back then there were only a few wineries but we have continued by relying on that same original cooperative nature.” – Casey McCellan owner-winemaker of Seven Hills Winery on the Oregon side of Walla Walla

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L’Ecole Ferguson Vineyard

Marty Clubb of L’Ecole stands in front of a wall of fractured basalt on the western edge of his 1500 ft elevation Ferguson Vineyard in the Oregon portion of Walla Walla. At the top right of this photo you can see a peek of where the vineyard starts + how shallow the wind blown Loess soils are on top of the basalt bedrock – a few inches to 2 ft in depth. “I was really nervous about planting here because these are very thin soils on top of fractured basalt. It is a rough growing environment but also extremely windy here. We planted those first rows to Syrah to help. Syrah can take the wind. Many of the wine regions of Washington are built on this series of ridges. They are the lifted buckles of compressed basalt from 15 million years ago. The younger soils are mostly worn off. If magma cools quickly the rock fractures. That is why we always say this is fractured basalt. If you look at this wall it is like a wall of tightly fit puzzle pieces. But what does basalt become when it breaks down? Oxidized red iron dirt. The vine roots can push inside because the basalt is fractured but also the movement from plate tectonics over millennia has created red dirt between the seams of the fractures. So the roots are digging between the fractures + accessing the soils from between the seams.” – Marty Clubb

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Woodward Canyon

Rick Small established Woodward Canyon, the 2nd winery in Walla Walla, in 1981. In the last 6 yrs he has planted the North Ridge blocks relying entirely on organic farming. He will make the 1st wines from the site this year. Thanks to the wind blown Loess + silty soils plus cold winters phylloxera has not come to the region. Less than 1% of vineyards are planted to rootstock. “If someone would have said 10 yrs ago that I could grow grapes organically out here I maybe would have argued with them a little bit. But now having done it for 10 yrs I think it’s possible. […] All of this Wente Chardonnay is own root but all of my Bordeaux reds are on rootstock. I think I need at least 10 yrs before I know anything [about how the rootstock is working]. I think climate change is going to be a bigger problem for any of us farmers than phylloxera or leaf role virus or anything like that.” – Rick Small

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Leonetti Cellars

Loess Soils

Walla Walla: the Loess is real (and all over my feet).

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Walla Walla Community College Culinary Program

Walla Walla Merlot

Walla Walla Merlot? Here’s a tip: find the best in a cool year, wait 15 to 22 years + enjoy.

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Heading Out on my Own

I found my Walla Walla rental car wrapped inside a Cracker Jack box.

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Serra Padacci Vineyard

Cayuse Vineyard

Gramercy Cellars

Norm McKibben

Norm McKibben of Amavi + Pepperbridge wineries started working w + establishing vineyards in Walla Walla at the start of the 1990s. He quickly became one of the largest suppliers of grapes in the region also serving on the board of the region’s Wine Commission + as a founding member of the Oregon Wine Board. “I planted the first grapes at Pepperbridge in 1991. There were 40 acres [of grapevines] in the [Walla Walla] Valley at that time, including Pepperbridge. I was growing apples + decided to plant grapes. I planted on Whiskey Ridge [up in the hills outside of Walla Walla]. It didn’t work. Then I started planting grapes in the Valley at Pepperbridge. I sold grapes to a few wineries – Leonetti, Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole + Andrew Will on Vashon Island. There weren’t that many wineries here at the time. When their wines came out + said, Pepperbridge Vineyard, more people started calling asking for grapes + it grew from there. I didn’t plan it. It probably sounds silly but I learned the most from the vineyard [on Whiskey Ridge] I tore out because I called every expert I could. Everyone said, tear it out, but I got a lot of advice.”

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Seven Hills Wines

aMaurice 

Model A Gathering

Somehow I happened into the middle a Walla Walla Model A show. Cool!

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Waters 

Geeking out on site specificity vs blending w Waters Syrahs, Rhone white + red blends.

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The Famous Camel

The Walla Walla Notebook

The Walla Walla Notebook: it’s every page full, folks. I’m pooped. Thank you to everyone for such an informative week!

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Copyright 2016 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

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Santa Barbara County Wine Country

At the top of Tierra Alta with Sonja Magdevski, John Belfy and Greg Brewer

As previously mentioned, some readers asked me to compile some of my Instagram photos from intensive regional visits here for easier access. This last week I made a three-day return to Santa Barbara County to do follow-up visits with a few producers I have had on going conversations. This summer I also traveled the region for eight days focusing most specifically on the Ballard Canyon sub-zone. With the dynamic intersection of varied soils, climate variation, changing terrain, etc, it is an interesting area for me to spend time tasting and wrapping my head around. I learn a wealth of insight every time I manage to walk a vineyard in Santa Barbara County (SBC).

Following is the Instagram photo collection from my eight days in SBC this summer, followed by photos from the recent three days. The timing also happens to coincide with a collection of tasting notes from Santa Barbara County that were just published on JancisRobinson.com. Between the two — the tasting notes and the photos here — there is a ton of information about SBC.

Thank you to those that have been following along there on Instagram and asked me to make the images available here!

If you’re interested in keeping up with my persistent wine travels and tastings, you can find me on Instagram as @hawk_wakawaka. Cheers!

First Stop Santa Barbara Wine Country: Casa Dumetz & Babi’s Beer Emporium


Deovlet Wines


Duvarita Vineyard: West of Santa Ynez Valley & Sta Rita Hills (that is closer to the ocean)

Rain storm in Santa Barbara County.

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Heading into Ballard Canyon: Tierra Alta Vineyard


Stolpman Vineyard

Peter + Jessica Stolpman standing in some of their Syrah growing at Stolpman Vineyards in the Ballard Canyon AVA of Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara. The earliest vineyards came to Ballard Canyon in the mid-1970s establishing a melange of varieties unsure of what would work. The Stolpman were the first of the second wave to plant in the small + distinctive region beginning at the start of the 1990s. Their plantings helped establish Syrah as the superstar of Ballard Canyon thanks to the work of early winemakers Ojai + Sine Qua Non, who in turned also secured the reputation of Stolpman Vineyard. In 2001, the family decided to also launch their own Stolpman Vineyards label. Today Peter + Jessica lead the management of the project working w Ruben Solorzano as lead viticulturist, Maria Solorzano as Vineyard Foreman + Sashi Moorman as Head Winemaker.

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Ruben Solorzano’s farming is highly regarded as much for its success in growing distinctive quality fruit as it is for his highly intuitive understanding of the vines. Here, on a narrow hillside planting of Syrah on Stolpman Vineyard, Ruben explains the benefits of their planting the vines w meter-by-meter spacing w the vines head trained, every other at an opposite angle leaning towards its neighbor so every two vines meet at the top to form a point. The unusual planting produces dappled sunlight while also creating a more insulated canopy since the vines effectively protect + shade each other. Only leaves face outward w the bulk of the vine inside the two-vine pyramid. As a result, the vine as a whole gets less direct sun exposure but with still ample photosynthesis. The result is less water stress thanks to less heat stress + more flavor development at lower sugars. Brilliant.

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Beckmen Estate Purisima Mountain

Steve Beckmen established his Beckmen Vineyards label in the early-mid 1990s initially making wine from a 1980s planted site in the recently proposed Los Olivos AVA while also sourcing fruit to get to know other vineyards through Santa Ynez Valley. After getting turned on to fruit in Ballard Canyon + really loving its distinctiveness (especially in the Syrah), he began looking for land to plant in the region. He began planting his Purisima Mountain Vineyard in Ballard Canyon in 1996, establishing it mainly to Syrah but also Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc + Sauvignon Blanc. Today, Steve leads the farming of the site himself with Demeter certified biodynamic practices. Sitting on the Northside of Ballard Canyon, Beckmen Vineyard (like Stolpman) grows almost entirely from Linne Clay mixed through w limestone gravel + sitting on limestone. Here we look South across Ballard Canyon from the very top of Beckmen Vineyard at 1200 ft elevation.

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Farming Grenache can be an incredible challenge. It likes to throw tight, very big clusters + lots of fruit but it also has rather sensitive skin compared to other Rhone varieties. Its tight clusters make it easy to get rot. It’s big clusters and lots of fruit make it harder to ripen but if a vine has too little fruit it likes to develop high sugars (which means high alcohol). Its sensitive skins make it prone to sunburn or color bleaching. As a result, vine balance + farming Grenache can be incredibly tricky. Even so, some of the most beautiful wines in the world are from Grenache. Here, Steve Beckmen has found Grenache on his Ballard Canyon Beckmen Vineyard thrives head trained w a low fruit zone. The bushy canopy shades the fruit + the challenge of growing in low vigor limestone w a daily cooling wind keeps cluster sizes generally low. Lower fruit zones in the right conditions also mean less stress on the vine + less water need.

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Jonata Estate Vineyard

Jonata winemaker Matt Dees takes me on a walk through Jonata Vineyard in Ballard Canyon. Planted at the start of the new Millennium, Jonata Vineyards proves unique for Ballard Canyon. It is the only Estate in the appellation focused on Bordeaux varieties, while also growing Syrah. The sandy soils of Jonata behave very differently than the Linne Clay north of Jonata. Sand includes significant drainage. In the case of Ballard Canyon, the sand also allows ripening of Bordeaux varieties where the clay would not. One of the advantages of clay also restricts its potential varieties. Because clay absorbs + holds moisture readily, it also absorbs Ballard Canyon’s cold night time fogs from the ocean. As a result, vineyards in clay take longer to warm in the day + also lock in more humidity. The ample drainage of Jonata’s sand allows the vines to receive the ambient temperature change at night without elongating the cold + humidity in the morning after the fog has cleared. With the slightly warmer + drier conditions, Cabernet Franc + Cabernet Sauvignon ripen on the site. The sand gives them ample while melting tannin while the cool nights give them mouth washing acidity. What is fascinating to me tasting Jonata wines is how utterly Jonata while still distinctly Ballard Canyon they are. That is, the site, Jonata Vineyard, has a unique recognizable signature in the wines while still carrying the character of the AVA. Jonata was planted by John Belfy + today is farmed by Ruben Solorzano.

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Saarloos & Son Watermill Ranch

Touring the Watermill Ranch, Saarloos + Sons’s terraced, dramatic hillside Ballard Canyon site, on ATV-quad (my favorite) w Keith Saarloos. The Saarloos family purchased the property originally to be Apple farmers as the site was previously planted w apple trees but after discovering the challenges of the apple industry they switched over to wine grapes in 1999. Farming the site themselves, the Saarloos have chosen to cultivate Syrah + Grenache. The vineyard grows between 750 + 1150 ft with a cold air drainage along the bottom that pulls cooling wind coming over the hills at the Northern boundary of Ballard Canyon through Saarloos + into the Southern half of the small AVA. Being in the Northern portion, their site rests in Adobe type clay, which carries tons of water holding capacity + cools the fruit further into the day. Windmill Ranch includes the most dramatic rolling hills of the appellation, which Keith describes as “like farming on a roller coaster.”

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Rusack Vineyards

Steve Gerbac has been part of the winemaking team for Rusack in Ballard Canyon since 2003 + leading it since 2012. Rusack Vineyards grows at the upper boundary of the Southern half of Ballard Canyon just below where the appellation becomes more predominantly sand. The vineyards grow between 600 + 700 ft in elevation well within the cooling fog + potential for spring frost or winter freeze. As a result the site has proven not quite warm enough for Sangiovese or Cabernet Franc but very good for Ballard Canyon’s signature grape, Syrah. The site does also still grow Merlot, Petit Verdot + Petite Sirah, as well as a fresh balanced Zinfandel. The Rusack site was previously home to the first vineyard in this area of the Santa Ynez Valley, Ballard Canyon Winery established in 1974. That first vineyard in the area was planted to a melange of varieties both warm + cool climate. When Rusack was established the vineyards were replanted. However, thanks to the historic winery location, today Rusack offers the only winery + tasting room in Ballard Canyon.

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Steve Gerbac, head winemaker of Rusack, has been keeping a steady hand at Rusack while also doing small scale experiments to shift the style towards greater freshness + clarity w still plenty of flavor. I asked him to talk about how he has approached exploring the change while finding balance w making a change over time. He offered some examples in the winemaking process. Here is some of what he had to say. “We’ve been shifting the wine style [at Rusack] in the last couple years to doing less to the wines. We’re bottling our first unfiltered Chardonnays now. You have to really change everything from how you grow the grapes to when you pick them to not filter the wine. You kind of have to rethink everything from the beginning or you run into trouble. You just do what you can + clarify the wines as you can [before bottling]. We’ve started fermenting Syrah [differently]. I don’t really like fermenting one clone at a time anymore. I pick [a few together] + co-ferment. I think it adds complexity. We’ve been playing w stems in Zinfandel + Petite Sirah. It’s a lot of little things that aren’t that much on their own that add up to a lot. I’d always been against stems coming from a [particular view of a] Pinot background. Now just a little bit here + there. I still don’t want to be able to pick it out in the finished wine but I don’t want to pick it out any more than I do any other thing either. It is just to add a little range + aromatic lift.” – Steve Gerbac

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While Rusack’s primary Estate rises from the soils of Ballard Canyon, they also farm, own + bottle wine from the one + only vineyard on Catalina Island of the coast of Los Angeles County. The site grows utterly distinctive Chardonnay, Pinot Noir + especially unique Zinfandel grown against the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Recently Rusack has been able to harvest fruit from cuttings of Zinfandel taken from Catalina Island now grown in Ballard Canyon. Tasting the two Zinfandels side by side is remarkable for how utterly distinct they prove to be. One concentrated, dense, + charismatic w the power of a life on the Pacific Ocean. The other dusty, mouthwatering + zesty like the terrain of Ballard Canyon. The Catalina Chardonnay is deceptively delicate, an almost lacey body of flavor somehow still powerful + mouthwatering w tons of length. The Pinot all savory + wild w windy freshness + saline crunchy length.

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Larner Vineyard

Standing at around 700 ft at the highest point of the Larner Vineyard property w Michael Larner we survey the Southern stretch of Ballard Canyon. The Southern portion (which include both Larner + Kimsey Vineyards) are within direct exposure to the cooling afternoon wind that blows off the Pacific across the extended east-west running Santa Ynez Valley. North of Larner, Ballard Canyon runs North-South still receiving an afternoon wind but at a different angle along the canyon floor, which is a bit protected by the Canyon’s more exposed hilltops. Michael’s professional training as an academic geologist served in researching the conditions of Ballard Canyon to prepare a petition for AVA status, which was approved in 2013. As Michael explains, the relatively small AVA shares in calcareous bedrock, which appears as fractures of chalk in the southern portions (more available to vine roots) + becomes more compressed into limestone in the northern portions. On the surface, sand occurs to varying degrees throughout the AVA, with it appearing as virtual beach sand in some sections or mixed w clay in others. Calcareous rock or gravel increases, mixed into the clay, in the northern sections. The result of the calcium rich bedrock + surface soils of Ballard Canyon throughout the wines of the region is a dusty floral lift followed by elongated mouth stimulating palate tension + sapidity across a range of wine styles.

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Larner Vineyard Producer Tasting

Getting to taste a mix of primarily red Rhone wines from across vintages (as well as some crisp aromatic whites) of Ballard Canyon over the last few days + previously, it is fascinating + delicious how clearly Ballard Canyon distinguishes its wines. While many of its varieties successfully grow elsewhere in Santa Barbara County + of course beyond, the Ballard Canyon signature appears across winemaker + wine type whether white or red. That said, each site too seems to prove distinctive from its neighbors while still recognizably Ballard. On red wines, the sandy soils + cooling winds of Larner seem to offer a concentrated, often opaque, core of earthy fruit flavor rubbed through w resinous forest notes in a structure of supple to melting while persistent tannin + a wash of balancing acidity.

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One of the Realities of Summer-time Vineyard Travel

I decided to go for a fresh tartan look.

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The Vine Whisperer of Ballard Canyon: Ruben Solorzano

Dohmeyer Vineyard

Standing in the North of Ballard Canyon next to Dohmeyer Vineyard looking South across the Vineyards of the region w Ruben Solorzano. From the spot it is possible to look the full length of the Santa Ynez Valley from Happy Canyon to the East to Santa Rita Hills in the West + here Ballard Canyon in the middle. It is hard to over estimate the role Ruben Solorzano has had in shaping the quality of wines from Ballard Canyon. He has farmed all but a couple of sites in the appellation. More than any other viticulturist I have been lucky enough to travel with, Ruben’s work is consistently lauded + admired by the producers he farms with as well as other viticulturists of the region. He began farming in Santa Barbara County in 1989, starting at Stolpman in Ballard Canyon in 1994. Since he has helped establish Larner, Kimsey + Boa Vista while also farming Jonata, Rusack, Dohmeyer + others. While his work is centered in Ballard Canyon it also extends to sites throughout the county.

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Kimsey Vineyard

Overlooking Kimsey Vineyard in the Southern most stretch of Ballard Canyon w Ruben Solorzano. Kimsey grows a little bit cooler than vineyards to the north in Ballard Canyon. The site sits between 400 + 500 ft in elevation, lower than other vineyards of the region. In the southern most reach of the canyon it is perhaps the only current planting not partially protected by a hill to the west. As a result, the daily ocean wind blowing east through Santa Ynez Valley moves through the vines of Kimsey w regular direct influence. Thanks to the lower elevation, ambient temperatures are lower + thanks to the wind, vines are cooled even further. Planted in 2006, the vineyard architecture has benefited from the accumulation of viticultural knowledge gained through all of the previously established sites throughout the Canyon. Planted primarily to Rhone varieties, particularly Syrah, Kimsey includes a selection massale field blend of each of the clones of Syrah planted throughout Ballard Canyon.

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Boa Vista Vineyard with Ruben Solorzano & Jeff Newton

 

The Fog of Ballard Canyon

 

Sonja Magdevski checks her rows at Tierra Alta

 

Casa Dumetz Wines

 

Goodland Wine

 

Potek Wine

Potek Winery Grenache + Syrah from Tierra Alta Vineyard == Delicious. Enough said.

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Kimsey Wine

 

Site Wine Co

 

Combe

 

Santa Ynez Valley with Jeff Newton

The Santa Ynez Valley proves to be one of the most nuanced + diverse regions of any I have visited. I’ve returned to it again + again over the last several years + always find more to learn + appreciate. This trip I have focused primarily on the Ballard Canyon AVA, an incredibly tiny appellation half between Sta Rita Hills on the western edge of the Santa Ynez Valley + Happy Canyon on the eastern. What Santa Ynez Valley as a whole shares is tons of fruit clarity w mouthwashing acidity. Whatever style a producer takes to their winemaking, that acidity is there to water + water + water your palate. It allows a huge range of styles to work. Coastal Vineyard Care, started in 1984 by Jeff Newton (shown here), farms sites throughout the Santa Ynez. Earlier this week Jeff Newton + I were able to spend a day driving sites the length of the Valley from the town of Lompoc (west outside the AVA) all the way to Happy Canyon. What a fantastic experience + perspective. Here, Jeff + I walked the rolling hills of Lindley Vineyard on the western boundary of Santa Ynez Valley + Sta Rita Hills. The site (like much of the area) sits in a bird fly over zone + so is kept netted. We walked the rows + checked fruit bent over as shown here. With its proximity to the ocean + wind, the site produces tiny berries + clusters giving lots of natural fruit concentration well framed by its structure. It’s a site at the edge of ripening – it’s the edge where many of the best wines are made.

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Samsara Wine

Chad Melville started making wine under his Samsara label in 2002, initially focusing on Rhones from what is now Ballard Canyon + now making Syrah + Pinot from Sta Rita Hills + Grenache from Ballard Canyon. In his 20s, Chad spent a year on the road in Africa + India making his way essentially through the kindness of strangers, staying in the homes of people he met along the way. The experience deepened his appreciation for community + connection through those sorts of direct experiences. Through Samsara, Chad produces small lot wines each foot stomped + slowly basket pressed for a sense of vibrancy, energy + incredible purity. The wines are special. The name Samsara comes partially from his experience traveling + the renewal process that happens again + again in the cycle of vines.

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Richard Longoria

Rick Longoria has worked w over 50 vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County from the length of both Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley + between. He has been the first to work w fruit from a huge list of iconic sites including Stolpman in Ballard Canyon, Buttonwood in Santa Ynez Valley, Sweeney + then later his own Fe Ciega in Sta Rita Hills + so many more. His intuition on the marriage of variety to site has helped encourage new plantings through the region + he has helped start + develop now well known labels throughout the region. It is hard to over emphasize the role he has played in Santa Barbara County wine serving as one of the region’s first winemakers + making wine still today through his own Longoria label. Beginning his work in wine in 1974, Longoria began his work in Santa Barbara County wine in 1979 serving as winemaker at both J Carey Cellars + Rancho Sisquoc simultaneously. Later he would help bring acclaim to Gainey, consult at Rusack + finally turn his attention full time to Longoria Wine in 1997 after starting it in 1982. Longoria wines begin w tenacious purity in their youth + age into some of the most beautiful wines I have had anywhere. Here Rick shows me his Fe Ciega Vineyard off Santa Rosa Rd in Sta Rita Hills. Today only Qupe + Ojai also make Fe Ciega Pinot Noir. For both it is among the best of their vineyard designate Pinots.

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Longoria 2000 Pinot Noir made w the first fruit of Fe Ciega Pinot (originally named Blind Faith Vineyard). Beautiful.

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Palmina

Having spent time in Northern Italy Steve Clifton felt he recognized conditions in the Santa Ynez Valley hospitable to a range of Italian grape varieties. By 1995 he was able to find growers willing to plant Italian varieties in Santa Ynez for him to launch his entirely Italian variety focused label Palmina. In doing so, Palmina became the first Italian-variety-only label in California post-Prohibition. Eventually he would also instigate the first post-Prohibition Italian-only vineyard in the state. This summer Palmina celebrates 20 years having not only succeeded as a winery for 2 decades but also effectively paving the way for newer labels also focused entirely on Italian varieties to succeed. While the earliest vitis vinifera plantings in California included high proportions of Italian vines, after Prohibition vineyards shifted to a French focus. The Cal-Ital movement of the 1990s consisted entirely of producers that only dabbled in varieties like Sangiovese while primarily making wines like crowd pleasing Cabernets. In only few parts of the world do the two grape types grow happily side-by-side. Cal-Ital wines from the 1990s faced at least 2 significant issues: (1) the Sangiovese was planted in the wrong place + (2) producers didn’t know how to work w the grape on its own terms. Critics skewered Cal-Ital wines as a result + consumers turned away from Italian wines made in California. By the year 2000 it became almost impossible to sell wines of California made w Italian descent fruit. Steve persisted developing new ways to connect w buyers + somms around the country hosting blind Nebbiolo tastings w top Italian producers included. Palmina stood up. In the meantime he also happened to befriend highly respected Barolo + Barbaresco producers from Piedmont that mentored him while also lauding his work. Over time, Palmina successfully built strong relationships w wine lovers, winemakers + members of the wine industry effectively eroding the barrier to US grown Italian varieties. (He’s also just fucking cool. Congratulations, Steve + Chrystal on 20 years. So psyched for you.)

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The Return to Santa Barbara County in February

Byron Wines

In 2001 winemaker Jonathan Nagy began making wine at Byron Winery in the Eastern side of Santa Maria Valley. At the start, Byron made single vineyard wines from sites throughout the Santa Maria. In a few years the Byron program would shift to an appellation focus. In 2013 Byron relaunched their single vineyard program beginning w iconic sites of the SMV. Here Nagy describes the unique growing conditions + best blocks of the historic Nielsen Vineyard. Planted in 1964, Nielsen is a founding site of Santa Barbara County wine, the first commercial vineyard in the region. It sits on bench land above the Santa Maria River + here in Nagy’s favorite block is fed colluvial soils, decomposing rocks + elder-series soils from the foothills that border the vineyards Northern side. The persistent cold Pacific breeze through the Valley intensifies flavors, thickens skins + encourages smaller, concentrated clusters. The nightly fog helps keep a guaranteed wash of mouthwatering acidity in the wines. Santa Maria Valley offers a hallmark savory spice character in not only its Pinot but also its Chardonnay. In returning to a single vineyard focus Nagy is getting to showcase the unique character of the Valley’s iconic sites, here at the Nielsen, down the road in Julia’s Vineyard + at the also-historic Bien Nacido.

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In 2014 Jonathan Nagy was able to take Byron Winery’s return to single vineyard wines into the Sta Rita Hills. Raised in Santa Maria Valley, Nagy got his start in wine in the North Coast (after first working in tasting rooms in Santa Maria) + didn’t expect to return to his home region. Eventually though he found himself called back to making wine from Santa Maria. His winemaking career since has primarily focused on finding the elegance possible from the savor-spice of his home valley. However, when he started at Byron 15 years ago, the facility was also working w Sta Rita Hills fruit for another project. Making those wines Nagy saw the intensity offered in Santa Maria’s sister appellation. In guiding the single vineyard program to Sta Rita Hills as well, Nagy + his assistant winemaker Ryan Pace (shown here) are able to work w iconic sites throughout Santa Barbara. The rolling terrain of Sta Rita brings power, tenacity + a black tea flavor to the Pinots of the region. Inundated w a nightly fog + daily cold Pacific wind, the wines of Sta Rita include mouth clenching acidity. Thanks to the varied aspects + protected pockets vs exposed slopes, the vineyard expressions Nagy is exploring w Sta Rita Hills carry a regional expression across a distinctive range. Here the Byron duo stand near the top of John Sebastiano Vineyard, at the Eastern boundary of the appellation, the site is a warmer spot in a cool region. Byron now also bottles single vineyard designates from the iconic challenge of the steep sloped Rita’s Crown + the moonscape variations of La Encantada along the AVA’s Southern boundary.

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Bien Nacido Vineyard

Geese + ducks also help w controlling the cover crop at Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria Valley. (Seriously.)

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True Believer, Hammell Wine Alliance

Tasting through a vintage vertical, 2011 through 2014, of Chris + Dayna Hammell’s Hammell Wine Alliance Grenache-based wine True Believer, along w the 2015 True Believer rosé + 2014 Syrah. Chris has been managing the Bien Nacido + Solomon Hills Vineyards in Santa Maria Valley for 2-plus decades working w the top winemakers in Santa Barbara County + beyond to deliver farming excellence for a huge range of winemakers’ goals. Over the years he continually returned to a spot at Bien Nacido that he believed would be perfect for Grenache. When he + Dayna decided to launch their own label they planted the site to a head-trained Grenache-based Rhone field blend that they now coferment to make their wine True Believer. (Insider secret pro-tip: the 2013 is something special. It carries a harmonious complexity of savory herbs, earth + spice w profound density on a body of supple tannin + mouthwatering length. The rosé is the savory freshness you enjoyed in your dreams.)

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Casa Dumetz Grenache 

 

Sashi Moorman

Walking the steep slope of Domaine de la Côte w Sashi Moorman in the far western portion of the Sta Rita Hills on the Southern side of the appellation. Santa Barbara County continues to call me back again + again seeking to understand the complexities of the region for just that reason, the complexities. More than any other region I have studied Santa Barbara County offers massive variation of soil, of climate, of slope, of elevation, of aspect. As w wine in all of the United States, the region is young but in its intersection of profound variation across so many factors it includes the possibility for true distinctiveness. As Moorman explains, it is such distinctive he believes shows in the Sta Rita Hills. His + Raj Parr’s Domaine de la Côte project one such example, a high density planting in the extreme portions of a cool climate w soils that seem to give the happy mid-zone of reducing vigor while offering enough life to avoid hydric stress.

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Baby Sheep

 

Solminer Wines

 

Tatomer 

 

Lo-Fi Wines

 

Site Wine Co

 

Habit Wines

Copyright 2016 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

7

Paso Robles

In July I spent 8 days doing intensive wine research and tasting in Paso Robles. Along the way I shared updates from my visits with producers via Instagram.

Some readers asked if I would please compile the collection and share it here on my blog in order to make the information more readily accessible. With that in mind, following are the Instagram photos from my 8 days in Paso Robles, minus a few short videos shared there. The captions as posted to Instagram are typed here directly below the associated image to make them easier to read.

I update my wine travels and local tastings regularly to Instagram, as shown below. If you’re interested in keeping up with it there, you can follow me on Instagram where I post as @hawk_wakawaka.

Cheers!

Let's do this…

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Eberle

"I made my first Barbera in 1978. I planted it myself. I got the cuttings from UC Davis. I really don't know what clone it was but it is what is mostly planted around here. It was planted, indexed and heat treated at Davis so it is clean. That was at the Estrella [River] property [the vineyard + winery Gary Eberle started in the late 1970s before then planting Eberle in the 1980s.]. […] Mr Mondavi, certainly in this business, was my biggest mentor. He taught me how to sell wine. I couldn't tell you why but we just hit it off. I learned so much from that man. You can make the best damn wine but you better be able to sell it if you want to have an impact in this industry." – Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery is considered the Godfather of Paso Robles wine having been one of the early founders of fine wine in the region and an instigator of the original 1983 AVA. Though his flagship wine is Cabernet Sauvignon he has won multiple awards for his Barbera. This summer he was recognized with a Wine Lifetime Achievement Award by the California State Fair, an honor he shares with his mentor, Robert Mondavi, the award's first recipient.

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Ambythe

Pomar Junction

Father + son team Dana + Matt Merrill farm vineyards all over Paso + make wine under the Pomar Junction label from their vineyard of the same name. "My dad is part of the Central Coast Vineyards team. We were one of the first 12 wineries in the SIP sustainability pilot program built by the Central Coast Vineyard Team. It's recognized by the TTB + means you've been checked by a third-party auditor." Matt explains. I ask Dana about his work on Paso water concerns in relation to the drought. Dana has spearheaded efforts to create a collaborative board of agricultural + residential members to work on long term solutions for water conservation. He responds. "We don't have really big water problems right now. We do have a general trend of wells dropping. We don't know if the drought is going to continue. We have enough constructive notice + time to do something."

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Clayhouse

The First Wine Labeled with the Paso Robles AVA

Kenneth Volk

Discussing the different growing regions of the Central Coast cannot be done more thoroughly than w Ken Volk. I ask him when he moved to the region + how he got started in wine. He answers. "I moved to San Luis Obispo in 1977 to attend Cal Poly. I made wine from Rancho Sisquoc grapes in 1977 as a home winemaker. Then I had the opportunity to do an internship w Edna Valley Vineyards in 1978 + 1979. After, I started Wild Horse. I purchased the property, planted vineyards, then bonded the winery + had first crush in 1983. We were mostly working w red grapes from Santa Maria Valley + Paso Robles. At Wild Horse we did a lot of blending warm + cool climate grapes. That worked well for us. People liked it." – Ken Volk served as the first president of the Paso Robles Grape Growers Association, which started in 1981. He was also one of the signatories on the original Paso Robles AVA that was recognized by the TTB in 1983. In his winemaking career he has made wine from around 74 varieties from throughout the Central Coast. As he explained, he recognizes the idea of noble varieties but it is in people being willing to work with grapes + travel w them that we found those. Today the Kenneth Volk winery is located in Santa Maria Valley where Pinot + Chardonnay are his flagship wines but he also works w Italian + French varieties from throughout the central coast.

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The Falcone Family

Luna Matta Vineyard

"We're certified organic because we really believe in it. We believe the property should be better when we leave it than when we got it. All the hilltops here [on Luna Matta Vineyard] are a little different. There are so many soil changes. That's part of what's exciting about [farming in] Paso. You can kind of do anything." – Stephanie Terrizzi manages Luna Matta Vineyard in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, which has 36 planted vineyard acres, 40 acres of walnuts, 2 acres of olives, 1 acre of sage + a pear tree. John Ahner + Jody McKeller planted the site in 2001 to Rhone + Italian varieties (+ just a smidgen of Tempranillo) with a focus on biodiversity. Their bees this summer are busy making honey from indigenous plants such as Toyon.

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Giornata 

"In Italy, there is enough heat the focus is really not on extraction. In France there are techniques for more extraction [because of the differing climate + varieties] but in Italy I have never seen anyone cold soak. The climate [in parts of Italy] is more like California. [It has the heat and sun. Our goal is] to express the site, the variety + the vintage. The best way to do that is to pick when the fruit is in balance + really on the early side. I look a lot at acidity numbers in fruit. This isn't just a low alcohol/high alcohol debate. We really want the grapes to hit that perfect edge of ripeness, the window, and it's a really small window. Stephie [Terrizzi] has done a lot of studies on physical ripeness. When to pick is the biggest decision that we make cause we use all natural yeast + no enzymes." – Brian Terrizzi owner-winemaker of Giornata w his wife Stephanie focuses entirely on Italian varieties grown in Paso Robles. Their first commercial vintage was 2006.

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Clos Selene

Aaron & Aequorea

Adelaida Cellars

"They seen what was coming. They got hooked up w John[Munch to start the Adelaida label]. I was just out here clearing land + doing what I needed to do. John came to me + said, what's the worst piece of ground you got? And I thought of that piece [that is now Adelaida's Lower Viking Vineyard] cause I hated that piece down there. [laughing] It was all poison oak. We didn't rip it. We didn't even have a tractor. And then we were worried about how many rocks we'd pull up. You know, it [vineyards in the Adelaida District of Paso] was all new. This one guy took great care to plant a vine right on top of a big rock. [laughing] He placed soil carefully up all around it. That vine is still there. That was 1991." – Mike Whitener has served as the Adelaida Ranch Manager for 40 years. His father was Ranch Manager before him. Mike was born, raised + has lived his life in the Adelaida District. As he explains, he's left several times but always wanted to come back.

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Alta Colina

"I got this concept that I was going to grow wine + make wine back in 1970. It was a long hill ahead but fortunately when I retired I had this little bundle I could use to get started to do it. But in that time period I had these phases where what I was drinking changed. In the 1970s I was a Cab guy. Then I got into Grenache + for about ten years I was a Zin guy + then I moved to the Central Coast + discovered Rhones. At the time I started planting this vineyard that's just what I was drinking. It also seemed like the Rhones were the best fit soil + climate wise + some of the best wines I drank from Paso were Rhones." – Bob Tillman shares how he fell in love w growing + making Rhone wines in the Adelaida District of Paso. Here we sit near 1700 ft beneath an oak tree at the top of the Grenache + Syrah block tasting older vintages of his Alta Collina red wines.

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Lone Madrone

Tasting an 8 vintage vertical, 2000 to 2007, of Lone Madrone Cabernet from York Mountain just west of the Paso Robles AVA.

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The Oldest Coastal Live Oak on the West Coast

Halter Ranch

Resource Conservation

Tablas Creek

James Berry Vineyard

Saxum

The Feet of Vineyard Travel

For @clarecarver: feet darker than my face from summer vineyards + filthy from the decomposed rock of west Paso Robles.

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Fossilized Whale Bones

Zenaida Cellars

Pelletiere 

Ranchero Cellars

The Templeton Gap

A quick drive towards the Pacific through the Templeton Gap. Such a refreshing stop in the ocean wind.

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A Little Goat

Monte is busy telling me all about life in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles.

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York Mountain Winery

Just west of the Paso Robles AVA sits the York Mountain AVA, both recognized in spring 1983. The high elevation York Mountain appellation today includes only one winery, Epoch Estates, + a handful of vineyards. However, the York Brothers, who the AVA is named for, established a winery near the top of York Mountain in 1898. The wood beams they harvested from the old Cayucos Pier. The bricks they made by hand on the mountain. Their York Mountain Winery stood + operated until the 2003 San Simeon earthquake that shook Paso Robles. Today, Epoch Estates own the original York Mountain Winery property + is in the process of restoring the original winery building using the old wood beams + bricks + stone fireplace through restoration + reuse efforts as shown here. The building once finished will be used as the Epoch tasting room w museum + educational components on the history of the region included throughout.

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Epoch Estates

Tasting through the current portfolio of Epoch wines as well as a vertical of Epoch Ingenuity red Rhone blend 2009 to 2013.

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Paderewski Vineyard

So many Hawks soaring the foothills on the westside of Paso. One of my favorite things to watch them circle + soar.

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Pesenti Vineyard

Ueberroth Vineyard

Amadeo Martinelli Vineyard

The Turley's newest property in Paso Robles, the Amadeo Martinelli Vineyard (no direct relation to the cider or the Sonoma gang), hosts dry farmed, head trained Zinfandel planted in the early 1920s in what is now known as the Templeton Gap District of Paso Robles. The vines are inter planted w a mix of cherry, pistachio + even a pear tree. The site includes a historic winery + the unique features of what was once clearly a self-sustaining farm: chicken coops, a root cellar + more. Though the site receives daily cooling breezes from the ocean it sits above the frost zone common to Paso Robles. 2014 is the first vintage from the site for Turley. From barrel it offers the great promise of a Turley Zin with a creamy fresh mid palate, dusty persistent tannin + enlivening acidity. Showing notes of fresh + dried cherry w chocolate + pepper accents on a snappy spine it's a delicious addition.

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Ancient Peaks Vineyard

Villa Creek Maha Vineyard

Soren Christensen

Anonimo

Hearst Ranch Winery

Ledge Vineyard

Bella Luna

Getting ready to taste through the red wines of Bella Luna.

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A Full Week

Copyright 2016 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

In Praise of Discomfort

I’m at my best uncomfortable. I blame my parents though it isn’t really their fault. They raised me commercial fishing for salmon from the age of 9, till I retired in my early 20s, and it’s shaped my life ever since. I’ve spent my adulthood retraining simple habits I picked up fishing like going without food, water, or the bathroom as some faulty testament of fortitude and strength. Even so, summers still I schedule myself for work past the point of fatigue and revel along the way in pulling it off semi-gracefully. Part of me still admires the capacity to work beyond apparent human limits, as if it isn’t really me that pulls it off. I just get to be part of it. This July, for example, I completed the first half day of a visit with a migraine and the producers never found out. The man that drove me that day graciously helped track questions during the interview, for which I am endlessly grateful. I could keep up with the conversation. I just needed help connecting a few of the dots. My notebook is still full with notes of their wines, the vineyard, and their story. It’s good fortune that gives me the opportunity to meet with so many producers and I want to give them that time when I travel. Had I cancelled  to recover I would have missed the chance for that meeting. It’s hard to explain how much joy I find in simply listening to other’s stories (though I don’t always just listen).

This summer I’ve posted little here because I’ve been so busy elsewhere. For those of you that don’t know, when I’m traveling I’ve taken to telling the story of the people and regions I visit via Instagram, where it also routes to Facebook. There you will find photos of some of the people I meet along the way along with insightful quotations from our visit, or a factual dig into their story. For example, Phillip Hart walked me through his Ambythe Vineyard in Paso Robles where we discussed his work as well as the effects of the drought. Ambythe began harvesting this week.

Phillip Hart in his Ambythe Vineyard, Paso Robles

from Instagram: Phillip Hart walking his Ambythe Vineyard, Paso Robles

Paso Robles is just one of the regions I was lucky enough to visit. May began in Long Island, and then Chicago; June took me to Walla Walla as well as the West Sonoma Coast (again); July dug into Paso and Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara County as well as parts of Napa. This month I’m catching up on articles and illustrations.

I’ll be writing more from these travels here through the rest of the year, as well as at JancisRobinson.com, and elsewhere. I’m excited about work I’m doing for World of Fine Wine especially, as there I get to bring together my training in philosophy with my work in wine. It’s nice to recombine my professional worlds. In the meantime, here are a couple favorite photos from my travels looking at subjects I’ll be writing about more here.

Long Island

Christopher Tracy of Channing Daughter in The Hamptons, Long Island

Christopher Tracy, winemaker of Channing Daughters on the South Fork of Long Island, has some of the greatest creative latitude of any winemaker I’ve met. The winery sells the range of wines to prove it. He works too with soil scientist and viticulturist, Larry Perrine. Larry now directs Channing Daughters, but he arrived in Long Island at the start of the 1980s as a viticultural and winemaking consultant helping to solve nutritional problems suffered by the region’s vineyards. Together they offer a range of wines from classic chardonnays to Friuli-inspired white blends, to field blends made from the vines of Cornell’s Extension and Research Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork.

Walla Walla

Norm McKibbenNorm McKibben led vineyard plantings in Walla Walla (W2) helping to expand quality vineyards through the region as well as inspire and support the work of others. His dedication to the W2 industry has been pivotal in so quickly establishing it as a celebrated region in the world. He is the founder of Pepperbridge and Amavi Cellars in W2 and helped maintain and expand the Seven Hills Vineyard – Sevein planting into one of the most sought after in the state.

Paso Robles

Mark Adams, Ledge Vineyard

Ledge Vineyards founder Mark Adams returned to Paso Robles and wine growing after a life in music and sound effects editing for major producers in Los Angeles. Today he makes some of the most delicious and drinkable Rhone wines of Paso Robles while farming his home vineyard in one of the few sandy soil sites of the county. In the last few weeks he expanded his family’s Ledge Vineyard planting to grow more Rhone whites and reds. Mark also makes wine just across the street with one of his long time friends, Justin Smith at Saxum.

Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara County

At the top of Tierra Alta with Sonja Magdevski, John Belfy and Greg BrewerJohn Belfy (shown here center) has helped lead vineyard development and farming in Santa Barbara County‘s distinctive Ballard Canyon from its inception. His work established Jonata Vineyard and he planted and continues to farm Tierra Alta Vineyards as well, among others. Winemaker Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz (shown here left) is just one of the winemakers that sources fruit from his Ballard Canyon site and counts him as an inspiration. Greg Brewer of Brewer Clifton and Melville (shown here right) makes wine from Sta Rita Hills but credits John for support and encouragement received earlier in Greg’s career.

Copyright 2015 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.