Santa Barbara: Pinot Perfection

Pinot Noir Lovers & Haters: Read This

One of the things that makes Santa Barbara wine country so unique is it's east/west mountain range.
Santa Barbara wine country’s unique east/west mountain range
Do you like Pinot? I thought I DIDN’T- but I DO! All it took was a weekend trip to Santa Barbara Wine Country to open my eyes to Pinot Noir. And by ‘open my eyes’ I mean a hard knock upside the head with a magnum or two of, oh say, some ’97 Hartley Ostini Hitching Post from Bien Nacido, or 1996 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir. Yes, I was lucky enough to taste some of these holy grails of Pinot, but I also indulged in others, including Sanford, Bridlewood, and Clos Pepe, to name a few. It was a crash course in Santa Barbara wine – something I knew was long overdue.

What I suspected all along was now proven by visiting this unique wine region – it’s not that I dislike Pinot Noir – I just hadn’t tasted truly good Pinot Noir… well I did always love Laeticia Vineyard – another Santa Barbara wine, it turns out (surprise, surprise).

Top 3 Takeaways from the Santa Barbara wine region:

  1. East/WestMountain Range (Transverse) – Santa Barbara is one of the few spots in the US where the mountain ranges run east to west, rather than north to south. This allows the ocean breeze and fog to come in and maintain a cool growing climate – perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It also creates micro-climates that support numerous other varietals as well.
  2. Pinot Noir is a Tempermental Grape – In general, the Pinot Noir grape is especially hard to grow, which is why many winegrowers refer to it as the ‘Heartbreak Grape’. Because of this, you can’t just grab any Pinot Noir off the shelf – creating amazing wine from this grape is an art form – everything must be perfect in order to make it work.
  3. Pinot Noir is Not a Low-Priced Varietal – Pinot Noir is price-relative. If you want a nice silky smooth option to go with your Thanksgiving Turkey, don’t expect much from a discount bottle of Pinot off your local supermarket shelf. This is a refined grape that won’t do your holiday meals justice if it was made with haste.

Top 10 Wines I’m Still Thinking About from Santa Barbara:

Labels from some of my favorite Santa Barbara wineries.
Labels from some of my favorite Santa Barbara wineries.

1) Wan Fiore Project, La Familia, Sta. Rita Hills ’12 Pinot Noir
2) Brewer-Clifton, Santa Maria Hills ’96 Pinot Noir
3) Clos Pepe, Estate Vigneron ’12 Pinot Noir
4) Sanford and Benedict  ’12 Pinot Noir
5) Hartley Ostini Hitching Post, Bien Nacido ’97 Pinot Noir
6) Qupe, Bien Nacido Hillside Estate, Syrah
7) LWC (Loring Wine Company), Russel Family Vineyard, Mourvedre
8) Bridlewood, Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands, Chardonnay
9) Alexander and Wayne, Arroyo Grande Valley ’08 Pinot Noir
10) La Montagne Rancho La Vina, Sta. Rita Hills ’12 Pinot Noir

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