Tonight’s occasion is a 2014 Syrah by Dierberg Star Lane Vinyard. I posted a while back about my visit last year here. I wanted to try something special tonight so I reached for the Santa Barbara region in my cellar. Any mildly savvy palate should be able to identify the terrior in the nose alone. Very nice and rich. It prompted visuals of the vigneron (the one who tends to the vines) and contemplated all he/she put into those vines for the terrior to be so pronounced in the nose alone. A great, buttery, well balanced body (especially for a 14.2% ABV wine) a testament to the winemaker’s skill and craft. The finish is not as massive as your average California Syrah, but still has that signature tannic grip albeit restrained for a Syrah. This region is most known for it’s amazing Pinot Noir, so it’s always a treat to see what Syrah – a typically big bold wine – would taste like. I like what they’ve done with this Syrah. Great job!
Tonight’s occasion is a 2007 Syrah by Rusack from Santa Barbara County. I posted a while back about my visit here. You know whenever I feel like tasting something truly special, this region never fails and Rusack is a must. This region is most known for its rich exquisite Pinot Noir, which is precisely why I picked up their Syrah. This 12 year old vintage is drinking perfect right now. Full of gentle subtle aromas, a wide body devoid of any overbearing character and a finish that’ll make you do a double-take as it starts fading and then quickly gets overwhelmed with a long gentle, enduring tannic grip. This is my kind of wine! Great work Rusack!
This wine is a great candidate for your term reserve. You can pick up their current vintages and lay them down for another 5 years or more. I have some 2014 I picked up on this trip as well and I very much look forward to opening them 7 years from now. The good news is they have an extensive list of well priced library wines you can pick from. These will give you an idea of how they will age.
Tonight’s occasion is a 2016 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills (Gravity Flow) by Sanford of the legendary Sanford and Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. You know, it wasn’t until I visited this vineyard on my first visit to Santa Barbara wine country that I realized there is more than the popular “Big California Pinot”. If you aren’t familiar with it, this is the vineyard that showed California and the wine world at large that growing and making a delicate and exquisite Burgundian style Pinot in this region is possible. This one is no exception. The notes are so subtle, you probably should taste it before eating or drinking anything as they can easily be overwhelmed by anything else on your palate. I highly recommend their wines. They serve as a great benchmark for this region and California at large. What’s your occasion tonight?
There are some great wineries tucked away in these hills. Were it not for a very helpful tip from my friend and Sonoma Vintner Roger Roessler of (rogerroesslerwines.com), I would have otherwise driven by and missed this gem.
Dierberg is a must if you are in the region. Their wines are exemplary, well built showcases. Their multi-vineyard estate spanning the greater region from Santa Rita Hills (AVA) to Santa Maria Valley (AVA) to Happy Canyon (AVA).
The winery had a certain modern contemporary minimalist, uncluttered feel that I think helped enhance the wine tasting experience. I found the staff to be very knowledgeable about the wines, estate and history as a whole. Presenting wines from both Dierberg and sister winery Star Lane Vineyard which offers some very interesting and exclusive art in a bottle.
Even though I’m not much of a white wine enthusiast, I thought their whites were very approachable, really well made and with a refreshing amount of creativity too. All their reds were exemplary, really well built wines very much in line with the wines I had tasted so far on this trip. I left with half a case of their Pinot Noir. I will be posting my thoughts whenever I open one of them. I will most definitely be visiting Dierberg next time I’m in the region.
Another gem from my weekend exploring Santa Barbara County wineries was Rusack. I was first introduced to their wines by a fellow wine snob Dr. G at one of my wine summits. She brought a bottle of their Syrah. I can’t remember what vintage it was but I do remember enjoying it. I usually like my wines big, bold and full of character. I like my wines demanding my full attention. Pairing is nice from time-to-time, but for me a wine worth noting, is a wine that stands on it’s own. The Rusack selection did not disappoint.
So naturally I had to pay them a visit. After Sanford and Benedict Vineyards, this was next on my list of musts. The grounds were understated, neat, and homely. The patio/deck in the front, nestled under old growth California oak afforded a perfect place to setup your picnic (which they encourage) and enjoy a good vintage while immersing yourself in what it must feel like to be a gape vine on this estate. Clear warm sunlight cutting through a never ending cool crisp breeze. The climate in this region is amazing. I never wanted to leave. In fact, the tour came to an abrupt end at Rusack as I wondered if I really wanted to gamble the rest of my afternoon wandering aimlessly around the area.
But what about their wines?
Oh yeah. That! Well, I spent at least and hour in their tasting room sampling everything they had to offer. They poured and All-Star lineup. From some very creative whites typical to this region, to some big beautiful reds. The Tasting Room Manager was one of the best hosts I had yet. He was very knowledgeable and only too happy to geek-out about their wines and the region as a whole. He was gracious enough to explore wines off the beaten path and showcase some of their more creative endeavors. It felt more like a field trip.
I’m more of a Red wine drinker but I must say I enjoyed every one of their Whites. I found them more pleasant than expected for a California White. Buttery, complex, fruity noses and not too acidic. My favorites were their Pinot Noir and Syrah. These wine were big, bold but not overbearing. They drank well but I could tell they would be even more amazing if laid down for another 5 or more years. This is exactly what I look for in my wines. I love following a wine through it’s life, patiently waiting for that moment it is peaking and at it’s fullest expression.
The most interesting wine they were pouring was their Zinfandel. This varietal is native to the Northern California region where the climate is much more harsh, hot and dry. This makes for really hard sometimes unbearable wines with big raisin-y fruit, very high alcohol and peppery finish. We typically call them fruit bombs. I really don’t like them. So when presented with their Estate Zinfandel, I was only too curious to see how the more mild, gentle climate and rich terroir here would be expressed through the grape. I have to say it was some of the best most tame Zinfandel I’ve had yet. I love what they’ve done with it. I did not encounter any other Zinfandel on this trip. It was a nice surprise.
I big part of how I gauge value in a winery’s offering is not just a good well-built wine, but also at a compelling price point that permits me to collect at least half a case of my favorites without having to break the bank. I’m not really into buying one bottle here and there. I want to be able to follow the wine. I have to say Rusack’s offerings presented good value for the wine snob. I was also delighted to discover a separate menu of their Library Wines. These were an assortment of Reds from the 2007 vintage most of which were priced pretty much same as their new releases. This is exactly what gets my attention! When a winery caters to those who are interested in exploring their wine even further by tasting verticals and comparing vintages while contemplating the nuances and how that affected the wines.
I settled out on the patio/deck with a 2007 Pinot Noir. It was their last bottle. It was perfect. I also tried a 2007 Syrah. These two are what I left with. Several bottles of each, from both vintages. I look forward to posting about them in the near future.
If you’d like to learn more about them, visit their web site below:
My trip to Santa Barbara wine country this past weekend had been a long time coming. I had never visited the region before this weekend. Occasionally, a friend or guest to one of my wine summits would bring a bottle from this region to share. I was always intrigued by the fact that I had yet to sample a mediocre wine from this region and the central coast at large. Perhaps my friends just have good taste. Either way I was poised to answer this and many questions on this trip.
There is no shortage of interesting wine country to explore here in California (especially Northern California). Enough to keep the most curious Oenophile thoroughly occupied. My interest in the greater Santa Barbara wine region was really sparked by long time Sonoma vintner extraordiaire, Roger Roessler (rogerroesslerwines.com). I have been following/collecting/savoring his creations for well over a decade now. You will be seeing quite a few posts about his wines. What drew me in was his passion for Pinot Noir and the sometimes overwhelming variety of Pinot he would put out not just from Sonoma, but from all up and down the West Coast. His selection reads like a compendium of California Pinot Noirs. Each one strikingly different, unique in it’s own right. An expression of what he liked most about that region.
One of Roessler’s Pinots I have enjoyed over the years is his S&B Pinot. The S&B stands for Sanford and Benedict. Initially I did not quite appreciate the significance of the name. I assumed it had personal significance to Roger. Over the years as my appreciation grew and after many discussions with him about his various wines and their inspirations, I realized the true meaning of the label. As Roger shared his thoughts on the region I realized it carried profound significance.
As my visit to this region neared, I began researching and learning more about the region and it’s history. In one evening of casual reading, I realized the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard was more than just another California winery. It was a cornerstone establishment in the larger region with a storied history, started by true pioneers (and purists) Roger Sanford and Michael Benedict. They paved the way for the region by showing what was truly possible – growing and making truly exceptional Pinot Noir.
My first stop was Sanford and Benedict Vineyards. Now owned by the Terlato Family. I left with the impression that they have done a terrific job of preserving not just it’s name and identity, but the legacy that brought it’s Pinot Noir and the region at large to notoriety. As It still felt somewhat understated. The grounds were clean and free of clutter. The buildings had a bit of a subdued presence with more of an quiet established feel. The wine list was very straight forward and to the point, all small production Estate wines. One signature Pinot, two single block Pinots and one reserve blend of a couple blocks.
All it took for me was my taste of the signature Pinot – the 2014 Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir. It was one of the most delicate and complex California Pinot Noirs I have had and certainly deserves a post all its own. As the tasting progressed, our host was gracious enough to take us outside, show us the vines, grounds and tell us about what makes it all truly special. I also couldn’t help but notice how perfectly trimmed/pruned the vines were. I haven’t quite seen vines and grounds this immaculately maintained before. As my visit progressed it became obvious why their grapes are so sought after far an wide. I began to realize their estate wines served as a thesis, a guide and reference on how to grow and make a Pinot Noir. Sanford and Benedict set a very high bar for all wines in the region. I spent the rest of my weekend looking back at Sanford and Benedict every time I tasted wines. A tough act to follow. A tall legacy to beat. A few came close. I finally understood why a winemaker would come this far for grapes.
If you are even anywhere remotely close to this region, Sanford and Benedict is an absolute must! It alone is worth making the trip.
I found a great write-up on their history here:
For more information, please visit their website here: