This is serious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay country. Everyone always immediately goes to Carneros or Sonoma County, but, there are values to find in Santa Barbara. Moving south from the San Francisco Bay, where the coastline takes a right hand turn and heads to the east is where you will find Santa Barbara. The mountain ranges follow a similar track, funneling in the cool ocean breezes and morning fog into the valleys.
Kathy Joseph, Fiddlehead Cellars
Santa Rita Hills AVA is truly Pinot Noir country. With Sea Smoke leading the way and seemingly impossible to get, the area is worth exploring. Two producers stand out the most to me. Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Cellars focuses on Pinot Noir from the area, as well as Sauvignon Blanc from Happy Canyon. Founded in 1989, her vineyard is sustainably farmed and located 7 miles from the coast where she keeps the best and sells the rest from her Fiddlestix Vineyard. Expect to see in fine retailers for about $50.
Kris Curran, Sea Smoke Winery
Kris Curran founded the Sea Smoke Winery in Santa Rita Hills. After it was featured in the movie “Sideways”, demand blew up. If you are lucky enough to be on the mailing list and can get 12 whole bottles for the year, awesome! As an alternative, go for Curran Pinot Noir. It comes from her Rancho La Vina Vineyard. It’s made the original way she made Sea Smoke, for just a fraction of the price. Pick it up for about $30 instead of $100 for the cult bottle.
Andrew Murray Vineyards
Moving inland to the Santa Ynez Valley, we head to Rhone country where Grenache and Syrah lead the way. My standout is Andrew Murray. He traveled to France and fell in love with the Rhone region. Then he dropped out of Berkeley and took an internship in Australia working with Shiraz. He is now making both Santa Ynez bottlings as well as single vineyard designates. His wines are great alternatives to Cabernet. Fuller bodied and very aromatic, yet restrained in alcohol, these wines go with everything from burgers on Tuesday night to a great steak dinner on Saturday. For the Tous les Jours Syrah, expect to see it for about $20 and the Roasted Slope Syrah you will see for about $50.
Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”