Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tasting Room: Lafond Winery and Vineyards, Buellton


Lafond Winery is in the beautiful vineyard land near Buellton, west of Highway 101 on Santa Rosa Road.  The Santa Rita Hills are lovely and they contain vineyards which produce some very special fruit.  

Pierre Lafond has been utilizing some of this special fruit since he started Santa Barbara Winery in 1962.  That was the first winery in Santa Barbara County since prohibition.  In 1971 Pierre planted Lafond Vineyard, then expanded his vineyard acreage in 1996.  The Santa Rita Hills winery began construction two years later and it opened to visitors in 2001.  

Award-winning winemaker Bruce McGuire came to Santa Barbara Winery in the early '80s and also oversees the wines of Lafond Winery.  McGuire helped pioneer Pinot Noir and Syrah in Santa Barbara County.  His talent shows in every bottle.

The grounds of the winery are gorgeous and hospitable.  Everywhere you look the scenery is great, but there is one spot that really pops the cork.  Just to the right of the tasting room you can look across the vineyard to the hills on the other side.  The serenity in that spot is almost overwhelming.  It makes a great backdrop for snapshots, too.

The interior of the tasting room is fairly businesslike, with little of that wine country decor many wineries like to toss around.  The staff is quite friendly and very helpful, even when tending to a number of guests, as they were when I visited.  Even though there was a full house at the tasting bar, I received plenty of attention and had all my questions answered.  That may sound like business as usual, but I hate to think about how many times I've had a question in a tasting room and been told "I don't know."   Not here.

It was a very pleasant experience at Lafond, and the wines also had a bit to do with that.  Here is what I tasted:

Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2007 - A blend of grapes from several vineyards, this wine is clean and crisp.  It's fruity with minerals.  Refreshing enough, certainly, for the porch this summer, but the nice acidity will have it pairing well with food, too.

Lafond Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 - All estate-grown, this Chard has twice as much time in oak as the SRH.  It's quite smooth, and the effect of the wood quite noticeable.

Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2007 - All 8 Pinot Noir clones grown here contribute.  The wine is noted for earth, spice and lavender.

Lafond Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 - Four clones are in this one; it's bright and spicy with slight raspberry/cherry tones.

Lafond Vineyard Syrah Grenache - 60 Syrah and 40% Grenache, the nose is full of cherry and spice.  Earth, blackberry and cedar mark the palate.

Santa Rita Hills Syrah - 2008 - 58% of the fruit in this wine comes from the Lafond Vineyard.  It's a complex nose with hints of bell pepper.  There is big fruit in this one, but it's still rather young.