Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Riverbench Tasting Room

The Santa Maria wine country can look a little under-populated as you drive through all the vineyard land.  It's a rarity to see signs of people, in fact, and a pleasure when hospitality suddenly appears.  Located in a pretty little house on the estate, theRiverbench Vineyard and Winery tasting room sits at the northern end of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail which winds from Los Olivos to Santa Maria.  It is one of those welcome oases of hospitality.

The Room

The tasting room was quite busy for my Saturday afternoon visit, and the staff seemed a bit harried.  There were plenty of them to go around, however, and they were very helpful and forthcoming with information about the wines they were pouring.  The pouring was handled by whoever was close-by at the time my glass was empty.  That is expedient, but I prefer to have the same person pouring all my samples.  I find it more streamlined that way and I get a better feel for the information I am given.  That said, I do understand the pourers were trying to accommodate a big crowd in the best way possible.  I do appreciate being served so quickly for each taste, even if it was by a different person each time.

The Pink

The Riverbench '09 Pinot Noir Rosé was the leadoff hitter.  This is a new release, a pink produced in the saignée method, in which the juice is bled off from the skins.  It's all stainless steel and features fun flavors of strawberry, raspberry and citrus.  It is rather full-bodied for a rosé and finishes dry, the way it should.

The Whites

The Bedrock Chardonnay 2008 was a medal winner in a couple of Southern California wine competitions.   It is an unoaked Chardonnay, but the mouthfeel is so full and round and there are so many luscious spicy notes the vats must have been made from "I Can't Believe It's Not Wood."  The tropical aspects are somewhat subdued in this Chablis-style wine and there's a guava profile that I mistook for vanilla at first.  It's a really lovely wine.  The Chapel View Chardonnay 2008 is entirely Clone 4 Chardonnay.  It has a full complement of soft, buttery wood notes and tastes tropical with a nutty edge.  The 2007 Estate Chardonnay has a light tropical flavor with a bit of toast and the best acidity of the three Chards I tasted.  You'll want to linger on the interesting finish where the guava shines.

The Reds

I really liked the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir.  The nose reminds me of Christmas, full of clove and cinnamon.  The palate features dark berries and spices.  It has a good, smokey finish, too.  TheMesa Pinot Noir 2007 brings lavender and clove to the nose and has a really soft mouthfeel.  It's a special wine.  I was given a taste of a Pinot not on their tasting menu, the One Palm Pinot Noir 2008.  This had a much earthier texture than the other two and would normally jump to the top of my list, but I honestly would have a hard time choosing one favorite from these three.

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