Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Los Olivos Wine Tasting Day Trip

A wine country day trip is something I’d like to have once a week - every day, if I can manage it - but lately, it seems they have been few and unbelievably far between.  Denise, our friend Guido and I fixed that with a drive up the 101 Freeway from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County.

Denise and I have a certain rhythm for these trips, from which we do not feel the need to stray.  The first stop comes in Camarillo, off at Santa Rosa Road for breakfast at the New York Bagel Company.  My pizza bagel recommendation was a hit with Guido.  A secondary stop occurs in Santa Barbara at the Trader Joe store just off the freeway, if needed.

We blew through Gaviota Pass like the cool breeze on the outside of the car and before we knew it, Buellton appeared.  Amazingly, we took a pass on Pea Soup Andersen's and turned left to head out into the Sta. Rita Hills.  We stopped at Foley Estates Winery and sampled the Chardonnay.  Regular readers may remember something about that yesterday in this space.  We tasted the Chardonnay, we bought the Chardonnay.  Then we headed back east and up to Los Olivos.


There aren’t very many places for lunch in the tiny downtown area, but what’s there, as Spencer Tracy said, is cherce.  Downtown Los Olivos really isn’t much more than a block filled with wine tasting rooms.  That’s my kind of block.  My favorite place to grab lunch is the new location of the Brothers restaurant, Sides Hardware and Shoes.  It’s the name the building bore back in the day when it was, well, a hardware and shoe store.  There’s a great bacon burger there, and a chilled pea soup with a dollop of sorbet that is great on a hot day.


Fully fed and getting down to the business of tasting wine, we went to a place Guido had visited before, the Tensely Wines tasting room

Their Detente is a very plainly labeled red wine which is half French, half American.  The American half of the blend is 2009 Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah.  The French half is 2009 Domaine de Montavac Gigondas - 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvédre.  The wine demonstrates the American winemaking talents of Joey Tensley and the French ability of Cecile Dusserre.  It has a rich, dense nose and a juicy blackberry palate, although it runs a bit hot at 14.9% abv.


Just around the corner is Tercero Wines, 2445 Alamo Pintado Drive.  This is the main side street in Los Olivos, and Tercero is about a block off the beaten path of Grand Avenue, right next to Dragonette Cellars’ tasting room.  It was nice to see Larry Schaffer (right) in a more comfortable environment than a wine tasting event, but he always seems a little wound up when he’s pouring his wines for people.  Here’s what he poured for us:

2010 The Outlier Gewürztraminer - “Nobody in California should call it Gewürz,” says Schaffer, who apparently likes tongue twisters.  The wine is spicy and flowery.

2010 Viognier from White Hawk Vineyard sports a lovely floral nose with fantastic acidity and fruit.

2010 Grenache Blanc is a new release for Larry. Nutty, saline minerality on the nose meets peaches, flowers and rocks on the palate.  It’s zippy.

2008 Cuvée Christie has a pretty, floral nose and an earthy edge to the rich, fruity flavors.

2007 Larner Vineyard Syrah shows a dense, dark nose and lovely rich fruit flavors.

2007 Thompson Vineyard Syrah has an extremely dark and delicious bouquet with a rich, black cherry flavor.

2007 The Climb is a half and half mix of Syrah and Petite Sirah.  It puts me in mind of old world Cabernet Franc souped up to Cali specs.

Thread is an effort in which Schaffer was one of five winemakers who contributed a wine to the blend, his Larner Vineyard Grenache.  This one has a really smoky nose and a big spicy taste.

Andrew Murray

We walked the short distance back to Grand Avenue for the Andrew Murray tasting room.

2011 Viognier shows a nice, floral nose and flavors of spiced peaches with a rocking acidity.  Santa Maria Valley fruit does a star turn, but only 50 cases were produced due to low yields.

2010 Eleven Unplugged is Murray’s attempt at being a rock god.  He explains that the blend is like three guitarists playing together.  “The lead is the Chenin Blanc...Sauvignon Blanc trying to steal the show...balanced by the oldest player, Chardonnay.”  It’s unoaked, spicy and zesty.

2011 Sanglier is a rosé of Grenache, Mourvédre and Syrah inspired by a wild boar who used to steal the fruit when it was ripe.  Murray decided to pick early to foil the animal, and the grapes turned out to be better for rosé than red wine.

2009 This Is Eleven Red is another rock music-themed effort, a five man electrical band of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Grenache from the Santa Ynez Valley.  A nice rich nose leads to black and blue fruit on the palate.  The Cabernet Franc really shines in this one.

2009 Syrah, McGinley Vineyard has dense smoke on the nose and lush blackberry on the palate.

2010 Syrah, Watch Hill Vineyard is beautiful to smell, lovely lush and dark to taste.

2009 Syrah, Terra Bella Vineyard has great dark fruit with minerality from the limestone hillsides of Paso Robles coming through strongly.

2010 Grenache, Terra Bella Vineyard offers a whiff of earthy cherry and sails into a lovely sour cherry candy finish.

Dinner & a show

It was quite a long day for us, as we saw a screening of “Snow White and the Huntsman” back in Los Angeles - a valley in a day full of peaks - and finally wrapped up with a late snack at Salt’s Cure, one of those hip, locavore restaurants in L.A.  I must say I was impressed with my squid and sausage alongside a glass of Mourvédre rosé from Sonoma County producer Bedrock.  Morgan Twain-Peterson is the winemaker, and he is Zin-master Joel Peterson’s son.  One of the bullet points in Bedrock’s mission statement is “To reclaim rose’ from the excesses of saignee and focus on precision, delicacy, aromatics, and food friendliness.”  He does a fine job with this delicate, pale, dry effort produced from vines planted 120 years ago.

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