Friday, September 7, 2012

Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery

As often as my wine travels have taken me to Los Olivos in Santa Barbara wine country, just as often have I passed the sign for the Blackjack Ranch tasting room on Alamo Pintado Road.  Officially listed as a Solvang winery, they are located between the two towns.  On the most recent excursion, I had no itinerary to follow, so I veered off the road and up the drive to try their wines.

Roger Wisted is the owner of Blackjack Ranch and Chris Stamford is the winemaker.  Neither were in the tasting room on my visit, unfortunately.  There were highs and lows, to my palate.  Here are the wines that were on the menu that day.

Blackjack Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2008 
Estate Chardonnay all the way, whole cluster pressed and fermented in French oak and aged on the lees for over eight months - it should be right up my alley, but it's not.  The oak sits in the driver's seat, pushing the fruit into the back.  Apples and oak and pears and oak - it shows way too much wood for my palate.  If you like your Chardonnay big, in the old California style, this one's for you.  $35

Wilkening Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2007
This one is not so oaky, but the butter flavors make me expect some movie trailers to appear.  There are tropical fruit notes in there, with some nice acidity.  The vines were planted in 1981, just southwest of Los Olivos.  The Parker numbers are displayed prominently: 94+, if you're keeping score at home.  A better bet than the previous Chardonnay, and probably will play better for me closer to the holidays.  That's when the Christmas tree always makes me want a little more wood.  $35

Black Cap Chardonnay Reserve 2009
Even less oak shows in this Chardonnay, and it drinks beautifully.  Unfiltered, with brilliant acidity and bracing minerals, the peaches and pineapple flavors really shine.  Parker has favored this wine with high scores since the first vintage, in 2001.  It's produced only every three to five years.  $48

Alix de Vergy Pinot Noir 2007
Branded as a "Special Selection Reserve," the grapes come from old vines in the La Colline Vineyard in Arroyo Grande.  Rich in color, aroma and flavor, it offers a nose of clove orange and a palate of cherries and raspberries.  There is a floral element, too, a common thread which runs through the reds that I tasted.  $48

Allusion 2006
A blend of 51% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, it has a perfumed edge to its smokiness.  Big fruit shows through from sip to finish.  One of the bargains in the rack.  $30

Double-Down Syrah 2006
A spicy nose leads to fruit and flowers on the palate, with some baking spice flavors that will also be a hit over the holidays.  Big, dark fruit comes across bright and ripe.  Another bargain.  $26

Harmonie 2004
This Bordeaux blend is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot filling out the balance.  The nose is spicy and floral, with dark fruit on the palate amid some nice coffee notes.  The vintage features less Cabernet Sauvignon than usual because rains in '04 prompted an early harvest.  $35

Harmonie 2006
Good Cabernet Sauvignon in this vintage, with 84% of the blend taken by the big grape and only a little room left for Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Oddly, the traditional notes of Cab don't show strongly.  There's more spicy florality, though.  $60

Billy Goat Hill Merlot 2005
This estate-grown wine shows more of the house bouquet - spices and flowers.  The fruit is huge, but I would have liked a little more smokiness to go with it.  $40

Maximus Syrah 2007
This is Blackjack's wine featured in "Sideways.". Miles said "It's a big one," and he was right.  Tons of dark fruit dominate the palate and spices - notably white pepper - frame it well.  It's a complex wine, one that makes me want to sit and savor it a while.  $48

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