We had hit Los Olivos hard the last couple of visits, so we opted for a change of pace in the Sta. Rita Hills. At Babcock Winery, we had the Royale Tasting Flight for ten bucks.
Bryan Babcock makes wine from the grapes grown on the property his father bought in the 1970s. It was just supposed to be a hobby, but the younger Babcock left his path of higher education to make it a career.
He is not only still making wine, he’s changing the way it’s made. Babcock has come up with a new way of trellising his vines which has lowered his farming costs. He also has developed a clone of Pinot Noir. You can read about both of those developments in Santa Barbara’s Independent.
The Babcock tasting room is part wine bar, part accessory shop. The big barn door and concrete floor give the feel of a garage. Tables and merchandise are scattered along the way to the back, where the bar is located.
This interesting blend of 85% Santa Ynez Valley Syrah from Estelle Vineyard, 14.5% Cabernet Sauvignon from the same place and a smidge of Pinot Gris from the Sta. Rita Hills estate. It’s an unusual blend for a white wine - rather a rosé or blush, actually - white Syrah? - but much more complex than those terms might indicate. The nose shows herbal strawberry while the palate has a great acidity level and mineral profile. The wine goes through full malolactic fermentation, which gives it such a creamy feel that I asked about the oak treatment. There is none, though - 100% steel. There’s no maceration at all, either, which accounts for the hint of color.
Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2011 $25
This easy-drinking, easy-priced Chardonnay is labeled as SBC, although the grapes come from two vineyards in SBC - Babcock estate and Radian - and one in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. The wine is 100% stainless steel. Again, however, I was tricked. I felt sure I got some oak on the nose and a touch on the palate. All the butter and vanilla that join the pears and apples make it hard to believe there’s no oak. Again, we have full malolactic fermentation to thank. The wine has a great weight.
Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $25
This wine is made of 100% homegrown estate grapes. There is a touch of grassiness, but it’s the lime zest and pear that steal the show. The palate is clean and full of citrus, with an easy acidity. No oak here, and no malolactic fermentation, either. Babcock says he picked the grapes very ripe to avoid herbaceousness - which accounts for the alcohol level of 14.8% abv. The wine is very fresh and has an old world feel to it.
This surprisingly good bargain wine is a non-vintage blend of “eight or nine varieties,” according to my server. There’s a very nice funk to the nose, with a mouthful of cherry and red currant. Really nice acidity, too.
Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 2011 $25
It is Pinot Noir for which the Sta. Rita Hills are known, and this Pinot is all SRH - 67% from The Yard and 33% estate fruit. The wine sees 16 months in neutral French oak, with an oak “tea bag” used during fermentation. A nice floral nose leads to ripe berries and cherries on the palate.
Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Rock 2010 $16
The rock referenced in the name isn’t music. The moniker is inspired by the brilliantly colored stones found in the vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley. From that region’s Estelle Vineyard come the grapes for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose is really funky, almost oddly so, and bright red fruit mingles with an oaky note on the palate.
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