Tag Archives: Carr

Santa Barbara Rhônes Revisited

A few years back Lori and I spent a few days in the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez Valley/Santa Barbara area doing some tasting. We had some great wine tasting experiences on that trip, but overall the best wines (and tasting experiences) were the Rhônes, the Syrahs, Grenaches and Mourvèdres and blends of those (typically called “GSMs”). Over the last month or so we’ve had a chance to open up these wines we tasted and bought, and Wow!

First, there was a 2010 Qupé Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard, opened the weekend we spent celebrated my mother’s 85th birthday. Big, yes, but more graceful than we usually get in a wine with this much fruit. “Graceful?” I was looking back on my notes from a Wine Bloggers’ Conference panel on Syrahs, and one of the participants compared Syrahs to the dancing hippos from Fantasia, at once big but surprisingly light on their feet and graceful. Opening the Qupé also reminded us of the visit to the Qupé winery (not the tasting room), and being invited to join Bob Lindquist and his team for lunch in the winery. One of our most memorable meals ever.

The second bottle opened, also in Mom’s honor, was the 2012 Carr Grenache, Santa Barbara County. It’s hard to adequately describe this wine, made from 100% Grenache, grown in a vineyard south of the city of Santa Barbara, pretty much where no other vineyards are located. Grenache fruit up front, both in the nose and the initial entry into your mouth, then this fullness in mouth like it’s expanding to fill all available space, then a lingering flavor in your mouth but without a lot of tannin. It’s time to order more of this from the husband and wife team, with the great tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara.

The last bottle was 2011 Harrison Clarke Vineyards Eve e Marie, Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara County. Eve e Marie is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache from another husband and wife team. Actually, at that same Wine Bloggers’ Conference panel where panelists were describing Syrah as dancing hippos or thunderstorms or just dangerous, Hilarie Clarke Harrison stood out for her no-frills approach. This approach is embodied in their wines, made from grapes they grow themselves, harvest row by row, transport a few hundred yards to their winery, and make into wine. It was a pleasure to visit their vineyard and winery, to walk those rows of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre with Dave Harrison, and taste with Hilarie. It’s just good, very good, wine. This bottle was opened last week with some friends that mentioned that they were looking for good Syrah and GSM.



Pinot Noir Heaven

I thought I’d died and gone to Pinot Noir heaven! A few nights ago during the Wine Bloggers Conference, I got on a bus with 20 other bloggers for a journey to an unknown destination. 15 minutes later we were at the Melville Vineyards and Winery estate, for a few hours of Pinot Noir heaven.

Melville Vineyards and Winery Estate

We started with a vineyard talk from Chad Melville, one of the two sons of the founder involved with the vineyard and winery. Interesting talk, from one of the top Pinot Noir producers in the Santa Rita Hills (SRH) AVA in Santa Barbara County. They use some different trellising, pruning and canopy management techniques. However, the primary factors influencing the grapes are the climate — the east-west running valleys that bring in the cool air from the ocean — and the soils.

Richard Sanford giving a toast after dinner

We finished with a great meal in the Melville tasting room, with halibut and pork paired with the great wines we had, and then walking out to a full moon over the vineyards.

In between, there was the tasting. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from eight different SRH wineries, with wines from 2007, 2009 and their current release, usually 2012. Here is the lineup of wineries and representatives:

• Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards: Richard Sanford (owner/winemaker and the SRH pioneer grower and winermaker)
• ampelos cellars:
• Babcock Winery and Vineyards: Bryan Babcock (owner/winemaker and SRH pioneer grower)
• Brewer-Clifton Winery: Greg Brewer and Chrystal Clifton
• Carr Vineyards and Winery: Ryan and Jessica Carr
• Lafond Winery and Vineyards: Bruce McGuire (winemaker for Lafond and Santa Barbara Wineries since 1981)
• Melville Vineyards and Winery: Chad Melville (owner/evangelist)
• Zotovich Cellars:

What an incredible lineup of wines, and the people talking about them! Nothing against the Chardonnays, but if I was going to make it through the Pinot Noirs still standing (even sipping and spitting) I had to be focused. Some Pinot Noir highlights for me and my specific tastes:

2007 Alma Rosa, La Encatada Vineyard
2009 Babcock, Ocean’s Ghost Vineyard
2009 Melville, Estate Pinot Noir
2007 Brewer-Clifton, Mount Carmel Vineyard

Pinot Noir, well-made and aging, just beautiful and delicious and balanced. The 2012s were in general pretty good, but still young. Give them a few years.

Jessica and Ryan Carr

A special mention should also go to the 2007 Carr Pinot Gris. Carr doesn’t make a Chardonnay, and so brought Pinot Gris instead, and there was a tuna tartare being passed right when I went to try the Pinot Gris. Delicious pairing! Who would have thought that Pinot Gris could last for 7 years?

What a night. Pinched myself a few times to make sure it wasn’t a dream.