Back In December of 2007 I wrote about a then emerging AVA in the Central Coast area of California, the Santa Rita Hills. In that article we featured Alma Rosa as a wine to watch… Fast forward almost five years and on my most recent visit to California, I decided to check-in at a handful of Santa Rita Hills wineries and see how they were progressing. We circled through the area on a near-perfect summer day and stopped at five wineries. The following is a report on the findings:

First up we stopped in at Mosby Winery (www.mosbywines.com), a lovely property situated about one mile south of Buellton on Santa Rosa Road. The winery was started in 1976 by Bill Mosby, who is also the winemaker and currently has approximately 46 acres under vine, planted mostly to Italian varietals. The literature states that the property “provides a perfect growing site for the various vines due to a multitude of microclimates.”  Louise Smith, our perfectly gracious host in the tasting room was an absolute joy. We tasted through the current offerings of wine and Louise happily shared her passion and insight. The winery produces approximately 4,000 to 5,000 cases, almost all estate grown. While we were not able to taste any of the grappa and brandy produced at the winery due to legal issues, we were able to bring one back with us and it was simply lovely with layers of delicate fruit essence and a remarkably smooth finish. The good news for my fellow Massachusetts readers… Gilbert Distributors in Boylston, MA carries the wine – the bad news is that only the Lucca (not tasted), Pinot Grigio, Dolcetto and Sangiovese are in the Beverage Journal… worth a call to find out about the other wines…

2011 Cortese (Estate)
Floral, perfumed nose. Light bodied firm acidity. Citrus palate, crisp. Moderate length, clean and refreshing. $18/per bottle **

2010 Pinot Grigio (Estate)
Pretty, citrus nose. Light bodied with firm acidity. Minerally with citrus palate, hints of grass. Short, refreshing finish. $18/per bottle **

2010 Rosato Di Canonau (Estate)
Red berry nose, bright and floral. Medium bodied with firm acidity. Sour cherry, lightly floral. Crisp and refreshing. Very nice. $12.00/per bottle ***

2007 Sangiovese (Estate)
Lovely cherry nose, violets and vanilla, leather. Medium bodied with firm acidity and moderate tannin. Dark fruit core with cherry, anise and vanilla. Moderate length, complex. 2 to 3 years aging. $28/per bottle ***

2006 Primitivo (Paso Robles)
Spicy, lively nose. Bright red berry fruit with fresh herbaceous hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Bright red berry fruit with spice and vanilla notes. Moderate length with layered complexity. Very nice. $26/per bottle ***

2006 La Seduzione (Paso Robles Lagrein)
Dark fruit aromas. Black cherry and spice. Pretty. Full bodied with firm acidity and dry tannin. Dark fruit core with plummy fruit and spice and dried herb. Long finish. Nice. $28/per bottle ***

2007 Sagrantino (Estate) (4 acres – first in the state)
Bright lively nose, cherry, spicy very pretty. Medium to full bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin. Dark fruit core with rose attar and allspice. Moderate length with layered complexity. Very nice. $28/per bottle ***

Sofia (20.5% alc)
Bright raspberry aroma, perfumed. Medium bodied with firm acidity. Sweet but not cloying. Lovely finish. $18/per bottle ***

 

Next up, we traveled further up Santa Rosa Road to Alma Rosa Winery (www.almarosawinery.com), the winery featured in our 2007 piece, owned by the lovely Richard and Thekla Sanford. I won’t go into all the gory details of the history behind the winery, for that you can read my original piece from 2007 (www.musingsonthevine.com/MusingsNewsletterV6_4.pdf). That said, the winery has a reverence that belies the humble, rustic surroundings. Chris Burroughs was our host in the tasting room – little did we know that we were amongst Hollywood royalty (the web site notes “Chris is of Sideways fame”) – Chris is down-to-earth and quietly passionate about the Alma Rosa wines… Our original love for the wines in 2007 continues forward into 2012 – you cannot visit the area without stopping in a trying these wines. To me they represent the great potential for Pinot Noir in the Santa Rita Hills, long ago originally envisioned by Richard Sanford himself…

2008 Sta Rita Hills
Bright floral nose with red raspberry fruit – pretty. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Red berry fruit. Moderate length. $32/per bottle **

2010 Sta Rita Hills
Soft nose with light floral hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and supple tannin. Jammy red fruit. Long finish. $32/per bottle ***

2009 La Encantada Vineyard (Clone 115)
Bright raspberry nose, violets. Medium bodied with firm acidity and dry tannin. Dark fruit core, floral and herbaceous. Long finish. $43/per bottle ***

2010 La Encantada Vineyard (Clone 115)
Dark, almost brooding fruit. Medium to full bodied with moderate acidity and dry tannin. Dark fruit core with anise. Long finish. $43/per bottle ***

2009 El Jabali Vineyard (Mt. Eden Clone)
Bright, red berry nose, some floral hints. Full to medium bodied with moderate acidity and dry tannin. Dark cherry with herbaceous notes. Long finish. $43/per bottle ***

 

Next we stopped a little further up Santa Rosa Road at LaFond Winery and Vineyards (www.lafondwinery.com). Lafond has a lot going on with a Bistro and Marketplace in Montecito, another winery in Santa Barbara proper, as well as connections to an Upstairs Art Gallery and a Clothing Line (Wendy Foster). Kathleen, our hostess in the Santa Rita Hills tasting room, a transplant originally from New Hampshire was friendly and congenial. The wines were nice and in Massachusetts they are distributed by Atlantic Importing Company, although the Beverage Journal only lists the 2008 SRH Pinot Noir.

2010 Sta Rita Hills Riesling
Citrus nose, perfumed. Light bodied with firm acidity. Lemony palate with minerality. Moderate length. $20/per bottle **

2009 Lafond Vineyard Chardonnay (33% new oak 100% ML) (Estate)
Tropical nose with creamy, vanilla hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity. Citrus, apple apricot notes. Moderate length with cream and oak. $38/per bottle **

2009 Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Red berry, floral and spicy. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Dark fruit core with mint and dried herb. Long finish. $27/per bottle ***

2007 Lafond Vineyard Pinot Noir
Dark fruit nose – black cherry and anise. Medium to full bodied with moderate acidity and moderate, dry tannin. Long finish. $38/per bottle ***

2010 Sta Rita Hills Syrah
Bright spicy, jammy black berry. Full bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Dark fruit core, herbaceous earthy. Moderate length. $23/bottle ***

2007 Lafond Vineyard Syrah
Spicy, peppery nose with black cherry. Full bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin. Sour cherry with mint. Moderate length with pepper and allspice. $40/per bottle ***

 

We decided to head up towards Santa Maria where we planned on staying the night (I’ll be blogging about the historic Santa Maria Inn shortly…) and we stopped at Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery (www.foleywines.com) on Highway 246. The winery is situated on the beautiful Rancho Santa Rosa vineyard, featuring a thoroughly modern tasting room and events center that offers truly spectacular vistas of the neighboring mountain ranges, coastal oaks and contoured hillside vines. On our visit a lovely couple that was scoping out wedding venues tasted alongside us, captivated by the surroundings as much as the wine. Susan Pratt was our wonderful hostess, providing great information about the wines, as well as the surrounding area. Susan was such a warm and inviting ambassador. The winery actually precedes the establishment of the Santa Rita Hills AVA (2001), with two major vineyards (Rancho Santa Rosa and Rancho Las Hermanas) providing the grapes for all of their wines.

2009 Rancho Santa Rosa Chardonnay (75% ML) (16 months in oak 50% new/50% used)
Lightly fruity nose, creamy with oak hints. Medium bodied with firm acidity. Citrus, apple and apricot – tropical. Moderate length. $30/per bottle ***

2009 Barrel Select Chardonnay (75%ML) (21 months in oak 40% new/60% used)
Woody with smoky hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity. Woody, some fruit. Creamy finish. $50/per bottle **

2009 Two Sisters Las Hermanas Chardonnay (50% ML) (20 months in oak 100% new)
Lightly fruity nose, lightly creamy. Medium bodied with moderate acidity. Woody with apple and lemon curd. Moderate length. $55/per bottle ***

2009 JA Ranch Pinot Noir (clone 115/113)
Bright red berry fruit. Spicy with floral hints. Medium bodied moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Fresh cherry and roasted game notes. Long finish. Nice. $45/per bottle ***

2009 Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir
Lightly earthy, saddle with nice red fruits. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Dark fruit core with light roasted game notes. Long finish. $40/per bottle ***

2009 Two Sisters Las Hermanas Pinot Noir
Lightly fruity with elegance and restraint. Medium to full bodied with firm acidity and firm tannin. Dark fruit core with rose attar and cherry notes. Long finish, peppery with saddle. $75/per bottle ***

 

Our last stop for the day was Babcock Winery and Vineyards (www.babcockwinery.com ) located on a picturesque hill overlooking well-manicured rows of vines on highway 246. The vineyard property goes back to 1978, with the winery following in 1983. The web site boasts of selling fruit to well-known vintners Rick Longoria, Fred Brander and Jim Clendenen during the early days of growing. John was our affable host in the tasting room, taking us through their Terrior Tasting.

2010 Identity Crisis Syrah (Rose)
Strawberry, bright. Medium bodied with firm acidity. Fruit forward, red berry fruit. Short, clean, floral. Nice. $12/per bottle **

2009 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay (Wine Diamonds) (100% ML)
Tropical, apple nose. Lightly floral. Medium bodied with firm acidity. Apple, peach. Moderate length. (This was a wine that had the presence of tartaric acid crystals (i.e. wine diamonds) in the bottle, so they marked it down and are selling it off, hence the price) $9.75/per bottle **

2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Estate Grown)
Gooseberry, grassy, asparagus. Medium bodied with firm acidity. Grassy with flinty finish. White pepper and gun smoke. $20/per bottle ***

NV Red Table Wine
Spicy, peppery with red fruit. Medium bodied with firm acidity and supple tannin. Fruity. Not for aging. $9/per bottle *

2010 Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Dark cherry fruit, floral. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Dark fruit core. Simple and supple. Not for aging. $20/per bottle **

2010 Precocious Pinot Noir El Camino Vineyard Santa Barbara County(187 cases)
Floral with red berry fruit. Gamey. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and supple tannin. Dark fruit core. Long finish. $60/per bottle ***

2010 Déjà Vu Pinot Noir Rabbit Ridge Vineyard Paso Robles (214)
Bright, red berry fruit. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Ripe red cherry fruit. Moderate length. $60/per bottle ***

2009 The Loin Cabernet Sauvignon Estellle Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
Dark fruit aroma, black cherry vanilla – jammy. Dark fruit core. Black cherry. Long fruity finish. $50/per bottle ***

Cheers!

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