Wine Tasting Notes: Santa Ynez Valley, CA

The tasting area behind Demetria Estate offers the shade of oak trees and a view of the Santa Ynez Valley.

Before my trip to the Santa Ynez Valley becomes too much of a distant memory, I wanted to recount the wineries that I had visited a couple of weeks ago. But before I delve into the specifics, I have to say that I was surprised by the pricing structure at many of these places. In short, I found that many wineries now command prices very similar to those of Sonoma County, especially in terms of the Pinot Noir. Certainly, the 2004 movie “Sideways” has had a heavy hand in this pricing, and perhaps the posh beach communities that lie south of Santa Ynez are also providing recession-proof demand for the local juice. Even so, I expected to encounter a few more Mendocino-like bargains along the way.

In all fairness, however, I also found that the wines of Santa Ynez were admirable in their overall quality. I tasted very few “dogs” during my visit, which was also a bit surprising. Perhaps I was just fortunate to have visited a stretch of reputable wineries, but I found that as long as you taste along Foxen Canyon Road, your chances of discovering something good are certainly favorable (just expect to pay accordingly). The four wineries I visited during my most recent trip were: Foxen Vineyards, Zaca Mesa, Koehler Winery and Demetria Estate.

• • •

Foxen has built its reputation with Pinot Noir, although I found that all of their wines were well-crafted. I began the tasting with a pair of Chardonnays, the 2008 Foxen Tinaquiac ($32) and the 2008 Foxen Bien Nacido ($32). Despite the pedigree of the Bien Nacido Vineyard, I actually preferred the Tinaquiac, which seemed a bit more ripe on the palate. From there, I tasted the 2008 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($34), followed by the 2007 Cuvee Jeanne Marie ($34) and the 2007 Foxen Tinaquiac Syrah ($46). Although I felt that the previous two wines were fairly priced, the Syrah seemed a bit steep for my tastes.

Zaca Mesa, by far, featured the gamiest wines of the day, so if that aromatic profile meets your preferences, then the 2005 Zaca Mesa Estate Syrah ($23) presents terrific value. Along the way, I was surprised to discover that Zaca Mesa does not produce any Pinot Noir, instead opting to focus exclusively upon the classic Rhône varietals. Their portfolio included two GSM blends — the 2005 Estate Z-Three ($42) and the 2006 Estate Z-Cuvee ($20) — the latter wine offering good value. The 2006 Estate Grenache ($28) was decent yet unspectacular, while the 2008 Estate Viognier and the 2006 Estate Roussane were not to my tastes.

Koehler offered two of the best purchases of the day, their 2007 Estate Grenache ($25) and the 2006 Estate Magia Nera ($29). The latter wine, which means “Black Magic” in Italian, is a 65-35 Sangiovese-Cabernet blend. The other wines in the Koehler portfolio were so-so for me: The 2007 Koehler Syrah ($30) smelled of bacon (I love the pig, though not in this context), while the 2006 Koehler Cabernet Sauvignon ($29) tasted slightly under-ripe for my Napa palate (not that I drove six hours from Napa to taste Cabernet anyhow).

Demetria Estate was the final stop of the day and a pleasant discovery. The winery was established just five years ago, and since the beginning, has been farmed BioDynamically (which always earns my admiration). I particularly enjoyed the 2006 “North Slope” Syrah ($35), as well as the 2006 Cuvee Constantine ($40), which is a GSM blend of 44-30-25 (and 1% Viognier for added aromatics). The 2006 Cuvee Sandra Pinot Noir ($50) was also tasty, but priced in competition with the Pinot Noir of the Russian River (whether delusional or not, I was searching for bargains, not another $50 California Pinot). Demetria’s whites — the 2006 Pinot Blanc ($30), the 2008 Chardonnay ($27) and the 2007 Cuvee Papou ($28) — were also consistent.

1 comment to Wine Tasting Notes: Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>