A Fair Wind Is Blowing In Santa Barbara County

Posted: Apr 30, 2019

We are proud to run this must read piece by Robert S. Scott. on Santa Barbara County excellence and the phenomenon that is Jackson Family Wines. It will appear on Go-Wine.com in three segments. Thank you Robert.

Recently, I was invited to a sit down seminar and tasting of wines from Santa Barbara County, California. It turned out to be a revelation for me.

Jackson Family Wines sponsored the event and, naturally, we tasted wines from their wineries in this unique and interesting region. This is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay country. Now, I am a lover of both varietals when they come from Burgundy in France. I am somewhat put off by New World versions of these two classic wines. I find them to be overreaching with jammy fruit, oak and alcohol. Of course there are exceptions to this and everyone’s tastes are different. But, that is my general interpretation of New World Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Well, knock me over with a feather… These varietals, when produced in Santa Barbara County are elegant, refined, polished and, to my mind, much more like the fine wines of Burgundy. So, I asked myself why. Why do these varietals from Southern California react to the climate, temperature range and soil conditions in such a way that they produce wines unlike those of Central and Northern California?

Santa Barbara County definitely has its highs and lows. They range from 6,803 feet at Big Pine Mountain down to the Pacific Ocean Sea Level. This is the result of a Tectonic plate collision some 15 - 25 million years ago. Boom! This shifted the north-south mountain ranges into an east-west orientation… no easy feat. Sedimentation from the crust of the Pacific Plate moved inward and produced an outstanding terroir perfect for the cultivation of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It’s got your calcareous soils of chalk and limestone, your sandy loam with gravel and clay and your sedimentary gravel. Does that sound a little like Burgundy?

The Jackson Family Wines vineyards occupy the three east-west running valleys that suck ribbons of cooled air from the Pacific Ocean. These “transverse ranges” are Santa Maria Valley AVA, Los Alamos Valley and Sta. Rita Hills AVA and, many of the vineyards are only about 5 to 20 miles away from the coast. To say there is a costal influence is a major understatement. Just imagine putting a giant AC compressor a little ways out to sea then, cranking it on, blasting hyper-cooled air into these valleys. The average daily average temperature ranges between 70 to 74 degrees F. The grapes like this. They get to hangout on the vines for around 200 days a year. In Burgundy the hang time is about 160 days. Oregon 160 -170 days and the Russian River Valley in Sonoma gets 175 days of hang time. The extra 25 to 40 days combined with the cool temps allows the grapes to snooze without getting a sunburn. It’s like spraying the vines with a 50+ SPF. The sugars have a chance to slowly increase their influence on the grapes imparting without developing a jammy sugar high. What an elegant idea, thanks to the powers that be.

By Robert S. Scott, Host of www.WinelineTV.com and www.WinelineRadio.com
April 30, 2019

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