Part 2: A Fair Wind Is Blowing In Santa Barbara County

Posted: May 01, 2019

Santa Barbara’s wine producing regions one of the oldest in California, dating back to the Spanish missionaries of the late 1700s. The modern era came about 1964 when Uriel Nielson planted the first commercial vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA followed in 1971 and in 1975 Firestone became the first estate to make wine using its own locally grown grapes. In the 1980s, Santa Barbara woke up, stretched, scratched its head and began making wine news as Ken Brown Wines, Byron Wines, Au Bon Climat, Foxen, Sanford, Qupe and others emerged and came on the scene.
Then came the movie Sideways in 2004. That’s all it took to blast Santa Barbara Pinot Noir into the limelight. Today, the region is awash in novel thinkers, somewhat rational long timers and free wheeling winemakers all attempting to bring their special influence to the winemaking process expanding the range and styles of not only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but, also varietals such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc and more with Jackson Family Wines leading the charge.

Ever mindful of environmental impacts, Jackson Family Wines and vineyards in Santa Barbara County are Certified California Sustainable Wine Growing and Sustainable in Practice certified. This is no easy feat. The programs are rigorous and require third party oversight / approval. Adhering to these certifications ensures long term health of the ecosystems including Water & Energy Efficiency, Land Stewardship, Community Development with Transparency & Goal-setting. A noble endeavor, if I do say.

The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of Santa Barbara County pair exceptionally well with the bounty of field and ocean, nuts and cheeses, a wide variety of sauces, spices and herbs and fresh from the garden fruit and veggies. In fact, it is hard to find a mis-matched pairing from these two varietals.

The Jackson family Wineries include Brewer-Clifton in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Their place in the region is impeccable and deep. They help define the AVA in its infancy and their winemaking philosophy is Zen-like in field and cellar. Diatom has dedicated itself to an expression of Chardonnay from the three coastal areas: the Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills and Los Alamos Valley. Under the leadership of founder and winemaker Greg Brewer they deliver wines with both power and finesse. Byron Vineyards & Winery is anchored by the historic Nielson vineyard on the Santa Maria Bench, which was originally planted in 1964. Winemaker Jonathan Nagy says that “Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are unlikely varietals to be grown this far south but, those crazy East-West valleys, alluvial deposits add a truly magical element that generates world-class wine.” Cambria Estate Vineyards & Winery was one of the earliest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir crus in California. This 1600 acre estate is located on the geological massif of the Santa Maria Bench. And, because the soils are complex, the old vine clones and selections produce meticulous wines under the guidance of winemaker Jill Russell. Winemaker Tiaan Lordan of Hartford Court says “ There’s something special about the Santa Barbara climate that reminds me a lot of home (Cape Town, South Africa)… I’ve never experienced a more direct line from climate to wine anywhere else in California.” Kendall-Jackson may be based in Sonoma County but, it produces Jackson Estate Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley and Santa Barbara. Wine Master Randy Ullom knew that “ this region with all its offerings would rise to provide gracious, beautiful wines year after year.”

By Robert S. Scott, Host of affiliate
May 1, 2019

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