California, Santa Barbara County & Wine – Part 1: Oakville Sommelier

California, Santa Barbara County & Wine – Part 1: Oakville Sommelier
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About the Author

Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides is an accredited Sommelier certified by both the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) and Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). Passionate about great wine, food, and travel experiences, Cynthia is owner of Niagara Vino providing tutored wine tasting and tour services in the Niagara Peninsula wine region of Ontario, Canada. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Zaca Mesa Vineyard

Zaca Mesa Vineyard
Photo credit: C. Silversides

During May I visited several vineyards and wineries in Santa Barbara County, the southern-most district of the Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California. With over 100 wineries stretched out through its undulating countryside full of scenic hills and valleys you can find an abundance of Chardonnay (6,000+ acres), Pinot Noir (4,000+ acres) and Syrah (1,300+ acres) among the many other varietals planted there.

Santa Maria Valley was the first AVA named in Santa Barbara County, made official in 1981 – the same year it was approved as the 3rd AVA in the United States. This cool climate wine growing area is known for its most planted vines, that of the Burgundian varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can also find Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre there along with Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I had a delightful visit at both Foxen tasting rooms experiencing a wide array of varietals from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc old vines, and Pinot Noir, to Bordeaux and Tuscan inspired reds, then finishing with a dessert wine in “The Shack” at their 7200 address.  This lovely wine was made with Brandy and the Mission grape, also known as Criolla, introduced to California by Franciscan missionaries in the late 18th century.

foxen 7200 "The Shack"

foxen 7200 “The Shack”
Photo credit: C. Silversides

Santa Ynez Valley, the largest of the 4 official AVAs currently named in Santa Barbara County, boasts the most wineries. Many different grapes are grown in this area due to the variation of climate with ocean breezes and cooler temperatures closer to the Pacific ocean and warmer temperatures moving inland due to the orientation of the Santa Ynez Mountains, part of the Western Transverse Range which runs east-west as opposed to north-south – typical of most ranges in California. You can commonly find Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals here.

Zaca Mesa is a winery situated in the northern-most part of the Santa Ynez Valley bordering the Santa Maria Valley. Driving up the winding Foxen Canyon Road from Buellton, I passed their expansive vineyard along the way to their tasting room and production facility where I met my wonderful host Dane Campbell, Manager of Marketing & Wine Education. He told me the winery name is derived from the Chumash word Zaca which means “peaceful” to the native people, and the mesas of their vineyards. We talked about the 3 acre block of Grenache Blanc vines planted in front of the property in 2004 and how their high density planting helps each vine to grow at a lower yield, ripen earlier, and achieve higher quality fruit for their Estate Grown and Bottled wine. Zaca Mesa is a sustainable winery using organic practices. Most of their soil is Chamise Loam, a free draining soil. They use drip irrigation because of low annual rainfall which comes from ground water. All of their grapes are hand harvested, usually in the early morning. They use only French Oak and specialize in Rhone varietals, with the exception of their 40 year old Chardonnay vines. Zaca Mesa was the first winery in Santa Barbara County to plant Syrah in 1978. Roussanne is planted at over 1500 feet, one of the highest elevations in the Santa Ynez Valley. This is a varietal they have a goal to benchmark and hopefully have people appreciate. I will share with you that this is one of the bottles I brought home with me!

Zaca Mesa Winery

Zaca Mesa Winery
Photo credit: C. Silversides

If you are not familiar with Roussanne, it is a white wine grape typically blended with Marsanne or Chardonnay. Roussanne can show great minerality or richness depending on the climate it is grown in, and how it is aged – stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. This wine can age well in the bottle for many years and pairs wonderfully with seafood and cheeses.

Thinking about wine, what is happening in Oakville? The Ontario Wine Society (OWS) – Halton Chapter is having a Backyard Barbeque on June 15th at Andrews Scenic Acres & Scotch Block Winery in the Halton Hills.

So there you have it: California, Santa Barbara County, Wine

 

 

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