By The Glass
Santa Barbara 2005s promise greatness
NOT LONG AGO, I was singing the praises of the 2004 wines from Santa Barbara, where top producers had crafted some dramatic, showy wines.
As expected, the wine media has been piling on the accolades. Studying the latest issue of the Wine Advocate, I was astounded at how high the scores were for the wines from the region's top producers.
More acclaim is to be expected as reserve bottlings are released -- for example, the delicious, voluptuous and layered 2004 "Blue Fin" Syrah from Kenneth-Crawford, a small, three-person operation.
I certainly am also anxiously awaiting the release of the 2004 Ojai Vineyard single-vineyard syrahs. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the '04 Undici 11 Oaks Vineyard Sangiovese from Palmina Winery. These are some of the most outstanding, provocative red wines out of California.
Recently, I took another trip to Santa Barbara wine country, this time with chefs Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong and Hiroshi Fukui, along with Nalo Farms' Dean Okimoto. We did a charity dinner together, in memory of the late master sommelier Michael Bonacorsi. The dinner and evening were incredible, but that is a whole 'nother story.
This event provided another opportunity for us to try the soon-to-be-released 2005 wines of the region. And I am singing praises again.
2005, you will see, will be another sensational vintage for many top Santa Barbara (and Paso Robles) wineries. What to look for:
For a "must to try" exotic white wine, consider Cold Heaven Viognier "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard-Old Vines," surely among the best California viogniers I have had. And the absolutely stunning Palmina Dolcetto is a lovely, delicious red wine -- just the tip of the iceberg for this unique husband-and-wife winery. Check it out!
At this time in a young wine's life, it is too early to fully understand the true potential of the vanguard bottlings from some of the region's super wineries. But I can tell you, after barrel-tasting bits and pieces from Au Bon Climat, Brewer Clifton, Kenneth-Crawford, Ojai Vineyard and Whitcraft, that there will be some absolutely killer pinot noirs, chardonnays and syrahs in 2005.
In fact, as high as the scores have been for the 2004s, I would not be at all surprised to see even higher scores when the 2005s are reviewed. These are powerful, deeply flavored, well-structured, resounding wines currently aging in the barrels.
To whet your appetite, try the newly released 2005 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir "Santa Barbara" (roughly $18 a bottle). This is as good a Santa Barbara bottling as I have had from this winery. Lovely. So elegant and suave. Keep in mind, this is the winery's "entry-level" pinot. It goes up from there.
Two other noteworthy 2005 pinot noirs just now coming into the state are the Costa de Oro "Gold Coast Vineyard" ($22) and the Melville "Estate" ($27) bottlings. These, too, are superb wines, which should show you how special this vintage really is.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the Sansei restaurants. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org