It’s been more than a week since I shared about our visit to the Santa Barbara County wine country. It’s easy to show beautiful photos. Everything about this region is beautiful. Aim the camera in any direction and I have something I can say about the endless hills, the coastal fog and spectacular growing regions.
But about the wineries…
The wineries themselves are a more complex story to tell. They are businesses, surely, but businesses built upon a family’s vision and dreams joined with years of hard work. There are family histories, and I feel protective that I not reduce their significance by sharing them in captions.
I’m fairly certain that not everyone who stops by is automatically attracted to the stories behind the founding of successful California winegrowing enterprises, but I think if you take a moment to consider the risks involved for growers and their families, and the drive and determination to overcome those risks, you can’t help but admire their dedication. And enjoy their end-result.
California’s wine growing regions cover more than 700 miles and include more than 100 American Viticulture Areas. And the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, part of the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA, includes the cities of Lompoc and Buellton, which we visited during our Santa Barbara County wine country experience.
Why do I go on with so much detail about the geography? I’m glad you asked!
There’s a French word, new to me within this context, that brings it all together. Terroir. Discussing grapes and wine production in a state the size of California, it’s necessary to distinguish the different geographic features– the soil, weather conditions and growing techniques. Terroir may specifically be referring to the soil, but in viticulture, it also hints at all the other geographic qualities that are attributed to the grapes.
The Santa Rita Hills, sometimes written Sta. Rita Hills, is a relatively small district with a very distinct microclimate that has contributed to an international reputation for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The area is only 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and as the cooler ocean air meets the warmer inland areas the resulting fog rolls in and modifies the temperatures. Cooler nights and warm days seem to produce just the perfect microclimate for these particular grapes.
I mentioned in my previous post that this is the region celebrated so uniquely in the movie “Sideways.” In that movie, Paul Giamatti, as Miles, had a wine fixation on Pinot Noir.
I stumbled upon a 2010 on-line Wall Street Journal article written by Jay McInerney that made me smile as he very descriptively mentions his first taste of Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills.
“On the one hand, it was very ripe and fleshy, and on the other, it had a bracing acidic slap that I associated with cool-climate whites and even a mineral note, which you seldom find in New World wines. It was a little like meeting Jessica Simpson, only to have her start speaking perfect French in Carla Bruni’s voice.”Now doesn’t that get your attention?
And we enjoyed our own glass of Chardonnay at Melville Winery, located in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation in Lompoc, California. The Mediterranean-style winery is hospitable, delightfully comfortable and gracious.
I’ll share more about the Melville Vineyards and Winery, as well as the family and team, when I return next time. And then I’ll follow with highlights from Mosby Winery &Vineyard in Buellton, distinguished from the others by its Italian Varietals, and then Alma Rosa, also in Buellton, a family story I find particularly interesting and inspiring.
If you don’t come back for the grapes, do come back for the stories. And maybe just a few more photos from this beautiful area. I am already contemplating our next visit.