The Santa Rita Hills Come to Us

Tasting at Palate

If you think there are a lot of group tastings around this time of year – you’re right.

We just did a trade tasting the other day (which had been preceded by a consumer tasting the day before) featuring wineries from the Santa Rita Hills appellation. In the interest of full disclosure, we did the trade side on a press pass. We’ve got another trade tasting next week.

And that’s not even counting some of the major shows coming up, including Hospice du Rhone, in Paso Robles, April 28-30.

One of the reasons you see so many of this style show or tasting this time of year is that this is one of those rare times when there really isn’t that much to be done in either the winery or the vineyard. There’s always something that can be done, but it’s not quite the same as harvest or pruning time or bottling time, when stuff needs to be done at that time and nothing short of apocalyptic disaster is going to get the winemaker to leave.

Of course, there are those winemakers who consider having to do a tasting or show an apocalyptic disaster. But they do the tastings anyway because that’s how you sell wine.

Which we’re fine with. As we’ve noted before, tastings are a great way to get to know a lot of wine really fast.

And this most recent tasting was a total blast. For one thing, it wasn’t quite so huge. And for another, we caught up with some of our faves, like Peter Cargasacchi (one of the wilder guys out there) and Morgan Clendenen. We also made several (we hope) new friends – thank you, Chris Curran.

The Santa Rita Hills is the area on the other side of US 101 from the Santa Ynez Valley, made famous by the movie Sideways, in the northern part of Santa Barbara County. Because of the cooler climate there, thanks to its proximity to the ocean, it is becoming one of the most talked about appellations for pinot noir. And they are doing some beautiful things with the “heartbreak grape” out there.

But it’s not just pinot – although that was definitely the majority of the wines we tasted. Morgan Clendenen’s Cold Heaven label features some divine viogniers. We caught some very nice chardonnays, which is not all that surprising since both pinot noir and chardonnay first got known as the grapes of Burgundy, France. And somebody had a really yummy pinot grigio and someone else had a syrah that we liked. We think. We’ll have to check the notes.

Frogmore Creek 2007 Pinot Noir

Type: Dry red

What’s Special: It’s from Tasmania, Australia

Plays well with: Pork, oily fish, lamb

The 2007 Frogmore Creek is more about texture than flavor. That doesn’t mean it’s flavor-less. It just means that what you’re eating is not compromised or overwhelmed by the wine but enhanced by acids or the feel in the mouth.

Stick your nose in the glass and you’ll catch dark fruits like blackberry, blueberry and some currants. Those fruits carry through to the taste.

But the best part is the mouth feel. It’s a medium weight, which means you can tell you’ve got something in your mouth, but it doesn’t weigh things down, like a syrup. There’s also a lighter texture which blends into sauces, meat juices or the natural oils from, say, salmon.

In short, the 2007 Frogmore Creek needs to be drunk with food to really show off its stuff. But that’s okay, because we love wines that work well with food.