Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Wine Snob Review: Why We Think Santa Ynez Pinots Rule

This past weekend, Mr. W and I headed up to the Portland area to celebrate his BFF's 40th and, of course, try some fine Oregonian wine. Mr. W pretty much has a touch of pinot noir coursing through his veins, so he was very excited to get up to the Willamette Valley where they're bottling so much of it these days.

I was surprised by how pricey tastings are up in those parts. Here in the Santa Ynez Valley, we can still get a flight of 4-6 tastes for $10. But up in the beaver state, we paid $15-25 everywhere we went.

And, um, we didn't love the pinot.

We started out at Domaine Serene. Actually, we started out with a helicopter flight piloted by Mr. W's best buddy. It was my first time in a helicopter and although I kind of wished we'd done the wine tasting BEFORE I buckled myself into the front seat, it all turned out fine. The sweeping vineyard vistas were pretty darn spectacular. But back to Domaine Serene... It cost us $20 to taste 4 wines and none of them made our palates break into Broadway showtunes.

It was about this time that Mr. W's BF's wife began to tease us about being wine snobs (however I'd like to go on record here and say that I drink $6 wine from Trader Joe's all the time).

Stop #2 was Sokol Blosser, which was a stunningly beautiful (and very crowded) location with a full cedar-panelled interior and a huge patio overlooking the valley. But the wine? Meh. We tried their fancy $25 flight and their lower end $15 flight and although we liked a couple of the pinots pretty well, nothing blew us away. Their 2011 Goosepen was our favorite, but definitely not worth $80 a bottle. (And of course we wondered if the secret ingredient in it was goose poop...)

The final stop was Torii Mor, which was like a cute little pagoda with an Asian garden in the back. We liked the wine best here. I think it was their Nysa pinot that was our favorite. And they had a port that was just begging for some chocolate and a warm fire.

The crazy thing about our Oregon experience was that a lot of the wines we tried had 90+point ratings. So we should have loved them. But apparently, we've been pinot spoiled by some of the local producers in our area. And the truth is, the style of pinot they make around here is just more in line with what we favor—more fruit forward and light, but complex. More the Michael Strahan of wines than the Michael Douglas... 

So without further adieu, here are our latest favorite pinot stops in the Santa Ynez Valley:

Sanford—Hands down, the best pinot we've had in town. And a beautiful vineyard to visit. Their La Rinconada pinot nearly made one of Mr. W's visiting friends dance a jig when he tasted it. It's so delicious. And their Santa Rita Hills pinot is a close second.

Dragonette Cellars—We just tried Dragonette for the first time and were really wowed by their selection of pinot noir. Their tasting room is tucked away on a side street in Los Olivos, but don't let the modesty fool you. This place is worth a visit!

Samsara—One of our tried and true favorites. I would say their style is a hair off of our most favorite of favorites, but still delish. And they make some mean syrahs, too. Plus, the first time we discovered their wine ghetto location in Lompoc, the owner took us in the back for a barrel tasting which was just awesome.

Hitching Post—Sadly, there isn't a tasting room or winery to visit for this one, but there is a delicious restaurant in Buellton (the Hitching Post II) where you can get a glass of Highliner (Mr. W's go-to) or Cork Dancer (my fave). You might remember the locale from the movie Sideways, and if you go on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night and sit in the bar area, you can get their world famous burger. It's the perfect pairing with the pinot!

We've been meaning to get over to Brewer-Clifton in Lompoc because their pinot is supposed to be superb, but we haven't had a chance yet. And Alta Maria in Los Olivos is also rumored to be really good.

The thing is, any one vintage at any winery can shine through and end up being one of the best we've ever tasted. So although these are our current favorites, that could change by the end of this year.

That said, I still think they'll continue beating the ones we had in Oregon... Sorry Willamette Valley!

1 comment:

  1. If only I wasn't allergic to red wine, then this post would make a lot more sense to me. ;)


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