Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rideau Vineyard: Santa Barbara County Winery Visit

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A little bit of Creole… in California? It’s unexpected, but cool, as we discovered as we at Rideau Vineyard during our recent swing through Santa Barbara County.

Rideau Vineyard owner Iris Rideau is a New Orleans native. The winery is dedicated to Rhone varietals, which are a perfect match for the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Iris also instinctively felt these wines would be best suited to the Creole cuisine of her youth.

The tasting room is a historic gem, housed in the El Alamo Pintado Adobe, once a famous guest ranch on the Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara stagecoach line. The house dates back to 1769 when it was owned by the King of Spain and supervised by Mission Santa Barbara.

Santa BarbaraCounty 019The Inn became very a very fashionable resort. Guests enjoyed exquisite dinners in the Adobe and lemonade on the verandah overlooking the lilacs in the spring and golden yellow cottonwoods in the fall.

The good times didn’t last. After struggling as a working ranch it finally lay abandoned for 10 years. In August 1995, Iris Rideau purchased it with a vision to rescue the once famous inn.

Our tasting began with the 2010 Estate Viognier. This wine is finished sans oak and has a subdued floral and vanilla aroma. On the palate there is tropical fruit together with a underlying thread of acidity. This is a winning white wine.

Our next wine was the 2009 Camp 4 Vineyard Grenache Blanc. It may take me a while to warm up to this grape. This was our second Grenache Blanc sample of the day and I had difficulty pulling out any notable characteristics. There was a slight bouquet of wet stone and flavor notes of pear. This was our signal to move to the reds.

The 2009 Sangiovese spends 18 months in French oak and has a luscious appeal. There is a red berry and spice nose. Flavors of black cherry and cigar box combine into one of Rideau’s most popular wines.

Santa BarbaraCounty 020The 2008 Lagniappe got my attention right away. This wine is an 85% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah and 5% Mourvedre blend. I love New Orleans and their concept of Lagniappe, which means “the little something extra,” – a bonus or unexpected surprise. This is a classic Rhone-style wine. this is a highly drinkable wine. It is supple with herbal undertones and pepper accents. This retails for $27 and I brought a bottle home.

We wrapped up with the 2007 Iris Chateau Duplantier, which recently won a gold meal at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. This is another Rhone blend, but with a different formula: 60% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache. This is an age-worthy red with exotic spice aromatics.

Our report would not be complete without a tip of the hat to our hostess, Rise Delmar Ochsner, a former resident of New Orleans who moved to Santa Barbara in 1995 to become an artist. She has painted commissioned portraits of Mick Jagger, Emeril Lagasse and Carol Burnett’s cat. Her unique stories paired well with the excellent wines of Rideau.

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