Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rancho Sisquoc Winery: Santa Barbara County Winery Visit

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I first sampled the wines of Rancho Sisquoc at tasting at TREO in Sylvania. Green Dragon and I really enjoyed the 2009 Sisquoc River Red, a nice blend of six red grapes led by Cabernet Sauvignon. Maybe I enjoyed it too much because as I asked for additional tastes, I referred to it as Rancho Sasquatch. The wine made a good enough impression that when we headed out to Santa Barbara County, I circled this winery on our map.

After somewhat dreary weather conditions on our first day, we were treated to some California style skies for our visit to Rancho Sisquoc. Sisquoc means “gathering place” in the words of the Chumas Indians. Originally an 1852 Mexican land grant, the 37,000-acre ranch is owned by the Flood Ranch Company.

Santa BarbaraCounty 038James Flood of San Fransico purchased the cattle ranch in 1952 and because the climate and soil compared favorably with Sonoma and Napa, he decided to plant grapevines in 1968. there are now 310 acres of vineyards that overlook the Sisquoc River. These are the easternmost vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley. Today the winery produces 15,000 cases of wine made entirely from their estate vineyards.

We were digging Rancho Sisquoc because of the beautiful setting and the fact that it is a working ranch with 2,000 head of cattle. The rustic tasting room, filled with quirky items and antiques, was a perfect spot to start our tasting day.

Our first sample was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc – the best so far on our trip, according to Green Dragon. There is fruit on the nose and tangerine and grapefruit on the palate. This is lightly oaked but retains its brightness.

The 2009 Sylvaner is a nice warm weather sipper. It includes 17% Riesling and has 1.5% residual sugar, which adds a bit of sweetness. This was quenching, but not a favorite.

We were ready for the reds and started with the 2009 Pinot Noir. This wine is still young with the palate of rich red fruit. We found this to have firm tannins, perhaps too much so.

Santa BarbaraCounty 040The reds continued to roll with the 2009 Tre Vini Super Tuscan blend of 52% Sangiovese, 25% Petite Verdot and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a friendly wine with jazzy red fruit and mineral undertones. This was my favorite wine and I bagged a bottle at $20.

The 2009 Syrah is also a standout. The bouquet is forceful and the body is dark and full with black fruit, chocolate and herbs. This is a bold wine with a standout finish.

Ranking very highly in wine critic ratings is the 2008 Merlot, which has 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is all cherry from the nose to the last tasty drop. A nice Merlot indeed, but I wasn’t feeling it on this day. Perhaps our viewing of Sideways the night before had something to do with that.

The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is juicy and bold. The winemaker describes it as “loud and proud.” Vanilla is prominent on the nose. Oak and velvety texture mix with ripe black fruit and tobacco box on the palate.

We wrapped up with a very soft and supple 2009 Malbec. This wine is inky black and easygoing.

Rancho Sisquoc is a great California wine experience. We were able to enjoy a nice unhurried tasting in picturesque surroundings. The ride to the Rancho was filled with great scenery and points of interest. Once there, we tasted some great wines that represented some of the best values on our trip.

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