Monday, March 26, 2012
Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards: Santa Barbara County Winery Visit
Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards is a must see stop on the Foxen Canyon Road in Santa Barbara County. Even if they didn’t pour wine, the fantastic tasting room and scenic grounds are worthy of attention.
Of course, Zaca Mesa does pour wine – very good wine indeed – and we were delighted with our recent visit there.
The vineyard was planted in 1973 with a number of grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The winery was built in 1978 and it was then they planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County.
By 1990 it was determined that the Rhone varieties (Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) grew best on the property. Today Zaca Mesa is a Syrah powerhouse with half of their acreage devoted to the grape.
The tasting room is nestled under a sheltering tree and gives spectacular views of mountains on the other side of the Santa Ynez Valley. A hiking trail gives an even more ideal vantage point from the hillside.
Our little band found the metal tasting bar “riveting” as we sampled through the Zaca Mesa wines. We opened with the 2009 vintage of Estate Viognier and Estate Grenache Blanc. These were satisfactory, but the real standout was the 2007 Estate Roussanne. This was one of the most interesting whites we found on our whole California trip. It had a rich, creamy mouthfeel and a bit of oak. In the glass there were flavors of apricots and honey.
The 2007 Estate Z Cuvee is a blend of 57% Grenache, 31% Mourvedre and 12% Syrah. There was a wildfire in 2007 that brought ash to the vineyard and surprisingly you could taste it in the grapes. This is a firm wine with blackberry and blueberry.
One of the most rewarding wines was the 2008 Estate Syrah. This wine was highly drinkable, whereas some of the reds could use a few more years of aging. The 2008 was velvety with plum and chocolate and many layers of enjoyment.
The 2007 Estate Z Three is a blend of 49% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache. We found it to have a bit of heat at 14.5% alcohol that gave it intensity. There were flavors of ripe blueberry and raspberry. This is a wine engineered for eight to 10 years. It has strong tannins and will be even more satisfying with aging for at least two years.
We were fortunate to close with the 2008 Estate Mesa Reserve Syrah. This is a dark, rich and dramatic wine with pepper, chocolate and dark berry flavors. It has super tannins and so should be given some time in the cellar to fully evolve.
Zaca Mesa is the top-flight operation in all of our key areas: tasting room experience, knowledgeable staff and smashing wines. To experience Zaca Mesa is to experience Santa Barbara County wines at their best.