Monday, February 6, 2012

Arcadian Winery: Santa Barbara County Winery Visit

Sometimes your good fortune is the result of planning and hard work. Other times it’s just dumb luck.

The latter was the case when we visited the Arcadian Winery tasting room at the Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County. The tasting room is located at the Wine Ghetto, a unique community of winemaking facilities in a warehouse-style setting. Our visit was on a rainy Monday when most of the tasting rooms were closed.

The tasting room looked dark at Arcadian Winery, but the door was open. We stepped inside and were fortunate to be greeted by winemaker Joseph Davis who was soon pouring some of his acclaimed wines.

Joe is responsible for introducing the French Burgundian artisan-style of wine production of Pinot Noir to California. His outstanding Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah have captured the fancy of the world’s wine media. His techniques include pigeage (treading the grapes by foot).

Our intimate tasting began with the 2006 Dierberg Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley). This is a wine with melon and citrus with tuned-down oak. It makes overly oaked Chardonnay seem quite clumsy by comparison.It’s bright, fresh and well balanced.

We then moved to a beautiful 2006 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay. The fruit comes from the Santa Lucia highlands and 35-year-old vines. It has peach and tangerine mixed with a tasty minerality. It finishes with a touch of citrus.

Cleve, one of our tasting party, asked Joe an interesting question. The general wisdom is to drink whites within a two to three-year window.

The two Chards we had were drinking very well and Joseph mentioned that they could be cellared for another 10 years. The winemaker responded, “It’s about the foundation. If you build a house made of paper, it won’t be standing as long as a house built of brick or steel.”

We were in the land of “Sideways,” a movie that boosted the profile of California Pinot Noir (at the expense of Merlot) and were about to taste some that have captured praise from around the world.

First up was the 2007 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. Like all the Arcadian reds, the grapes are tread by foot.The wine, which has not yet been released, is light garnet in color and spent 28 months in an oak barrel. The flavor has cranberry and earth. It is a supple wine with long, pleasing finish.

Next was the Santa Maria Valley Jill’s Cuvee 2006 Pinot. This cuvee is the wine created by Joe to woo his wife-to-be. It proved to be more intense than the Sleepy Hollow with a higher skin to juice ratio. It is rich and ripe in flavor with floral notes over red berries. It’s complex, layered and completely cool.

At this point our group was completely engaged with Joe. He pulled out the 2001 Gary’s Vineyard Monterrey Pinot Noir.  This wine is a revelation. Flavors of currants and dark fruit layer with a slight earthiness. This is the finest Pinot Noir I’ve ever tasted – and it can be cellared and will gain even more complexity. It is vibrant, smooth but racy. This goes for $95 per bottle, reflecting that the grapes are some of the most expensive in California.

Before we closed with a pair of Syrah, Joe was again dispensing some serious wine wisdom. He was asked about the Vinturi aerator (which we happen to use and like). “I don’t like to microwave my wine,” was Joe’s response. “Cramming it through a little hole is not the answer.” He prefers a more civilized decanter and allowing it the time to breathe.

The 2005 Stolpman Vineyard Syrah was subtle yet elegant with notes of blackberry, cherry and smoke.

The 2005 Purisma Vineyard Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, is intense with red and black berry with peppery spice. This had a long,persistent finish.

Arcadian wines and Joe Davis have a world-class reputation. It’s well deserved. If you seek Pinot Noir perfection, circle Lompoc on your wine trail map!
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