Tasting Reveals Wide Range of Local Sparkling Wines
December 24, 2015
Not too long ago, a tasting like this would have been impossible. When Flying Goat Cellars' Norm Yost launched his sparkling wine program in 2005, he was pretty much on his own. Other labels had dabbled in bubbles in the past, like Brewer-Clifton and Whitcraft. But sparklers made yearly from Santa Barbara County grapes was brand new territory.
Today, the number of local producers with a regular sparkling wine program approaches 40.
And, this year alone marks the first-ever releases of bubbles by several labels, like Alma Rosa and Potek. So the time seemed right to pick a random sampling and taste some of Santa Barbara's effervescence at its best.
Where else would Italy meet Thailand except in the pages of our local Santa Barbara County newspapers? Although the default approach to pairing spicy Asian cuisine is toward a sauvignon blanc, riesling or gewürztraminer, there are a number of local Italian varietals that can pair well with the exotic flavors of Thailand and Vietnam as well.
Wine, Wash & Wag spread out around the downtown village of Solvang. It was the brainchild of Lucas & Lewellen events manager Anjie Parker and Pam Koga, owner/operator of Pam's Pampered Pooches mobile grooming.
Harvest started a couple of weeks earlier than ever before. Our yields in some varieties, like Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, are unbelievably low. Both bunch size and berry size are small. This situation is statewide, especially in the coastal regions. Everyone is questioning why. Many things enter into it,
like the fact that we had three large crops in a row, an early fall frost, a warm winter, bad weather during flowering, irregular berry set, a lack of winter rains and no deep soil moisture. Our total production will be down about 50 percent. I do expect the 2015 vintage to be a quality one. We were done harvesting a month early.
Solvang, though built to mimic a quaint Danish town, complete with a museum honoring Hans Christian Anderson, looks more like a town out of my childhood Cinderella or Hansel & Gretel Golden Books. But there's nothing fairy tale about the wineries.
In 1970, Central Valley grower Louis Lucas, also with Al Gagnon and Dale Hampton, established the 800-acre Tepusquet Vineyard. “We were the leading edge,” he admits, “and any time you go to an area that doesn’t have fruit, there’s a risk.” Within five years, however, the caliber of his chardonnay was luring big-name Northern California buyers like Beringer, ZD and Robert Mondavi.
The Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards tasting room offers guests a wide variety of wines to choose from. They craft an impressive array of wines from 26 grape varieties that are grown on their 400 estate acres in Santa Barbara County’s three distinct microclimates, creating a diversity of wine styles to suit every taste preference.