By Robert P. Farmer
In its post-Sideways era, Santa Barbara County has cultivated Wine Country prestige even as it has survived its own reputation to emerge as one of the great, serious wine-growing destinations. Among the appellations of the region is the Santa Maria Valley, which in addition to being the county's first officially approved AVA, is also one of the few valleys in California enjoying an East-to-West orientation. It's therefore foggy a lot, and windy, as the sea air pushes in along the coastal breeze. The mild climate results in a longer growing season and ideal conditions for pinot noir and chardonnay. It's no surprise these varietals have become synonymous with Santa Maria Valley. But the intrepid wine taster will find plenty else of intrigue grown among the 19,000 acres of vineyards.
By Courtney Cochran
Unless you've been living under a rock, the news that pink wine is hot is hardly something new to you. Still, the array of rosé styles to choose from is impressive - and often takes even the pink stuff's most serious fans by surprise.
By far the most common style of rosé, this is the
version you see on the shelves of most quality wine merchants come
summertime. Fermented entirely or nearly "to dryness," this style of
rosé contains little or no residual sugar and tastes stylistically
similar to the dry red and white table wines (think Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay) we're most familiar with. They key difference when it
comes to dry rosé is in the winemaking style - these wines score their
enticing pink color from a process called "saigner," meaning "to bleed"
in French. During the saigner process, a touch of color is
leeched from the skins of red grapes (all grape juice is more or less
clear without skin contact) prior to fermentation, leaving the finished
wine anywhere from just barely pink in color to just shy of fully red
in hue, depending on the amount of time the wine spent in contact with
the grape skins.
By Courtney Cochran
The drive is just three hours north of San Francisco, but it might as well be a century back in time. Sometimes called "The Lost Coast" since it was largely cut off from the modern world until the mid Nineteenth Century, Mendocino's hauntingly romantic North Coast is home today to long stretches of pristine wilderness, a host of welcoming inns and B&Bs, renowned restaurants and - yes - wineries and tasting rooms that make the most of this spectacular stretch of California coastline.
Our suggested itinerary takes you northwards on Highway 1 from the town of Mendocino to just north of historic Fort Bragg, and includes a midday pit stop for lunch. And while the majority of Mendocino's more than 50 wineries are to be found further inland, the coast is where you'll find California's only oceanside winery as well as a handful of tasting rooms in coastal towns fit to bursting with Victorian-era charm and architecture. But take note: In keeping with the slow pace of the region, the dramatic cliffs and myriad turns along winding Highway 1 make travel here slow by necessity. Happily, it's a region that welcomes lingering, something you'll find all too easy to do once you get there.