One side event we're planning around Alexis' wedding is a wine tasting tour for friends attending from back east. We have a couple of wineries chosen already but a tasting is always worth doing.
One of our family's favorite wineries is Beckmen, so much so that we're members of one of their wine clubs. They're first on the list for our tasting followed by Stolpman (big, tannic Rhone style reds) and Mandolina (CalItal wines) but we needed at least one more and maybe two for the day.
We've been thinking about one of the larger wineries in the area - either Firestone or Fess Parker (yep, the Daniel Boone Fess Parker). Both of these wineries have decent wines at a lower price point than the others I had chosen. The women folk in the family prefer the tasting room at Firestone so we're leaning that way.
Last Friday, we had to pick up a few bottles of wine that we had ordered at Beckmen so we took part of the afternoon for a tasting. We started at Beckmen and had some wonderful wines from both their estate wines and the higher end Purisima wines. We tasted two Grenache's - an estate and the Purisima Vineyard wine. Both were wonderful and very drinkable now or worthy of a few years of cellaring. We also had two different Syrahs - the Estate Syrah and a Barrel Select Purisima. Again, wonderful big wines... a bit more fruit forward than the Grenache. We finished our tasting with a taste of a blend just called Purisima. Heaven in a bottle!
From Beckmen we headed to Zaca Mesa, one of the first wineries founded in Santa Barbara County after prohibition. We had heard good things about some of their wines but hadn't tasted any before this. We began with two Rhone style whites, a viognier and a roussanne. We don't drink a lot of white wine and I don't usually care for either of these varieties but both were very, very nice. If we were on a shopping trip, I would have come home with a bottle or three of the viognier. From there we went to the reds. Their Estate Syrah was very nice, but not quite as good as the Beckmen estate version. Our final wine was the Z Three, a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache. It is a wonderful wine. We had to purchase a bottle.
Our last stop was Babcock. One of our wino friends really likes their Pinot Noir so we thought we'd try a tasting to see whether we should add them. Many who've seen the film Sideways, associate Pinots with Santa Barbara County. I guess there are a few good ones here (I don't particularly care for Pinots) but they really do pale in comparison to the Rhone style wines which are perfect for this place. So... we went to Babcock and began with a few whites - a Pinto Gris and a Chardonnay. Neither were "wows" but both were reasonably good wines. Then we had their rose - Big Fat Pink Shiraz. It was simple, but fun and we bought two bottles. This was followed by a Pinot Noir (still not my favorite varietal) and a Cabernet. Again, passable but not something I would purchase. We ended with a late harvest Chardonnay. Late harvest wines are very sweet, almost syrupy. The grapes are left on the vines until they begin to turn into raisins. The concentrated sugars make very complicated wines that can be amazing in small quantities... too much and you go into diabetic shock. Usually late harvests are made from Riesling, Muscat, or Gewürztraminer. The Chardonnay version was much more simple without the floral flavors one expects especially from Gewürztraminer... again not bad but not anything I would purchase.
So... we may add Zaca Mesa to the list along with probably Firestone although, we may do another tasting or two just to be sure. Life is hard.