Seeking Signatures in Santa Barbara Wine Country
Central coast vintners talk about the wines that epitomize their brand.
Is it unfair to ask a winemaker to single out a wine for recognition? Is this like asking a mother or father to tell us about their favorite child? Not exactly. A signature wine reflects the typical style of the person who has made it.
There are many fine winemakers in Santa Barbara wine country. The vineyards here are spread far and wide--from Northern Santa Barbara County to Santa Maria Valley to Santa Ynez Valley to the Santa Rita Hills--and represent an exciting range of terroir. There are many award-winning Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, Sauvignon Blancs, and Cabernet Sauvignons crafted in Santa Barbara County. To say nothing of the blends!
So, winemakers, what is your signature wine--the one that best represents your personal style?
Karen Steinwachs, Buttonwood Farm Winery
The signature wine at Buttonwood Farm Winery is definitely Sauvignon Blanc, and particularly our signature blend of Sauvignon Blanc with a kiss of S�millon. This wine encompasses everything that makes wines from our vineyard so wonderful. The warm days and cold nights of our Alamo Pintado site ripen the Sauvignon Blanc to crisp citrusy and stone-fruit notes, and the addition of 9 to 10 percent S�millon adds roundness and body to the mid-palate and softens the edges of the racy Sauvignon Blanc. It is my signature wine because it grows so well on our estate vineyard, complements and lifts a meal, pairs superbly with foods of all seasons, is well-priced --and is just plain delicious!
Fred Brander, The Brander Vineyard
As a winemaker, I would consider the Brander Sauvignon au Naturel to be my signature wine for the simple reason that my focus has always been Sauvignon Blanc, and the au Naturel embodies the best expression of the grape: purity of fruit with minimalist winemaking (unoaked), and evolved viticulture. I consider the au Naturel the best-quality Sauvignon Blanc that I make. It's the one with the most personality, yet it's refined.
Nick de Luca, Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards
Certainly our Star Lane Astral Red wine. Since it was conceived to be the finest wine we can produce from the Star Lane vineyard, it is my opportunity to throw out any clear winemaking or varietal conventions and instead use my knowledge of the vineyard, gained over the past six vintages, to craft a wine that exemplifies our terroir and the character of the vintage. Varietal composition is subject to change from year to year--and I may even include some non-Bordeaux varietals such as Syrah--based on weather and growing conditions, and the blocks within the vineyard that contribute to the blend reflect the relative temperatures of the vintage. Astral Red is very much a vineyard-based wine, not a "reserve" wine or a "winemaker selection." Ultimately, several new blocks may be planted to other nontraditional varietals such as Grenache, Mourv�dre, and Tannat for the Astral program.
Kris Curran, D'Alfonso~Curran Wines
I try to think of what "I" think my signature wine is, but they all hold a special place in my heart or I wouldn't make them. Now, if you asked consumers, they would probably say my Grenache Blanc. It is a fantastic food wine but pairs perfectly well with a lounge chair and a good book--or a fireplace and a game of chess! My partner Bruno D'Alfonso says that, while he is known for Pinot Noir, lately he would have to say his Pinot Grigio is his signature wine. He has been drinking a lot of it! He calls it his favorite "breakfast" wine, pairing perfectly well with soft-scrambled eggs, pancetta, and Tuscan toast.
Richard Sanford, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Our "signature" wines are the Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard and Chardonnay from El Jabal� Vineyard. Both vineyards are organically farmed and certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Both wines exhibit the bright acids and fullness of fruit characteristic of the cool maritime climate of the Santa Rita Hills AVA. I remain dedicated to the region where I planted my first vineyard 40 years ago.
Blair Fox, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyards; Blair Fox Cellars
I consider Syrah to be my signature wine. The Syrah grape demonstrates its ability to adapt and perform in many growing regions around the world. It is an extremely noble grape variety and possesses diverse characteristics from pepper, bacon fat, and smoke to blueberry compote and blackberry liqueur. It possesses ample tannins, which give it the ability to age while possessing structure, moderate acidity with beautiful texture, and round mouthfeel. In the winery, Syrah likes to be beat around a little bit and benefits from additional barrel aging. I usually age our Syrahs in a combination of primarily French and American oak barrels for 20 to 26 months. It is a wine that is very well suited to be bottled as a single variety but can also add depth and structure to a Rh�ne varietal-based blend.
Christian Garvin, Oreana Winery
There will always be a special place in my heart for Syrah. It is such a diverse grape, capable of growing anywhere with totally different results. I am always amazed at the many facets of Syrah. Oreana produces two Syrahs in two very unique styles, My Santa Barbara County Syrah has more oak and vanilla components and my Project Happiness Syrah is a little more fruit-forward and ready to drink right now.