By the Glass: Light California wines perfect for summer sipping
Not all California wines are created equal. There are so many grape varieties and styles to choose from. Here is a quartet of interesting selections, grown and produced in the Santa Barbara appellation.
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The category of wines grown and produced in California is still raging in popularity here. Local people seem to really love California wines.
Having said that, not all California wines are created equal. There are so many grape varieties and styles to choose from.
Here is a quartet of interesting selections, grown and produced in the Santa Barbara appellation. The marine soils and the cool temperatures during the growing season combine to create dry, lightweight wines with a very minerally, uplifting, crisp character — well suited to warmer weather.
As especially warm, often muggy conditions continue in the islands, these wines are strong recommendations for warm-weather sipping.
>> 2017 Lieu Dit Melon (roughly $21 a bottle): Melon de Bourgogne is a grape variety that especially shines in the western reaches of France’s Loire Valley. While this grape is somewhat neutral in flavor and showiness, it has proved quite the conduit for minerality, which somehow moves from the soils through the vine into the grape itself.
These are old vines, 46 years old, own-rooted in sandy, marine-loam soils — meaning the vines originated from their own roots rather than more common grafts. I love how remarkably lightweight this wine is on the palate — rounded, seamlessly textured from beginning to end — and how tasty and food-friendly it is.
>> 2017 Tyler Chardonnay “Santa Barbara” (roughly $21 a bottle): Winemaker/owner Justin Willett is truly one of the new-age winemaking phenoms of the region. He deftly crafts wines that are precise, uplifting, nuanced, seamless and sophisticated in a very unassuming manner. I was quite taken with my first taste of this 2017 and was blown away to discover the price. Definitely a great value.
>> 2017 Ojai Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard” (roughly $29 a bottle): Year in and year out, this is one of my Top 3 California chardonnays. The vines for this bottling were planted in 1973, own-rootedand are certainly some of the most prized, sought-after chardonnay fruit in all of California.
Iconic winemaker/owner Adam Tolmach does his magic with Old World sensibilities. The resulting wines are fine and refined (not bold), minerally (not fruit- or oak-driven), masterfully textured and balanced, with wonderful vinosity (what I call old vine-ness) and class. This wine stylistically lies somewhere between California and Burgundy.
If you are looking for a complex, noteworthy chardonnay — one that makes sense for warm-weather enjoyment, and that sells for less than half the price of the trophy wines from wine country farther north — you should search out this epic, iconic bottling.
>> 2017 Costa de Oro Pinot Noir “Santa Barbara” (roughly $25 a bottle): I marvel at how pinot noir transitioned from being lighter in color, transparent, ethereal, nuanced, alluring and lovely in style, to something dark (bordering black), medium to medium-full in weight, showy, obvious and flamboyant. Does this reflect progress? Better vine material, and more know-how in the vineyard and the winery? I don’t have the answers.
But to mix things up a little, here is a throwback wine done in the style of pinot common when I started in the industry. I love how pretty it is, its sheer elegance, purity, refinement, grace, seductive texture and wonderful, though unassuming, balance. Superb, well-priced wines like this are hard to come by nowadays. Stock up.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the DK Restaurants group. Follow his blog at chuckfuruya.com.