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A day in Santa Barbara wine country part I

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Getting away to Santa Barbara County wine country even for the day can rejuvenate ones spirit. There is something about the drive; once you hit the coast in Ventura that invigorates the soul. In June I traversed the coast to Solvang to meet my daughter, Victoria and her boyfriend, Michael, introducing them to this picturesque wine region and showing the off wonderful experiences you can have within a short driving distance from Los Angeles. After submitting several winery suggestions, they selected two, Andrew Murray Vineyards and Dierberg Star Lane Vineyards to be representative of two different regions in the Santa Barbara County. Both are fabulous in their own right and ideal locations to have a picnic, which was a part of our agenda.

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Our first stop was Solvang to pick up a picnic lunch. We opted for sandwiches and salads from Panino. With lunch in hand we were ready explore our chosen wineries. We started with Andrew Murray Vineyards.

Andrew Murray recently relocated to the Curtis Winery on Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos. The tasting room and winery have been remodeled with a contemporary flair. In fact we arrived at the newly opened tasting room and found Andrew laden with computer equipment as he was readying his new office. Andrew Murray is known for his Rhone varietals and blends.

Since we were famished we decided to picnic before indulging in wine. Of course a picnic lunch in wine country requires a glass of either white or Rosé to accompany it. We opted for the Andrew Murray Espérance Rosé. This Rosé is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. It was a wonderfully refreshing Rhone blended Rosé. The sweet peach flavors augmented with strawberry made the wine marvelous. I have since had this Rosé and found it even more inviting than my first encounter at the winery. This wine was my favorite of the day.

During our tasting we sample wines from both Andrew Murray and Curtis. My preference were those from Andrew Murray’s label. I enjoyed the 2012 Syrah Stolpman Vineyard with its cherry nose, a wine big on fruit with a peppery finish. The 2013 Viognier had sweet floral aromas and tastes of honeysuckle that so often typify Viognier.

There was one Curtis wine that intrigued me. It was the 2011 Rhone Reserve that has an equal blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvédre plus some Cinsault. It is a more complex wine that speaks of cherries.

Moving away from warmer climate of Foxen Canyon Road and Los Olivos, we travel west to the Santa Rita Hills for our visit to Dierberg Star Lane’s tasting Room on Drum Canyon. Santa Rita Hills is known for its cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs making Dierberg’s wines a nice contrast to the wines at Andrew Murray Vineyards.

Although Dierberg Star Lane Vineyards tasting room is in Sta. Rita Hills, they also have vineyards in Santa Ynez and Santa Maria. The setting of the tasting room is in a very pastoral setting with the tasting room’s farm building architecture looming over.

We started our tasting with the Star Lane 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. It displayed the grassy nose and citrusy flavors that is so often apparent to this varietal and Santa Ynez Valley. We moved onto to the Dierberg Chardonnay, which is aged for 12 months in 25% new oak and the rest neutral oak. This wine is known for its nice balanced acidity.

In the reds we sampled the 2011 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, enjoying the raspberry flavors that had hints of clove. The 2011 Pinot Noir Santa Maria was a spicier wine than the Pinot from Sta. Rita Hills. The biggest wine was the Dierberg 2010 Syrah. The wine is full bodied, fruit forward with hints of allspice and pepper on the finish. This was my favorite of the Dierberg tasting.

The 2009 Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon is made up of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot. The wine is aged 18 months with a third in new oak. The prominent cherry flavors have notes of clove. We ended our tasting with the earthy 2009 Astral. This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 100% new oak. This wine comes from the steepest hillside south-facing slopes of block 24 where the vines produce a low yield that intensifies the complexity of the wine.

After a perfect day of wine tasting we parted. My daughter made her way to Santa Barbara while I chose to remain in Solvang avoiding any possibility of hitting rush hour traffic in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. My wine country adventure ended with meeting friends for dinner at the charming Mirabelle Inn & Restaurant where chef Norbert Schulz always prepares a delightfully yummy meal.

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