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Sta. Rita Hills: A wine road trip showcasing new releases

Kessler-Haak wines.
Kessler-Haak wines.
Cori Solomon

Those loving the wines of Sta. Rita Hills were able to experience wines from the area at the Wine House recently as the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Road Trip tasting was in Los Angeles.

Trancendence Wines was one of the wineries represented at the at the Sta. Rita Hills On The Road tasting
Trancendence Wines was one of the wineries represented at the at the Sta. Rita Hills On The Road tasting
Cori Solomon

This region of Santa Barbara County is known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the tasting featured some wonderful examples along with several other varietals.

On this occasion the wines that stood out were Huber Cellars 2010 Chardonnay, a crisp refreshing example of this varietal. This wine expressed the wonderful acidity and minerality that comes from the Sta. Rita Hills. I was dually impressed with Huber's 2009 Pinot Noir Barrel Select a very balanced and silky Pinot with a hint of spice on the finish.

Seeing the exuberant Jake Lindley show off his wines proved to be captivating especially the behind the scenes barrel sample. Don’t miss out on Lindley Wines' upcoming release of the 2013 Viognier. Listening to the description of this Viognier evolution would intrigue anyone to try and believe me the wine is well worth it. The story is the Lindley’s needed a white wine for their portfolio so Jake took some old knarly porous barrels known as pirate barrels and aged the Viognier in them for five months. For a wine that was thrown together almost on a whim it is spectacular. The wine displays wonderfully fragrant aromas and flavors of Honeysuckle. This is a great easy drinking wine and will sell out quickly since the Lindley’s only made two or three cases.

Here are some of my favorites in the whites. Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines just released their 2011 Chardonnay with its very tropical pineapple flavors. Transcendence Wines showcased two excellent Chardonnays. The 2012 Chardonnay Zotovich Vineyard is a fresh and clean Chardonnay with hints of sweetness. The wine is aged in stainless steel, which gives the wine its crisp and refreshing qualities. The 2012 Chardonnay Rancho Santa Rosa is aged in neutral oak. Many of the same qualities of the Zotovich are present in this Chardonnay but with more complexity.

Flying Goat Cellars 2013 Pinot Gris has a nice bouquet and is crisp with citrusy flavors. The Carr Vineyards & Winery 2013 Pinot Gris had wonderful spicy flavors. I finished on the white varietals with Cold Heaven Cellars 2012 Viognier, a mild and balanced. I found the wine was very subtle with hints of stone fruit.

There were three reds in addition to Huber Cellars Pinot Noir that caught my attention. The 2011 Kitá Wines Pinot Noir, a flavorfully balanced wine. Although I typically like medium to full bodied Pinot Noirs, I was very draw to the lighter qualities of the 2011 Clos Pepe Vineyards Estate Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. There is an elegance that permeates this wine. It is funny but I finished off both the trade tasting and the evening consumer event with Montemar Wines 2011 Pinot Noir Rio Vista and the 2009 Syrah. Both were excellent.

At the Sta. Rita Hills tasting, I got my first stab at pouring wines to the consumer, a behind the table experience. Instead of just partaking in the trade portion of the event, sampling the wines, serving enabled me to observe the reactions of attendees to the wines. As luck had it I poured for Huber Cellars. The winery had my two highest-ranking wines at the trade tasting. I discovered the longevity of a bottle of wine at a tasting. I never realized how many servings are in each bottle. What was more interesting was to watch people’s patterns upon initially enter a tasting. Which winery do they approach first? I think most people begin with a winery they spot due to familiarity.

In addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, I was serving probably the most unusual varietal at the event. It was a Dornfelder, a very big German varietal. This wine one either likes or dislikes. As most people are unfamiliar with this grape, they were intrigued but at the same time a bit hesitant to experiment. This particular Dornfelder was a bit young, needing some time to age. Based on this the reaction was about 50/50.

As I love the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from this region this was an easy sell for my first pouring. If you love cool climate wines, the Burgundian styled Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir experiencing the wines of Sta. Rita Hills AVA is a must. For those wanting a summer adventure to Sta. Rita Hills plan on attending one of my favorite outdoor tastings events, Wine & Fire at Lompoc’s La Purisima Mission on August 16, 2014. That same weekend the Sta. Rita Hills has many special activities for the wine enthusiast.