California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys have historically been the heart of American wine, but it is California's Central Coast Wine Region, and Santa Barbara County in particular, that is now getting the attention of connaisseurs and budding winos. Jolted to stardom by its lead role in the movie Sideways, it is the quality of the wines that has kept this region in the spotlight. (One of my greatest regrets in life was not buying more of that Sea Smoke BEFORE Sideways...sigh)
Santa Barbara's 100-odd wineries produce wines from 21,000 acres of vines, (less than half of Napa's 45,000 acres, itself a smallish wine producing region), and the region is best known for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Like many of California's winegrowing areas, Santa Barbara's wine history goes back two hundred years, but it is really the post-war, post-prohibition years that saw a renaissance, starting in the early 60s. In Santa Barbara there are three official American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Santa Barbara County: the Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, and the origin of tonight's wine, the Santa Maria Valley - please visit all of the links above to get more info on this rapidly developing wine region.
Unlike most of my American wine collection, the 2003 Cambria Julia's Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley) was purchased locally, two years ago. Very floral on the nose, with a strong scent of roses and melted dark chocolate, also revealing pepper, nutmeg, strawberries, and a very nice earthy/tarry undertone. Such a gorgeous wine for sniffing, it was almost a shame to gulp it the way we did. On the palate this wine was richly textured and full-bodied, with chocolatey fruit and very nice length. It also had a lively acidity that paired well with tonight's meal. Excellent now, or suitable to stash away for a few more years, this was a beautiful example of a modern, New World Pinot Noir.
Price: C$42 (SAQ)