Santa Barbara County tagged posts

Central Coast Continues Its Rise: Rusack ’09 Syrah

May 14, 2012 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

My first exposure to the Rusack brand was during a weekend trip to Catalina Island in the summer 2010.  We heard from several islanders that the Wrigley/Rusack family was preparing to release the first ever Catalina Island wine.  Later that year, we planned a trip to Santa Barbara County wine country and remembering the Rusack name, I decided to look them up and visit their beautiful Ballard Canyon location.

I haven't heard much more about their Catalina Island wine, but their estate wines from Ballard Canyon are fantastic.  Stolpman has put Ballard Canyon on the map as one of the top spots in the country for Syrah and Rusack's last couple of Syrah confrim that.  Their 2009 Ballard Canyon Estate is a dark brooding wine that pours a deep, almost black color, and shows huge concentrated

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Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay – RP90 $14.95

March 14, 2011 Daily DrinkersHigh End Values  2 comments

Kendall-Jackson, a.k.a. KJ, somehow got a reputation for making grocery store wine.  If this is grocery store wine, then I'll live in the aisles because this is outrageously good - at any price.  There is a tendency to confuse high volume producers like Kendall-Jackson with bulk producers.  Those that take that stance are missing some incredible wines and, more importantly, incredible values.  Most KJ wines are estate grown, meaning they are in charge of every step in the wine producing process from growing to harvesting to bottling.  This is handcrafted wine that can hold its own and BEAT many wines 3 times the price.

From their own vineyards in Monterey and Santa Barbara, this wine is created from the top 3% of their Chardonnay lots!  Suddenly the advantages of being a high volume

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An Awesome Single Vineyard Chardonnay from Qupé Wines – $12.95

January 14, 2011 Daily Drinkers  No comments

Tonight was the second attempt with my new pasta maker, and this time called for a white wine pairing.  I've long been impressed with Syrah bottlings from Qupé so I picked up a bottle of their 2009  Bien Nacido Vineyard "Y" Block to drink with Sicilian fettuccine with roasted tomatoes.

It's exceptionally rare to find a single vineyard Chardonnay made with this precision and cost (25% new oak barrels) for under $20.  Plus, Qupé clearly takes pride in their wines and I like supporting wineries like that.  After all, with a few exceptions, wineries are just small businesses trying to put a great product in front of customers while making a profit.  The majority fail at both points, and while I can't speak to their profitability, I can tell you  Qupé has a great product.

As previously

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Zaca Mesa day 3 update. This is amazing.

August 20, 2010 Daily DrinkersHigh End Values  No comments

I opened this wine on Tuesday night and it was thoroughly enjoyable.  This sat on the counter for two days while I made  a trip from LA to Chicago and back, which made the second half of the bottle twice as good.  This is easily the best Syrah value I've tasted all year and a top 5  overall wine value.   And remember: every wine I write about is a value!  If you buy one Syrah all year, buy the Zaca Mesa 2006 Santa Ynez Valley.  I can't say enough about the value here.
2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah $15.95

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The Best Syrah under $20- Zaca Mesa 2006 $15.95 WS93

August 17, 2010 Daily Drinkers  No comments

I have not had a better domestic Syrah this year.  The $15.95 Zaca Mesa Syrah is that good.  I knew it as I was pouring because the aromas absolutely jumped out of the glass.  As a point of reference, Shafer's legendary "Relentless" Syrah got 90 points from Wine Spectator for the 2006 vintage and it's $60.  I'm not saying the Shafer isn't worth $60, just that the Zaca Mesa is that good!

Tonight I made a truffled Shiitake mushroom and chicken pizza and the earthiness of the mushrooms and truffle oil were a perfect compliment to this Syrah.  Yes, I said the food was a compliment to the wine, not the opposite.  The wine was the star today.

This Syrah comes from Zaca Mesa's estate vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County.  The estate label means that the grapes are

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Fess Parker Chardonnay ’08- Santa Barbara Greatness WE93 under $15

July 11, 2010 Daily Drinkers  No comments

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this but I love Santa Barbara Chardonnays.  So much so that I have six of Fess Parker's 'coon  skin hat engraved wine glasses- an ode to his days playing Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the '50' s and '60's.  Sadly, we lost Fess on March 18th of this year (my dad is shedding a tear right now), but his legacy lives on in some of Santa Barbara county's best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

Super rich and oaky, this is the antithesis to the stainless steel, no malolactic fermentation Chardonnay that's stylish now.  This is not what you would call subtle, but sometimes subtle is just an excuse to make boring wine.  For $13.95, this is one of the best values currently on the market.

If you live in the L.A. area make it a point to visit the Fess Parker winery

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Jackson Hills Chardonnay 2008- Santa Barbara value under $20 RP91

June 28, 2010 High End Values  No comments

We recently reviewed the 2008 Camelot Highlands Estate Chardonnay from Kendall-Jackson and I called it without a doubt the best Chardonnay I've ever had under $25.  The "Jackson Hills" line is one step down from the Camelot Highlands and is definitely one the the best Chardonnays I've ever had under $20.

I'm beginning to think the restrained style of Chardonnay that's stylish right now, is overrated, because this flamboyant, rich and buttery Chardonnay is just more fun to drink!  In the end, it's all about what you enjoy drinking and I enjoy this style!  The smokey ripe pineapple nose leads into rich honey and tangerine on the palate.  If not quite as thick as the Camelot Highlands, the Jackson Hills Chardonnay is still very creamy and mouth coating.  This is clearly well made and

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Camelot Highlands Estate Chardonnay 2007- under $25 RP 93 (by Kendall-Jackson)

May 16, 2010 High End Values  One comment

This is ridiculously good for the price.  It's definitely the best Chardonnay I've ever had for under $25 and also the best I've had from one of my favorite appellations, Santa Barbara County.  To my taste, dollar for dollar, Santa Barbara Chardonnay beats the same varietal from Napa, Sonoma or Monterey easily.

I hate to keep driving this point home, but many of the reserve wines from the big producers are knock-out values.  Kendall-Jackson makes over 2 million bottles of their Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, and it's pretty good.  So when they focus on only 3700 cases of a single vineyard Chardonnay, you know it's going to be something special.  Some might be turned off by the Kendall-Jackson label but those people will just have to miss out, and that just means more for us!

The nose

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