Tag Archives: Sta Rita Hills

A Taste of the Sta. Rita Hills

by Donald Sonderling – May 2016

Fess Parker Winery - Sta. Rita Hills

Sta. Rita Hills: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and “Pinks” for Good Measure

The Sta. Rita Hills AVA, located about two hours north of Los Angeles in the stunning wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, produces world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the picturesque Central Coast area of California. With a total area of 30,720 acres, the area is home to over 59 vineyards, totaling 2,700 hundred acres planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and 18 other cool climate wine grape varieties.

Last month the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance  hosted their annual “road trip” at the Wine House in West Los Angeles, providing a unique “under one roof” opportunity to taste and compare a vast selection of wines from many of the areas wineries.  Each of the wines were reflective of the myriad terroir and micro climates, and of course the individual expressions of the winemaker.  James Suckling’s comment on the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Pinot Noir couldn’t be more apt:  “I am in love with Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.  They are bold and rich wines, yet balanced and refined with wonderful freshness and length.”  (Tasting Report:  California’s Sta. Rita Hills).

Hitching Post "Pinks" - Sta. Rita Hills Pinot NoirAlthough Pinots and Chardonnays were the main focus of this event, Hitching Post was pouring their 2015 “Pinks,” a fun, vibrant dry rose blend of 30% Pinot Noir and 70% Valdiguie.  As Hitching Post’s Gray Hartley describes this wine, “this Pinks exemplifies our attitude that we take our fun seriously.”  Indeed, this is a fun, happy wine to pop open, especially on a warm spring or summer afternoon – it will put a smile on your face.

Several of the wineries represented are well known, such as Foxen Canyon, Fess Parker and Hitching Post.  However, also represented was a significant number of small, boutique wineries, including:  Kessler-Haak, Pali Wines, Flying Goat, Longoria, Clos Pepe, The Hilt, Crawford Family Wines, Montemar.

The wineries with tasting rooms are  primarily located in Santa Barbara, Buelton, Los Olivos and in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Los Olivos, over the past several years has grown into a vibrant “Tasting Room Town” and is a wonderful way to easily explore over 40 different wineries from the area.  The same can be said of Lompoc and the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, which is a unique industrial park with close to 20 tasting rooms.  Having the opportunity to try so many wines from so many producers, (many of these wineries either have no tasting room, or their hours are very limited), made this a very special event.

A visit to any of these areas and wineries is a must for the wine enthusiast looking to experience wine that is truly an expression of place.  A Taste of the Santa Rita Hills gave those in attendance an opportunity to do just that.  A special “Thank You” to the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance and The Wine House  for hosting this event.

Complete listing of the winery members of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance


Sta. Rita Hills tasting at Palate Food & Wine

It’s been a busy Spring so far, so I apologize for getting this review out a bit late. This is the second event I’ve attended at the popular Palate Food & Wine in Glendale, California. Steve Goldun, a wine mentor of mine for many years, and his partner Octavio Becerra, have created a hot spot for foodies and wine enthusiasts alike, with the emphasis on creativity served up in a casual way.

With only 20 wineries represented, this event, held April 3, 2011, was small by some tasting event standards, but well attended. In addition to the wines, Hitching Post Restaurant of Buellton was there with owner Frank Ostini at the grill turning out delicious wine tasting “go withs”.

Frank Ostini of Hitching Post Restaurant

Frank Ostini of Hitching Post Restaurant

Sponsored by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance, located in Santa Barbara County, this tasting focused on wineries representing a group of about 55 in total,  growing over 20 wine grape varieties planted on approximately 2500 acres. I love these “focused” tastings as it really gives me the opportunity to taste wines made with fruit from the same vineyards but by different winemakers, explaining their “whys” and hows”.

Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Cellars was there pouring her own wines, which were very good. The interesting thing was that there were several other wineries pouring Pinot Noir made from fruit from her Fiddlestix Vineyard. Again, a great opportunity to taste the different ways these wines were made. Of these, Pali Wine Co.’s 08 Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix Vineyard, was my favorite.

It was also a great pleasure to meet Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe. Wes has 28 acres of estate vineyards to work with – 24 are planted to Pinot Noir and 4 to Chardonnay. It was the Chardonnay that stood out for me on this day. While I really enjoyed the Chablis style 09 Estate Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented, it was their 2000 Estate Chardonnay, “Homage to Chablis” that stood out and was the most intriguing wine of the day. Not having tasted many 10 year old chardonnays to begin with, I was amazed at the fact that it not only had held up, but in fact had aged beautifully into a complex, multi-layered gem.

Xochitl with Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe

Xochitl with Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe

I very much enjoyed meeting newcomers Kessler-Haak Wines and tasting their inaugural releases of 08 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their estate vineyards. Congratulations to Dan and Ellen Kessler, owners and winemakers.

So when you’re out there in your favorite wine shop looking for something new to try, think about exploring a specific area. It’s always interesting…..