After attending this year’s Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles, I decided it was time to make a trek back up to California’s Central Coast to visit wineries and taste through their lineups. Unlike HdR, this visit wouldn’t be confined to Rhône varietals. It was an excellent opportunity to taste through the lineups of old friends, as well as those of relatively new operations. One of the highlights was my visit to the famed Santa Maria vineyard of Bien Nacido. Because I tasted through so many different wines, what follows were the wines that I found especially noteworthy.
As a caveat, I’ll mention that this was not some supposedly “objective” winetasting, conducted blind. I obviously knew the wineries I was visiting, and nothing was tasting blind. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know some of the wineries and winemakers quite well; I’m not by any means unbiased in my feelings towards some of the winemakers and the wines they make. Nevertheless, I’ve tried my best to present my own, personal evaluations of the wines as they tasted to me.
Day 1: Longoria and Arcadian.
The first day’s tasting was somewhat short, as I arrived in the afternoon on a Thursday. Based on the list of winery tasting rooms I wanted to visit, and what was opened, I was able to stop at both Longoria’s and Arcadian’s tasting rooms in Lompoc.
A. Longoria Wines.
Richard Longoria is one of the “old school” winemakers in the Central Coast, and he has been producing wines under the Longoria Wines label since 1982. Although Mr. Longoria produces wines from different varietals, he is probably best known for his Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. You can read more about his wines, and his winemaking philosophy at:
Tasting his wines at the front-end of the trip was useful, because I think he makes a relatively “classic” style of wine from the Central Coast. While he buys fruit (such as from Bien Nacido), he also has estate fruit from the Fe Ciega vineyard.
1. 2013 Longoria Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills Fe Ciega Vineyard. A wonderful expression of Chardonnay, with lovely apples and pears and baking spices. Well-integrated oak, and a crisp, long finish. Good ripeness—certainly not austere—but an excellent balance of fruit and acidity.
2. 2013 Longoria Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Vineyard Block N. Per my notes, this is from the Martini Clone. A real “wow” nose, with rhubarb and dark cherry. The taste follows the nose, adding some dark chocolate and slight earthiness. As it aerates, it picks up a more savory quality. Also, it has “sneaky tannins” that you don’t notice initially but that appear as you let the wine sit on your tongue. A truly beautiful Pinot Noir.
3. 2013 Longoria Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills La Encantata Vineyard. A much more accessible, open-knit Pinot than the Bien Nacido. The fruit is a bit brighter and more high-toned, with less earthy notes. A zippy Pinot with nice cranberry qualities.
4. 2015 Longoria Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara. My notes says it’s a blend of fruit from Alisos and Clover Creek. Really lovely aromatics, with lots of white fruits and flowers. The taste, however, is denser than what the nose promises, with a medium body and good complexity. $19 from the winery and very fairly priced for what’s in the bottle. This would be good with a lighter style lunch, like a good quiche.
5. 2012 Longoria Syrah Santa Barbara Alisos Vineyard. A strongly plummy/dark fruit kind of Syrah, a bit on the more powerful side in terms of mouthfeel and overall structure. It picks up a somewhat meaty and savory quality with additional swirling. While very well-balanced, it’s quite young (for my tastes) and probably will continue to improve with 4-7 years of cellaring.
Arcadian has a fairly loyal following here at Wine Berserkers, and the winemaker Joe Davis has forged a unique path for himself and his wines. Like Longoria, his wines tend to be a bit more classic in style, compared to larger, more boisterous, and fruitier wines. One of the unique aspects of the Arcadian wines is that they tend to be aged quite a bit before release, and they are intended for additional cellaring post-release.
1. 2008 Arcadian Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. The nose is a bit more fruit-forward than the palate, with lots of apples and pear, and a touch of honey. The midpalate, though, is quite crisp (but not tart), and oak is nicely-integrated. A medium long, smooth finish.
2. 2014 Arcadian Pinot Noir Rosé Santa Rita Hills Clos Pepe Vineyard. A noticeably lighter red color than most of the Pinots tasted on this trip. There is a very unusual nose here—the usual strawberries and then a quality I couldn’t quite put my finger on; almost like turpentine or resin, but not in a bad way. That quality carries on to the palate, but turns more savory with lavender and olives. An unusual Pinot Noir, to be sure.
3. 2011 Arcadian Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills Clos Pepe Vineyard. An interesting contrast to the 2014, with a very deep nose—lots of dark cherry and a bit of dark chocolate. The taste follows the nose, with more savory qualities coming through. Somewhat chewy tannins that will still require further aging to integrate—perhaps at least 4-7 more years?
4. 2004 Arcadian Syrah Santa Ynez Valley Westerly Vineyard. A bit high alcohol/ripe on the nose (15.2% per the label). Per the tasting room rep., this is from Happy Canyon which is one of the warmest sites in the area. The taste is not nearly as ripe/rich as the nose, and there is tremendous olive, smoke, and lavender throughout. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s a 2004, it still tastes (and looks) quite young with more chewy tannins. I could see this aging for 5-7+ years. It’s a “wow” Syrah for now, with potential for a lot more when the tannins integrate.