Santa Barbara Pinot-Palooza
dramatic angle from below of Pinot Noir Red Wine Grapes in Santa Barbara, CA

Feeling good about your grape coaxing skills?  If not, don't bother trying to make a noteworthy Pinot Noir.  

“Pinot needs constant care and attention... it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only someone who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.” That’s how Miles explained to Maya his appreciation of Pinot Noir’s unique challenges – and its sublime incarnations – in the 2004 movie Sideways. Bam!!! Central Coast sales of Pinot Noir vaulted by 42% as wine lovers clamored to discover the inspiration for his musings.

The Sideways furor gradually subsided, but in the Santa Barbara wine region, the popularity of this complex varietal remains. "Do you have a Pinot?" is a daily refrain heard in wineries throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. And the answer is usually "Yes we do." Sometimes, the answer is "Lots of 'em." Like at Melville Winery, where the viticulturist stays busy coaxing fourteen different Pinot clones to their fullest expression. Fourteen! From this pinot panoply, winemaker Greg Brewer (yep, Brewer is the winemaker) crafts a variety of subtly distinct Pinots, six of which are currently available for tasting (my go-to: the 2013 Estate Verna's).  Nearby Foley winery also offers six options (puh-lease try the 2012 Two Sisters Pinot Noir from Lindsay's Vineyard), and next-door neighbor Babcock winery one-ups them both with seven selections. Their 2013 "Slice of Heaven" Pinot Noir... kinda is.  

So, variety: yes, absolutely. What about quality?  Well, those wine snobby writers who assign numbers on a 100 point scale confirm that Santa Barbara Pinots are superb. Coveted 90+ scores have become almost common for Pinots from Santa Barbara County's Santa Rita Hills appellation. In a particularly superlative pronouncement, Wine Spectator named Brewer-Clifton's 2012 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir one of the Top Ten Wines of 2014 (and the ONLY American wine on their list), scoring it a 94.    

So if you, like me and Miles, understand pinot's potential, then get yourself to the specific, tucked-away corner of the world that is Santa Barbara wine country.  And experience Pinot-Palooza.   


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

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