It’s great to be back in California, and it’s seriously such an auspicious return, because after months of dicking around in backwater regions like Burgundy, Chianti, and “New Zealand” — wherever that is — the Young Winos are finally returning to the good old USA, specifically to the unique and oddly-shaped state that we all call home. We took a brief look at California sparkling wines two weeks ago, and now we’re starting the state in earnest, with an in-depth examination of the wines of Santa Barbara County. This is the region that was featured in “Sideways,” the Oscar-nominated 2004 comedy/drama (which is actually a really accurate presentation of wine tasting knowledge and techniques, delivered with much more clever wit and hard-hitting emotional content than my e-mails have ever had… at least since February or so). Anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet, now is very literally the perfect time.
Santa Barbara isn’t actually a region itself — it’s the name of a county, and it’s a term used to encompass two smaller regions: Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley. These are the ones you have to know when you go shopping (although the term “Santa Barbara” may appear on bottles as well). We will also be lumping the following two regions into this week’s tasting, since they’re just north of Santa Barbara County and they produce mostly the same wines: Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande. Look for any of these four regions when you’re shopping for this week’s bottle. In a grocery store, you’re on your own, but if you’re in a wine shop, they may be able to help you find Santa Barbara wines if you’re having trouble
We’ll be starting out with the reds, and then we’ll do white next week. (If we really like what we taste, we can do a second red or white meeting the following week, or we can move on to Paso Robles.) The Santa Barbara reds are really special. They’re comprised of mostly Syrahs and Pinot Noirs, the latter being Miles’s vin du choice in “Sideways,” and apparently a metaphor for his personality, although I can’t see it. Syrah and Pinot Noir both do excellent in the unusually cool climate of Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, Edna Valley, and Arroyo Valley — these regions are actually much cooler than parts of the state the are located further north.
Here’s what’s really exciting: we’re finally in the practical planning stages of our first Young Winos winery excursion. I propose three Saturdays from now, September 2. By that point, we’ll have tasted Santa Barbara for either two or three weeks, and we might have some favorite wineries that we want to go visit. We can discuss the date at this week’s meeting, and then we’ll get into more practical matters like how we’re getting there, whether or not we want to spend the night, and exactly which wineries we’re gonna hit. But we’ve been talking about this for almost a year and it’s finally going to happen — I’m seriously gonna wet my pants.
When shopping this week, pick out any Pinot Noir or Syrah from the four regions listed above. If you want to go for the full Sideways experience, here are the six wineries that Miles and Jack visited in the movie, all of which are in Santa Barbara County:
We’ll be meeting at Andrew’s shag pad in Hollywood. Here’s the info: (shaggy)
See you manic depressives on Wednesday at 9:00.