Syrah in Santa Barbara County, particularly when grown in Santa Ynez Valle, is distinct. Here, the dense fruit (farmed bio-dynamically) shows brighter aromatics and herbal tones not found in unique to the area. Preserving this distinct terroir is winemaker Steve Beckmen’s goal. The wine is richly extracted, with finely resolved, ripe tannins. Delicious in the near term, the wine is capable of 5-8 years of bottle development.
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California has a rich history of vine growing beginning in 1769 when Padre Junipero Serra is believed to have brought vinifera cuttings with him from Mexico, when he established the Mission San Diego. With the secularization of the Franciscan missions in 1830, commercial winegrowing was established throughout the state, though on a fairly small scale.
With a large influx of European immigrants during, and after the “Gold Rush,” vines were planted everywhere. In 1862, the French Revue Viticole reported that California was “…capable of entering competition with the wines of Europe.”
Santa Barbara is a large county (as well as a beautiful small city) at the southern end of California’s “Central Coast.” Wine was first planted in this area in the mid-1770s, and a handful of commercial wineries did business here in the 19th Century.
Planting began in earnest during the “wine boom” of the 1970s. The vineyards that have proven to provide the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are those closest to the Pacific shore north of Cape Concepçion, where the hills are shrouded by early morning, cool fogs. The best sites for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc tend to be inland, protected from the fog by higher elevation and a warmer climate.
Trying to define the “cuisine” of California is much like fixing a flat tire on a moving car. With a large Asian-American population dating back to the 19th Century, the state tends to adopt Asian foods fairly liberally. The American sushi craze began in California, and the California roll is used to describe sushi with avocado as a primary ingredient – one example of a traditional Asian dish modified to allow for the tremendous variety of fresh foods grown in the State.
European cooking, such as French Nouvelle Cuisine, and Italian Tuscan cooking has been absorbed, and reworked as well – with the emphasis on fresh, locally grown ingredients.
California raises cattle for beef, sheep, ducks, and pork, often simply grilled with fresh herbs. The long and varied growing seasons, brings a seemingly endless variety of vegetables, fruits, and nuts. And since the 1980s, artisan cheese production, particularly from goats milk has achieved international acclaim as among the world’s best.
Quick Pairing Recommendations for Red Wines From This Area
Simple Roasted, Well-Farmed Chicken, Beef Roasts
Quick Pairing Recommendations for White, Rosé, and Sparkling Wines From This Area
Goat Cheeses, Crudité, Butter-Laced Seafood Preparations
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