Posts filed under ‘Wine Country’
In the world of wine, there’s a lot of talk about “terroir,” a French term that signifies the influence of place–specifically the soil, climate and other native local conditions that shape a wine’s character. In the Santa Maria Valley wine country, with its cool marine climate and dry sandy-loam soils, it’s not hard to find wines that exhibit a strong sense of place.
Well, the concept of terroir is also fitting when it comes to Santa Maria Style Barbecue, which is based upon local ingredients and methods honed over the past 100 years in the Santa Maria Valley.
So when you pair Santa Maria BBQ with a locally grown wine, you have a meal like no other, with flavors that are truly native.
The question becomes, then, which wine to pair with Santa Maria BBQ? Ultimately, there is no right answer. Food pairing is subjective, and only you can decide what you like.
However, as a general rule, the rich, smoky flavors of Santa Maria Style Barbecue will appeal to heavier reds. In the Santa Maria Valley, that typically leads us to Pinot Noir and Rhone-style varietals such as Syrah.
When it comes to Pinot, a richer style can hold up to the bold flavors of barbecue more readily compared to a more delicate Pinot. And in a cool climate such as ours, Syrah often develops a deep, meaty, peppery character that goes quite well with Santa Maria seasoning and red oak smokiness.
So come on out to the Santa Maria Valley wine country, visit one of our barbecue restaurants, and select a wine that will provide a memorably local dining experience!
When it comes to pairing Santa Maria Style Barbecue with wine, the options are numerous–especially here in the heart of California’s BBQ Capital, where the world-class wines are nearly as famous as our local culinary tradition.
Now, typically barbecue is said to go with wines of the red variety. But some rules are meant to be broken, right? Enter Chardonnay, the star of the upcoming 3rd annual Chardonnay Symposium in the Santa Maria Valley on June 29 – July 1.
Hosted by the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association, the Chardonnay Symposium is the only event of its kind in the United States to focus on this popular varietal. The festivities will include an educational panel session moderated by Steve Heimoff, west coast editor of the Wine Enthusiast; a gourmet food pavilion; chef-guided wine and food pairings; satellite winemaker dinners; and a grand tasting.
The symposium kicks off on Friday evening with a “Bring Your Own Chardonnay” BBQ at the historic Sierra Madre Vineyard. Guests are invited to bring their own bottle of Chardonnay to share while enjoying a gourmet barbecue, music, dancing, wine tasting and Santa Maria-style hospitality.
Then, on Saturday, a full-day event begins at Byron Vineyard and Winery, with Heimoff headlining a distinguished panel of speakers exploring “Chardonnay and Terroir: What’s it all about?” Joining Heimoff for the discussion will be eight winemakers, all of whom craft Chardonnay in California, from regions ranging from Santa Maria Valley to Napa Valley.
Directly following the panel session, the Grand Chardonnay Tasting takes place at Byron from noon to 4 p.m. More than 50 wineries from a variety of regions will share their Chardonnays. Renowned local chefs, including Budi Kazali of The Ballard Inn, Alfonso Curti of Trattoria Uliveto and Ryan Gromfin of Central City Market, will reveal Chardonnay food pairing secrets under the demonstration tent.
The Santa Maria Valley is a natural home for Chardonnay’s ultimate showcase. Here, the varietal excels amid the valley temperate coastal climate, which is shaped by a rare “transverse” geography that runs west to east and encourages the influx of cool marine breezes. The result is one of California’s longest growing seasons, which ensures the development of complex, flavorful and exquisitely balanced Chardonnay.
Just another reason to visit the Santa Maria Valley, home of the red, white and Q!
Indeed, the spring season brings out the grills in full force while heralding the annual Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival. Happening this year on Saturday, April 21 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., this signature wine event features the fare of more than 100 Santa Barbara County wineries, caterers, specialty food purveyors and restaurants, many of whom display a serious passion for the ‘cue.
They will all converge at The Carranza, a picturesque creekside meadow tucked into a valley just outside of Los Olivos in Northern Santa Barbara County. Two live bands, wine related exhibits and a silent auction to benefit local charities will round out the day. In addition to the festival, many wineries will be offering special tastings, winemaker dinners and library tastings throughout the weekend.
Click here for tickets and information or call (805) 688-0881. And for more information on touring the Santa Maria Valley wine country, visit www.santamariawines.com and www.santamariawinecountry.com.
Of course, your culinary tour doesn’t have to end at the festival. Once your appetite returns, you can pick up right where you left off with local wines and Santa Maria Style Barbecue served by numerous local restaurants. Cheers!
The wines of the Santa Maria Valley continue to extend their hot streak, with two bottlings from Bien Nacido Vineyard being named to esteemed critic Steve Heimoff’s list of top-scoring wines of 2011 out of 4,800 wines tasted. Talk about beating the odds with remarkable fruit!
Heimoff, the West Coast editor of the Wine Enthusiast, gave the Qupe 2006 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard 25th Anniversary X-Block and Foxen 2010 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU the highest scores in their varietal categories in 2011.
Bien Nacido also took center stage in a recent roundup of recommended Central Coast Chardonnays by critic Stephen Tanzer. Of the seven wines recommended, four hailed from Bien Nacido.
This is just the latest example of how the Santa Maria Valley has quietly emerged as one of California’s elite winegrowing regions. Indeed, last year, three Santa Maria Valley-grown wines were named to the top 10 slots of the Wine Enthusiast magazine’s annual list of “The Enthusiast 100: The Most Coveted Wines of 2010.”
The year before that, the Cambria 2006 Pinot Noir from Julia’s Vineyard ranked first in the Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 list. And two wines from the Santa Maria Valley were named to the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2008 out of 19,000 wines tasted from around the world.
You get the drift…
Indeed, the Santa Maria Valley isn’t just producing great wines, it’s producing some of the finest wines in the world, giving you yet another excuse to come out and explore the vineyard-studded backroads of California’s Barbecue Capital.
And, of course, the perfect conclusion to an afternoon of wine tasting can be enjoyed at a number of local restaurants specializing in Santa Maria Style Barbecue. We look forward to sharing our local flavors with you.
In the Santa Maria Valley, our wines are renowned for offering remarkable quality. In fact, three local wines were named to the top ten slots of the Wine Enthusiast’s most recent list of Top 100 wines worldwide. Better yet, they valley is particularly celebrated for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, two varietals that are excellent accompaniments to traditional holiday fare.
We asked some of our friends in the Santa Maria Valley wine country for their recommendations, and here’s what they had to say…
According to Sherrill O’Neill of Wine Country Orcutt, “Many wines pair well with holiday meals because there are a variety of foods on the table. Sparkling wine, like Goat Bubbles from Flying Goat, adds a festive note to any meal; our wonderful Santa Maria Valley Chardonnays, such as Sierra Madre Estate Chardonnay, add elegance to a meals featuring poultry; or one of our many local Pinot Noirs make excellent food pairing partners with everything from turkey to prime rib. For dessert, consider a late harvest Viognier with pumpkin pie or a Port with Pecan Pie.”
Mark Steller of Old Town Market in Orcutt chimed in, recommending Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner or Riesling, Costa de Oro Pinot Noir, and Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir as excellent choices for the holiday dinner table.
Liz Addamo of Addamo Estate Vineyards added, “Riesling is a delicious wine to serve with your turkey dinner!”
Colleen Thompson at Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards suggested the 2009 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir Rose or 2008 Lucas & Lewellen Brut Sparkling Wine with dinner, and the 2010 Lucas & Lewellen Nectar de Viognier with dessert.
And Gary Burk, proprietor and winemaker at Costa de Oro Winery, recommended his 2009 Estate Pinot Noir from Gold Coast Vineyard, adding, “Pinot Noir is great with a variety of things on the plate. And, at Thanksgiving, there are a lot of things on the plate!”
So head out to a local winery or one of the aforementioned markets today or before Christmas to add a little local flavor to your culinary festivities!
On that note, we would like to remind you that the ultimate Chardonnay tasting is coming to the Santa Maria Valley this Saturday, July 23, as part of the 2nd annual Chardonnay Symposium, the only event of its kind dedicated to America’s top white wine.
The Grand Chardonnay Tasting at Byron Vineyard & Winery (pictured here) begins at 2 p.m. and will feature Chardonnays from more than 60 wineries paired with local artisan foods. The cost is $65 per person. Click here for information and tickets.
If you love Chardonnay, you won’t want to miss this tasting. Nowhere else can you experience so many different styles of Chardonnay from a variety of regions all under the same roof.
The Santa Maria Valley is a natural choice to host this event. Indeed, the Santa Maria Valley boasts one of California’s coolest growing environments, yielding optimal conditions for Chardonnay. Two Chardonnays from the Santa Maria Valley were named to the top 10 slots of the Wine Enthusiast magazine’s annual list of “The Enthusiast 100: The Most Coveted Wines of 2010.”
Attention Chardonnay enthusiasts! The ultimate celebration of this noble varietal is returning to the Santa Maria Valley with the second annual Chardonnay Symposium on July 22-23, hosted by the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association.
Indeed, barbecue isn’t the only thing that’s red hot in the Santa Maria Valley. Here, Chardonnay is just one of the many varietals that excel in the valley’s temperate coastal climate, which is shaped by a rare “transverse” geography that runs west to east and encourages the influx of cool marine breezes. The result is one of California’s longest growing seasons, which ensures the development of complex, flavorful and exquisitely balanced grapes. Which is why three wines grown in the Santa Maria Valley were named to the top ten slots of the Wine Enthusiast’s most recent list of Top 100 Most Coveted Wines.
The Chardonnay Symposium is the only event of its kind in the United States to focus on this popular varietal. The event begins on Friday with a Chardonnay clonal tasting and Santa Maria BBQ at Sierra Madre Vineyards, followed on Saturday by two educational panels at Bien Nacido Vineyard and Tantara Winery, as well as a star-studded luncheon at Au Bon Climat Winery.
The event concludes with a Grand Chardonnay Tasting at Byron Vineyard and Winery, featuring 50 wineries from Washington, Oregon, Sonoma and the Central Coast. Visit www.thechardonnaysymposium.com for information and tickets.
In the Santa Maria Valley, barbecue country is also wine country, and now the latter is bigger and better than ever.
Indeed, the official boundaries of the Santa Maria Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) were recently expanded to include 19,000 additional acres of land. From this point forward, any wines grown in vineyards located within the added acreage can bear the “Santa Maria Valley” appellation on their label instead of the less-specific “Santa Barbara County.”
So what’s the impetus behind the expansion? Well, when the Santa Maria Valley AVA was first established in 1981, it was conveniently drawn up with several unnatural boundaries, such as freeways and roads.
Needless to say, these boundaries left out some areas that, from a winegrowing perspective, naturally belonged to the Santa Maria Valley. With the growth of the local wine industry, more and more vineyards were planted in these areas. The new boundaries now recognize these vineyards as rightful residents of the Santa Maria Valley AVA. Click here for a story detailing the expansion.
Just recently, three Santa Maria Valley wines were named among the Wine Enthusiast’s top ten slots on its list of Top 100 Wines of 2010. The new AVA ruling just adds to the good news, and confirms that Santa Maria Style Barbecue is surrounded by other world-class flavors that beckon your taste buds.
Santa Maria BBQ isn’t the only sizzling attraction here in the Santa Maria Valley. Indeed, the local wine wine country is also red hot, as evidenced by three Santa Maria Valley-grown wines being named to the top 10 slots of the Wine Enthusiast magazine’s annual list of “The Enthusiast 100: The Most Coveted Wines of 2010.”
The Fess Parker 2008 Chardonnay (96 points) from Bien Nacido Vineyard, the Byron 2008 Pinot Noir (96 points) from Nielson Vineyard and the Rusack 2008 Chardonnay Reserve (96 points) from Bien Nacido and Sierra Madre vineyards respectively rank second, sixth and tenth on the list.
According to the Wine Enthusiast, the list was developed from thousands of wines tasted throughout the year. Of the chosen wines, the magazine states, “These wines are truly exemplary, often represent the very best of their category, and should not be missed.”
The Santa Maria Valley earned a similar spotlight last year, when the Cambria 2006 Pinot Noir from Julia’s Vineyard ranked first in the Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 list for 2009.
So if you haven’t toured the local wine country lately, you might want to put it on your list of resolutions for 2011 (after all, not all resolutions should be about dieting and exercising, right?).
To make it easy to plan your Santa Maria Valley wine vacation, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau offers a recently updated complimentary booklet called Santa Maria Valley Wine Country: A Guide to Local Wineries and Restaurants, which includes profiles and contact information for local wineries and dining establishments. An accompanying map reveals the layout of the Santa Maria Valley wine country.
The booklet is available for download here. Hard copies can also be ordered from the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau at (800) 331-3779.
So what’s the secret to the valley’s viticultural success? The Santa Maria Valley boasts a rare “transverse” geography, an east-to-west orientation that channels cool ocean air directly into the valley. The result is one of California’s longest growing seasons, which in turn ensures the development of complex, flavorful and exquisitely balanced grapes. Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay are among the varietals that excel in the region.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that many of the locally grown red wines are a fine match for classic Santa Maria Style Barbecue, right?
Gary Burk is the owner and winemaker of Costa de Oro Winery. He is also a second-generation winegrower whose father, Ron Burk, co-founded Gold Coast Farms in the Santa Maria Valley. Costa De Oro Winery specializes in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other varietals that excel in the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Barbara County. The Costa De Oro tasting room opened in 2006 at the location of the original Gold Coast Farms strawberry stand near Highway 101 in Santa Maria. We recently caught up with Gary to discuss his background in local agriculture, as well as his thoughts on pairing wine with Santa Maria Style Barbecue:
What are your earliest personal memories of farming with your family in the Santa Maria Valley?
My earliest memories are from when I was a little boy. My father was an agronomist for Frank J. Olocco, a pest control company. I can remember going out to the fields on Saturdays with my dad when he had work to do. Later, my father and his friend Bob Espinola started growing hothouse tomatoes at Bob’s property in Nipomo, and I would work in the greenhouse and even sell some of the tomatoes around the neighborhood. When I was 15, my father and Bob started Gold Coast Farms on a leased property near the intersection of Stowell Road and Highway 101. I worked there, too, moving sprinkler pipe and driving tractors. When I was younger, I just viewed it as work. I didn’t necessarily see the big picture. It wasn’t until we planted grapes that I saw agriculture as a career path. The light bulb went off for me at that point, and I was really drawn to winemaking and grape growing.
How has the Santa Maria wine country evolved since you first started making wine?
Consumer awareness has really grown over the past 15 years. During some of my first sales trips, I would travel around the country and very few people knew where the Santa Maria Valley was located. Today, everyone seems to know about the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Barbara County. They recognize the valley as a place where great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown. Also, our own local community has become more aware of this gem right in our backyard—the vineyards and the world-class wines that they produce. It’s definitely a point of local pride and excitement.
What wine do you recommend pairing with Santa Maria BBQ?
I would say a rich Pinot Noir aged in French oak, because the toasty character of the barrel gives the wine a subtle smoky quality that pairs nicely with the tri-tip off the grill. Among our Costa de Oro wines, I would recommend the 2008 Dijon Selection Pinot Noir, which was aged in 50 percent new oak. This wine is rich and smoky, with a nice strawberry-raspberry quality, which all pairs beautifully with the savory, caramelized outer crust of the tri-tip.
Thanks, Gary! For more information, visit the Costa de Oro web site.