Grape-Nutz Reviews the Sta. Rita Hills Northern California Road Trip
by Ken Zinns
"Overall, the wines poured at this tasting were very good, and of high quality. There was a fairly high percentage of the total number of wines that made my favorites list, and there were a few more that just missed it. Kessler-Haak and Longoria presented two of the stronger wine line-ups at the tasting, and Kessler-Haak and Liquid Farm stood out among the producers that were new to me. The whites at the tasting were quite nice, and my favorites included several varieties. I noticed that the Pinots that were among my favorites were evenly split among the 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages – they all had something to offer. As I’ve found in the past, Pinot Noirs from the Sta. Rita Hills tend to be on the bigger, more “masculine” end of the Pinot spectrum, but they retain very good acidity, most likely due to the soils and climate of the region. In fact, I think that fine acidity is the single most distinguishing characteristic of wines from this AVA.
This tasting did a fine job of showcasing some of the best wines coming from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, and it introduced me to several newer producers who are already making some standout wines. I’m looking forward to the next Sta. Rita Hills Northern California Road Trip."
Click here to read the full article and wine reviews.
Press Release: Concerning the Proposed AVA Expansion
A petition to extend the eastern boundaries of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA was recently submitted to TTB by Patrick Shabram. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA lies within the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA, an east-west transverse valley with a continuum of climatic and geological features influenced by its opening to the Pacific Ocean. The current and original AVA boundaries were carefully and exhaustively determined in 2001 by the original petitioners based on patterns of daily oceanic fog and temperature data. The eastern boundary to the AVA is a north-south range of hills that alters the sea fog pattern and brings an increase in daily temperatures moving east from this boundary. In the opinion of the original petitioners and the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance (SRHWA), it is imperative that the cool-climate environment for winegrowing is maintained. A study of the data in the petition submitted by Mr. Shabram will be reviewed by the Alliance Board, but at this time the SRHWA stands by the integrity of the original and current boundaries.
All That Video...
VineStories is a wine education website which
introduces consumers to limited-production wineries
through mini-documentaries. Check it out here!
Our road trip and
tasting at palate food+wine
Recently, a group of Sta. Rita Hills winemakers joined forces
with chef/owner Octavio Becera at palate restaurant. Writer Patricia
Decker was there, and noted: “Glass after glass of sultry
Pinot Noir seduced eager fans of the finicky grape at the Sta.
Rita Hills winemaker dinner at Palate Food & Wine in Glendale
on Sunday April 3rd. Over 20 different wineries cast their spell
on the crowd, who clamored for more California Pinot, and couldn't
decide which was their favorite.”
Read the entire article
Transcendence - Los Angeles Times Magazine
Wes Hagen writes about Sta. Rita Hills and the art of Pinot Noir
for the LA Times.
There are barely a dozen hospitable
locations for growing world-class pinot, many in California (Central
North Coast, Monterey County), the Willamette Valley of Oregon,
New Zealand (include, if you must, parts of Australia and Tasmania)
and, of course, Europe, with isolated exposures in Germany, Alsace,
Austria, Switzerland and France (Champagne, Burgundy). A perfect
storm of climate and rarefied dirt is required to make a palatable
pinot...and to make a profound bottle takes nothing short of
The miracle of the region’s microclimate, which allows
the Santa Rita Hills to produce glorious pinot noir, began about
million years ago deep under the Pacific Ocean. During a violent
tectonic shift in the Miocene epoch, the Pacific tectonic plate
crashed against the North American plate, and mountains rose out
of the ocean in a north-south orientation.
Read the entire article
Daley, of the Chicago Tribune, recently profiled our cool
climate appellation in the newspaper’s food section. “With
the Pacific Ocean just 11 miles to the west and, thanks to the
coastline's sharp curve eastward at Point Conception, also nine
miles to the south, Sta. Rita Hills is blessed with a unique climate
that winemakers began to realize would be ideal for France's cooler
weather grapes, notably pinot noir and chardonnay. Coastal fogs
and ocean breezes keep such a lid on the heat that temperatures
rise roughly one degree for every mile you travel east through
And since this is the Food section, Daley recommends “Serve
Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir with broiled, mustard-coated chicken
thighs, roast beef sandwiches,
roasted duck, grilled pork tenderloin, grilled salmon, roast chicken
and your Thanksgiving roast turkey.”
Read the entire article
Steve Heimoff, West Coast Editor for the Wine Enthusiast
wrote about Sta. Rita Hills in his blog:
In California (as everywhere),
wine regions want to be thought of as special. A region that’s
perceived as special can charge more money for their wines, which
in turn lets them invest in their viticulture and enology and make
the wines even better. This is why every wine region in California
is secretly jealous of Napa Valley (not that they’d admit
But not every wine region can be special. It’s a law
of the universe. In this day and age of marketing, though, wine
regions do the most amazing things to promote themselves as special.
They form regional associations, charge dues, and hire publicists
to, well, publicize their attributes and paint them in the best
possible light. Nothing wrong with that. If you’re a wine
region and you don’t blow your own horn, you’ve got
Which makes it all the more remarkable when a new wine region
comes on the scene and achieves fame even before they have a functioning
association and with hardly lifting a finger to promote themselves.
I’m talking about the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa
Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley.
Sta. Rita Hills (as the name must appear on the label to avoid
a conflict of interest with Chile’s Santa Rita Winery) is
probably most famous as the main location of the movie Sideways,
but that film did not create SRH’s fame. I can’t even
recall that the words “Santa Rita Hills” were ever uttered
in the movie. (If anyone knows, please tell me.)
Besides, wine critics are not about to salivate over a wine
region simply because it’s in a movie.
No, the critics began praising SRH
in the ‘90s, and the
pace has simply accelerated in the 2000s. Today, I think it’s
safe to say that SRH stands as one of the greatest places in the
New World to grow Pinot Noir (and they do a great job at Chardonnay
and Syrah and Pinot Gris and perhaps one or two others).
And they got there on their own — not
with fancy marketing packages and press kits and events with
celebrity auctioneers. Not
with spin and hype. Not by luring in big spenders with resorts
and great restaurants and golf courses. They did it the old-fashioned
way: They earned it. (I can still hear John Houseman saying
complete blog here.
A pictorial essay of California's newest 'hotbed'
for Pinot Noir
Grape Nutz visited the appellation one Fall weekend and took some
great photographs. View
the essay here.