2006 Saarloos & Sons Ring Effie Unk Santa Ynez Valley

Saarloos Ring Effie Unk

2006 Saarloos & Sons Ring Effie Unk Santa Ynez Valley

Bordeaux-Style Blend (85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc)
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 94

Uncorked: 2009.08.22 Jeff’s Birthday Dinner – served with farmer’s market finds on the grill
Concentrated and intricate, expressive and lush, elegant and delicious. There is something really special going on in this bottle of wine, and at this young age it is just beginning to demonstrate its moxy. The color is beautifully dense and saturated. Earthiness in the nose with dark berries and currants, coffee, graphite, and hints of wildflowers. Delicately extracted yet concentrated fruit flavors show remarkable restraint. Blackberry, ripe plum, and slightly sweet blueberry are balanced with good structure and body. Flavors of the vineyard itself come through with earthiness, dried herbs, and shale. Solid tannins lead to a lingering finish. Focused, sensuous, and very memorable.

$48.00 Purchased from the winery

Story about the unique name of the wine:
What is RING EFFIE UNK? Ring, Effie, and Unk are the names of family members that lived together. Ring and Effie were married and his brother, whom everyone called Unk, came to live with them. Leave a blend of personalities together for a extended period of time and no longer are they individuals but a entirely new family. They went so far as to have the names on the sign on their home include them all.

Saarloos & Sons Website

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Dinner Toast Styled

Wine is a luxury of being home.

Sure, I have my cellar in my home and I am writing this sitting on the front porch of my home while sipping the remains of the 2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 that I opened yesterday (it has only gotten better!).  We share simple family meals with a glass of wine, or have extravagant dinner parties where wine and fellowship are shared in abundance.  But that’s not my point.

Wine is not the product of nomads.  It takes years for a newly planted grapevine to produce enough fruit to make wine.  The vines need tending, the fruit needs harvesting, and the juice needs a place to undergo its transformation into wine.  Fermentation, racking, aging, bottling, storing — these are all activities that require settlement.  One of the markers that researchers and archeologists use to determine when bands of people moved from wandering to being settled is the presence of viticulture and winemaking.

20090730-021 Vineyard

Certainly wine (of sorts) can be made by nomads who find fruit, pick it, crush it, and allow natural fermentation to happen as they continue along their journey.  But viticulture, growing grapes to produce wine, simply can’t be done on the move.

In the Biblical story of the flood (with Noah and the ark), one of the first things Noah was instructed to do when the water receded was to plant a vineyard.  Those vines were a strong symbol that Noah and his kin were no longer displaced; they were now home.

The implications of wine being a product of settlement, security, having a “place” and land, are many and rich.

While I will no doubt wax on profusely about all of this at another time, I want to end here by suggesting a connection between this concept and one of my newest favorite wineries:  Saarloos & Sons.  They are making some wonderful wines and serve them in this home built in 1886 which they call simply, “House.”

Saarloos & Sons House

Each of the wines that Keith Saarloos (son) makes is connected to stories of home — stories from the vineyards where the wines had their birth as well as stories of family and ancestors whose memories and legacies are captured and honored in the naming of their bottlings.  Their family creed says it all:  “We live to honor those that have come before us, and to prepare the way for those yet to come.”  An example of their somewhat odd wine naming is their “Purper Hart.”  Not a misspelling.  It’s the Dutch translation of “Purple Heart.”  The wine (an amazing Syrah) honors John Saarloos, a member of their family who received the Purple Heart for his service in WWII.

These wines, and all wines, are connected to the land, to the people who make them, and to those who delight in drinking them.

You see… it’s about home.

2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard

Tercero 2008 Grenache Blanc

2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 90

Uncorked: 2009.08.13 Warm afternoon sipper
Delicious and elegant. Pale straw color. When cold the nose was a bit tight with lemon, green apple, minerals, and hints of pepper. Opened up with riper aromas of honeydew and stone fruit. Youthful and vibrant in the mouth. Bright and crisp citrus flavors dominate followed by nice tartness. Finishes with nice acidity. Very well balanced flavors, particularly for a wine this young. It is luscious with depth and texture in the mouth, yet remains refreshingly crisp. I could drink this all summer long. Extraordinary QPR.

$18.00 From Larry Schaffer himself after private tasting

Tercero Wines Website

2008 Foley Estates Pinot Gris Courtney’s Vineyard

Foley 2007 Pinot Gris SRH

2008 Foley Estates Pinot Gris Courtney’s Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2009.08.09 Kerri enjoyed this wine on Joyce Davis’ patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Crisp in color, aroma, and flavors. Floral hints in the nose with definite citrus and minerals. Bright melon and citrus in the mouth with an interestingly round mouthfeel. Perfect wine for a warm afternoon.

$23.00 Foley Estates Winery

Foley Estates Website

A Lesson on Bias: Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker

I confess that I have had a bias against Fess Parker wines for many years. The winery itself is gorgeous, nestled in the midst of mature vineyards along a picturesque winding road in the Santa Ynez Valley. On one of my early visits to the winery (early 1990s) we met Fess Parker himself, and were pleased to have “Davy Crocket” (or “Daniel Boone” if you prefer) autograph one of his bottles of Pinot Noir for us. It was quaint, though the facade of a skilled Hollywood production was obvious. This guy knew how to market wine… even wine that was quite unremarkable. Over the next few years, the number of tour buses visiting the winery increased, the array of products available in the tasting room eclipsed the varieties of wines, and the wines themselves… well, they remained unremarkable. So I stopped visiting Fess Parker Winery, and probably raised my nose a bit every time I drove by on my way to one of the lesser known wineries up the road.

Fess Parker Winery sm

That was until last week. One of the area’s most interesting new wine makers, Larry Schaffer, met us for a private tasting of his Tercero Wines (see yesterday’s review of his Outlier Gewurtztraminer). I came to find out that Larry is on the wine making staff of Fess Parker Winery. That got my interest. Larry spoke very highly of Blair Fox, the head winemaker at Fess Parker, and gave me a different prespective on the resources that are available to the wine making team as part of a larger enterprise. They have the luxury of selecting only certain barrels to include in their finest wines — a reality not available to the smallest producers. They have the resources to have a wine making staff, not just one winemaker and one palate shaping the wine.

Still, what made me visit Fess Parker Winery again was its accessibility to less well-trained wine consumers… I took my mother-in-law. She likes wine out of a box. White Zinfandel is her wine of choice. She wouldn’t like Tercero’s complex flavors or the big flavors in Beckmen’s juice. Of all the wineries in the valley, the one bearing the mark of the ‘coon skin cap is the one she’ll like the best.

I had set up a private tasting at Fess Parker with Larry Schaffer, assistant winemaker, to guide our experience. The first wine was a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay. I almost skipped the pour. Larry’s expressive face told me to try it. The wine had a clean, elegant aroma that got my attention. THIS is Fess Parker’s wine? I sipped and was instantly humbled. This is a new kind of wine from Fess Parker. Thinking it might be a fluke, I was still reluctant as we continued the tasting. Boy was I wrong. This team of winemakers is doing something really interesting — they are exploiting the resources available to them to create some really fine wine.

We bought two bottles — I’d have bought more if we weren’t restricted by our need to take it home on an airplane. The chardonnay would be a gift for the couple taking care of my mother-in-law’s dog (nice gift!), and I’d keep the wine that changed my mind about this winery — the 2005 Syrah “The Big Easy.” They have captured some of Santa Ynez Valley’s finest Syrah character in that bottle. See some of my impressions in the review below.

Oh, and fortunately I’ve still got that autographed bottle on display in my wine cellar at home.

Fess Parker Winery Website

2005 Fess Parker Syrah “The Big Easy”

Fess Parker 2005 Syrah Big Easy

2005 Fess Parker Syrah “The Big Easy”
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 90

Uncorked: 2009.08.02
Davis family patio – served with grilled tri-tip, sipped into the night

Improved after being open for an hour or so. Very big in the nose with dark fruit aromas, vanilla, and some earthiness. In the mouth it lives up to its name, “The Big Easy.” Big fruit, but not over-extracted. Juicy plum, cherry, and dark berry flavors with a bit of spice. Very well balanced flavors and mouth feel. Finishes with solid tanins, and the alcohol was subdued with some breathing time. I was pleasantly surprised that this came from the Fess Parker Winery — they’re producing some fine wines these days.

$40.00 Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker Winery Website

2008 Tercero Wines “The Outlier” Santa Barbara County

This is the first of many coming posts from an amazing three days in the Santa Ynez Valley.  I had the privilege to share wine and conversation with several amazing wine makers, including a few of whom I think are THE up-and-coming wine makers of the region.

It was a long drive home through LA traffic, but I’m now sitting on my Favorite Mother-in-Law’s back patio overlooking Long Beach and out over the Pacific Ocean.  It is night time, and the city lights twinkle right up to the coastline.  Next to me is my wonderful wife (who lovingly endured my endless conversations and wine passion of the last three days), and in my hand is an amazing glass of wine.  It, my friends, will be the first review from this extraordinary excursion…

 

Tercero 2008 The Outlier

2008 Tercero Wines “The Outlier” Santa Barbara County (Gewurztraminer)
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 91

Uncorked: 2009.08.01
Sitting on the Davis patio after a great wine tasting adventure

Unusual dry Gewurztraminer. On the nose there is a nice balance of tart fruit, minerals, and floral aromas. It is a surprise in the mouth — very bright and clean, crisp and tart fruit flavors, hints of spice, subtle floral notes, and lots of minerals and earthiness. The flavors open up in the middle of the mouth with a wash of opulence – almost suede-like in the feel. Much more body in the mouth than expected. The finish continues through the bright finish. Excellent acid and clean tanins. Balance and elegance are the words forthis surprisingly delicious wine. I didn’t expect this from a Gewurztraminer. Will easily become a summer favorite.

$18.00 from Larry Schaffer himself

Tercero Wines Website