What’s the most exciting wine region in California today? My vote goes to the two southernmost counties of the central coast, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, which are producing wines of great vibrancy and power. These are truly maritime wines: vines cooled by the Pacific, made by individualistic winemakers creating lean-and-mean whites as well as intense, dusty fruited reds.
Cold Heaven Viognier
Santa Ynez Valley 2010, $21
A perfect Viognier—wintergreen flavors accented by firm fruit and minerals. Equally at home at the beach with clams or a candlelight dinner with grilled scallops and mango.
Santa Rita Hills 2010, $30
Finely focused flavors of firm pear and raw hazelnuts. Oak and butter lay hidden in the background, making this a super halibut wine.
Alma Rosa, Pinot Noir
Santa Rita Hills 2009, $23
Snappy flavors of blackberry and oak with great depth. A Pinot to drink with steak.
Stolpman “Originals” Syrah
Santa Ynez Valley 2009, $27
Elegant but deceptively full-scaled and long. Bacon and plum aromas reemerge on the palate with vigor and substance.
Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.