And the Runner-Up is…


At Curtis Winery,  Santa Ynez Valley, California

Last week I wrote about a fantastic experience at Bedford Winery in Los Alamos, California, the winner for my July visit to Santa Barbara County Wine Country. The runner-up for that day trip is Curtis, a small production winery specializing in Rhône varietals and blends. Curtis is owned by the Firestone family, who also owned the namesake Firestone Winery that is now part of  Foley Family Estates.

The Curtis tasting room is a in a particularly picturesque location, with extensive mountain and vineyard views and some spectacular oak trees. The tasting room is bright and open, adjacent to their large oak fermentation tanks. All of the wines poured that day were balanced and fresh, especially for young wines (2009-11 vintages) and with reasonable alcohol contents for their varietals.

I especially enjoyed their 2009 Heritage Cuvée, (rated 91 points by James Suckling), a traditional red Rhône blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah as well as their 2009 Mourvedre, one varietal that is not commonly found on its own. The 2010 Heritage Blanc, a white Rhône blend of Viognier and Rousanne, (rated 92 points by James Suckling),the 2010 Viognier, (rated 90 points by James Suckling) and the 2009 Syrah (rated 93 points and “Best Buy” by Wine and Spirits Magazine). All were excellent wines, especially when paired with their $20-$25 price tags.

Although it is not normally poured in the tasting room, Curtis also produces the “Jarhead” line of wines whose proceeds benefit the educational assistance for children of fallen US Marines. I purchased their $24 2009 Red Reserve Cabernet Franc, both for the cause and the varietal, one of my favorites. Other Jarhead wines are their 2010 Chardonnay and 2009 Jarhead Red Blend, each at $15.

Curtis also produces their Rock Hollow Line of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, each with a modest $15 price tag.

Evans Ranch Tasting Room in downtown Los Olivos

Back in Los Olivos, I visited the tasting room of Evans Ranch, the small production winery of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of Gainey Vineyards. While the wines were good, nothing was a standout. Their website is coming soon.

Lastly, I can honestly say to avoid Alexander and Wayne in downtown Los Olivos. The woman who was pouring the wines could not answer questions and revealed that she didn’t drink wine. Aside from that, the wines were quite lackluster with no differentiation… all, regardless of varietal, had the same taste and aftertaste.

One always takes a chance when wine tasting. As in life, there are no guarantees. But a stand out wine or winery makes it all worthwhile.

Until next time…à votre santé!   

Photos by Christine Humphrey ©2012

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