Larner…a Santa Barbara County Gem in the Old World Tradition

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Learning about wine is so exciting to me, especially discovering new wineries and talking to passionate winemakers when “on the road” to our local Central Coast wineries. It seems that there is often a surprise that was not on the itinerary but was added spontaneously on the recommendation from another winery. On the last trip, to Paso Robles, that winery was Villa CreekThis time, that little gem was Larner winery, a small production, family-owned boutique winery of Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara County.

Michael Larner espouses the Old World terroir-driven philosophy of winemaking, producing wines that have a “sense of place”, thereby expressing the earth and overall climate from which they come. Michael travelled and trained in vineyards in Italy and France, where terroir is the essence of what wine is all about. The New World philosophy is somewhat different, with the grape varietal taking center stage. But times are changing, with terroir becoming more important to innovative domestic winemakers like Michael Larner.

With the exception of the Malvasia Bianca, a tribute to Italy, the Larner’s wines are varietals and blends native to France’s Rhône Valley.

Tasted this weekend:

~2011 Malvasia Blanca, lower alcohol, (12.1%) aromatic and perfect with Asian foods. 55 cases produced.

~2010 Viognier, a fragrant Rhône white that stands alone beautifully with seafood, especially as a starter. 35 cases produced.

~2010 Rosé, a Rhône rosé traditional blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, with a touch of spice. 27 cases produced.

~2009 Grenache, medium-bodied, excellent berry and fruit aromatics. Pairs well with both poultry and light meats. 94 cases produced

~2009 Elemental – a proprietary blend of 65% Grenache, 23% Syrah and 12% Mourvèdre – nice fruit spice and mouth feel to pair with pasta, poultry and meat. 219 cases produced

~2009 Syrah – bold and opulent, a perfect pairing with any meat or game. 285 cases produced.

And the Finale, 2009 Reserve Syrah…the “ultimate expression”of the grape…rich, flavorful and bold, but very balanced. This was an exceptional wine. 112 cases produced.

All of this greatness in just 33 barrels of wine! (a barrel of wine is approximately 25 cases)

The wines are priced from $23 for the Rosé to $40 for the 2009 Grenache. The 2009 Reserve Syrah is priced at $65.

The current tasting room is in the Los Olivos General Store at 2900 Grand Avenue in the center of town. The Larners have plans to eventually open a tasting room in the old Ballard General Store on their vineyard property in
Ballard Canyon. Michael is also one of the founders of the new Ballard Canyon AVA (American Viticultural Area) of Santa Barbara County…a “perfect pairing” of winemaker and terroir!

Larner Vineyard and Winery…Geology ~ Origins ~ Territory

Larner Wines are a “must taste” when in Los Olivos. Open Friday-Sunday 11-5 and other days by appointment. (805) 686-2440 larnerwine.com and larnervineyard.com/

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Until next time… à votre santé!

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Photos by Christine Humphrey ©2013

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