After leaving Volk, I headed to Foxen to taste with Co-owner, Winemaker, and Viticulturist, Billy Wathan. Billy and Dick Doré started Foxen in 1985 to focus on Pinot, Chardonnay, and Rhone-style wines. Foxen had achived fame way before Sideways but the film really put them on the map. (You may remember the scene where Miles and Jack help themselves to full glasses of wine when the pourer turns her back.)
Tasting here is a two-part affair. First you start at the old Shack, opened in 1987, which has current offerings, and then head up the road to the new solar-powered tasting room for some more reserve wines. In the shack, my favorite things were the bracing, leesy 2010 Foxen Sauvignon Blanc - rich and viscous, the 2008 Foxen Cabernet Franc Rock Hollow - quite a hit of new French oak, but had a nice Chinon-like quality to it (with a bit more heat!) and the spicy 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Grassini Family Vineyard from the new Happy Canyon AVA.
At the main tasting room, I started with one of the most lemony Chardonnays I have ever had, the 2009 Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard - Block UU. They refer to this as the lemon drop. This one might be fun to pair with something like a creamy shrimp dish that could use a citrus-y counterpart. Next was the 2009 Chardonnay, Tinaquaic Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley which I thought was excellent. It is creamier and bigger than the Block UU. Recommended. Of course, the reds are where Foxen shines brightest. They produce Pinots from some of the best vineyards in Santa Barbara county, including Bien Nacido Block 8, Julia's, Seasmoke, Bien Nacido Block N, and Sanford & Benedict to name a few. There weren't a lot of Pinots open, so of the ones I tried, I enjoyed the 2008 Foxen Bien Nacido Block 8 Pinot the most, with its spice and cranberry flavors. I also liked the 2009 Foxen Santa Maria Valley Pinot which comes from mostly Pommard clones from Bien Nacido and Julia's vineyards.
My next stop was one that defines why I spend my free time driving 800 miles in a rare mini-vacation weekend and writing about wine. My contacts at CCWS set me up with an exciting afternoon with a brand new winery, Presqu'ile, high on the hills next to Addamo off Clark Avenue. As I mentioned in my previous post, Presqu'ile was started by Matt Murphy (and family) and Dieter Cronje, both who were at Ambullneo previously. Most of my tastings are spitting affairs, where 95% of everything I taste goes down the drain instead of my gullet, but it was now 5 pm on Friday and the stunning Murphy house was set up with some awesome cheeses, Presqu'ile's wonderful wines and a breathtaking view of the Valley. So, Matt, Dieter, and I sat and chatted, snacked, and drank together for almost 2 hours. For now, there is no tasting room, but in 2012, there will be an extraordinary production facility, tasting room, and cave. They are just excavating the cave now and are setting up gravity-heavy production with old-school touches like adding cement fermentation tanks (like you see in the Rhone), natural yeast usage, and no filteration. The 2009 Presqu'ile Sauvignon Blanc was done partially in stainless, partly in neutral barrels and the some cement fermentation. The result is a wine with a complex mouth feel, crisp acidity and clean flavors. The 2009 Presqu'ile Chardonnay is treated to only about 10% new oak and 90% neutral oak with lots of stirring, so it has a beautiful weight to it. I think this will be one of those defining wines of the area. Lighter in alcohol than a lot of SB Chardonnays, it is very food friendly and priced at $35.00, which is a great value for a wine of this exceptional quality.
I was lucky to taste the sold-out 2008 Presqu'ile Santa Maria Pinot Noir and the current release from 2009. The 2008 was more extracted and felt like it had a touch more alcohol on it but the extra year gave it great depth. The 2009 Presqu'ile Santa Maria Pinot Noir, I feel is a more structured wine and in time will show greatness with age. It has lovely Burgundian truffle/forest floor aromas and feels very natural. Very highly recommended, especially at $42.00.
I said my goodbyes as the sun was setting, not without buying 2 of each wine.
Later, I found myself at Chef Rick's - The place to eat in Orcutt, the next down down from Santa Maria. Everything there always has something special to it and it is one of my favorite things about visiting the area. The garlic soup, tinged with Indian spices is amazing and is served with most entrees. I started off with some excellent fritters made with artichokes and goat cheese - with a nice red pepper sauce.
Next up was cheesy grits with spicy shrimp, Creole-style spices, rosemary, and thyme with a light beautiful sauce, sopped up with their amazing home-made rolls. Don't miss Rick's.