Day two of my excellent recent trip to Santa Maria Valley started with a visit to the Central Coast Wine Services Center which houses an expansive crush-to-bottle service center with access to the best grapes in the Valley, winemaking facilities, analysis, storage, bottling, filtering, branding, packaging, and more. The building houses 400,000 sq. feet of production space and can warehouse up to 685, 000 cases of wine. Yes, it is servicing some large scale operations, but it is also a beehive of activity for Garagiste winemakers that are using small footprint areas of the facility to house their tiny production facilities. Many of the names you may know (or should know)as boutique wineries are actually made here because of the instant access to Vinquiry (analysis) in the building, bottling lines and storage. Sans Liege, Paul Lato, Tyler Winery, Bonaccorsi, Conway Family Wines/Deep Sea, Nipomo Wine Group/Phantom Rivers, La Fenetre/Timeless Pallets, K Furtado, and Deovlet Wines are all here making small batch wonders.
My first winemaker encounter of the day was a tasting with Ryan Deovlet and he is making a Pinot and a Chardonnay that turned out to be two of my favorite wines out of about 60 that I tasted on my trip. Ryan has cut his teeth at such wineries as Stephen Ross, and the Central Coast cult phenomenon, Sanguis before striking out on his own. As I traveled around for the next two days, the buzz from other winemakers, tasting rooms, and wine-bars was that Deovlet was one of the new hot wines to watch. As I entered his space, (which consists of storage for a couple dozen barrels and a 10' x 12' area where he works) I noticed the small collection of dead soldiers on a top shelf, mostly Burgundies and the essential Chave. I knew I was dealing with someone with my kind of old-world palate and sensibility. It shows in his two excellent current releases, the 2009 La Encantada Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills and the 2009 Solomon Hills Chardonnay Santa Maria. These are both done in a Burgundian style, giving sensitive treatment to the fruit.The Pinot only had gravity racking --it never saw a pump. For now, the best place to find these delicious wines is on his site. Highly Recommended.
As I was supposed to be rushing out of the CCWS to my next appointment, Curt Schalchlin of Sans Liege Wines caught my eye and I had to say hello. His wines have a cult following and I can see why. I have had his "Offering" and "Call to Arms" wines, Red Rhone and White Rhone blends respectively from 2008 and they are unctous, rich, opulent wines. Worth checking out if you're a Rhone Ranger.
I left the CCWS with a bunch of wines that I can't wait to try, so the posts should keep coming about the wines coming out of this extradordiary place.
Next up was a trip across town to Kenneth Volk where I met Michael Brughelli, Director of Operations to taste Volk's current offerings and do some barrel tasting. Mike is an amazing talent and has staggering wine knowledge for someone as young as he. As we went through the '09 barrels, comparing the same wine, different barrel...same wine, different yeast...same barrel, different vineyard block...he spoke with a vivid memory of each element in the process, every inch of the vineyard from which it came, the flavor of every barrel. Several of the barrels popped out at me, especially the Sierra Madre Pinot and the Bien Nacido Vineyards Pinot. Both were great wines and things to definitely look for when they come out. We then tasted some finished wines and I got a feel for the vast array of grapes that Kenneth and Michael like to work with, some very rare in California, which they refer to as "Heirloom" Wines. I tasted the likes of Verdelho, Touriga, Negrette (maybe the most smoked-meat scented wine I have ever smelled), Alianico, Tempranillo, and Mouvedre. My favorite of this round was the 2007 Kenneth Volk Zinfandel from Enz Vineyard, a lovely, light, restrained Zin. If you're in the area, a visit here is a must.