Today we’re heading out to explore some of the great wineries we’ve been researching in the Buellton CA area. It’s no wonder they picked the region between Santa Barbara and Buellton CA for the movie Sideways. Aside from cattle ranching, the various nut farms (Pistachio, Walnut and Almonds) and open fields of oats, most of the agriculture around here is dedicated to vineyards. There are so many great wineries around here you have to make some pretty tough decisions about where you want to spend your time and your palate. We try to find great wine producers with interesting stories – of course that’s like most wineries in the region. So the ones that make our hit list have to be special.
Wining can be hard and dangerous work too! You can’t just go from winery to winery without a farmer’s breakfast to brace yourself against drinking a lot more alcohol in a day than most people can, or should tolerate. And it creeps up on you, so our personal limit is generally 2-3 wineries in a day and we normally split our pours and a have a solid lunch in between. Two before noon and at most two in the afternoon seems to work for us.
Today we’ve decided on a strong two-fer in Dierberg/Starlane Vineyards as our first choice. We get two wineries with very diverse tastings and a great winemaker’s story to boot.
Wine grape varietals around here are driven by micro-climates best suited to the grapes. And the Dierbergs are a classic example of inspiring winemakers who know their grapes. They’ve owned the Hermannhof Winery in Missouri for over 40 years, originally established in 1852 and one of the oldest wineries in the country. But the Dierbergs also wanted to produce wines with grapes better suited to the warm days and cool nights of the Santa Barbara, Paso Robles and Buellton region.
Best known for Cabs, Pinots and Chardonnay wines, they excel at all three. Not only did we enjoy the wines, but we were impressed by the story of their heritage and excited to learn this was the sister winery of their founding location in Missouri.
We will be in their general neighborhood next year visiting the daughter of close friends Steve and Carolyn for the tradition of Homecoming at the University of Missouri. The whole college homecoming thing was first started there at “Mizzou”. They literally paint the town for the campus celebration. But we plan on working in a visit to the Hermannhof Winery while we’re there.
Another inspiring story brings us to Babcock Vineyards. Besides their delicious tasting Pino Noirs, we were impressed by the story of the owner’s son, Bryan Babcock, who has been named by the prestigious James Beard Foundation as one of the top ten small production winemakers in the world. Bryan Babcock was the only American named in that dream team.
The Babcock wines were impressive, particularly their Pinots. They also have a fun and eclectic tasting room, which is a large barn affair, with fascinating antiques scattered everywhere around you. We were told the owner’s wife loves to collect antiques and put them on display. Most, if not all, are for sale too.
Michele and Susan, one of the main servers at Babcock struck up a friendship over more than a few excellent pours and remain connected through Facebook still. Very nice people and in my opinion, some of the best Pinots I’ve tasted in the area.