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Posts Tagged ‘Santa Barbara’

Santa Barbara Wine Country

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2006 Blackjack Ranch Allusion, Santa Barbara County

Solvang, near heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country

Solvang, near heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country

For the past six years, I’ve taken a trip with friends up to Santa Barbara Wine Country. It’s a very peaceful wine vacation. I enjoy other wine regions, including the ones north of San Francisco. Sonoma County has a laid-back atmosphere and the crowds aren’t out of control. Napa, on the other hand is so popular that the Silverado Trail is so crowded during the summer that you’d be better off walking from winery to winery. Santa Barbara is still so chill, similar to other beach towns that dot the Southern California coastline.

We visited Blackjack Ranch Vineyards & Winery during the Summer of 2012.  Blackjack is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, north of the town of Solvang.  It was one of the wineries featured in the movie, Sideways. I hated that movie so much that I almost didn’t agree to go there with my group of travel companions. But, I’m glad I kept an open mind. Not only is the wine awesome, the winery grounds are beautiful.

Blackjack Ranch Winery in Santa Barbara Wine Country

Blackjack Ranch Winery in Santa Barbara Wine Country

The tasting room is constructed of recycled materials that were salvaged from a building that previously stood on the land. It’s rustic but certainly not a dump. I spent a lot of time wandering the grounds, which were less rustic, more HGTV.  The vineyards range from flat to Billy-goat accessible hillsides.

Blackjack's Billy Goat Vineyard

Blackjack’s Billy Goat Vineyard

The server insisted we try Allusion.  Again, by being agreeable I scored a taste of the most richly flavored wine of the day.  It’s a Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. I paid $30 for this 2006.  Currently, later vintages are running about $35.

I opened my bottle last night. When I sniffed, the herbal nose excitesmy olfactory senses, readying you for the greatness to come.  With that first sip, I get sweet tobacco.  This wine is velvety with not too much fruit.  The fruit tastes of mellow blueberry but without being  jammy.  As I go back for one more sip and another, that’s when I taste the depth of this wine.  Then, the bell pepper from the Cab Franc comes out to play with your taste buds.  It’s special.


Map Santa Barbara Topograpghy

Santa Barbara Wine Country Benefits from Ocean Breezes

The winery is located in the Central Coast AVA begins just south of San Francisco Bay down to Santa Barbara, then extends east to the Central Valley.  If you look at a map of California, you’ll notice a swath of land mass jutting west, just north of Los Angeles. Also, you’ll see a mountain range that runs east/west.  As a result of this zig-zag orientation, the vineyards of Santa Barbara County are blessed with breezes off the Pacific Ocean.

The Blackjack Ranch name was devised by owner Roger Wisted.  Roger invented a card game called California Blackjack.  Since gaming was illegal, he had a work around the law by changing the game up a bit.  In his version,  players used two aces, called a “Natural”.  So, technically that made the game “22”, not “21”.  Six years later, Roger took part of this gaming fortune and poured it into the ranch.  In 1997, the winery’s first vintage was produced.

Blackjack Ranch Winery Grounds

Blackjack Ranch Winery Grounds




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Top-Rated Wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma and Santa Barbara

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Enjoy these Top-Rated Wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma and Santa Barbara

As the weather turns warmer, many people turn to white whites and these three whites from Napa Valley, Sonoma and Santa Barbara are sure winners.  I recommend these top-rated wines because they are refreshingly crisp and are fairly inexpensive but still make worthy dinner companions because of the balance of fruit and acidity they bring to the table.  For this review, I  drank two Sauvignon Blanc wines, one from Napa Valley and the other from nearby Sonoma.  Next, I tasted a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay that was perfect for casual drinking on an unexpectedly warm day.

5/5 Silverado Vineyards Miller Ranch 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
This is a classic Sauv Blanc with grapefruit, lemon/lime zestiness. That’s why it earns a  great wine review rating. It has a lovely bright and crisp finish. Between this wine and the weather, it felt like I was enjoying a hot, August day. It’s great to see some of that esteemed Napa soil being used to grow Sauvignon Blanc. Blended with Semillion, this wine is a great example of a Bordeaux-style white. $22

Hanna Sauvignon Blanc

Hanna Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma

5*/5 Hanna Estate Grown 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma
My review for this wine is an impressive 5-star with value/5 rating.  I recommended this winery to a couple heading up to Sonoma for a long, weekend getaway. This wine is a great value especially from the Russian River Valley, which can be a high-rent district for California wineries. It’s wonderfully crisp, but delicate. It has the tropical flavor of pineapple, and a bit of Granny Smith apple with a lemon finish. Don’t be turned off by the screw-cap closure. $18

5*/5 Tangley Oaks 2007 Chardonnay, Lot #4, Central Coast
Here I go again with my Chardonnay disclaimer. I don’t typically care for these wines but, of course there are always exceptions, which explains the high rating I gave this Chard.  Tangley Oaks Chardonnay is not overly oaky, the very thing I dislike about chardonnays.  What a nice touch of vanilla with a Bit-o-Honey, which was one of my favorite candy bars as kid. Maybe I liked it so much though because it tasted like a Sauvignon Blanc with creamy pear and zesty lemon. $14

Here’s an explanation of my Tasting Notes Ranking System.



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