The SOMM Journal

February / March 2017

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Page 34 of 116

{ santa barbara } 34 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017 "Art is a treating of the commonplace with the feeling of the sublime." —Jean- François Millet, 19th-century French painter noted for his scenes of farm land In our October/November story, I wrote a "ballad" to Ballard Canyon, one of Santa Barbara County's small AVAs, led by a band of seven wineries and 17 estates. It's the southernmost AVA in the county, lin - ing the hilly backroads of the Santa Ynez Valley. Warm days, cool breezy afternoons, well-drained soils and a devotion to Rhône varieties makes this sub-region a standout. I returned to the AVA this past December and discovered yet another gem: Kimsey. Former Global CEO of Ernst & Young, Bill Kimsey, a native Missourian, founded the win - ery when he retired from his London-based position after 32 years working for one of the "Big Four" accounting firms. The 45-acre Kimsey estate lies in the furthest southern and western—and coolest—portion of Ballard Canyon, up winding roads and nes - tled into the hills, adorned with undulating vineyards and a man-made pond. I am honored to taste with Bill and Kimsey winemaker Matt Dees on a rare warm winter day. We start with the Kimsey 2013 White Blend ($60), comprised of 74 percent Roussanne and 26 percent Viognier, mineral-rich with notes of Asian pear, mouth-filling and focused. The dry finish offers up exotic jas - mine, wild flowers and a mild salinity. Matt Dees, a trained soil scientist, is coincidentally also from Missouri. He made wine in Vermont, eventually moved to Napa, worked harvests in New Zealand and relocated to the Santa Ynez Valley in 2004. "Syrah turns me on," he tells The Somm Journal. "This is the place to be." The level of extract in the white blend is formidable. "2013 is big," notes Dees. "It was our first serious drought vintage, and the '13 reds really illustrate the beauty of the vintage." In fact, the Kimsey 2013 Grenache ($60) is a thrillingly seasoned red that speaks of freshness. Rhubarb, pomegranate and mocha lead the way. "The tannins start on the front of the tongue," Dees points out. "Grenache can be clumsy, but what I enjoy about this one is the crunchy quality." When I ask Dees about his barrel program, he quickly responds, "Used, used, used!" Vine density is set to the highest standard, and vines are severely pruned. "That keeps them healthy and balanced," explains Dees. The exceptional Kimsey 2013 Syrah ($60) again showcases the 2013 vintage, alive with plum spice, goji berries, cherry wood, cinnamon, chocolate and candy cane. Tannins show sanguine, meaty character and the touch of white pep - per on the finish keeps it centered. By comparison, the Kimsey 2014 Syrah ($60), newly released this spring, displays an astonishing nose of deep blueberry-cherry and a satin carpet of a mouthfeel that felt as close to the sensation of petting a cat as I have ever experienced when tasting wine. The tannins are finely grained, and they linger and "forgive." Based on massale from Kimsey's Block 7, eight clonal selections are planted to every other vine for complexity and a range of flavor profiles. (See my article on clonal massale on page 32.) The higher-elevation Ballard Canyon AVA overlooks the valley, and from the Kimsey vantage point one can see the expanse of the Santa Rita Hills, the fog creeping up over the hump of the mountains. But the wind hits hard here and the fog is chased away, allowing the sunshine to penetrate without overheat - ing the vines. The result is a super-charged, balanced ripeness that blesses the grapes. Kimsey Winemaker Matt Dees. Blessed Grapes MORE PROOF THAT THE BALLARD CANYON AVA EVOKES THE SUBLIME by Meridith May PHOTOS: COURTESY OF KIMSEY A view of the Kimsey Estate.

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