The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2013

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Page 109 of 152

APPELLATIONS "Wine & Fire" THE INDUSTRY PAYS HOMAGE TO THE STA. RITA HILLS AVA story and photos by Jeremy Ball O Winemaker Wes Hagen discusses the history and unique soil profiles found in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. n a warm August night, an eager crowd gathered inside the historic Sanford & Benedict Vineyard barn to kick off "Wine & Fire" weekend in the Sta. Rita Hills. This gorgeous site is really the birthplace of the appellation in Santa Barbara County where Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict planted the very first vineyard in 1970. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA (officially abbreviated from Santa Rita Hills for legal reasons) has since evolved into one of the world's most highly respected appellations for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Not only does it have one of the longest, coolest growing seasons of any winegrowing area, it also has one of the world's largest calcium deposits. The vines' mineral uptake thickens the skins of the grapes and intensifies the flavors of the juice, resulting in wines with great concentration, complex structure and laser-like acidity. Under the roof that housed the AVA's first winery, an intimate tasting was held by members of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance. The winemakers themselves were there to proudly showcase library wines and exclusive offerings to enthusiastic weekend ticket holders. The following Saturday morning, a panel of esteemed winemakers and growers from the region gathered at Hilliard-Bruce vineyards to Sta. Rita Hills visionary Richard discuss the AVA's most prized Sanford chats with Wine & Fire varieties—Chardonnay and Pinot attendees. Noir—and their resulting wines. Winemakers bantered on terroir, winemaking techniques and farming, while guests were given an opportunity to ask questions both at the seminar and later at the luncheon. The evening culminated in a Grand Tasting under the stars in the gardens of La Purisima Mission. The tasting consisted of wines from more than 25 members of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance along with delicious cuisine from local restaurants. Adam Lee, winemaker and owner of Siduri Wines who sources fruit from the Sta. Rita Hills, best summed up the weekend: "The people down here are fantastic. They welcome you from the inside or outside. They are able to tell people about the specifics—as detailed as you want as far as winemaking goes—but they are also able to say, 'This is just a fun wine; it's a good wine to drink, it's a good wine to enjoy.' It's one of the best events I've ever been to." october 2013  /  the tasting panel  /  109 TP1013_104-152.indd 109 9/23/13 10:34 PM

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