Foxen


A long time favorite of regulars to the area, Foxen remains a “must taste” destination along the Foxen Canyon wine trail. The famous roadside shack, which served as the tasting room for many years, is still preserved, but has been renamed as “Foxen 7200”, and is reserved for featuring Bordeaux and Cal-Ital style wines, with the new winery and tasting room a few hundred yards down the road dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rhone style wines. There’s a lot going on at this winery, but founding partner and winemaker Bill Wathen has maintained a simple but meticulous approach to viticulture and winemaking that brings vivacity and elegance to his wines. While they’re not all home runs, there’s plenty here to be very, very happy about.

Luckily, Foxen knew better than to mess with it’s shack, and 7200 retains every ounce of character and charm that we remember from our first trips to SBC many years ago. Walking in, you instantly absorb the history of this former blacksmith shop, and the decades of casual revelry in wine goodness that’s taken place within this tiny room. The kitschy wine shrine only adds to the funkiness of the place. This is not a glossy tour bus stop for the brazilian blow-out crowd (although we did see an overtly car proud Aston Martin owner during our last visit who wasn’t even tasting – oh boy!), but a no-foolin’, no frills stop for soaking in the quiet beauty of this back country road.

The wines here don’t disappoint, either. One surprising standout from our recent trip was the ’08 Rock Hollow Vineyard Cabernet Franc. I can’t remember the last time I was excited about a California Cab Franc, but this wine was packed with spicy ripe blackberry and blueberry flavors atop a backbone of dusty earth and leather with muted tannins and a nice long finish. While it sounds powerful, this wine carries its weight very well, and offers up a richly balanced package of punch and grace.

Another great offering at 7200 was the ’08 Range 30 West, a nicely complex Bordeaux blend from the Vogelzang vineyard in Happy Canyon that features a beautiful round raspberry fruit tone that’s expertly balanced with pepper, cedar and fine-grained tannins.

What the new Foxen tasting room down the road lacks in charm, it makes up for in the bottle. This is definitely a winery where it pays to be in the wine club, since many of their best Pinot Noir wines are sold out through the club. But there was still plenty to get excited about without the Pinots. The ’09 Tinaquaic Vineyard Chardonnay we tried was outstanding, which, while maintaining an understated classic California Chardonnay character due to the oak barrel fermentation, was nonetheless crisp and almost lean. The Tinaquaic vineyard is the classic Foxen estate vineyard, and receives no irrigation, which accounts for the stony backbone that was layered with delightful pineapple and ripe apricot fruit.

The 2010 Rosé of Mouvedre was a dry and crisp wine with beautiful strawberry and watermelon fruit and an ultra lean and clean finish. A great summer wine that will complement just about any food, with just enough body and character to keep things interesting.

Foxen really has everything we love in a SBC winery – history, character, great people, beautiful setting, and outstanding wines. Are we happy yet?

Foxen

7600 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454

map

805.937.4251

Open daily 11 to 4

www.foxenvineyard.com

Coquelicot

Coquelicot Tasting Room - Los Olivos

Coquelicot Tasting Room - Los Olivos


 

Los Olivos is littered with tasting rooms. This is a good thing. But how do you choose? Well as usual, we’ll judge by what’s in the bottle rather than how many people are piling into the room.

Coquelicot is a winery that’s putting out excellent wines in a nice range of styles, and they’re not afraid to be a bit different from the rest. With several of their wines coming from their organically farmed estate vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, and what feels like a light hand in the winemaking process from winemaker Louis Van Tonder, this is one place where you’ll be sure to find some balanced, pretty wines.

Our recent tasting included their 2007 Estate Riesling ($22), which is one of the few Rieslings we’ve found that actually exhibits the famed petroleum nose that’s reminiscent of some fine German Rieslings. Thankfully, that nose doesn’t carry into the flavor of the wine, as it exhibited a slightly sweet, robust mouth feel, but was balanced with enough acidity and clean fruit flavors of peach and melon to avoid any heaviness. A nice clean finish made this a very enjoyable wine.

While Coquelicot certainly isn’t the only winery making a stainless steel fermented Chardonnay, it’s nice to see more wine makers embracing this lean style of what is typically a buttery, oaky wine. This approach provides a purity of taste that really brings out the flavor of the Chardonnay grape, and might make you wonder why it’s so often masked behind heavy treatments of oak and malolactic fermentation. While the 2006 Stainless Chardonnay ($14) from Coquelicot bore that nice clean fruit that we love about this style, this wine seemed to lack the acidity that really makes this style sing. This isn’t the best stainless Chard we’ve tried, but at $14, it’s definitely a great selection for everyday drinking.

Other wines we enjoyed include the 2007 Estate Syrah ($45), which takes dead center aim at what we would call the classic Santa Barbara County Syrah – big plum and ripe cherry fruit, bold but balanced earth and leather tannin, big structure and long finish. This is not a finely tuned Côte Rôtie, but we love this style of bold and beautiful Syrah nonetheless. The flagship Coquelicot wine, their 2007 Mon Amour Bordeaux Blend ($45) was another very nicely balanced wine that brought rich fruit of blackberry and fig together with tight tannins and a woody, minty note and a beautiful dry finish.

While not every wine here is a home run, these guys do an honest job of tackling some challenging wines and manage to pull it off with grace and style. Coquelicot is one of the standouts in the crowded Los Olivos tasting room scene, and definitely worth a stop.

Coquelicot

2884 Grand Ave., Los Olivos CA 93441

map

Open Sun-Fri 11 to 5, Sat 10 to 6

805-688-1500

coquelicotwines.com