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

Fiddlehead

Focus. It’s what the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett says sets him apart from other less successful investors. It’s the quality that often separates the very best athletes from the average.

Kathy Joseph, winemaker for Fiddlehead, can attribute much of her own success to her unrelenting focus on two wine varietals – Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. We had the good fortune a couple of years back of stopping by the Fiddlehead tasting room in the wine ghetto of Lompoc just as Kathy was greeting some purchasers for an East Coast wine distributor and walking them through her latest selection of wines. With the energy of a child, Kathy took us through the flight with equal parts education and laughter in a burst of frenetic energy. Kathy radiates focus, passion and enthusiasm for wine, and it’s hard for that kind of enthusiasm not to be contagious.

The wines apparently feed off of Kathy’s energy as well, since Fiddlehead delivers some of the best wines we’ve tasted in SBC. Two striking qualities consistently emerge from tasting Fiddlehead wines – elegance and range.

First, elegance. The Pinot Noir wines from Fiddlehead stand in stark contrast to many of the bold and spicy Pinots that have become so commonplace in the American wine scene. And while those robust Pinots can indeed be fantastic in their own right, there’s a special place in the heart of Pinot Noir lovers like us for  beautifully balanced and, yes, elegant Pinot Noirs from wineries like Fiddlehead. This is not a punch you in the nose wine. No hint of being over worked, over oaked, over ripened, over anythinged. Just a beautifully complex and subtle wine that combines refreshingly bold fruit with a sincere sense of terroir more reminiscent of Burgundy than Russian River. Fiddlehead is a standout in the Pinot Noirs of SBC, plain and simple.

Second, range. This really is more apt to describe the Sauvignon Blancs, for as you work through a flight of these gorgeous wines, you find yourself transported from one outstanding expression of this wonderful grape to another, each with their own distinct character. An astonishing accomplishment to pull off each of these styles so successfully.

Our latest tastings included the 2007 Happy Canyon, which is a straight up Sauv Blanc that really reminds you why these wines can be so great. With just the perfect balance of citrus and melon fruit combined with a flinty minerality, this wine has the perfect “zing” you love to find while again having this incredible balance and elegance. The 2009 Goosebury is an all-stainless steel fermented wine that brings out a pure and crisp tropical fruit flavor while still maintaining a delicacy and restraint that is refreshing and open. And lastly, the 2004 Honeysuckle. This is a rich and complex Sauvignon Blanc that as the name implies has a honeyed melon and citrus fruit, tight and delicate oak tannins from the extended barrel aging in french oak, and some delicate spices. Forget all your preconceptions about Sauvignon Blanc and prepare to be surprised and drawn in by this wine.

The Seven Twenty Eight is Fiddlehead’s standard estate Pinot Noir, so named from the 7.28 mile marker at the Fiddlestix vineyard on Santa Rosa Road. We’ve found this wine on more than a few wine lists on Southern California (Houston’s even – eeh gads!), and find it almost irresistable when we do. At $42 retail, this is not a cheap bottle of Pinot, but considering the quality of this wine, we actually consider it a bargain. The Lollapalooza ($75) is a best-of selection of six to ten barrels hand picked by Kathy to represent Fiddlestix Vineyard at it’s best. And if you’re really wanting the ultra-premium wine, look for the Doyle, a hand-selected single barrel wine that’s only produced for exceptional vintages. But get ready to pay. The 2006 version will set you back $166.

The estate Fiddlestix Vineyard is in the heart of the most revered Pinot Noir AVA of Santa Barbara County, the Sta. Rita Hills. Positioned near two legendary vineyards of Sanford & Benedict and Sea Smoke, this vineyard benefits from the consistently cool and foggy climate of the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley that Pinot Noir absolutely thrives in.

The Fiddlehead tasting room is located in the heart of the wine ghetto of Lompoc. No great views, just outstanding wine. Don’t miss it!

Fiddlehead Cellars

1597 E. Chestnut Ave., Lompoc, CA

map

 

Open Thursday – Sunday, 11 – 4

800-251-1225

fiddleheadcellars.com