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

Alma Rosa

 

Forty years ago, armed with little more than a pickup truck, a notebook, maps and thermometers, Richard Sanford commenced his search for a California region that would be suitable for growing Pinot Noir grapes that could rival the best French Burgundys. The West coast of North America is dominated by mountain ranges that run North-South in direction. Even at the coastline, the abrupt rise of hills and mountains (think PCH from San Luis Obispo to Monterey) from the Pacific inhibit any cool maritime influences from reaching inland. But just East of Lompoc, Richard found a different topography.

Flanked by pronounced east-west running Purisima Hills to the north and the Santa Rosa Hills to the south, the Santa Ynez river valley’s orientation to the Pacific allows cool ocean breezes to flow into the valley, shrouding much of it in fog in the mornings. A mild afternoon heat gives way to an onshore breeze just before dusk. Et voila – perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir!

And so it started. The very first Pinot Noir vines in SBC were planted at the now famous Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1970. In addition to being a true pioneer in Santa Barbara County wine making, Sanford has also been at the forefront of organic and sustainable farming practices, including being the first vineyard in SBC to be certified organic. After starting the Sanford winery in 1981, he and his wife Thekla continued to plant vineyards in what is now known as the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, and produced exciting wines that were some of the first to garner world-wide attention and put SBC wines on the map.

After entering into an ill-fated partnership with the Terlato Wine Group based out of Chicago, Richard was faced with the tough decision of compromising his wine making methods, or leaving his namesake behind. Unwilling to compromise, Richard chose the latter and broke away from Sanford winery.

Reemerging in 2005, Richard and Thekla founded the Alma Rosa winery. Free again to pursue their own winemaking techniques from vineyard to bottle, the Sanfords have been producing some of the most beautiful wines in all of Sta. Rita Hills. Their understated wines typically embrace a refreshing acidity and bright fruit as the backbone of the wine, and feel otherwise as if they are treated with a very light hand. The overall impression is one of gorgeously flavored fruit, unimpeded by anything extraneous. While Pinot Noir was Richard’s first love and remains the frontline of this winery, don’t overlook the whites. Refreshing and crisp Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc wines pair well with almost any lunch fare and have graced our table for many afternoon gatherings with highly satisfactory results.

We always look forward to visiting this winery. The tasting room is set back a bit from Santa Rosa Road in a beautiful little gully that reminds me of the adventures I’d take as a young boy in the hills of my home town in Minnesota. It’s strikingly beautiful, rustic, and down to earth – a perfect reflection of the people behind the wine and their approach to their craft. And with such beautiful and elegant wines to taste, how can you lose?  Alma Rosa is solidly in our category of “guaranteed to please” wineries.

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards

7250 Santa Rosa Road

Buellton CA 93427

map

805-688-9090

Open daily 11-4:30

almarosawinery.com