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

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Open Thursday – Sunday, 11 – 4

800-251-1225

fiddleheadcellars.com

Beckmen

Having been awed by our first experience at Beckmen a few years back, we’ve continued to visit the winery several times, and have never been disappointed. Focusing on Rhone varietals, Beckmen produces some absolutely sumptuous Syrah and Grenache wines. They are also one of the few wineries in SBC (and California for that matter) offering traditional Northern Rhone varietal white wines of Marsanne and Roussane, the latter currently offered as part of their Le Bec Blanc cuvee of both varietals, plus some Grenache Blanc. Beckmen rounds out their selection with some very respectable offerings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone style blends.

One of the things you’ve gotta love about this place is their commitment to organic and biodynamic farming at their prized Purisima Mountain vineyard in Ballard Canyon. While the viticultural program is led by Steve Beckmen, son of founder Tom,  much of the winemaking is now done by Mikael Sigouin, who took the journeyman’s path to winemaking success with Beckmen.

We find Beckmen wines to contain that rare combination of power and restraint; wines of intensity, but also complexity. The ’07 Purisima Mountain Grenache is a great example of this, with intense raspberry and pomegranate on the nose and in the glass that was nicely balanced by licorice and allspice. Incidentally, the ’07 Estate Grenache, which we did not taste,  was recently requested by the Obama White House for a state dinner. Not bad company to be keeping!

Bottom line – Beckmen is a great choice for exceptional Rhone varietal wines in SBC, and it’s location just outside of Los Olivos means you don’t have to travel far from the center of the action to get there.

Beckmen Vineyards

2670 Ontiveros Road

Los Olivos, CA 93441

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Open daily 11 to 5

805-688-8664

beckmenvineyards.com