One of the coolest things about living in LA is how close we are to Santa Barbara wine country. Last weekend, Brandon and I randomly hopped in the car and headed north to Los Alamos. With no real plan for the day, we ended up at Martian Ranch Vineyard after stopping at a couple of other tasting rooms. The winery opened their tasting room to the public in October of last year.
We arrived at the property and crossed a charming bridge to arrive at the tasting room. The tasting room is open, airy, and the kind of place you want to hang out in for a while. We were welcomed immediately as we walked in by a tasting room associate named John. As we worked our way through the first few wines, we were thoroughly impressed with the Albariño and the Grenache Blanc. Martian Ranch’s 2013 Uforic Albariño ended up being one of our favorite wines of the tasting with its vibrant notes of citrus, minerals and apricot.
After we finished through the white wines on the list, John offered to take on a tour of the property. We hopped on a utility/off-road vehicle and went for a 30 minute scenic tour through the vineyards. Martian’s property is absolutely gorgeous. The dirt roads are lined with vineyards and there is even a beautiful pond that wine club members can picnic around. In the midst of all the beauty, it was hard not to notice the effects of the drought all around us though. The vines were the only green that stood out in acres of struggling plant life.
After the tour, we headed back into the tasting room and went through the lineup of red wines. The newly released 2013 Absolute Magnitude Gamay Noir is outstanding. Light, bright and really hard to put down. We wrapped up our tasting with the Gravitas Tempranillo. The biggest wine of the tasting list yet it is still balanced with lots of dark fruit and licorice.
I have to say that Martian Ranch ranks among one of the best tasting experiences I have had in Santa Barbara wine country. The wines are well-made and well-priced, the property is beautiful, and the staff was so accommodating. Definitely put it on the top of your list next time you visit!
Martian Ranch is a winery located in Los Alamos that seems to be gathering a lot of buzz among wine geeks. They produce several different wines biodynamically that are reasonably priced and consistently intriguing. I was pretty excited to receive a bottle of their 2012 Uforic Albariño as it was the first Santa Barbara Albariño I have tasted.
100% Albariño from Santa Barbara County. Indigenous yeasts, no fining, minimal filtering, and a very small SO2 addition. 13% alcohol and a retail price of around $22/bottle.
Pouring a rich yellow-gold color in the glass, this wine opens with beautiful floral aromas. There are also notes of apricot and tangerine. The palate has nice texture and is vibrant with plenty of spice, acidity, and tropical fruit. A fantastic introduction to Santa Barbara County Albariño!
I am an oyster fanatic. Raw, steamed, fried…I will take them pretty much any way they come to me. Over the last week, I have indulged in fried oysters not once but twice! The first time around, I had them in South Carolina and, later, enjoyed them in Malibu. I tried a couple of different wines with the oysters and, while sparkling wine was a no-brainer pairing, I also really enjoyed a crisp Albariño with them as well!
One of my favorite Albariño wines comes from Abacela Vineyards. The 2011 is from the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon and packs tastes of pear, tart citrus, and green apple with healthy acidity. Mineral notes are also woven throughout the wine and followed with a citrus-filled finish. This is an excellent match for oysters, fried or on the half shell. Definitely check it out if you have the chance! (12.9% alcohol, $18)
Last weekend, I had the chance to pour with Abacela at the California Wine Festival at Doheny State Beach. Abacela is a family run winery in Southern Oregon and they are renowned for their Tempranillo. They were the first winery to plant Tempranillo in Oregon and their wines have consistently rivaled (and often beat out) Tempranillo from Spain. Over the course of the weekend, I had a chance to try almost all of Abacela’s current and library releases and can honestly say that I enjoyed each wine.
Here is a round-up of my notes on a few of their wines:
Abacela 2009 Tempranillo
This is Abacela’s entry-level Tempranillo but there is nothing basic about it. Bright cherries, plum, oak, and mineral notes with lively acidity and a little bit of spice. A wonderful Tempranillo and it is priced perfectly! ($21, 13.9%)
Abacela 2011 Albariño
A wonderfully refreshing wine with tastes of pears, tart citrus, and green apples. Mineral notes woven throughout the wine and followed with a citrus packed finish. Perfect summer wine! ($18, 12.9%)
Abacela 2005 Paramour
Where do I begin with this Tempranillo other than by saying it is outstanding! Rich, old world style that would contend with some of the best Tempranillo from Spain. Layers of dark cherries, fig, plum, caramel, and a myriad of other flavors. It has aged gracefully and still has a few years left in a cellar if you have the self-control not to uncork it now! ($90, 14.2%)