If you are a fan of Santa Barbara County wines, you should really add Cimarone Wines to your list of wineries to explore. Cimarone’s vineyards are located in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara and the winery is run by husband and wife team Roger and Priscilla Higgins. With the help of winemaker Andrew Murray, they produce small lot, crowd-pleasing wines. Over the past week, I sampled the newly released Cimarone 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese and Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc. Each New World style wine is well-made and full of flavor.
Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc
Cimarone’s Cabernet Franc is pleasantly aromatic with notes of ripe, red berries, cassis, violets, and hints of oak. The palate is super smooth and features tastes of plums, green bell peppers, red berries, and spice. Balanced and incredibly enjoyable! (13.8% alcohol, $29.99)
Cimarone 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese
This wine opens with aromas of ripe fruit, earth, and cinnamon. Decadent flavors of plum, red berries, and cinnamon are surrounded by more nuanced notes of earth and vanilla. Hearty enough to pair with roasted meats, this wine will most definitely improve with a little more time in the bottle! (14.5% alcohol, $29.99)
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!
Cabernet Franc…it can be so good or so very bad. Luckily, Broc Cellars did an awesome job producing a beautiful version that I had a chance to sip a couple of weeks ago. It’s pretty hard to find, so, if you can get your hands on a bottle, I would definitely take advantage of the opportunity!
100% Cabernet Franc from Santa Barbara County. Whole cluster pressed and naturally produced. 11.9% alcohol. Retails for around $30.
Beautiful aromatics of red fruit, black pepper, herbs, and earth. The elegant palate offers layers of bright fruit…cranberries, raspberries, and red cherries are abundant. There are also notes of pepper and spice woven throughout. Vibrant, fresh, and pure. Not your typical California Cabernet Franc (thank goodness)!
I love this time of year. New releases from all of my favorite producers mean so many new wines to try. This week, I uncorked the new vintage of Bank from Cimarone’s 3CV line. It turned out to be a really nice wine…easy to sip and full of flavor!
A blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot, 12% Merlot, and 6% Syrah from the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara. 14.3% alcohol and retails for $19.99.
Aromas of anise and rich, dark fruit. The palate is full-bodied but not overwhelming. Tastes of anise, tobacco, and ripe, dark fruit are coupled with smooth tannins and hints of earthiness. The finish is spicy and long. I think this is a great showing from Cimarone that really delivers for under $20!
(This was just bottled in February. While it is definitely approachable now, it would benefit from a little more time in the bottle.)
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!
If you read my blog regularly, you will notice I am a fan of Two Shepherds wines. Winemaker William Allen has a way of producing pure, delicious wines that captivate my palate. His newly released 2012 Grenache Blanc is no exception. It is 100% Grenache Blanc from Saarloos Vineyard in Santa Ynez. It has 13.5% alcohol and sells for around $24 a bottle.
This wine opens with aromas of green apples and orange blossom. The palate is smooth and has incredible texture. There are notes of lime, green apples, and honeydew with racing acidity and hints of minerality. This wine is bright, refreshing, and delicious. I would grab a few bottles before it sells out (and trust me, it will).
My Wine Rating – A-
Food Pairing Suggestions – Very food friendly. Pair with shellfish, ceviche, or grilled chicken.
One of my favorite parts of summer has quickly become the “Concerts in the Park” in Dana Point. The weather is almost always perfect as a great band takes the stage with the ocean glistening in the background. Every Sunday, we head out with a group of friends and some great wine and cheese to enjoy the show. This past weekend I brought along a bottle of 3CV’s newest Estate Sauvignon Blanc. It turned out to be a great wine for a warm, summer afternoon!
This refreshing Sauvignon Blanc opens up with aromas of lemon and lime. The palate has a bit of a rich mouth feel showing flavors of pear and sweet melon with hints of citrus and stone fruit. There is also a nice dose of acidity that elevates the palate. A lovely wine for a summer day! (13.1% alcohol, $18)
My Wine Rating – B+
Food Pairing Suggestions – Pair with grilled mahi mahi topped with mango salsa, fish tacos, or sip as an aperitif.
I am wrapping up a tasting through Cimarone’s new releases with 2009 Gran Premio Sangiovese and 2010 Le Clos Secret Bordeaux style blend. I have enjoyed every sip of this tasting journey and definitely recommend you seek out some of Cimarone’s wines. I have said it before and really believe that Happy Canyon produces some great wines that are truly underrated!
2009 Gran Premio Sangiovese
Gran Premio Sangiovese opens with aromas of ripe strawberry, plum, clove and a hint of earthiness. The palate is bold and full of juicy, cherry flavors. There are also tastes of clove and pepper with a nice dose of acidity. Simple sipping and perfect with a homemade pizza! (14.5% alcohol, $29.99, Rating – B)
2010 Le Clos Secret
Le Clos Secret has a nose of ripe cherries and spice with musty undertones. At first sip, you are treated to rich flavors of caramel, dark chocolate, pepper and anise. Influences of cherries and a smooth, lengthy finish make this wine hard to put down. Indulgent and delicious! Let this bottle mature and you will reap the benefits. (14.5%, $39.99, Rating – A-)
When I received a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Cimarone, I was definitely excited to pour myself a glass. Cimarone has never produced Cabernet before so I would be among some of the first to try it. I am not a fan of traditional, big, oaky California Cabs so I am happy to say Cimarone’s version doesn’t fit this stereotype. It is 100% Cabernet with 14.5% alcohol and it retails for right under $40.
Cimarone’s Cabernet pours a dark garnet color in the glass. It opens up with earthy aromas of cherries and clove. The palate has an earthiness to it as well. There are tastes of leather, clove, and cherries with nuances of oak and a long, spicy finish. This wine is a bit unruly but will definitely age well. Grab a bottle, hold on for a year or two and you will reap the benefits!
My Wine Rating – B+
Food Pairing Suggestions – Pair this Cabernet with short ribs, pan roasted veal chops or pizza topped with mushrooms.
Over the next few days, I am going to be sharing some of the newest releases from Cimarone Estate Wines and their 3CV label. If you read my blog, you have probably seen a few of their wines from Santa Barbara before. Time and time again, Cimarone delivers delicious wines for under $40.
I am starting off with a pick from their 3CV line. 2010 Cilla’s Blend is an estate grown blend of 56% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 6% Malbec from the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara. It has 14.5% alcohol and is a great find for $18 (and sometimes as low as $14).
Cilla’s Blend opens up with lovely aromas of raspberries, leather and spice. Very little oak influence allows for expressive, elegant flavors on the palate. There are tastes of rich, red berries interwoven with notes of leather, clove and anise. California wines in this price range with the ability to rival Cilla’s Blend are few and far between!
My Wine Rating – A-
Food Pairing Suggestions – Perfect for steaks, lamb chops or juicy burgers!