I always allege that Santa Barbara County is one of the coolest wine growing regions in the state. Our county, especially in the Santa Rita Hills appellation out toward Lompoc, and the Santa Maria Valley, east of Santa Maria, are significantly cooler than Napa.
This surprises a lot of people. We often assume that the further north you go (like up toward the Arctic region) that the weather's got to get cooler the further north you go. Oregon, especially, eastern Oregon, can get hotter than Hades, something Oregon wine producers don't want you to know.
Not true. Other factors come in to play like marine influence.
Northern Napa, around Calistoga, and the interior or both Sonoma and Mendocino Counties get much warmer than we get here in Santa Barbara County. The southern Napa Valley is more temperate because of the marine influence from Suisun Bay.
I once again became aware of these climatic differences just last week when a friend who lives in Sonoma came to visit. He brought ripe, delicious, Sweet 100s you could pop in your mouth and eat like candy. He also brought down ripe-to-perfection Heirloom tomatoes which I sliced, adding fresh garlic and drizzled olive oil for a fresh tomato salad.
My sweet 100s are far from ripe. They are almost still like hard little berries before veraision. I've discovered it's not just me and my tomatoes. Friends in the much hotter Santa Ynez Valley and who have much greater experience with tomatoculture that me, have tomatoes in the same state of ripeness.
So far, at least, we have had a quite temperate summer with no excessive hot spells. Daytime highs have been even. As evidenced by my tomatoes, ripening is a lot slower so far this season.
I've really been enjoying the delicious corn from the Gold Coast Farms stand on the other side of 101 from Costco, but even their tomatoes seem to be slow this summer.
To a great vintage for both wine grapes and tomatoes!
A great food-wine combo is a fresh tomato salad with fresh garlic and thinly sliced sweet onion and a bottle of pinot noir. You can go heavy with the olive oil, but be very frugal with the vinegar. The reason it's hard to pair wine and salad is because of the vinegar. The trick is to keep the vinegar very light. To play safe, you may not even want to add any.
Want to learn how to make wine?
There's still time to enroll at Hancock College for Norm Yost's Saturday class.
He will teach AgBus 310, Basic Winemaking 1, a fast track course that meets on Saturday mornings for ten weeks during the fall semester, according to college spokesperson, Rebecca Alarcio.
Rebecca told me the students will pick, crush, ferment and press the wines at the Central Coast Wine Services facility in Santa Maria. Both white wine and red wine styles will be made under the direction of the instructor Norman Yost. Each student will end of up with about one case each of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon at the end of the term. Anyone interested in this "hands-on" winemaking class definitely should enroll in AgBus 310.
The class is offered Saturdays, 9-11:50 a.m. from August 21 through October 23. Cost is $52 in enrollment fees (it is a two unit credit class) and an additional fee of $75 for supplies.
Speaking of pairing food and wine, if you enroll in the class, see if you can talk Norm into bringing in a batch of his delicious home made buttermilk biscuits in to class.
Wine and tomato lover and Santa Maria Times Wine columnist, Bob Senn, lives in the bucolic Los Alamos Valley and owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
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