Where Cool is Hot:
Grand Cru People and Grand Cru Wines
by Bob Senn
Los Olivos is located right in the middle of California's new premium wine-producing region, Santa Barbara County, with its two appellations--the Santa Ynez Valley and the even cooler Santa Maria Valley. Santa Barbara County lets the traveler taste wines at a more leisurely pace, the way wine tasting is supposed to be, and the way it was in Napa thirty years ago. There are those out there who think that the our area is California's greatest winemaking and wine tasting experience! But just what is it that makes it so?
Cool Is Hot!
That's just what much of Santa Barbara County's wine country is, cool! From the western reaches of the Santa Ynez Valley near the city of Lompoc, or the Santa Maria Valley (to the east of Santa Maria), each appellation has its own world-renowned signature vineyards: Sanford & Benedict Vineyard and Bien Nacido. What makes these vineyards so "hot?" Because of a geologic and geographic fluke, our coastline from Point Concepcion, (going south some sixty miles south past the City of Santa Barbara and down into Ventura County) runs east-west, not north-south like the rest of the Pacific coast in North America. Our mountain ranges, the coastal range called the Santa Ynez Mountains and the more interior San Rafael range and transverse ranges, run east-west too, just like the coastline.
It can be confusing to the traveler.
Driving from the Santa Ynez Valley to Santa Barbara in the early morning, one can be driving into the brilliant sunrise over the water. To the uninitiated, you might ask "that's odd, the sun rises in the east--back where New York is. Can Santa Barbara be east of the Santa Ynez Valley." The answer is a resounding, "Yes!" (It is for this quirk on the coast that the Air Force selected Vandenberg Air Force Base as the Pacific Missile Test Range for it is here that polar orbit launches can safely be made.) It is this geologic oddity that makes our east-west running valleys freeways for the fog, where the marine influence can really affect the summer climate, keeping daytime high temperatures relatively mild with cold nights, and wine grapes with high natural acidity and low pH. It would not be at all unusual to have summertime highs in the 80's, say 84 degrees, and overnight lows in the high 40s, say 48 degrees, Farenheit. (Not so many miles away, summertime highs often reach 110 degrees, Farenheit.)
So our mountains create a conduit for a freeway of fog, while the north-south ranges of northern California create a barrier to the cooling marine influence. To the uninitiated traveler who has no experience with California and its micro-climates, a linear distance of five or ten miles can mean the difference between a low region 1 (Lompoc, for example, which in terms of the UC Davis degree day scale is the same as Reims in Champagne in France) to a high region 2 (mid-Napa Valley). In either event, we have the perfect weather for growing wine grapes. (And wonderful countryside of rolling hills and valleys if you are interested in a beautiful drive and perhaps a picnic.)
Another geologic quirk of our coast is soil with good drainage, soils going from the Santa Ynez Valley up into Arroyo Grande and the Edna Valley, which UC Davis Deborah Elliott-Fisk has described as "ancient beach," soil well enhanced with rock and diatimaceous earth.
Add to this tapestry the human fabric-- the winemaking talent-- and little wonder you have a premier emerging wine growing region, not only in California and North America, but also in the entire world! Maynard Amerine and Vernon Singleton write in Wine: An Introduction, "Part of the charm and fascination of wine and winegrowing lies in the fact that it is possible to find, tucked away in some valley, a small winery producing very fine wines which may be in demand all over the world." That's just what you will find here.
The geologic and meteorologic quirks are not the only common thread linking this wild and crazy, perhaps bizarre in some instances, cast of characters necessary to make wonderful wine, another is passion! A John Alban empassioned by Viognier or Grenache, Bob Lindquist empassioned with great white Burgundies and Rhone varietals, Kathy Joseph and Lane Tanner Le Grandes Dames of Pinot Noir, or diligent, meticulous winemaking talents like Jim Adelman, Steve Dooley and Steve Rasmussen. And Chris Whitcraft, whom we told somebody once, could walk on water. So welcome to Santa Barbara County, a place to taste many of the best wines produced anywhere in the world.
Here at the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium, you can try many of the great wines of California (with a real emphasis on the cool climate of Santa Barbara County and the Edna Valley). Unique and compelling wines, from wine & spirits producers who share our values, views, eclecticism, and uncompromising standards of quality. from established producers like Lane Tanner, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Chris Whitcraft of Whitcraft Winery, to the newer rising stars like John Alban, Gary Mosby, Gary Burk, Kathy Joseph (of Fiddlehead Cellars), Craig Jaffurs and Mike Brown (of Kalyra), Rick Longoria and Jim Adelman (of Makor), Craig Macmillan, Andrew Murray, and the two Steves: Steve Rasmussen (of Talley and Rosso di Paso) and Steve Dooley (of Stephen Ross). Plus wines and spirits from other selected preeminent producers throughout our fair state, from the likes of Bonny Doon, Germain-Robin, St. George Spirits, and even some of the other fine local quaffs from Cambria, Foxen, Mosby and Santa Barbara Winery! And we are located smack dab in the middle of it all!
Put it all together in Santa Barbara County WHERE COOL IS HOT, and this rich tapestry yields Premier Cru wines and people, and most of them are all assembled at the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium!
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