Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Firestone Winery - Santa Ynez Valley, CA
Okay so this is supposed to be exclusively a food blog, but I’d like to expand it slightly to encompass a bit of booze as well. Because just as there is food worth missing your plane for, there is also wine and cocktails that are worth getting drunk and completely forgetting about your plane for. So interspersed amidst the engrossing food reviews, I plan on digressing occasionally into short rants about great places to forget about life for a while.
We just recently got back from a short trip through Santa Barbara wine country, so I thought I’d mention a couple of the wineries we visited and the wines worth considering. N.B. I’m going to try and avoid being pompous and redundant when describing the wines and promise to never use the words earthy or nuance.
First of all, the wineries seem to all charge a standard $5 a tasting or $10 including a wine glass with logo. I was pretty indignant at first as this $5 doesn’t come off any wine that you buy, unlike in most BC wineries. But like with most things in life, you can’t really do all that much about it. You can try whining or looking furious, but no one cares. So if you’re going to go to the Santa Barbara area to try wines, you’ll just have to suck it up like I did.
The price of wines on the whole seems to be about $18-$28 for a bottle of white, and $20-$35 for a bottle of red. This is just a rough average price for the average winery. Of course, each winery has special reserve bottles that can range in price dramatically.
The first winery worth mentioning that we visited was Firestone. Situated in the rolling hills of the Santa Ynez Valley, it takes about 45 minutes to get there from Santa Barbara. It’s a beautiful drive through winding cliff edges and canyons, which means you might want to watch how many tasters you actually end up swallowing before you try and drive home. Stopping for a sandwich at Panino in Los Olvios as you pass by is definitely a good idea – the just baked, whole wheat sourdough, fresh sliced meats, and local grown veggies makes for a very nice accompaniment to pretty much whatever wine you have bought.
Anyway, back to Firestone. We tried a few whites to start, and these were entirely forgettable. However, they did have a very nice rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. If you are reading this and are in any way surprised that a rosé could be a good/real wine, you need to expand your horizons. Beyond Berringer White Zin – aka Cougar Juice – there is a whole world of serious and delicious pink wines. The 2007 Firestone Cab Rosé is a very easy drinking wine that would be brilliant on a patio or with a picnic. It’s crisp and tastes just slightly of strawberries.
The reds at Firestone were generally much better than the whites. The whites were a little flat and tasted like your run-of-the-mill Chardonnays, or Sauvignon Blancs. They did have a Chenin Blanc which is one of my favourite white varietals, but it was a disappointing acidic blend that tasted like chardonnay and a bit of lemon juice. The two reds that I would recommend and which we bought were the 2005 Syrah and the 2005 Malbec. The Syrah was nice and subtle, more like the French style than the Australian hit you over the head with jar of jam and Ribena. However, it was the Malbec that was really surprising. If when you hear Malbec you think of Mendoza, Argentinean wines – cheap, fruit forward, a little bit of spice, then this will be something very different. Malbec has always been an important Bordeaux varietal, but remained in relative obscurity before Argentina really start to run with it. The Firestone Malbec is definitely more of a French style than Argentinean. It is softer in the mouth, but has a lovely full bodied velvety feel. The taste is little bit of blueberries and dark chocolate. It is a unique and delicious wine that can be enjoyed just by itself.