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Monday Manifestos
On The Road Again

By Charles Olken

I wish I could say that I was going in search of truffles because it might be fun to write Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Truffles. On the other hand, maybe I am lucky that wine came first because California truffles are still pretty rare.

As you read this, Steve Eliot and I are motoring south to Santa Barbara County where wine grapes were almost as rare as truffles back in the days when we started Connoisseur’s Guide. A quick peak at the Grape Acreage Report for 1974, the year in which CGCW first saw the light of day, show only 1,000 bearing acres. That figure has grown to some 17,000 today.

It was not so long ago that I was writing a twice-monthly column for the Los Angeles Times by the title, Tasting Notes, and in which an introductory text and a few cherry-picked CGCW recommendations were offered.

In one of those columns, I offered the opinion that Santa Barbara County Syrah was quickly approaching the quality level of the local Pinot Noir and might soon surpass it. That column turned out to be one of the most popular during its several year run. It has also turned out to be somewhat premature, both because Syrah did not seem to continue its growth in quality and Pinot Noir did.

But that was some years ago, and Steve and I are on our ways south to see how things stand today. It is not that we have ignored Santa Barbara County wines over the last decade, but rather that things keep changing there just as they have done here. We will be looking for and expect to find a much keener eye on the parts of the local vintners as to where they want each of their varieties to grow. And we will visit, for the first time, the new Happy Canyon AVA where Bordeaux varieties have shown remarkable success. There are plenty of places in California where Cabernet and its siblings grow well. There are, however, very few where they achieve brilliant success. It is time to see more of Happy Canyon.

We will have a couple of interim reports during the week, but like all things in Connoisseurs’ Guide, it will be in the wine reviews that the story will ultimately be told. Stay tuned.


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SantaBarbara Cab
by TomHill
Posted on:8/7/2012 12:20:27 PM


Glad you're going to take a closer look at the SBC Cabs. They've been pretty much tarred & feathered by some of those early ones from Firestone and a few others. I've been mightly impressed by many of those I've tried over the last 2-5 yrs. And this is a guy who doesn't much care for Cabernet.



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