“Que Syrah” and Ballard Canyon

Santa Barbara TerroirOn the second full day of the conference, I selected a session on the terroir of Santa Barbara County. Santa Barbara County boasts one of the most diverse climates and largest number of grape varietals grown anywhere in the world.  The region is home to a topographic feature not found anywhere else in the contiguous U.S., a pair of mountain ranges running east-west rather than north-south. The result is a funnel effect that brings in fog and cool air from the Pacific Ocean, thereby extending the growing season and allowing the grapes to develop intense flavors and ideal acid-sugar ratios as they ripen.

The geological formation of the area is fascinating and too complicated to fully explain here, but scientists believe – and have evidence in geomagnetic rock formations – that 20 million years ago, a piece of the continent broke off and rotated northward. This helps to explain the east-west mountain ranges and the deep marine deposits in the soil of Santa Barbara County as well as the Channel Islands. If you would like to explore this in more detail, please take a look at this link:  http://www.nps.gov/chis/naturescience/geologicformations.htm

Santa Barbara County now consists of five AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas), dominated by Chardonnay and PinotRusack Syrah Noir grapes.  The newest AVA is Ballard Canyon and it has proven to be ideal for growing Syrah and Grenache. As a perfect complement to the session on terroir, eight Ballard Canyon wineries presented their remarkable Syrahs during an afternoon tasting.  The wineries included Kimsey, Beckmen, Stolpman, Rusack, Harrison Clarke, Larner, Jonata, and Saarloos and Sons.  Syrahs are very dark in color (we all had purple teeth by the end of the tasting) with intense flavors and lots of spice.  It is difficult to single out just a couple of the wines we sampled, but Rusack’s Syrah Reserve 2012 stood out for me.  Cinnamon was dominant on the nose and palate along with berries and dark chocolate.  Another was Beckmen’s La Purisma Mountain Syrah 2012.  Steve Beckmen says that this lush wine will drink well until 2025, giving a sense of the longevity of these gorgeous Syrahs.  Prices ranged, but many of these wines were in the very reasonable $32-$38 price range.

The late afternoon and evening included a Wines of the World reception, an open house hosted by Cornerstone Cellars and Tendril Winery, and finally, a return to Mattei’s Tavern for another wonderful dinner.

Once again, the Wine Blogger’s Conference exceeded expectations.  I learned so much and can’t wait to return to Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County.





Written by Catherine

Catherine developed a passion for travel, food, and wine early in life. She owned and operated a gourmet catering business and small restaurant for twenty years, earning a number of awards. Eventually she chose to leave the food and beverage industry, but continues to enjoy cooking and furthering her knowledge of wines.

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