I tried my first Sta Rita Hills vin clair chard from a barrel of one of the Sashi/Raj (SaRaj, perhaps?) projects, back in 2012 I think. It was sublime, to say the least. Tension in its full definition. The wine brought me plummeting back to the white chalky soils of Champagne. Without even trying one fully feremented bottle, I have complete confidence in what it’ll become.
At this year’s WOPN, Sea Smoke was pouring their Sea Spray (see what they did there?) it was perfect. A crisp blanc de noir, lovely tiny boules, wild strawberry on the nose and a palate cleansing finish.
At a recent industry tasting held at Palmina I was able to try a few more local sparklers, sadly, there were only eight. This was due to a lot of the sparkling in the county not even being in bottle yet and also the tiny amounts producers even have. The following three were my top picks of the night. Lucas & Lewellen Blanc de Noirs was my favorite on the night. Nectarines, apricot and brioche. Perfectly balanced. – $30 (great price) Summerland Winery Brut using Sonoma fruit was very crisp, and tasted of granny smiths and lime. $30 While Brewer-Cliftons straight Chard, from their own 3D vineyard, has more mouthfeel and a bit heavier with nutty, yeasty flavors and baked peach. You could age this one for 10 years or so. $50
There is a sparkling future in Santa Barbara County and I really think Sta Rita Hills will be leading that pack. In a bit of a discussion afterwards I asked about price, as its expensive making this stuff and competing against Les Grand Marques, which I believe SB County can do against non-vintage stuff, but it will be no easy task.
However, a good point was brought up by Morgen McLaughlin, who heads up SB County Vintners Assoc no less, that if we consider the local sparkling producers like those of the grower Champagner movement, that SBC will more likely to shine. In short, Santa Barbara County sparkling, and for me specifically Sta Rita Hills, is California’s answer to grower Champagne…..there you have it.