story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 8/11/16
This special gathering of about 15 people at Jaffurs Wine Cellars last week is certainly a time to reminisce. Jaffurs Winery GM Dave Yates is here – the two left the aerospace industry together to embark in the wine industry in 1994. So is co-winemaker Matt Brady, who joined Jaffurs in 2005, and assistant winemaker Stephen Searle. Antonio Gardella, credited with selling more Jaffurs wine during his tenure at distributor Henry Wine Group, is in attendance, along with a handful of longtime wine club members, wine aficionados and local wine writers, like me and Wine Enthusiast's Matt Kettmann, who’ve been tracking the Jaffurs effect for many years.
Today, Jaffurs makes several vineyard-specific syrahs every year – his current releases feature Bien Nacido, Kimsey and Larner, along with Thompson – as well as a blended entry-level Santa Barbara County syrah and a super-premium selection of each year’s six best barrels, dubbed Upslope. But his relationship with Thompson is important. “I was making wine at night back then, and on weekends,” he tells us, “and sourcing from Thompson from the very start certainly helped push my winemaking along.”
The impetus for our gathering, though, is to witness how Jaffurs’ Thompson Vineyard syrahs have grown and developed in the years since. We’re gathered inside the eastside Santa Barbara facility that Jaffurs opened in 2000, where, all along, a philosophy of limited intervention – minimal handling or pumping, no filtering or fining – has prevailed. But the Jaffurs team has never before done a comprehensive 15-year analytical tasting like this – a side-by-side comparison of the 15 vintages from 1998 to 2013. The nuances we’re about to find will, most likely, be snapshots of year-over-year variations in weather. And whatever common thread emerges will show us what happens when sense of place and winemaking knack coalesce.
“That’s what I want for the consumer,” he’d later tell me. “That when you see a Jaffurs wine on a list, you can order it blindly and know that there’s quality there and that you’re going to get a nice glass of wine.”
The 15 vintages I tasted are certainly proof of that.
Many of the notes gathered last week will be part of an upcoming Jaffurs wine club newsletter. You can taste Jaffurs’ latest releases, which also include viognier, grenache and pinot noir, at the winery, 819 E. Montecito Street in Santa Barbara. You can also shop for wine on the website, jaffurswine.com.