Viva el Vino: Fiesta-Inspired Santa Barbara Wine Finds

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 8/2/18

If you’re in town to celebrate Fiesta, then Santa Barbara’s deep Spanish roots are not lost on you, from names on street signs to striking architecture that’s recognized the world over.
Old Spanish Days, then, might be the perfect excuse to delve into Santa Barbara’s modern-day winemaking, all with a tip of the hat – err, the glass – to Spain.
The beauty and the uniqueness of Santa Barbara’s viticultural potential exist in its diversity. If Napa is defined by cabernet and Sonoma by pinot, then Santa Barbara’s definition stems from its knack for doing it all. Cab and pinot excel here, as do dozens of other varieties. It’s a knack wrought by those east-west mountains that anchor this corner of California – mountains of rich soils that funnel marine air and create a cavalcade of growth zones (and the same mountains that greeted those Spanish seafarers hundreds of years ago).
Here are three classic Spanish wine grape varieties that thrive in Santa Barbara and are well worth seeking out:
2015 Martian Ranch & Vineyard “Uforic” Albariño ($24)
Grown in Spain’s northwest region of Galicia (and also popular in northwestern Portugal), this delightful and refreshing white grape is summer sipping at its best. Light, lively and bright, this easy-drinking wine is often defined by its citrusy overtones and briny subtleties. This one, grown biodynamically near the town of Los Alamos, shines for its brisk acidity, floral aromas and ripe stone fruit flavors. Perfect with spicy edibles, or pretty much anything you’ll find at the mercados. Martian recently welcomed its new wine grower, Gretchen Voelcker, earlier this summer.
2015 Margerum Grenache ($40)
The French region of Rhone grows world-class grenache, though this red wine grape - -one of the most widely planted in the world – most likely hails from Spain, where it’s known as garnacha. It’s also one of the oft-overlooked darlings of Santa Barbara. Fleshy and juicy at once, it is a marvelous dinner companion, with a fruit-driven character and lively, yet unobtrusive, bounce on the palate. This one by restaurateur-turned-winemaker Doug Margerum, of Wine Cask fame, is smooth and bracing, with spicy notes and a wonderful balance of plum and cherry flavors. Got pizza? Sip this.
2014 Tre Anelli Tempranillo ($32)
Tempranillo means “little early one” in Spanish, a reference to the fact this grape often ripens will ahead of its red Spanish counterparts. The most widely planted grape in Spain’s Rioja region, it often exhibits Bordeaux-like nuances – earth, leather, dust. But there’s a wonderful savoriness to a great tempranillo, and this one, made by my friend Brett Escalera, smacks between sips of bacon, smoke and herbs, all enhanced by balance and medium tannins. Fire up the grill, folks! Tre Anelli is part of the Sanger Family of Wines, which also includes Consilience and Marionello. And breaking news: I ran into Escalera during dinner at The Bear & Star in Los Olivos last week, and he told me that the Sanger tasting room, currently on Grand Avenue in Los Olivos, is moving to Solvang soon.

Viva la Fiesta!

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