Tag Archive for 'Vineyard'

Botrytis Cinirea

Botrytis cinirea is occurring, in a very small block of older Riesling vines, in our Lafond Vineyards. It will very likely produce less than 1500 375ml bottles. Botrytis cinirea can occur, under wet conditions, in other fruits, such as strawberries, where it is simply called rot and the fruit discarded. In grapes, usually after an initial rain, and if followed by dry weather, we call it Noble Rot. Which sounds infinitely better.  Wikipedia describes it very well…

In the Botrytis infection known as “noble rot” (pourriture noble in French, or Edelfäule in German), the fungus removes water from the grapes, leaving behind a higher percent of solids, such as sugars, fruit acids and minerals. This results in a more intense, concentrated final product. The wine is often said to have an aroma of honeysuckle and a bitter finish on the palate.

This is a recent photo at our vineyard showing the grapes at various stages. When complete the grapes are brownish in color and collapse on themselves as the water is removed by the fungus. The flavors become very concentrated and complex and, although sweet, maintain high acidity. The finished wine is usually under 10% in alcohol with residual sugar exceeding 20%.

Harvest is almost over at Lafond Winery & Vineyards

We are getting near the end. All the whites have been picked and what is left of the reds, Syrah, will be picked next week.

Winemaker, Bruce McGuire, goes through the field and marks off what is ripe and ready and what is not. This may mean going back into the same block and same row several times during harvest. Ancient river beds, which is what most of the Santa Rita Hills Appelation comprises, have very uneven soil profiles which makes for uneven ripening. The low fertile areas are generally picked first and the more fertile, sometimes weeks later.

Photo shows the change in color in the Pinot Noir as the vines begin to close down. The other photo shows the last of the Pinot Noir being barrelled. In the background you can see part of the more than 325 Pinot Noir barrels from this harvest. Photos were taken today.

New Release Santa Barbara Winery 2008 Late Harvest Riesling Lafond Vineyards

Lafond Vineyard’s Riesling vines were originally planted in 1972. Our long, cool growing season enables firm acids to develop which highlight the flavor intensity that makes this a wonderful full-bodied example of a noble grape we feel is underappreciated in the world.

Extended hang time on the vines helped to produce a wonderfully rich, yet elegant and clean dessert wine with an extraordinary balance of acids and sugars.

Riesling is a popular late harvest dessert wine when grown in the right conditions that will allow sugars to develop, while also maintaining the necessary acidity, very low pH, to keep the resulting wine fresh. Alcohol is kept low to showcase the purity of fruit courtesy of the Sta. Rita Hills’ long growing season.

In its youth, the 08 Late Harvest Riesling showcases aromas of orange blossom, honeyed pear, and burnt sugar. On the palate, stone fruits intermingle and rich viscosity is balanced by crisp acidity. The finish is long and mouth coating, leaving behind a clean feeling that is far from cloying. Serve slightly chilled in small glasses with a Rustic Peach or Pear Tart.

Suggested Retail: 28.00/375ml
To order: Santa Barbara Winery

Netting the Pinot Noir at Lafond Vineyards

The Pinot Noir has reached 50% veraison, that is, half have turned from green to purple and will begin to sweeten. This will, of course, attract ravenous birds who can very quickly decimate your crop and Pinot Noir attracts them more than any other variety.

Vineyards have tried all sorts of things to discourage or frighten away birds. Canons, propelled by natural gas that make loud noises, not particularly appreciated by neighbors. Bright metal strips, tied to the vines, that flutter in the wind and more recently falcons. The first two, canons and metal strips, are an insult to the birds intelligence, they soon become accustomed and after initially staying away return with a vengeance.

The falcons will scare the birds away but require a handler 24/7 which makes ti very expensive and justifiable only in larger vineyards. The method we use is to cover the vineyard with nets, this is the gold standard, but it requires a lot of man-hours to install and remove.

Weed Abatement Lafond Vineyards

Weeds miraculously grow even when there is no rain. You can disc the rows but in between the vines it is more difficult. There are three ways to control the weeds. You can hoe by hand, which is incredibly expensive, and we sometimes have to resort to this if the weeds are large and out of control. The second is herbicide, similar to what many people use on their lawns, but you can only do it when plants are dormant, and it is not in keeping with our goal of sustainable farming.

The third is mechanical. The photo shows a new machine, we are testing, which consists of blades on both sides which shear the weeds just below ground and retract when passing a vine. Many of the machines we have tried and used in the past took out the weeds but they also took out the vine. This machine looks very promising and we plan on using it next spring.

The driver is working a Chardonnay block we planted last year. Weeds are always more difficult the first two years because of the need to water more frequently, as the plant matures and develops its root system there is much less need to irrigate.

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

2006 Grenache Syrah

After three decades of wine growing in the Santa Rita Hills, Pierre Lafond and winemaker Bruce McGuire are still experimenting with unconventional varieties in this very cool growing region. Following their successful introduction of Syrah to Santa Rita Hills in the early 1990’s, they are now onto their second vintage of this Grenache/Syrah blend.

Utilizing Syrah from neighbor vineyard, Hilltop Ranch (right across the dirt road) and Grenache that Bruce sourced from the Byron Vineyard up in Santa Maria, Bruce has crafted a wine showing the cool climate spiciness of Syrah and the bright red fruit flavors of Grenache.

The Grenache dominates the blend and helps to tame the Syrah making this middle weight wine more approachable than straight Syrah, and thus easier to pair with a wider range of foods. A delightful wine to have with Spanish tapas, lighter meats, or an afternoon repast of olives, cow’s milk cheeses and fresh bread. This wine should show complete flavor development by the end of 2008 and be quite enjoyable through 2010.

Suggested Retail 22.00
To Order: Santa Barbara Winery

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

2007 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah

Winemaker Bruce McGuire is an early pioneer in blending Syrah grown throughout the west-east traverse of the Santa Ynez Valley. Because Syrah is proving to be the rare example of a varietal that can be grown in all the temperature zones found in our valley, blending vineyards becomes an intriguing endeavor.

This bottling of Syrah highlights both the cool climate white pepper and lavendar forward flavors and the jammier full fruitcharacter experienced in the back of the mouth courtesy of the warmer eastern Santa Ynez Valley. In 2007, Bruce crafted a blend of about three quarters cool climate Lafond Vineyard and neighboring Hill Top Ranch in the Santa Rita Hills with one quarter warm climate Joughin Vineyard near Los Olivos.

Most of the wine aged in small 60 gallon French and Hungarian barrels as Syrah benefits from ample barrel aging. A smaller than average crop from the our vineyard manager’s Santa Ynez Joughin Vineyard meant that a higher percentage of Santa Rita Hills fruit appears in the blend.

A small amount of Grenache (4%) was added to enhance the aromatics of the finished wine. In the bottle, 2010 to 2013 will be the prime drinking window for this wine. Pair with rustic fare, slightly charred grilled meats, and washed rind cheeses.

Retail: 20.00(750ml)
To order: Santa Barbara Winery

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

Orange Muscat

Winemaker Bruce McGuire looked to a cool climate pocket west of Los Alamos as a source for this captivatingly aromatic varietal. The ancient Muscat grape umbrellas over a family of varieties, three of the most common in California being Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli, and Black Muscat.

Also known as Moscato Fior d’Arancio in Italy, Orange Muscat is not nearly as widely planted as the better known Muscat Canelli. Orange Muscat has been known to produce delicious dessert wines that play off of the wine’s inherently floral nose and orange tint in the glass.

Our Muscat was fermented dry in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures to produce a very aromatic and crisp wine. The small vineyard site near Alisos Canyon Road where the fruit was sourced provided
cool temperatures to nurture the varietal’s complex perfumed aromatics to full potential. This wine is a pleasant apertif with its pronouced sweet floral and orange blossom nose.

It has a refreshing crispness on the palate that lends itself to pair with seafood dishes and soft ripe cheeses. Also a nice match with spicy Asian cuisine and Thai Basil.

Retail: 16.00
To Order: Santa Barbara Winery

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

2006 Joughin Vineyard Lagrein

Lagrein is one of the indigenous grapes grown around the town of Bolzano in the Alto Adige; Italy’s northern most wine growing region. Locally known for its big, rich tannins and very dark color, this is a remarkable food wine.

The key is a richness of fruit character, instead of hard tannins that delights and surprises the mouth at the same time. “This grape yields the darkest, most saturated wine I’ve experienced”, remarked Winemaker Bruce McGuire. Mr. Andrew Joughin, who also happens to be the vineyard manager at our Lafond Vineyard, planted the Joughin Vineyard.

It was his idea to look for unusual grape varieties from around the world that would be suitable for his soils and Los Olivos climate. Of course Bruce was happy to offer some suggestions that would also add to the wide variety of wines he makes for Santa Barbara Winery.

We got Andrew to plant a couple more rows because we continue to be impressed by this varietal. The seven tons of fruit from this four acre section gave us a concentrated, lush, and fruit forward, wine.

Pair with polenta and stewed meats as well as pasta in light tomato garlic sauce. This is also a great wine to taste with cheeses such as Camembert, Fontina, semihard Gouda, or your own selection in the fresh goat’s milk catagory. This wine should age nicely through 2010.

Suggested Retail: 30.00/750ml

To Order:

Lafond Winery New Release

2006 Pinot Noir Clone 115 from the Lafond Vineyards

Nestled in the Santa Rita Hills of the western Santa Ynez Valley, Lafond Vineyard is ideally situated to produce Pinot Noir exhibiting the unique and exotic flavor profile one finds in only a few regions of the world.

Specific areas within our vineyard exhibit elevated concentration and complexity due to soil and exposure to the elements. We have also planted eight distinct clones of Pinot Noir, each with subtle differences in flavor and aroma.

After several years of working with the eight Pinot Noir clones planted in Lafond Vineyard, Bruce has become very familiar with the attributes of each particular clone and uses them accordingly in each of the Pinot Noirs he makes.

Bruce felt that the vines were now old enough for small batches of individual clones to be bottled, thus showing off their character and the flavor profile each brings to the blending regimen. Clone 115 was grown across the river from its’ sister bottling, Clone Martin Ray.

The soils are different but, farming and vinification are identical. The comparison of these two clones from the same vintage gives one the winemaker’s view of a rather new element in winemaking as the availability of many Pinot Noir clones is a viticultural story less than twenty years old in North America.

The complexity and depth of flavor make this Pinot Noir a great match with savory foods such as lamb, Copper River salmon, and hearty mushroom dishes.

Suggested Retail: 45.00/750ml
To order:

New Release Lafond Winery

Lafond Winery 2007 SRH Chardonnay

Located in the western Santa Ynez Valley, the Santa Rita Hills AVA is an ideal environment for growing intensely flavored full-bodied Chardonnay. This AVA is distinguished by a very cool and long growing season created by a convergence of unusual geography in this part of California.

During the summer, heat rising from the Mojave Desert 90 miles inland and the eastern boundary of our unique east-west system of mountains and valleys draws in cold air from the Pacific Ocean 15 miles to our West. This guarantees cool days and chilly nights during the long growing season of the nine-mile length of the Santa Rita Hills AVA.

A blend of three neighboring vineyards, the 2007 Chardonnay SRH is winemaker Bruce McGuire’s selection to showcase the ripe, concentrated Chardonnay for which the Santa Rita Hills is known.

2007 was one of those years that Winemaker Bruce McGuire had an embarassment of riches as a smaller than normal crop yielded excellent fruit quality (small clusters and berries) through most of the Chardonnay blocks from our Lafond Vineyard, our neighbor Hill Top Ranch, and the old Sanford and Benedict Vineyard just down Santa Rosa Road.

This wine is a good choice to pair with many cows’ milk cheeses such as Brie or Camembert, and as a nice surprise, the fantastic washed-rind triple-creme Cow Girl Creamery Red Hawk. Richer foods such as roast chicken or whole farm raised striped bass are also ideal pairings. This bottling will reward aging through 2013 and promises to be quite showy through 2016.

Suggested retail: 22.00/750ml
To order:

Lafond Winery New Release

2006 Lafond Vinyard Syrah

The Santa Rita Hills located in the western Santa Ynez Valley imparts a distinct “cool-climate” character to Syrah grown in the region. This character expresses itself with complex floral notes reminiscent of lavender and a spicy component highlighted by distinct white pepper notes. Our Lafond Vineyard Syrah represents select vineyard areas where the grapes exhibit the most intensity of flavor.

This concentration allows the forward, dense floral character and dark fruit to complement the spicy component of the wine. The 2006 vintage is a selection of the best 10 barrels from the least vigorous sections of three seperate vineyard blocks.

This was a moderate crop year in terms of yield and Winemaker Bruce McGuire liked the balanced canopy in the vineyard. The wine was then aged for 15 months in French Burgundy oak barrels. Bruce really liked the “great intensity” of the finished wine.

A fine choice for rustic, hearty fare and your favorite “stinky” cheese such as Taleggio from Italy or aged Red Hawk from California.

Suggested retail: 40.00
To order:

New Release Santa Barbara Winery

2006 Lafond Vineyard Grenache

After three decades of wine growing in Santa Rita Hills, Pierre Lafond and winemaker Bruce McGuire are still experimenting with unconventional varieties in this very cool growing region.

Following their successful introduction of Syrah to Santa Rita Hills in the early 1990’s, they are now releasing their third Grenache from Lafond Vineyard.

Planted in loose conglomerate (sand and rocks to four inches) in the warmest section of the vineyard allows the fruit to ripen to its full potential throughout its lengthy hang time on the vines.

Historically, Grenache has been grown in the Southern Rhone Valley of France as well as large areas of Spain where it is known as Garnacha.

Often used for blending, recent years have seen more Grenache bottled by itself as growers limit yields to make more flavorful wines highlighting the plump, mid-palate flavors that make this multifaceted wine so versatile with food. Its characteristic mouth “grip” is tannic yet plush.

Simple, easy to prepare foods are at home with this wine, and the summer of 2009 should see the tannins integrate with fruit to make a most enjoyable quaff. We anticipate this wine aging nicely through 2011.

Suggested retail: 26.00

To order:

March in the Vineyard

These are photos taken last Saturday March 7. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are beginning to bud – just barely. The cover crop has grown, in spite of the very low rainfall, and needs to be cut. In some areas, where it is very sandy, it is cut and left to keep the soil in place, in others it will be cut and disked and turned into the soil so that it does not harbor harmful insects. The rows are narrow – 6 feet,  the tractor 4 feet and the ground is uneven. The driver in the photo is Enrique, our foreman. The last photo is a view form our upper vineyard looking south. The Lafond Winery is accross the river at the foot of the mountains.

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

2005 Stolpman Vineyard Nebbiolo

Winemaker Bruce McGuire jumped at the chance to make his first Nebbiolo back in 1998 when a small amount became available from Ballard Canyon’s Stolpman Vineyard. Following the 2004’s second edition acclaim, Bruce again jumped at the availability of Stolpman fruit in 2005 to produce our third vintage of Nebbiolo.

 Nebbiolo is a true vintners’ challenge.Often described as the noblest grape of Italy, it is found in the northern Piedmont region and is most familiar when bottled as Barolo and Barbaresco. One of the most finicky grapes to grow, Nebbiolo will reward careful site selection with heady, beautiful wines.

Should the soil, exposure, or climate be less than ideal the vintner is handed truck loads of frustration in the form of under ripe grapes and thin, uninteresting wines. The naturally very high tannin and acid found in this grape meant a long time in the barrel (bottled in March of 2007) and then almost a year and a half of bottle aging before Bruce deemed the 2005 Nebbiolo ready for release.

The tannins will continue to resolve and flavors will further develop through 2012. Try this beauty with a steaming dish of white truffle pasta or experiment with a variety of artisan cheeses from the Piedmont region.
Suggested Retail 28.00/750ml
To Order:

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

Joughin Vineyard 2006 Negrette

Attention Joughin Vineyard Negrette fans and interested bystanders! This is the last vintage of Negrette to be produced as Mr. Joughin tired of seeing his labors not be rewarded by fruit.

Truth be told, we are also big fans of the delicious dark berry character found in this wine, but with misfortune ranging from extreme deer predation to frost susceptibly we could not fault the decision to yank these particular vines.

Negrette traces its origins to the warm climate area north of Toulouse in southwestern France where it is known for its dark color and fragrant berry aroma and flavor. The warmer climate around Los Olivos combined with a relatively long growing season yields a Negrette with interesting flavor and a touch more complexity than one usually finds with this grape.

Bruce made 12 barrels of this wine utilzing a mix of American and Hungarian oak of which 25% was new Hungarian barrels. The barrel aging added a little spice and body to further compliment food.

Another easy wine to pair with washed rind cheeses; it would also be a good choice for hearty Mexican cuisine or Bistro style fare. Paring with food is highly recommended to cut the firm acid, bottle aging will most likely be rewarded in 2011.
Suggested retail: 24.00/750ml
To Order:

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

2007 Santa Rita Hills Reserve Chardonnay

The Santa Rita Hills of the western Santa Ynez Valley is an area were local geography influences the climate to create conditions unusually well suited for growing world class Chardonnay.

We give this wine a “reserve” designation because these grapes are harvested from distinct soil types and Chardonnay clones that yield the greatest flavor concentration and fruit intensity.

The resulting wine is full-bodied and richly textured with complexity of flavor further enhanced by barrel fermentation. Three to five years of bottle aging allows the wine to open up and show off well-integrated flavors.

2007 was one of those years that Winemaker Bruce McGuire had an embarassment of riches as a smaller than normal crop yielded excellent fruit quality (small clusters and berries) through most of the Chardonnay blocks from our Lafond Vineyard, our neighbor Hill Top Ranch, and the old Sanford and Benedict Vineyard just down Santa Rosa Road. Over half of the fruit used was from vines aged 30 years and older.

The fruit intensity and depth of flavor makes this full-bodied style an ideal match with hearty, rich foods like salmon, pork roast, and of course, lobster.

Suggested Retail: 22.00/750ml
To Order:

Lafond Winery & Vineyards New Release

2006 Syrah / Grenache

After three decades of wine growing in the Santa Rita Hills of the western Santa Ynez Valley, Pierre Lafond and winemaker Bruce McGuire are still experimenting with unconventional grape varieties in our very cool climate growing region.

The knowledge gained since the first planting of six varieties in 1972 (one of the early vineyards in Santa Barbara County) has led to a focused approach in which varietals are sought out according to Bruce’s hypothesis on a grape’s potential to exhibit unique character when grown in our area. While this pioneering has led to short term trials like Cabernet Franc, it has also paid off with great success such as the introduction of Syrah to the Santa Rita Hills.

Grenache intrigued Bruce and Pierre for they thought it had the same potential as Syrah to show off spicy character expressed in a different way than the white pepper spice found in our cool climate Syrah.

The 2.25 acre planting has paid off in a distinctly bright Grenache exhibiting a hint of black pepper with cinnamon spice and dark red fruit flavors with a whisper of menthol. The blend of these two grapes yields a very pleasing full bodied wine that invites paring with a wide variety of foods. The wine should be fully integrated in 2010 to 2011.

Suggested retail: 38.00
To order: Wines

Open House at Lafond Winery & Vineyards

New Releases
Saturday January 24, 2009
10:00am to 5:00pm

 2007 SRH Pinot Noir
2006 Arita Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir
2007 SRH Syrah
2006 Lafond Vineyard Chardonnay

With Cheese and Bread to pair with the wines

Pinot Passport Recap

Joanie Hudson writes in the Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro Blog:

Last night’s Pinot Noir tasting provided an exciting look as to what the world of that varietal has to offer, literally. Taking samples from four distinct regions, and presenting them side by side is a lesson on wine that you can’t get from any amount of reading. The most crowded tasting yet took over the entire restaurant with the four tables spread around the perimeter of the room.

First stop was the Sta. Rita Hills, where we sampled two different vintages from the region from Santa Barbara Winery and Lafond. The only 2007 of the bunch was the Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir, which we sampled first as we snatched a deliciously spiced pulled lamb slider to bite into between tastes. A very concentrated vintage, this 07 Pinot really just jumps out at you with rich dark fruit and intensity. Vintage 2007 is from 10 vineyard sites up to 18 years old and from eight different Pinot Noir clones.

At the same table was another representative from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Santa Barbara Winery’s sister label, Lafond. For the 2006 Lafond SRH Pinot Noir Winemaker Bruce McGuire chose very specific sites in the vineyard for each of his Pinot Noir selections. In 2006, Bruce chose 6 clones from 16 vineyard lots at two vineyards (Lafond and its neighbor Arita Hills Vineyard. Nice to be able to taste the sister winery selections next to each other – same winemaker, different vintage, different philosophy to wine productions. I grabbed a second irresistible slider to go with my second taste.

All the way on the other side of the restaurant were the other three tables. I went with New Zealand’s 2006 Wild Earth Winery Central Otago Pinot next. First I tried one of the sesame tuna on cucumber discs nibbles, which was so tasty on its own, but a tiny bit too spicy for the wine – would have been delicious with an off dry Riesling. But I enjoyed tasting it with the wine only to demonstrate how certain pairings succeed or fail. This wine was a screw cap so there was some debating going on in conversations around me as to what this does for the wine. For me, screw cap or no screw cap, I’m going for what’s inside of the bottle. Pinot is the most widely planted red variety in New Zealand, where the main star is Sauvignon Blanc. There is about half as much Pinot planted as Sauvignon Blanc in this up and coming wine region that has an ideal climate for growing Pinot Noir. This wine was fruit driven, yet savory and earthy – very approachable in its youth. The 30% new oak aging came through a little bit on both the nose and palate. Watch out for those New Zealand Pinots, it is definitely an up and coming player in the wine world…

Next was the French Burgundy, which was the 2006 Bouchard Pere et Fils, Bougogne Rouge. This was quite the departure from the other new world Pinots with a subtlety and finesse that is inherent in quality French Burgundies. It was more subdued and elegant than the rest of the bunch. Bistro sommelier Zach Blair was fielding questions left and right from behind the table, very excited about the quality for the value of this wine. Another delicious appetizer was served alongside the wine at this table – baked Camambert on crostini with a pear walnut dressing. This nutty and rich treat was so tasty, with most of the flavor coming from the oozing cheese.

Last stop brought me back to the United States with Oregon’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The 2006 Benton Lane Pinot Noir table wins the award for best wine pairing of the night. Served with this wine was the classic pairing of mushrooms, prepared in a small tartlette that could be eaten in just one or two bites. This was an example of how when wine and food come together there are certain pairings that really just bring out elements of each other, highlighting certain strengths and flavors in each. In this case it was the intense and intoxicating aromas and flavors of earthy mushrooms. Each bite and sip seemed to exponentially bring out this element, definitely a perfect ending to the tasting.

Return to the Bistro website for information on February’s Passport to the World of Wine tasting. This event will happen on the first Wednesday of each month.

Joanie Hudson, Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Santa Barbara Winery