Alma Rosa La Encantada Blanc 2018, Sta. Rita Hills
Alma Rosa El Jabali Pinot Noir 2018, Sta. Rita Hills
I tasted Alma Rosa’s Chardonnay about a month ago and loved it so much I had to go back and try two other wines the winery was offering as a special tribute to winery founder Richard Sanford.
Both the 2018 Blanc from La Encantada Vineyard and the 2018 El Jabali Pinot Noir were outstanding wines.
The Blanc is a gorgeous light gold in the glass with aromas of jasmine, wet stone and honey. It is well-balanced, with a light acidity matching the luscious flavors of lemon, lime and pear. It finishes with a fresh minerality.
The El Jabali Pinot Noir is a deep red in the glass with powerful black fruit and plum aromas. On the palate are a complex array of flavors, from blueberry to blackberry to black cherry. This is a powerful wine that probably will continue to develop for at least another five years.
The La Encantada Blanc is made from Pinot Blanc grapes grown in the La Encantada vineyard located between Buellton and Lompoc. The Alma Rosa vineyards benefit from the unique east-west valleys in Sta. Rita Hills, where cool ocean breezes are funneled inland. So while the grapes get plenty of sunshine, they stay cool and can develop completely.
The Pinot grapes come from the El Jabali Vineyard that was planted in 1983 with 3.3 acres of the Mt. Eden clone farmed organically. The wine is aged 18 months in 50 percent new French oak.
The Santa Rita Hills region in Santa Barbara County isn’t exactly unknown, but it doesn’t often come up in conversations about great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And that’s a shame because their wines don’t take a back seat to anyone.
Alma Rosa is celebrating these days because winery founder Richard Sanford has been named 2020 Vintner of the Year by the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance, which honored him with an online event last month.
Commonly referred to as the “Godfather of Central Coast Pinot Noir,” Sanford planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard on the Central Coast in 1971, and has lived and worked in the Sta. Rita Hills, a region he helped create, for nearly five decades.
The Alma Rosa website also has a link to a YouTube video of a wine tasting with winemaker Samra Morris.
Winery: The winery was founded in 2005 by Richard Sanford, but now the winery is owned by Bob and Barb Zorich, who purchased the winery in 2014.
Alma Rosa Winery is dedicated to making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines that express the terroir of its unique appellation, the Sta. Rita Hills. Alma Rosa’s wines are layered, vibrant and balanced, reflecting the cool climate impact of the Pacific Ocean breezes which funnel through the unique east-west transverse mountain range of the region.
Most of the Alma Rosa wines are made in small batches of less than 400 cases. The winery and its gorgeous tasting room are located about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara. While specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the winery also offers excellent Syrah, Pinot Blanc and Grenache Blanc.
Santa Barbara County’s Sta. Rita Hills AVA is one of the most geologically active regions in the world of wine. The story of this appellation began several million years ago, when the Pacific plate began to spread, breaking off pieces of the continent to form the Sea of Cortez, and carrying them north along the West Coast to form a unique transverse mountain range, where the valleys open east-west and end at the sea.
Some four million years later, Sanford was drawn to the region for its complex soils and cool ocean breezes. In 1971 he planted the region’s first vineyard–Sanford & Benedict–and went on to plant many more before establishing Alma Rosa Winery in 2005.
Today the Sta. Rita Hills is making a name for itself as one of the world’s most exciting regions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Sanford continues as winery ambassador, and the Zorichs have brought on top viticulture and winemaking talent, including winemaker Samra Morris, consulting winemaker Tony Biagi, viticulturist Mike Anderson, and veteran general manager Debra Eagle.
The Alma Rosa tasting room in Buellton is open and welcoming visitors.
Goes with: We had the La Encantada Blanc with fried chicken wings and fried chicken tenders. The pairing was great because the citrus flavors and bright acidity cut through the spices in the chicken to round out a great meal.
I have been experimenting with various breadings to get just the right crunch and spice mix. This time I used House Autrey chicken breading with an equal amount of seasoned Panko bread crumbs along with spices that included paprika, celery seed, Morton Nature’s Seasons and red pepper flakes. The colonel should be jealous.
I fried them in my small deep fat fryer and the chicken came out crisp and crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Teri and I both loved the way the chicken turned out.
I added a Hasselback potato, cut vegetables and fresh Silver Queen corn on the cob for a real feast. It is much more fun to cook in the summer when delicacies like Silver Queen corn are available.
We had the El Jabali Pinot Noir with a quick-fix meal of Sloppy Joe’s and French fries. I made the sandwiches with ground turkey to be a little healthier. It was a wonderful mid-week pairing, with all the flavors blending together.
Both of these wines are food friendly and will pair with a wide variety of meals. The Pinot Noir is the more elegant of the two and really should be paired with a fine meal like roast duck, beef Burgundy or a pork roast.
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Author Dennis Sodomka