Wine Tasting, Los Olivos
Los Olivos, California. An unique, charming country town. Then, this little town woke up to the call of "Bacchus", the Roman god of wine and intoxication, equated with the Greek "Dionysus". The wine craze in the Santa Ynez Valley may have been pushed along by the movie "Sideways", 2004, and the combative talk regarding Pinot Noir over Merlot.
The movie "Sideways" quote by the character "Miles Raymond" says it all: " Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet."
Los Olivos is one of those tucked away corners of the world. So, with that, it seems that "Bacchus" blessed Los Olivos with a plethora of wine tasting rooms, over 14 on a two block stretch called the Los Olivos Promenade that carry many winery labels. It is a wine lover's paradise. Just stay in town overnight or have a designated driver. The god of wine and intoxication is watching.
"You never know what you get till you get there." saying by moi, travelgourmet. I discovered Beckmen Vineyards through my brother-in-law who claims this vineyard as his own. Well, actually he is a wine club member, but he feels at home when on the grounds. This Los Olivos winery has won many awards and was given a recognition in 2007 by "Wine and Spirits" magazine as one of the top 100 wineries in the world. To back up that recognition, the President of the United States of America included Beckman Vineyards wine at the state dinner for the Prime Minister of the Republic of India. That is a big honor for any winery and Beckman Vineyards can be proud of their wines and the tasting room proves it. You can enjoy a picnic with a bottle of Beckmen Vineyard wine at their duck pond gezebos. Perfect.
Being treated to the tasting by my brother-in-law, I was impressed by the simplistic tasting room, no need for glitz and wow when the wine is what it is all about. Beckmen Vineyards is run by Steve Beckmen and his father Tom Beckmen. The property is two fold. The orginal 40 acre vineyard and tasting room for Beckmen Vineyards and the 365 acre Santa Ynez location known as the Purisima Mountain Vineyard which is committed to farming 100 percent bio-dynamically, while the decision to adopt this organic, proactive and holistic method of farming was quality-based, it also champions a comprehensive, environmentally friendly approach to viticulture. The results are award winning wines.
While at the vineyard, I was fortunate enough to see part of the de-stemming of the grapes portion of the harvest crush. The process to create quality, award winning wines that can be enjoyed by all is a backbreaking job but the results are rewarded in the bottle. I joined in on a tasting of several of the wines produced and found that the Cuvee Le Bec (a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise) was my favorite. Wine tasting has a true purpose of finding that one wine meant for your palate. You may be surprised that what you thought tasted great in a wine was only the beginning of finding that one wine that says to you, "the time is now to enjoy the fruit of the vine for I am the one created for you." Beckmen Vineyards wine spoke that to me with the Le Bec.
Take the title role of "Davy Crockett", a television miniseries that started in December, 1954, make it a success and Fess Parker, who also played "Daniel Boone" a series that began in 1964, became a household name. Why, I even owned a coonskinned cap like the one that "Davy" always wore. Disneyland had just opened and "Davy Crockett" caps were worn by every boy that stepped inside of the magical kingdom. Magic it was for Fess Parker, who was then able to follow his dream of owning a ranch. He chose wisely with a 714 acre farm in the Santa Ynez Valley.
In 1989, Fess and his son, Eli, started to grow grape vines to sell the fruit to local producers. My, my, my, look what that started. Today, in the world of wine, Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard is well known and a respected maker of fine wines. Fess has his daughter, Ashley, involved with the winery as well. Eli with his sister, Ashley, became partners in 1998, but with the assistance and presence of Fess and his wife Marcy who decided in 1987 to buy a ranch.
Standing at the wine tasting bar, open daily, 10am-5pm, you see the coon skin caps for sale that made "Davy"...er...Fess Parker's dream come true. There are even mini caps for your bottle of wine right next to you at the counter. Got me again, as I love that cap, well only the mini for my bottle. Tasting Fee $10.00 per person and you get to keep the crystal logo glass with a tiny coonskin cap etching. After tasting the wines offered, I chose the 2007 VIOGNIER “Santa Barbara County” as the one I would bring home to have at a wine tasting party. I can't believe that my white wine taste buds are conquering my love of red wines. Three wineries in a row, and three choices are the Viogniers. Must be the pineapple connection. Oh well, as I walk out singing, "Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier". Thanks Fess.
AN UPDATE: March 18, 2010. Fess Parker has died of natural causes at the age of 85. He died on the 84th birthday of his wife of 50 years, Marcella. According to reports, he was with his family in the Santa Ynez Valley. He will be greatly missed by many. May he rest in peace.
There's no better reason to go to Los Olivos than to check out the local California vineyards. If you're interested in trying fabulous wine and health conscious, Alma Rosa is the place for you. Richard Sanford is the owner and takes care to use the land around him wisely and produces all organic varietals. Additionally, the bottles are screw cap, as opposed to using corks, which also has advantages. The staff is so knowledgable and accommodating and the vineyard is nestled away in a beautiful spot just a few minutes from Los Olivos. A definite must on your tour of the area - the Sauvignon Blanc is the best!
Andrew Murray is a young wine maker in the area. It seems that he's establishing quite a name for himself, and I'd agree with the hype because what we tasted was top notch. They were tasting 6 differnt Syrahs while we were there which was perfect for my tastes. If you like reds, especial Pinot Noirs and Syrahs you'll really like Andrew Murray. If you drink enough of his wine, then you might want to visit his cousin, Aurthur Murray, for some dancing. That's a bad joke... you can tell I've been enjoying some of his wine while writing this.