My first stop on the second day of my tour of wineries up the California Coast was in the Santa Barbara Wine Country along the west side Highway 246 on the La Purisma Trail in the Santa Rita Hills AVA. Melville Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery founded by Ron Melville along with his sons Brent and Chad who serve as managers of their 85 acres of estate vineyards.
One of the first things I noticed while taking pictures in the vineyards was that soil is predominantly very fine dune sand. According to their web site, underlying this sand is clay loam with shallow hard pans of Monterey shale. On these sandy-loam estate vineyards are planted eleven clones of Pinot Noir, ten clones of Syrah and five clones of Chardonnay all on a variety of low vigor rootstocks.
The climate here is heavily influenced by its proximity to the ocean with consistent morning and evening fog and steady afternoon winds. This provides excellent conditions for producing highly quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. It also allows for a prolonged growing season which gives the wines greater flavor intensity. So if you’re a big fan of Burgundian varietal wines (as I am) then this is the place to go in Santa Barbara County.
For a modest $10 tasting fee I tasted the following wines:
My first pour was the 2009 Estate Chardonnay – Sta. Rita Hills. This wine is made from a combination of several Chardonnay clones (4, 76, 95, and selections of Mount Eden, Hanzell and Wente), was barrel fermented with full malolactic fermentation. On the nose the wine displays stone fruits (peaches, apricots), lemon curd, marshmallows and a hint of toasted bread. On the palate this wine is rich with a full mouth feel yet also great acidity and so it is creamy and yet without being overly buttery. This is an excellent representative of this style of Chard and I have tasted many like it for $35 - $40, but for only $26 I brought a bottle home.
My next wine was the 2011 Estate Chardonnay, Clone 76 Inox – Sta. Rita Hills. This wine is made in a completely different style as it was fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks. On the nose it displays orange peel, canned pineapple, melon, coconut and a hint of bananas on the finish. On the palate it has additional notes of apple, is crisp with a long finish. A really well made wine for $36 a bottle.
The third pour was the 2010 Estate Pinot Noir – Sta. Rita Hills. This wine is clear and bright ruby red, with a BIG explosive nose of cherry pie, strawberries and Asian spice. On the palate it is very soft, medium bodied with mouth-watering acidity. If you like Pinots on the fruity side, this is a good one for only $34 a bottle.
The fourth wine in the line-up was the 2010 Carrie’s Estate Pinot Noir – Sta. Rita Hills. In contrast to the previous Pinot, this was is tighter with more spice, damp earth, dark black cherries followed by intense strawberry preserves. On the palate the wine has a bit more tannin which could probably use a few years to calm down. An excellent wine but a bit steep at $52 a bottle.
My final wine was the 2010 Verna’s Estate Syrah – Sta. Rita Hills. This wine very light as it looks like a Pinot in the glass. On the nose I picked up red fruits, dried herbs, raspberry jam, anise and a hint of white pepper on the finish. On the palate it is seemingly semi-sweet and spicy. A unique styled Syrah and a fair price at $26 a bottle.
To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
To visit or for more information:
Melville Vineyards and Wines
5185 East Hwy 246
Lompoc, CA 93436