Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saarloos and Sons – A Family Owned and Honored Winery in Los Olivos, California

After visiting Melville Vineyards and Wines on the west side of Santa Rita Hills I headed over to the east side to Los Olivos, a quaint little town with a boat load of tasting rooms.

There, I dropped into Saarloos and Sons - a family-run winery that is ALL about the wine and not about the schtick. After snapping a few shots, I met up with Keith Saarloos who has been a guest on The Wine Town twice. His most recent appearance is one of the most entertaining episodes in which he had a lively debate with Bill Hirsh (who runs winemaking and sales efforts at Cielo Farms, a Malibu based wine company) over the issue of branding and growth of the wine business:

I have been to and worked at family-owned and run wineries and unfortunately many over the past decade (Robert Mondavi and Duckhorn to just name two) have sold out to the big conglomerates such as Constellation, Diageo and others. Saarloos and Sons is refreshingly family-business oriented, not business-family oriented.

Saarloos and Sons is a very different from other family wineries in that it is not only built on the family heritage (so it looks to the past), it is also looking forward for the future of the Saarloos family keeping them in mind as well. So, it isn’t all about NOW and making the big buck$ but rather preserving the family heritage, farm and wines for the next generation. In doing so they seek to honor their grandparents and look out for their children, grandchildren “…throughout their generations.” (Gen. 17:7)

But their role as winemakers comes second to their first, they are a generational family of farmers. Most of the wines they serve are 100% Estate Grown and they do not merely own the property (the legal definition of “estate”), they grow their own grapes. So they don’t hire a farming company to manage their vineyards. They are an extremely small production winery so most of their grapes are sold to other winemakers. The vines were planted thirteen years ago on fourteen acres, with their first release of Syrah in 2003. They now have two vineyards and each one has a different personality. 

Since wines are change each year with the variations in the weather, even if they are from the same vineyard, a wine that reflects its terroir will be different from vintage to vintage. So even if a wine has the same name each year, in reality every harvest produces a different wine. Keeping this in mind, Saarloos and Sons gives a different name (such as Brielle, Hers, Big Larr, His, Extended Family…) to each year’s vintage with a new picture on the label. Many of them are named after family members. 

Saarloos and Sons doesn’t have tasting notes in their tasting room nor on their web site, so the following are mine and may or may not reflect what you’ll experience when visiting and enjoying their wines:

My first pour was the 2009 “Brielle” Sauvignon Blanc, named after Keith’s daughter. On the nose I picked lemon curd, 7-Up, and fresh grapefruit juice. On the palate it is seemingly off-dry, and tastes like a Riesling married with a Sauv Blanc. Existentially, this wine is like listening to David Garret play Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters” on a violin. It’s beautiful, but it isn’t for everyone, and it should pair well with Asian and Indian food. This wine sells for $24 while supplies last.

My next wine was the 2010 “Hers” Estate Grenache Blanc. A unique wine and excellent change in pace from the ocean of Chards, Reislings etc. that are on the market. On the nose and palate I picked up Sprite, lemon zest and Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Far Beyond the Sun.” This wine is dry but tastes off-dry as it displays a lot of varietal fruitiness, but not annoyingly so, and it has a long finish. This wine sells for $32 a bottle.

The third pour was the “His” 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. There isn’t much Cab Sauv grown in this region so I was surprised by this one. On the nose I picked up blackberry pie, cassis, damp earth, sweet tobacco, a lot of vanilla and Van Halen’s “Eruption” dipped in dark chocolate. On the palate it is full bodied with surprisingly soft tannins, well balanced and has a medium length finish. This wine sells for 32 bucks and I took a bottle home to share with family and friends.

The fourth wine was my favorite in the line-up, the “Big Larr” Estate Syrah. This wine is inky purple and stains the glass. On the nose I picked up blackberry jam, a hint of dried herbs, white pepper, dried plums and strawberry preserves. It is medium+ to full bodied, well rounded, has good minerality and excellent structure. For $30 I took a bottle home to share with family and friends.

My final wine was really interesting… the 2010 Extended Family Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria family. Never in a million years would I have guessed that this was a Pinot. It is dark, earthy and has an ironic but sincere twist - sort of like Johnny Cash singing the Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” But I found it difficult to identify any one particular feature that says, “I’m a Pinot.” If you have ever had a good Pinotage (a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut), think of that but with less tannin and that is what this wine is like… to me. This wine sells for $60 – OUCH!

To visit or for more information:

Saarloos and Sons
2971 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA
Phone: 1-805- 688-1200

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