In blending this 2003 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, we pulled together fruit from Santa Maria Valley and the Santa Rita Hills-two very different sites with contrasting signatures."The Fiddlestix Vineyard in Santa Rita gives dark fruits and brooding flavors, a concentrated and rich expression of Pinot Noir."The North CanyonVineyard in Santa Maria Valley delivers more delicate accents, with soft, pretty cinnamon and strawberry notes."When blended, you get a blackberry burst in the wine with cola spice and juicy jammy berry notes supported by a balancing act of tannins and structure. The resulting wine has breadth and an evenness we strive for with this tricky variety. -Natasha Boffman, Winemaker
TAZ Vineyards, like many artisan producers in Santa Barbara County, is located in a winemaker's cooperative warehouse in Santa Maria. Vision and fervent passion earned Bob "Taz" Steinhauer the Tasmanian devil nickname. From the vineyards to the scale houses, this nickname stuck as he feverishly led the development of some of California's most notable vineyards. While his legendary career spanned four decades of grape growing in the Napa Valley, it was the rustic spirit of Santa Barbara that stole his heart. Perfect soils and climate led him to this spectacular region to plant vineyards.
"Taz" Steinhauer is considered a pioneer whose unswerving dedication to unlocking the secrets of the Central Coast over the past several years has contributed directly to the rising acclaim for wines from the region. He shared his passion and his insights broadly with local growers, always pushing for higher levels of quality and an approach that allowed each vineyard to evolve to its fullest viticultural expression.
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The largest of California's wine growing regions, the Central Coast produces the majority of California's wine. The district sprawls out, covering most of the vineyard land between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Smaller sub-AVAs of the Central Coast include Monterey Bay, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and many others.
Grape varieties range from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Some Central Coast wine is generic, bulk wine that contributes to the high production numbers of the area. But many winemakers and wineries, particular in some of the smaller AVAs, are small production artisans, creating unique and high-quality wine. The great thing about the Central Coast is its diversity - you're able to find a number of grape varieties and styles at a number of different price points.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.