This last weekend, my wife and I entertained friends from the Bay Area. We drove from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, and after a late lunch at La Super-Rica (fabulous, as usual!), drove to Foxen Vineyard, about a 45 minute drive north of Santa Barbara. Thanks to Kathryn Clark, the friendly and knowledgeable tasting room manager, we had a wonderful tasting. Standouts, among the available wines, were the 1996 Tinaquaic Vineyard Chardonnay, the 1998 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir, and the 1998 Morehouse Vineyard Syrah. I had hoped to taste the Julia's Vineyard, the Bien Nacido, and the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noirs, but, alas, there were none available. Next year.
From Foxen, we drove to Los Olivos, where the Andrew Murray Vineyards tasting room is located. In an earlier post, Gary Cheong had recommended Andrew Murray, and specifically its Roussane. Unfortunately, Andrew Murray's last bottling of Roussane was in 1998, and it is unclear when the next bottling will be. However, I consoled myself with a glorious 1999 Marsanne which is noteworthy for its well-balanced mineral and spice notes. This wine, however, is now history since I bought the last three bottles available. I was also impressed with Andrew Murray's 1999 Syrah "Tous les Jours," which, as its name implies, is nowhere near as big, tannic, and stemmy as the Foxen Syrah, but has lovely flavors and is very drinkable now. A real bargain at $16 a bottle.
On Saturday night, we had a nice, though not spectacular, "Santa-Maria-style" steak dinner at the Hitching Post Restaurant in Buellton. (Going against conventual wisdom, I preferred the steak at Jocko's, where I ate on my previous visit to this area.) The highlight of the meal was not the food, aside from some very good fries, but Hitching Post's 1996 Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir, a big, gutsy, deep, complex Pinot Noir, the "Old-Burgundy"-style of which I much prefer to the light, cherry style of many currently produced Pinot Noirs.
On Sunday, we polished off our friends' weekend visit with dim sum at Empress Pavillion in downtown Los Angeles' Chinatown, which was just as good as ever. All in all, a great weekend of tasting some terrific wines, driving through the beautiful hill country of the Santa Ynez Valley, and eating at some tried-and-true old favorites with generally good results.