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by Fred McMillin
1960—The University of California—Davis viticulturists advise that the Santa Maria Valley, some 50 miles north of the city of Santa Barbara, is too cool for viticulture.
...The Wines of California, Stephen Brook
1999—Vineyard acreage in the valley (photo) is about 8,000!
It's The Temperature, Stupid
U.C.-Davis had a good reason for recommending against trying to ripen grapes in the Santa Maria Valley. The prominent California wine growing valleys, such as Napa and Sonoma, ran north and south. Coastal mountains cut off the fog and cold air of the Pacific Ocean. Not so in Santa Maria. The valley was open to the sea, running east to west. Fog and cold air blew in regularly, so the average temperature during the growing season was an ominous 72 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nevertheless, in 1964 the first valley vineyard was planted...120 acres of Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignan Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Yikes! Today we know the latter two grapes require much more warmth than the first two. Otherwise, vegetal or grassy flavors will creep into the Blanc and the Cab. Needless to say, vintners pulled up and grafted over many vines until they got it right. The Chardonnay and Riesling belonged at the cooler west end, the Blanc and the Cab to the warmer east end.
The exciting successes led to the valley being designated by the feds as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1981. Today, critic Steve Heimoff (I've talked with him; very sharp!)...anyhow, Steve writes that Santa Maria Chardonnay is a superstar. "It regularly achieves a balanced complexity rivaled only in the Russian River Valley and sometimes the Carneros." (Wine Enthusiast, 7/97) So one of those superstars is...
Our Wine of the Day
Steele Goodchild Vineyard Chardonnay
The Name Game: If you visit the Goodchild vineyard, you'll find it on the south side of the Sisquoc (sihs-kwahk) River. Sisquoc?? The Chumash American Indians called quail "sisquoc."
Photo Credit—Santa Barbara Visitors Bureau
12/15/00—Big Talk or Big Wines??
12/14/00—The Bishop's Fate
12/13/00—That Creek Mystique
12/08/00—Against All Odds
12/07/00—It's Time for The Rosé Bowl
12/05/00—Cod and Carneros
12/01/00—Something New Under the (Southern) Sun
This page created December 2000