Yet Another Reliable White from S.B.’s In Town Winery
The enjoyment of wine seems to go from exact (notes of vanilla and grass, for instance) to experiential, like how this 2005 Santa Barbara Chardonnay goes perfectly well with a French onion soup and green salad with ginger sesame dressing from Sojourner, followed by a dessert of tow-in surf and hip-hop DVDs. Both types of wine enjoyment and writing make sense in their own regard, and I tend to prefer a mix of both, as evidenced above.
In this case, I find myself dwelling upon a bottle of this mixed-vineyard chard (specifically 10 percent Lafond, 46 percent Hill Top, 14 percent Byron, 10 percent Schied, and 20 percent Los Alamos) because it found its way to my house thanks to the Santa Barbara Winery’s very busy wine club. They seem to send me a reminder to pick up my new stuff every other week or so, and I tend to oblige with speed, once I finally realized that they’d already charged me once I got the reminder.
I’m a member of far too many wine clubs, but the Santa Barbara Winery is one of my favorites, in part for the frequency of the orders, but moreso because the prices are always humbly reasonable. In this case, the 2005 Chardonnay is only $14, and I got it at even less due to the wine club discount. For me, that’s cheap enough to enjoy on a weekday night that’s got no special occasion, other than writing reviews of wines, music, film, and the like.
As for the flavor, it tastes like a crisp chard, enough suavity from the French oak barrels to please those needing the oak overtones, but still reserved so that the butter doesn’t pound your tongue. Which is to say that it’s no doubt a Californian creation, but that Euros could appreciate the restraint. That balance of flavor is reflected in the light yellow color and medium-high alcohol content at 13.7 percent. Winemaker Bruce McGuire knows his crops well, as this recent release confirms. Pick it up and drink it down without any pricetag regrets.
And as a bit of related news, Santa Barbara Winery put out a press release last month claiming that a new wine is trying to piggyback on the aforementioned chardonnay’s success. According to the winery’s marketing director Craig Addis, the Bronco Wine Company out of Ceres, California — famous for the cheap Charles Shaw wines, aka “Two Buck Chuck” — has released a wine that mimics the chard reviewed here. That wine, available for about $5 at Trader Joe’s, is called Santa Barbara Landing, 2005 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay. A quick look at the label and it’s easy to see why the S.B. Winery folks are concerned: the font seems nearly identical and the soft colors are reminscent of the hues on S.B. Winery labels.
Said Addis, “While some might consider this a backhanded compliment, it misleads the consumer and taints Santa Barbara Winery’s hard-earned reputation for top flight chardonnays.” Addis points out that Bronco does not make its wine in Santa Barbara — indeed, the back label explains that Santa Barbara Landing Winery is actually in Sonoma. That makes winemaker Bruce McGuire wonder whether the wine is even fully from this county.
“It is very difficult to create a quality chardonnay from this region at that price point,” explained McGuire. “Since the legal requirement is that 75 percent of the grapes must be from Santa Barbara County chardonnay, I wonder if that producer is willing to make a statement as to the contents and origin of everything in that bottle.”
Worst of all, according to Addis, is that people will think there is a relationship between the two wineries. “Just like the BWC’s $5 Napa River brand, these producers hope to ride on Santa Barbara’s reputation and perceived consumer ignorance. It’s what’s behind the label that counts.”
And behind the S.B. Winery label, at least, is some tasty stuff. I’ve yet to try the Landing, and given the tactics, might not do so out of principle. The Details: To pick up your own bottle, head down to the Santa Barbara Winery on 202 Anacapa Street or just click here to order online.