Though founded in 1988, Cottonwood Canyon Winery doesn’t enjoy quite the cache of older Santa Maria Valley properties like Cambria or newer hotspots like Presqu’ile. Yet founder Norman Beko continues to grow fog-chilled pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah on his 73-acre property at the corner of Dominion and Orcutt Garey roads, where he built Santa Barbara County’s first wine caves in the 1990s. 

Perhaps the stable environment of those caves — which are protected by 200-year-old redwood doors, recycled from a Ohio bridge — is a factor in the longevity of Cottonwood Canyon wines, as is their lighter, lower-alcohol frames, clocking in right around 13 percent. Beko recently sent me a few pinot noirs from his library to try: the 2002 estate, which smells of leather and mushroom yet tastes of Turkish fig and nutmeg, still full of energy and tension; the 2002 Elizabeth’s Vista, where truffle, soy, and mushroom are spiced with white pepper; and the 2003 Elizabeth’s Vista, which shows a sanguine character of bloody meat and dried cherry. 

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Aged wines can be a gamble, but these are worth the bet, especially since Beko is selling cases for just $144 — yes, a mere $12 a bottle for 18-year-old wines. If that tickles your intrigue, then consider buying the winery, too. It’s been on the market for years now.



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