Play that funky music, white boy.
I was no stranger to wine when I moved to the Central Coast almost 20 years ago. Far from it. BUT! I can name, like, FOUR wineries which completely changed my life when I got my introduction to Santa Barbara County wines.
In no particular order:
SANTA BARBARA WINERY: Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County; at the winery probably about 2002. Not even the Pierre Lafond stuff (which was barely surfacing at the time), this little sub-20$ stuff–AND the Syrah–blew my RRV/Carneros/Anderson Valley palate away and I have been a fan of Bruce McGuire ever since.
ARCADIAN Syrah at Wine Cask in Santa Barbara probably 2003. WHAT IS THIS STUFF?!?!
BRANDER Bouchet at the winery maybe 2002. Kept a vertical ever since.
DANIEL GEHRS Sangiovese at Gina’s Italian Restaurant Arroyo Grande probably 2005. Changed my mind about Sangio and Toscano and everything.
1997 MERIDIAN ‘Black Label’ Cabernet Sauvignon BTG at Fess Parker’s bar down on the beach. Only a *California* AVA, but I had never–nor will ever–look at Meridian Vineyards the same way again.
These were my Central Coast wines which made everything click. None of them had I ever heard of before, and I can name the exact moment, the exact location, the exact situation each of them first impacted me. For good and forever. None of them are expensive or of particular cult collectorship. But this is one of them. Joe Davis’ Syrahs warm my heart like no other, and the charm they show with a little age push ALL of my funk/fruit/clean-flannel/fig/chocolate/tapenade/barnyard/acerola/sweaty/pencil-box/perfect crisp age and brilliance buttons, SO fun to drink–so effortless in its seductive beauty. And these are not hard to find!
2005 ARCADIAN Syrah Westerly Vineyard Happy Canyon Santa Barbara Co 14.5