Santa Barbara Vineyards, Not the Bengals

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Hello readers! This week, I am delivering the newsletter to my colleague Jess Lander. As a former sportscaster who now covers wine, she’s uniquely positioned to write about this week’s most pressing issue: wine at the Super Bowl. PS I’m rooting for the Bengals. -Esther

Given that I’m a Patriots fan with no personal connection to the Los Angeles Rams or the Cincinnati Bengals, I approach this year’s Super Bowl game with casual indifference. Here’s what I’m looking forward to on Sunday, though: snacks, the halftime show featuring the biggest rap and R&B legends of my formative years, and the long-awaited Santa Barbara wine moment under the projectors.

Much of the focus on Santa Barbara wines is due to SoFi Stadium, which hosts Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, and also recently unveiled a wine program showcasing the region.

Cover your NorCal ears, because I’m going to say something you might not like. I believe Santa Barbara is currently the most exciting wine region on the West Coast, so much so that I have made no less than four pilgrimages from my home in Napa in the past two years. While Santa Barbara is best known for its cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the region is hugely diverse with over 70 varietals – including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Counoise and Picpoul – spread across seven wine sub-regions. official.

SoFi’s wine list features 21 solid varieties from six of these regions and presents sports fans with a great overview of Santa Barbara wines. It highlights not only the region’s pioneers and biggest names (Sanford, Au Bon Climat), but also some of the region’s most notable newcomers, like The Hilt, Holus Bolus and Deovlet.

Unsurprisingly, Napa is the star of the stadium’s reserve wine list with the usual (yawn) expensive suspects including Harlan, Bond and Screaming Eagle. But unlike the “King in the North,” the general vibe of Santa Barbara wine country is that it values ​​experimentation and innovation over tradition and 100-point scores.

With every trip to Santa Barbara, I discover fun new palette refreshments, like a sparkling Gamay from Pence Vineyards (no affiliation with the former VP) and a series of unconventional blends from Sanguis that blur the lines between Bordeaux and the Rhone. Sanguis winemaker Matthias Pippig has built his brand on the very idea of ​​challenging many modern wine conventions, such as co-fermenting grapes and blending varieties that are almost never found in the same bottle (this also worked; his wines are now hard to find for non-wine club members). If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend visiting his warehouse which is discreetly tucked away in a textile district on the outskirts of downtown Santa Barbara. The region is also, in my opinion, at the center of the country’s natural wine movement, drawing on the wild and well-deserved fanfare of producers like Liquid Farm, Lo-Fi and Solminer.

So while the Bengals may be the real underdogs on Sunday, I’ll be backing California’s wine dark horse with my own (friendly) competition between two bottles from my Santa Barbara collection, each a 2018 Grenache from Sta. Rita Hills region. It’s about to be a delicious and fierce battle between Kings Carey, the personal label of Liquid Farm winemaker James Sparks, and A Tribute to Grace, a Grenache-only label by Kiwi-born winemaker Angela Osborne.

If you feel inclined to partake in the Santa Barbara Sunday celebration, you can probably find bottles from at least a few of the wineries I mentioned at most local wine shops. Otherwise, just ask for a recommendation at the store or choose something from my favorite sub-region, the Santa Rta. Hills.

The best pairing for pigs in a blanket wins.

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