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Tara Jones: Santa Barbara County Sparkling Wines Making Their Presence Felt

A taste of these creations may have you pouring a new signature drink, and it won’t be Champagne

<p>Flying Goat Cellars’ dog-friendly tasting room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.</p>

Flying Goat Cellars’ dog-friendly tasting room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  (Tara Jones photo)

By Tara Jones, Noozhawk Columnist |

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

In my opinion, everyone should have a signature drink.

A signature drink isn’t just something you can remember off the top of your head, but it says something about the one who orders it.

For me, my signature drink is champagne.

While it may not be as exciting as the margarita or imply some sort of cool mystery like the dirty martini, it’s my Fred and Ethel Mertz.

When made well it’s a dependable, unchanging drink that always makes me feel as though I am home.

Even though champagne can only be called by its namesake if grown in the Champagne region of France, I’d like to think that Santa Barbara County sparkling wines give Champagne a pretty good run for its money.

And Santa Barbara County, though not needing another reason to be considered special, is home to a climate that is most conducive to producing grapes, such as Chardonnay, for an exquisite sparkling wine production.

With the growing trend of local winemakers producing sparkling wines in Santa Barbara County and surrounding areas, we can expect — with fingers crossed! — that other wineries sourcing from our local AVAs may soon follow suit.

In the meantime, our current sparkling wine pioneers are pouring some unique and highly rated sparkling wines that are great for pairing or just sipping on one of those perfect summer days.

Sea Smoke Estate Vineyards

This super secret vineyard, known for being the only winery that is exclusive only to its wine club members, has produced a very intriguing sparkling wine that really stunned my palate.

Expecting a traditional and dry sparkling wine, I was surprised to taste heavy notes of cranberry, strawberry and cream in the 2011 Sea Spray Blanc de Noirs.

This sparkling wine had a very long finish and sweetness that would be perfect in place of any dessert.

Flying Goat Cellars

Located in the heart of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, this winery’s sparkling wine selection and dog-friendly tasting room are as unique as its name.

Owner and winemaker, Norm Yost, has been perfecting the Central Coast sparkling wine since 2005 and has produced four choice sparkling vintages, as well as a couple of pinots.

Of the four sparkling wines, the most unique and likely to be my new favorite this summer is the 2011 Goat Bubbles, Crémant grown in the Sierra Madre Vineyard of the Santa Maria AVA.

Made with chardonnay grapes and partially aged in oak, this vintage is buttery with just a hint of ginger, and perfect for anyone with a Paula Deen palate.

Lucas & Lewellen

This tasting room is perfectly situated in the heart of downtown Solvang.

And with an extensive tasting list, this winery’s single sparkling wine is not to be missed.

The fruit-forward 2011 Blanc de Noirs with a yeasty bouquet finishes on a very sweet, strawberry and cream note, much like a traditional rosé.

Avant Tapas & Wine

Just off the beaten path in Buellton, near Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. and Ascendant Spirits, sits Avant Tapas & Wine.

With a cozy view of the valley’s mountains opposite the floor-to-ceiling window into their barrel room, Avant serves up a unique wine tasting experience.

While the 2012 Brut and Brut Rosé were on par for the palate, the 2012 Svago Buono Brut Rosé is what is sure to capture the attention of all oenophiles.

Grown in the Santa Rita Hills and aged in steel, this Brut Rosé boasts a complex and savory mineral flavor that would pair perfectly with a peppered steak salad.

Riverbench Vineyard & Winery

With your choice of tasting ambience, Riverbench is located in both Santa Maria and Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone neighborhood.

The Sparkling Three Pack is the perfect range of sweet to savory for any palate with its 2011 Demi Sec, 2009 Blanc de Blanc and 2010 Blanc de Noirs.

And for an extra tasty treat, the 2009 Blanc de Blanc pairs perfectly with Koval Confections’ salted caramels that are sold exclusively online and in the Funk Zone tasting room.

Tara Jones leads Eat This, Shoot That! and welcomes reader tips and ideas for future columns. She can be reached at [email protected]. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.


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