Read on for the juicy details & fun facts, as well as a celebration coming in August!
18 years ago I purchased a flower farm and have since turned it into my own slice of Pinot Paradise. I decided to make this area the home of my vineyard, Fiddlestix, because I wanted to invest in the future of what is now the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in hopes that I could be a part of it becoming a noteworthy place…
I created Fiddlehead (my Winery) to focus on Pinot Noir and the place it is grown is essential to the personality of the brand. Fiddlehead is all about sense of place. So after my early vineyard source - Sierra Madre - sold in the mid 90’s, and there was little Pinot Noir to be had from Santa Barbara County (and even less that was the top quality that I demanded for Fiddlehead), I knew the only way I could progress my commitment to Pinot Noir was to invest in the development of bare ground.
In 1996 I purchased the land for Fiddlestix. The first blocks were planted in 1998 with dormant grafted vines, and the first tiny crop of Lollapalooza was produced in 2000! In 2001, a group of us local winemakers successfully earned the Sta. Rita Hills AVA designation.
In my time here, I have come to admire what makes the Sta. Rita Hills special. Here are a few reasons which I believe make the Sta. Rita Hills area so unique:
Sta. Rita Hills AVA at a Glance
More fun facts…
√ Sta. Rita Hills AVA is in Northern Santa Barbara County, California, USA.
√ Sta. Rita Hills AVA lies between Buellton and Lompoc CA.
√ 100 square acres of hillside land, one of the smallest AVA's in California.
√ 99% of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA lies within the existing Santa Ynez Valley AVA, on the far western end. Although independent, Sta. Rita Hills AVA can be considered the Western sub-appellation of Santa Ynez Valley.
√ Boundaries were established by winemakers and winegrowers in the area, marking maps on foot and in
4x4 trucks. The boundaries were chosen specifically for viticultural viability and for the highest quality
Pinot Noir winegrape production.
√ Approximately 2877 acres planted, mostly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay, small amounts of Syrah, Pinot Blanc,
Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer, Riesling and other varietals.
√ Petition to establish Sta. Rita Hills was drafted and submitted in 1997, approved in 2001.
Fiddlehead purchased the land for Fiddlestix in 1996.
In celebration of this unique region, the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance is hosting their annual Wine and Fire Weekend showcasing the accomplished wines and producers on August 15-17, 2014.
Love the place, but hate the crowds? That’s alright! Join us for our “Super Pinot Sunday” open house at our Winery & Tasting Room in the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto” on August 17th. It’s a rare chance to taste our entire Pinot line-up and a unique opportunity to catch up with me before we’re in the thick of harvest! For tickets and more information, visit us HERE.
The thrill and angst of harvest is in the air! The valley is filling with pick-up truck and tractor buzz. Crews are filtering in and out of the vineyards applying bird nets, removing green, lesser ripe clusters from grapevines (“green drop”), and winemakers are tasting and sampling and are eager to set the pace for the new vintage. Grapes are “coloring up”, flavors are evolving, and many of us are picking for sparkling wines – a wonderful “warm-up” event – which are harvested at a much lower sugar level than still wines…typically 17-18 Brix, compared to 21-25 Brix. We had our first pick on Friday!
Our vineyard and winery equipment has been inspected and fine-tuned. Our bin dumper is on the forklift, and our 2012 Fiddlestix Pinot is racked and resting in barrel. The picking bins are being cleaned, our press and fermentation vats are being cleaned, new rubber boots have been ordered and we are breaking in our seasonal harvest cellar rats. And to top it all off, we entertained with our final pre-harvest event …WINE and FIRE in the Sta. Rita Hills this past weekend! Whew!
It has been a curious growing season, with the lack of rain having the greatest impact. In 2013 we received only 6.9 inches of rainfall at Fiddlestix. For comparison, in 2012 we got 13 inches, 32 inches in 2011 and about 28 inches in 2010. The dry growing season means necessary micronutrients typically carried in the water are less available to the plant, resulting in grapevines that struggled with shoot growth. Stunted shoots don’t have as many leaves for photosynthesis, and therefore can ripen only a smaller crop. Thank goodness for irrigation as we were able to replenish many of the micronutrients that were missing from our normal rainfall. As the season has progressed, we now have a relatively even canopy which helps promote even ripening within a vine row.
We love visitors in September, but beware…we may give you a pair of rubber boots and put you to work! Night harvesting starts at 2 am! But we throw a heck of a lunch party for our harvest crew.
Cheers to vintage 2013!
We began with a meticulous wine selection –vetting the world’s major Sauvignon blanc regions with an eye for regional distinction, exceptional quality and availability, of course. (Unfortunately, I was on the road and missed much of this difficult work!)
These are the wines that were decided upon:
2011 Greywacke Sauvignon blanc, Marlborough, paired with the Fiddlehead 2011 Goosebury Sauvignon blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.
2008 Alphonse Mellot Pouilly-Fumé par Emmanuelle Mellot, paired with the Fiddlehead 2009 Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Sauvignon blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.
2008 Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac Leognan, paired with the Fiddlehead 2007 Hunnysuckle Sauvignon blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.
The tasting was fantastic. Nearly 50 people participated, many with personal tasting connections to one or more of the International regions featured. The pairings were spectacular – both for their contrasts and for their similarities!
All three of the Fiddlehead wines are produced from our grapes grown in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, the part of the Santa Ynez Valley with the warmest daytime temperatures. This region is quite unique for its ability to fully ripen our Sauvignon blanc fruit while preserving the acidity and freshness due to that ever-present evening coastal fog. Pear and white peach notes take center stage, with rich floral and tropical fruit notes provide layering in a most seductive way.
On the first flight, the New Zealand wine showed layers of wet slate and herbaceousness, whereas the Goosebury’s minerality was more limestone in character and the fruit much more expressive and floral. Both had striking acidity, but the luscious fruit notes of Goosie stood out markedly.
The Loire pairing with the Happy Canyon was more enlightening. Both wines had a richness that was quite alluring, with the Pouilly-Fume showing more melon and green bell pepper and the Happy Canyon centering on the peachy-pear. Great pairing, and testament to our assertion that the Happy Canyon is truly inspired by the wines of the Loire!
The wine pairing of the night was the third, with the ’08 Larrivet Haut-Brion showing many of the well developed characteristics that we celebrate in the Hunnysuckle. Still with vibrant fruit and acidity, both wines have developed well in the bottle and showed a glycerin-y richness with nuance of fig, citrus, and dried herbs. It was a coin flip as to which I liked better, until I looked at the retail price. The Bordeaux retails for $80 and the Hunnysuckle for $34!
It’s amazing that we take winemaking options and vintage variablility to craft 3 unique wines grown in this very special place. More significantly, I am awed with the creativity and willingness of the Fiddlehead team to “stick our necks out” and show these wines along side the great SB regions of the world. This event served to entertain, to enlighten and educate our friends who attended. I’m certain each will remember the evening for many years to come.
One additional out-of-the-box twist was the second phase taste pairing of our 3 styles of dry Sauvignon blanc with Talenti gelatos and sorbettos. Typically we don’t think of our wines as dessert wines, but the range of gelato flavors made for a fabulous tasting. Here were the favorite picks, and worth checking out for yourself!
- Goosebury Sauvignon blanc and Lisbon Lemon
- Happy Canyon Sauvignon blanc and Mediterranean Mint Chip (This one blew me away!)
- Hunnysuckle Sauvignon blanc and Tahitian Vanilla
National Sales Manager
Where will you be drinking "728" Fiddlestix Pinot on the magical date of July 28th?
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, gather your friends and join our virtual toast to this signature wine.
Submit your comments and best "cheers" photos for prizes and recognition! (submit either via our Facebok page our via email at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our favorite 3 photos win a prize.
And if you find yourself in Santa Barbara County that Saturday, then be sure to join us at our "land-based" party at our Lompoc Tasting Room for a celebration of this wine! The Tasting Room will be decked out for the day and library vintages of "728" will be available for taste and purchase.
Saturday, June 9th 5-8pm
We're kicking off the summer with a fantastic 3-part Wine Club Social! And for
those of you who aren't yet members of our Wine Club, we want you there too!
Part I: A sit-down educational tasting, comparing our Sauvignon Blancs to their
international counterparts. Taste Goosie and New Zealand SB, taste
Happy Canyon next to a Pouilly Fume from the Loire Valley, taste
Hunnysuckle against an Haut Brion (white Bordeaux).
As part of the tasting, view maps, talk geography and AVA's, compare
production techniques and discuss food pairings.
Part II: Gelato & Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc tasting - Goosie, Happy and Hunny
paired with 7 Talenti gelato/sorbetto flavors. Vote your favorite flavors!
Part III: Top the evening off with Avant pizza and Pinot (our recently reviewed
93-point '728', of course!)...and more gelato! Time to mix-and-mingle
and be social party animals!
Limited to just 48 guests, so be sure to RSVP early.
Wine Club entry is FREE (up to 2 tickets per membership).
Have friends that want to join the party? Non Wine Clubbers get in on the fun for only $25.
Top 10 Reasons You Don't Want to Miss Pinkie & Paella
_10. Theres no better way to start out a great Vintners Festival weekend (than with a trip to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto!).
9. When else do you get to see men strutting their stylish pink shoes?
8. You are sure to be wowed by Wine Club member and Winery friend Theresa Andersons cupcake creations (which in our book are award winning). At least 4 different flavors to please your palatesubmit your flavor request, today!
7. Fun PRIZES for the best costumes!
6. There are many bad rosés out there. But we are always getting feedback that ours delivers more (probably because the entire grape is devoted to this wine). Many tasters are surprised they like it!
5. We serve a lot more than just pink wine you never know what Kathy is going to pull out of her cellar!
4. Steve's paella. Enough said.
3. Discounts on Fiddlehead wines this night for attendees only.
2. Its an excuse to get out of that stuffy shirt and dress up in costume! We all need a good laugh and you are guaranteed to leave with new friends.And the number one reason....
1. Its a rare opportunity to dine with the winemaker (and wait till you see her costume!).
And she is tons of fun to boot!
Join us on April 15th, 2011.
The party starts at 7pm.
Space is limited to only 50 guests - Get your tickets today!