By Lyle W. Norton on March 3, 2019 1:03 am
Sauvignon blanc, a varietal with roots in both the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions of France, had an auspicious beginning in California compared to the more-established chardonnay. It then received a boost after Robert Mondavi changed the name of his sauvignon blanc to Fume’Blanc, a marketing ploy with obvious references to Pouilly Fume’ in the Loire Valley. Sauvignon Blanc has also adapted well to the expanded “New World” wine regions like New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, and Washington State.
During a recent visit to the Pouilly Fume’ region, I enjoyed a special release with local winemaker, Clement Marchand, whose family has been making wine at their village site since 1650. The Clement Marchand “Kimmeridgian” Pouilly Fume’ 2016 ($35), named after a local fossil-laden soil, had a round texture and creamy mouthfeel with nice stone fruits on the palate. All wines from Pouilly Fume’ are exclusively sauvignon blanc and, along with nearby Sancerre, located on a promontory to the other side of the river, are identified by region, not varietal. The local terroir, with moderate temperatures and soils abundant in limestone, produces a dry, crisp, palate-cleansing wine with citrus flavors and their trademark “smoky, gun- flint” aromas.
No matter where the day takes young wine drinkers, no trip to the Wine Ghetto is complete without a tasting session at Fiddlehead Cellars and a chat with winemaker Kathy Joseph. She has the distinction of being one of the original “settlers” in the complex (arriving in 2003), having a full winery (and not just a tasting room) located there, and working on her 30th vintages of pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
She was making wine years before the Santa Ynez Valley became a designated production region (AVA), and was one of a very small handful of women winemakers “I make wines made to be enjoyed, and I have had many years to hone my craft to make them textural and immediately enjoyable,” says Joseph, a Wisconsin native with a biochemistry background. “I enjoy sharing the history of that learning process with my customers and people who are just beginning to learn what their palates are about. I came to the region knowing there was a cool climate close to the ocean and a warmer climate just 30 miles away where completely different varietals could grow.” In her tasting sessions, Joseph offers up generous plates of charcuterie as well as an impressive geography lesson, describing wines made from grapes sourced from the Ballard Canyon appellation, the Los Olivos appellation, and Happy Canyon, where she grows the fruit for her sauvignon blanc. “These boundaries did not exist when I first got here, so it was all about my exploring and tasting wines from these other areas that made me a believer,” says Joseph. “One thing that makes Happy Canyon so interesting is that it is warm by day, eliminating herbaceous and brassy notes in sauvignon blanc, but cool at night, helping maintain vibrant acidity which results in a balanced wine. In Santa Rita Hills, pinot
noir needs and demands a cool climate, and we are blessed with the Santa Rita Hills AVA, cooled by the ocean breezes and ocean fog.” Continue reading sipmagazine_lompocwines_oct2018.pdf
I recently attended a special event at Fiddlestix Vineyard hosted by Kathy Joseph, the co-owner and
winemaker of Fiddlehead Cellars in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara County. Kathy invited a cadre of
press and consumers and generously opened wines from her library for tasting dating back to her first
commercial vintage of Pinot Noir in 1989. Many of the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc library wines from the
2000s were also available for purchase.
The theme of the event, “Drink ‘728’ on 7/28,” refers to the 7.28 mile marker at the entrance to Fiddlestix
Vineyard and one of the Fiddlehead Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noirs produced with the name ‘728.” Kathy’s cohost
was her husband, Tom Doyle, an attorney practicing in Northern California who resides with Kathy at their
second home in Davis, California.
Kathy launched Fiddlehead Cellars 30 years ago at time when there were very few women winery owners and
winemakers. She was mentored by several exceptional winemakers from California’s North Coast and
graduated from UC Davis with a degree in enology and viticulture. In 1989, she created a winery like no other.
Kathy searched for a catchy name for her winery by exploring many books, but the name, Fiddlehead, came to
her after nurturing some Fiddlehead ferns in her garden that were just unfurling. She loved the visual
connection of the curled fern emerging and her own curly hair. The ‘fiddle’ theme is evident in her nom de
plume, “Head Fiddle.” Continue reading
Santa Barbara Wine Country: Appellations And Region’s LayoutSta. Rita Hills AVACreated in 2001, this AVA was known as Santa Rita Hills up until 2006, when the name was changed to Sta. Rita Hills because a Chilean wine producer called Viña Santa Rita objected to the original spelling. This is the westernmost AVA and has direct access to the cool ocean breeze. The hills act as narrow corridors and the breeze shoots through them, creating a cool climate in this wine-growing area.
There are 20 cool-climate wine grapes planted here. The majority of the plantings are Pinot Noir and a good portion is Chardonnay. The sites in Sta. Rita Hills make a distinct difference in the flavor profiles of these two grapes. In Chardonnay, expect to find mineral, smoke, or flint characteristic. For Pinot Noir wines, most are rich and concentrated with red fruit accent. There tends to be more stem inclusion used in the vinification of Pinot Noir here, which can lend interesting flavors and tannins to the wines. Pinot Noirs, especially the single-vineyard bottlings, that bear this appellation are said to perform better after five years of barrel and bottle aging.
Total Area: Over 30,000 acres
Planted Area: ~2,700 acres
Notable Vineyards: Acin, Ampelos, Babcock, Cargasacchi, Clos Pepe, El Jabali, Fe Ciega, Fiddlestix, Hapgood, John Sebastiano, Kessler-Haak, La Encantada, La Rinconada, Lafond, Machado, Melville, Mt. Carmel, Rita’s Crown, Sanford and Benedict, Sea Smoke, Sweeney Canyon, Zotovich
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec 2012
2009 Pinot Noir Seven Twenty Eight Fiddlestix Sta. Rita Hills - 92pts
2009 Pinot Noir Lollapalooza Fiddlestix Sta. Rita Hills - 92pts
2008 Pinot Noir Seven Twenty Eight Fiddlestix Sta. Rita Hills - 91pts
2010 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara - 91pts
2009 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara - 91pts
2006 Pinot Noir Seven Twenty Eight Fiddlestix Sta. Rita Hills - 90pts
2011 Sauvignon Blanc Goosebury Santa Ynez Valley - 90pts
2007 Sauvignon Blanc Hunnysuckle Santa Ynez Valley - 90pts
Wine & Spirits, April 2012
93 points awarded for The Year's Best Pinot Noir to
2008 "Seven Twenty Eight" Pinot Noir
2008 "Oldsville Reserve" Pinot Noir
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
2008 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon Santa Ynez Valley Green-tinged yellow. Expressive aromas of pear, lemon pith and melon, with lively notes of chalk and white pepper. Vibrant citrus and pit fruit flavors are given spine by zesty minerality and pick up honeysuckle and baking spice notes with air. Pure, racy sauvignon with very good finishing clarity and tangy persistence. 90 points
2010 Sauvignon Blanc Goosebury Santa Ynez Valley Light yellow. High-pitched aromas of lime zest, jasmine and spices. Sappy, floral-accented citrus and pear flavors show very good depth and a refreshingly bitter quality on the back half. This dry, bright sauvignon finishes clean and taut, with a spicy edge. 90 points
2007 Pinot Noir Seven Twenty Eight Fiddlestix Sta. Rita Hills Bright red. Intensely perfumed scents of strawberry, black raspberry and potpourri, with a touch of smokiness. Bright, incisive red fruit flavors show very good depth, with a note of candied flowers emerging with air. Finishes silky and very long, with repeating raspberry and floral notes. This is delicious right now but has the depth and structure to age. 92 points
The Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation's Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards aim to recognize the contributions of outstanding women entrepreneurs in Santa Barbara County.
In May 2014, Kathy won the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award for Agriculture and Wineries.
Santa Barbara SEASONS magazine journeyed to our very own Fiddlestix Vineyard to highlight
6 female Santa Barbara County winemakers in their video and article "Women of WIne".
To learn more about Kathy's role as a female pioneer in the wine industry,
click HERE to watch the video clip
click HERE to read the article by K. Reka Badger
The Prince of Pinot, Rusty Gaffney, joined us for FiddleFest this year and wrote an in-depth review of Fiddlestix Vineyard and the wines that are produced from its grapes. Visit the PinotFile website and read the full article - you can enter the website for free and read everything ever written about Fiddlestix including all wine reviews.
The California Wine Institute and the California Travel & Tourism Commission partnered to promote the state's wine & cuisine offerings. Kathy Joseph was invited to make a debut as one of a select few wine representatives for this National campaign. Watch the video HERE!
The Santa Barbara News Press recently profiled Kathy, Fiddlestix, FiddleFest and Fiddlehead wines in their article “Creating Music for the Palate – Kathy Joseph makes Fiddlehead a world-class wine.”
"If there's anyone in the Santa Ynez Valley with well-aligned left and right brains, it's Kathy Joseph. The founder, proprietor and self-proclaimed "grape-herder" of Fiddlehead Cellars exhibits a rare balance of free-spirited creativity and analytical zest…"
Click HERE to read the entire article.
Wine Enthusiast had the following to say about the 2005 Lollapalooza Pinot Noir.
“This is beautiful, dark and powerful, but refined and elegant. Packed with red and and dark cherry stone fruit flavors, it has an excitingly smooth, silky texture, and finishes with an explosion of spice." - S.H. Wine Enthusiast, Editor's Choice
FIDDLEHEAD CELLARS, 1597 E. CHESTNUT AVENUE LOMPOC, CA 93436
Tasting Hours: Monday - Friday: By Appointment only
Saturday 12-4pm, Sunday 12-4pm
1 805.735.7728 | 1 805.742.0204
Call us to inquire about Weekday appointments.