Wine for Normal People

Santa Barbara is a cool climate wine region in CA's Central Coast. At 34˚ latitude, it doesn't seem like Pinot & Chardonnay would thrive here, but weird geology, geography, & a big ocean make the area one of CA's best & most unique cool climate hubs.

First we cover the basics on Santa Barbara:

  • 5 hours north of LA
  • It's separated from the rest of the United States by the San Andreas Fault, giving it different geology from much of inland California – soils here are more marine
  • Shallow soils are well suited to viticulture, stress in the vines, low vigor, excellent concentration of flavor.
  • 34˚N Latitude – should be almost too hot for grapegrowing but valleys are transverse -- they run east-west rather than north-south
    • Geologic oddity, the ocean breezes sweep eastward and are funneled in, helped by the hills and mountains that ring the region.
    • East into foothills: warm during the day, cool during the night,
    • West valley - ocean enjoy a mild and moderate climate.
  • Main grapes – Pinot, Chard, Syrah
  • The area took off in the 1970s and 1980s, but it's real tipping point was in 2004:  the movie Sideways was set and filmed in the AVA

 Then we discuss the American Viticultural Areas: 

  • Santa Maria Valley
  • Sta Rita Hills
  • Santa Ynez Valley
  • Ballard Canyon
  • Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
  • Potential new ones coming:
    • Los Alamos region
    • The Los Olivos District
    • The Santa Maria Bench

 If you haven't dipped a toe in to Santa Barbara's wines and you have access to them (especially those from the sub-AVAs) this podcast should get you motivated to do it! 



Direct download: 154_Ep_154__Santa_Barbara_California.mp3
Category:wine -- posted at: 12:07am EDT

After a great trip, compliments of Wines of British Columbia, I have a great handle on what the Okanagan Valley is and what it has to offer.

  • First, we provide a thanks to the great people who were part of the trip: Laura Kittmer of Wines of BC, Lori Pike-Raffan and Blair Baldwin of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, Kyle Taylor from Sun Peaks, Arnette Stricker of @RTWGirl and Stefanie Michaels, @AdventureGirl
  • We review the brief history of Okanagan wine, which began in earnest in 1990.
  • We talk about the grapes available here from Merlot (most widely planted grape), and Pinot Noir to Pinot Gris (second most widely planted grape), Chardonnay, and Riesling 
  • Climate and geography are next -- we talk about the desert conditions of South Okanagan and why dry conditions, lakes, and latitude make such a difference to the wines here
  • We get into the nuts and bolts -- the sub regions and what each grows and specializes in, discussing the importance of exposure and location and what that means for wine styles.
  • Osoyoos/Black Sage and Oliver are the regions I mention as being high potential, along with the Similkameen Valley, west of Osoyoos and similar to the area.

After a bunch of facts, I give my opinion on what the region is and where it may be going. 

Thanks again to all who made the trip possible. I'll be coming again to see the south part of the region, but I appreciate the overview and the amazing hospitality, kindness, and meticulous planning but the Wines of British Columbia and the folks at the Okanagan Winter Wine Festival.  Go to for more information! 

Direct download: 153_Ep_153__Okanagan_Valley_Canada.mp3
Category:wine -- posted at: 11:57pm EDT

To follow up on the Virginia wine podcast, conversations with Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards, who has been making wine in Charlottesville for 25 years, and a quick snippet of Kelly White of Glen Manor. Both will highlight why VA wine is so unique.

A few things on the podcast: 

1. The recordings were in tasting rooms. If you don't like ambient noise, skip this one.

2. You'll hear my dad and Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like blog and Virginia wine expert asking questions as well. I travelled heavy this time! 

Most of the podcast is a conversation with Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia. They are a standard-bearer for quality in the region, as one of the oldest and finest producers:

  • We discuss Luca's background -- his schooling in the Piedmont of Italy, his experiences, and how he wound up in Charlottesville working for the Zonin family at Barboursville in 1990
  • Luca explains the improving reputation of Virginia and how Barboursville works to promote the region by making excellent wine
  • We get NERDY -- talking about everything from vineyard management, to diseases that California nurseries have been sending their way and the economics of that, to use of oak, yeast, and wine fads.
  • Then we talk about grapes, and there is some tasting of the Vermentino and the Bordeaux blend, Octagon (at one point I say "Sauvignon" and I'm talking about Cabernet Sauvignon, BTW). 

Next we have a 5 minute snippet of a conversation with Kelly White of Glen Manor. 

  • Kelly gives us specifics on vintage, how it works for them, and some examples of extreme vineyard management
  • Then she discusses how they make wine and their philosophy and work ethic. These wines are top notch, and much of the magic comes from their orientation and ideas about great wine.

Then we wrap! Enjoy!