Alta Maria wines (along with Native 9 wines and Autonom wines) have been around for almost a decade, but now that they’ve opened a tasting room along the main drag in Los Olivos – the tasting room town of Santa Barbara wine county – I’m even more inclined to make a run through town.
In a typical weekend rush of tourists from Orange & LA counties plus Santa Barbara wine tour companies, the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room is a lovely and cool respite from any wine-tasting-bachelortte-or-birthday-partying on the street. It’s sophisticated and down-to-earth. It’s western and classy. It’s minimalist and Pottery Barn.
The wine on the tasting list also demonstrates such duality. In addition to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Alta Maria is known for, the have a unique Sauvignon Blanc and solid Cabernet Sauvignon on the list, just created for the tasting room. The Chardonnay is half oak-fermented and half stainless steel to give us a lemon cream tart with lots of acidity. And the Alta Maria Pinot Noir is a perfect blend of fruit, wood and earth, a basic Pinot Noir that’s a steal at $28 a bottle.
But the list has more. Viticulturist James Ontiveros is pouring his baby here: Native 9 Pinot Noir. And this is the only place you can taste the 2009 Pinot Noir. This wine is from a vineyard on his multi-generational family’s property in Santa Maria valley, where he grows 8 different clones and blends different concoctions each year to create a fuller, exotic Pinot Noir.
And the winemaker of the duo, Paul Wilkins, got his love for Rhone varietals working for John Alban of Alban Vineyards. His Autonom SM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) is almost sold out because if its nose of bacon fat and pie crust (this sounds like heaven in a glass) and perfect balance, and his Autonom Syrah is a blend of cold-climate fruit and warm-climate fruit that manages to be vegetal, fruity and spicy.