big sur and the central coast

partington cove, big sur, california

we recently took a trip to big sur with some friend’s for a birthday getaway. though it would be a quick weekend trip, winding around everyone’s work schedules, i was determined to hit up as many on-the-way opportunities as were reasonable. some places i never get to in a day trip include san luis obispo and paso robles wine country. we hadn’t been up this way by car in quite awhile, and i’ve had my eye on a couple wineries for the next time opportunity struck.

edna valley wine country

on our way up, we made a beeline for tangent. i’d had a glass of last year’s ecclestone at our local wine bar, a sort of mind-blowingly delicious, light, crisp white wine of about 7 grape varieties. i haven’t explored the edna valley, nor did i have much time to research where else to go [nor did we have much time on this drive], but the independence schoolhouse tasting room is also home to baileyana wines, and we got to taste some new releases from trenza and cadre as well.

what we bought:
tangent wines
2008 viognier and 2007 ecclestone
as a fan of the previous year’s ecclestone, i came mainly on the reputation of this wine. the 2007 ecclestone seemed more forward than the previous vintage, though floral notes that make it taste like liquid springtime were all there. it could be the different drinking conditions or my fading memory, but this year’s release tasted fuller in body and structure. it has just a suggestion of sweetness and is deliciously refreshing on a warm afternoon. i’m also a fan of viognier and was charmed by tangent’s 2008 release, which they note is a rare example of cool climate viognier. this wine had the apricot and peach flavors i love, with a bit of a citrus / mineral bite.

what else stood out:
2008 baileyana chardonnay “el gordo”
is described as uncharacteristic for a california chardonnay, and they’re not kidding. we were told that the winemaker is french, and this was “as california as he was willing to go” which was a refreshing change. i tend toward lighter, citrus / grass / mineral / acidic whites, so unless it’s really light, chardonnay isn’t usually my first choice—but this was really different. the body was there, but the flavors were light fall fruits with crisp acidity. we also found trenza blanco, to be a knockout of mixed citrus with a bit of a salty pucker to it.

the label design:
for the most part, i like what the designers did with the tangent label system. they made a unique layout work with the brand using a standard structure that teaches you where to find information quickly. the use of the upper-center square to denote a varietal or a blend is a nice touch. i think the only thing i’m not wild about is the typeface of tangent itself, i’m not sure what it’s trying to say about the winery, but then, i wasn’t in the kickoff meeting either.

pressed for time, we stopped in at saucelito canyon just around the corner on a recommendation.

what we bought:
saucelito sauvignon blanc
2008 sauvignon blanc
this one was a bright surprise of grapefruit, grass and a light touch of citrus blossoms. it was 5pm, on a warm afternoon on a tasting patio, which is pretty much the perfect setting for selling me a chilled citrusy sauvignon blanc. i bought an extra as a birthday gift for my friend.

what else stood out:
saucelito has a 2008 côte de blanc that was also quite nice, a floral citrus blend that had a touch of oak and vanilla. the 2008 zinfandel backroads was a zinger of red fruits both tart and sweet, described by the winery as the lighter side of zin. the 2007 estate zinfandel was a balanced blend of vanilla, red fruits and spices.

the label design:
admittedly i have a tough time with labels that use paintings, mostly because the paintings end up so small. this one grows on you the more you look at it though, you can almost feel the warm wine valley at sunset, and that’s what they’re going for. otherwise, i like the setup, but the type choices are on the conservative side.

big sur

there are so many enchanting places in my home state, it’s hard not to gush about all of them. big sur is special because it’s quite out of the way, on a winding highway that climbs cliffs where the forest meets the sea. after a bit of research, and elimination of booked choices, we tried out the ripplewood resort, which was a great find. they’re situated on the highway, but you never hear cars, and the cabins are quaint and comfy. they have quite a few right on the banks of the big sur river among giant redwoods, and the price is excellent. whenever we go back, i want to plan ahead and get a riverside cabin next time.

mcway falls, big sur, california

we took a hike to mcway falls, which is the only waterfall on the california coast which falls directly into the sea. the water has carved a low point among sheer, rocky cliffs though, and to keep it pristine, you can only walk to this vantage point to view it.

partington cove

another trail down to the beach led us to partington cove, which has a little tunnel that leads to some cliffs where you can climb onto the rocks and stand among truly thrilling waves that crash and splash all around you. we are marveling at the surf surging and crashing into a little cave and all the colors of the aquamarine water.

later that same day, we went to pfeiffer beach to enjoy the afternoon and relax. something we could not photograph was that we got to see whales migrating north! i was staring at the horizon absentmindedly in conversation and suddenly there was a blowhole spout, followed by a glimpse of a whale’s black back arcing back into the water. then we realized it was happening quite often and enjoyed the show. we followed this with dinner at nepenthe with a spectacular view of the ocean, where we got to scan for more whales and enjoy people at the neighboring tables pointing them out as well.

paso robles / templeton

on our way back home, we took highway 46 through the rolling green grass into templeton. we were a bit short on time [again], so we stuck close to the main road. on a whim we decided to check out dark star cellars. dark star is a small family-owned, family-run winery. our tasting was poured by the owner & winemaker himself.

what we bought:
dark star zinfandel
2007 zinfandel
i was impressed with the tart fruit, currant, and plum flavors in this wine, as well as the exceptionally smooth mouthfeel.

others that stood out:
dark star has a pretty impressive list, i’m not sure i can go through each one. i enjoyed the 2006 cabernet franc for its soft balance of red fruits and citrus, the 2006 ricordati bordeaux blend was a nice mix of red fruits.

the label design:
on first look, i noticed this was a nice clean design, but when i read more about what went into it, i appreciate that the winery put intention into every component. the dark star name is about the winemaker wanting to make stellar red wines. the triangle with small text reads angeli d’altri tempi [angels of other times] as a tribute to family, friends and supporters who have helped make their efforts possible. dark star has a running theme of honoring memories of important people and events, it’s the core of their brand statement, so it makes perfect sense that it’s front & center on the label. i also like the embossed star on the foil wrapper, in a home cellar of mixed bottles, it’s easier to spot.

the rest of our trip home was the usual mix of pleasant fatigue and wishing we could stay longer, but we’re happy with the memories we made and the souvenirs we’ll be able to enjoy later.

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