2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah

2010 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills

2009 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Syrah Kalen’s Big Boy Blend

2010 Two Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Sexy Beast




2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah – $15.67

This is generally a good California Syrah at a wallet friendly price.  In some vintages it seems to have that little something extra that propels it to the next level.  In my opinion, 2006 was one of those years.  I bought a half case of this from my local store and after killing two bottles fairly quickly, I’ve been showing some unusual restraint.  Even with the restraint, I’ll only have one bottle left after popping this one.  I have the 2007 in the cellar, but based on the one bottle I had upon release, it dropped back into the merely good category.


Winery history

The original property was purchased in 1972 by a group of friends and they started planting the vineyard in 1973.  With few other vineyards in the area to learn from, the vineyard was originally planted with numerous varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Grenache, Chardonnay, and Syrah to see what would work.


As the vineyard came into production, a winery was built on the property in 1978 and later expanded in 1981.  1978 was another milestone for Zaca Mesa, planting the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County.


By the early-1990’s, we had determined based on our farming experience that the Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, and Roussanne) grew best on our property.


As one of the pioneers in the Santa Barbara County, Zaca Mesa was a training ground for many.  Ken Brown was our first winemaker and later started Byron in Santa Maria Valley.  Adam Tolmach, Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist worked at Zaca Mesa before venturing out on their own to start Ojai, Au Bon Climat and Qupé, respectively.


Zaca Mesa was the first Central Coast winery to appear in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 back in 1995.  A year later, our Syrah was served by President Clinton to French President Jacque Chirac at a White House State Dinner.  To show that we are not leaning one direction, our wines were also served at President Reagan’s 80th birthday party at the Beverly Hilton.


Since 1997, we have focused on growing the best Syrah, Viognier, and other Rhône varieties.  We have ripped up over half the original vines, replacing them with high-density planting of new rootstock and clone combinations that has significantly improved our quality.  We now have 9 clones of syrah and the most high density vineyard acres in the county.


Over time the ownership group diminished to one of the original partners.   Zaca Mesa has been family owned for almost 25 years.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, dark maroon color. The outstanding nose has blackberries, licorice, smoked meat, black pepper, vanilla, plums, violets, dried herbs, and a bit of dark chocolate. This is fairly full bodied with solid tannins and very nice acidity. On the palate the peppery berries lead the way with some chocolaty oak and dried herbs in the background adding depth and complexity. The finish features nice fruit leading to dark chocolate and dried herbs, but it could be a touch longer. An outstanding week night Syrah for well under $20.  (90 pts)

2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah




2010 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills – $25.00

In my opinion, the Loring appellation wines are some of the best bargains out there when it comes to quality California Pinot Noir.  The Loring appellation wines are, at least to me, dialed down a notch compared to their single vineyard siblings.  This and the lower prices, under $25 make them a nice way to kick up a week night dinner several notches without breaking the bank.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a fairly deep ruby red color.  The very enticing nose has raspberries, cherries, baking spices, cola, and some nice earthiness.  This has medium body, moderate tannins, and good acidity.  On the palate the wine is rich but reigned in and it stays in focus.  The finish is fairly long with a nice blend of fruit and savory elements.  This shows nice balance and the closing acidity provides very nice lift.  This is a great value for the price.  (90 pts)

2010 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills




2009 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Syrah Kalen’s Big Boy Blend – $28.49

The local store brought in a couple cases of this wine and put it on the shelf at a blow out price.  I was happy to relieve them of several bottles.  I know this is on the extremely young side, but I wanted to open one to set a baseline on the wine.


This is a blend of 100% Syrah, from the Greywacke Vineyard (Russian River Valley) and the Ray Teldeschi Vineyard (Dry Creek Valley), that spent 17 months in 40% new French oak.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, dark purple color.  The deep and dark nose is full of smoke, blackberries, charcoal, minerals, melted licorice, black olives, tobacco, and roasted herbs.  This has full body, solid tannins, and nice acidity.  On the palate a boat load of peppery berries, smoke and minerals grab hold and slowly relents enough for some roasted herbs to slip through.  The finish has very nice length but gets slightly clipped when the tannins and acidity kick in.  Let this beast sleep for a couple of years and you’ll be well rewarded for the patience.  (93 pts)

2009 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Syrah Kalen's Big Boy Blend




2010 Two Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Sexy Beast – $28.49

The Two Hands line of wines are a favorite in my house.  This will be my first Two Hands Cabernet since all past bottles have been Shiraz, Grenache, or blends.  I was able to grab a couple bottles of this at a close out sale at the local wine store.  I’m looking forward to seeing (tasting) what Michael Twelftree can do with Cabernet.


Winery history (Core Values)

Quality without compromise is central to the Two Hands philosophy, driving all the decisions from fruit and oak selection to packaging and promotion.


We strive to differentiate ourselves; to be unique, fun and innovative in our business approach while maintaining a high degree of professionalism and integrity.


Our wines are made by a process of barrel classification – selecting the very best barrels for the Flagship range followed by Garden Series then our Picture Series.  This is achieved by sourcing the best parcels of fruit available to us from six premium regions within Australia.


We handle every parcel of fruit, however small, separately from crushing through to fermentation and oak maturation to ensure complexity and personality in the finished wines.


Fruit will be the primary feature of all our wines, with oak playing a supporting role.


Much more information available at:  http://www.twohandswines.com/


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, dark maroon color. The outstanding nose features blackberries, black plums, Asian spices, black pepper, melted licorice, eucalyptus, earthy elements, and vanilla. This is medium to full bodied with fairly solid, ripe tannins, and very nice acidity. On the mouth filling palate, loads of fruit and spice fill the mouth with a solid wall of unrelenting flavor right through the long, lingering finish. This is a big, flavor filled wine that has enough tannin and acidity to deftly hold everything together. Not a delicate and nuanced wine. This is a love it or hate it wine, I’m on the love it side.  (92 pts)

2010 Two Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Sexy Beast




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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines.  I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar.  I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com.  Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear.  There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.



Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase.  I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive.  I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount.  Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges.  None of the prices include the sales tax.



All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.