When I unbagged a couple of delicious Cabernets in one of my recent blind tastings, I hadn’t paid attention to the appellation. So I was pleasantly surprised times two to see these two wines came from Happy Canyon in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. And I had to look twice at the winery name on the label: Barrack. But it's not the president.
Cabernet has been a tough nut to crack in Santa Barbara, even though it’s been tried many times by many people in many sites, only to largely uninspiring results, to my taste. Much of the time Cabernet has been planted in areas too cool for it to ripen, and this heat-seeking grape can be herbal and vegetal with hard green tannins when it doesn’t sufficiently ripen.
Both of these 2005s—Piocho (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet and Merlot) and Ten Goal (Cabernet, Merlot and Franc)—show what can be achieved in this appellation, at the eastern, inland portion of Santa Ynez.
The Piocho (the Indian name for the property) is elegant and stylish, with rich layers of loamy earth, black cherry and cedary oak. No price yet. The Ten Goal ($60) shows more toasty, mocha and oak and is richer and broader.
Doug Margerum, who has been involved in the winemaking, has been politely encouraging me to keep an open mind about Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet, and he’s right. These are exciting wines.
The owners are Tom and Laural Barrack (pronounced Bare-ick), who own Château Lascombes in Bordeaux, a second-growth estate in the heart of Margaux, so it figures that they would have success with this grape.