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A Pair of Surprises from Santa Barbara

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Apr 6, 2009 5:00pm ET

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.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  April 6, 2009 9:00pm ET
James, I've been enjoying Piocho and Ten Goal for a few years now because of participating in the Wine Cask futures program. I've never had my socks knocked off, but I've never been disappointed either. Good juice.
Larry Schaffer
central coast, ca —  April 7, 2009 2:10pm ET

Thanks for the blog about these wines. As Troy points out, the wines may not 'knock your socks off', but they are always solid performers that show the wine world that Bordeaux varietals CAN be grown and produced at high quality levels in the Santa Ynez Valley!

Other producers your readers may want to be aware of producing very good cabs or other Bordeaux reds include Babcock, Bozzano, Cimmarone, Brander, and Beckmen.

John Nelson
Dallas, Texas —  April 10, 2009 9:59pm ET
Piocho-currently the 2005- is one of our house reds. It is a real crowd pleaser and in the high 20's represents a pretty good value. We also enjoy Doug's syrahs and sauv blancs. Glad to hear that WS is getting to know them as well.

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