Carr Vineyards & Winery Review
Address: 414 N. Salsipuedes Street Santa Barbara,California 93103.
Phone Number: 805-965-7985
Tasting Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00-8:00, Sun 11:00-6:00
Region: Santa Barbara County, California
Review Date: 7/14/2013
Carr Vineyards & Winery is unique in Santa Barbara. It literally stands apart from the other main wine tasting areas in the city, and it figuratively separates itself as a midpoint between the casual atmosphere of the “Funk Zone” and the old-world refined style of El Paseo. Set inside a World War II era airplane hangar, the tasting bar has been built to look and feel like you’re casually stepping into your local pub. If it weren’t for the massive ceilings, presses, tanks, and barrels stacked five high, it would be easy to picture an old European cave with dark woods, old barrel tops, and even gaming tables like shuffleboard, backgammon, checkers, and chess to keep the low lit tasting area casual and entertaining. During harvest, you can come and see the winemaking process for yourself as you sip your Syrah.
Ryan Carr is the veteran grower and eponymous winemaker for Carr. He works as a consultant to more than 100 acres across Santa Barbara and produces wines for other noteworthy labels including Turner Vineyards. You can often catch Ryan or his wife Jessica at the winery.
When you visit, you’ll be greeted by the affable Roxy, a Rottweiler/Labrador mix who makes friends with anyone who walks through the door. Behind the bar I met Isobel, who guided me through a $10 tasting with 5 samples ranging from good to very good. Being familiar with their Harvest Girl Syrah, I was prepared to explore some powerful wines.
The first taste was a 2011 Chardonnay from Santa Barbara Valley. This taste was on tap, and the slight oak and butter produced a sense of easy grace while the lively fruit characteristics of kiwi and apples brightened my palate for the dive into reds.
Next up was the 2009 Carr Pinot Noir, a 90-92 scoring bottle that brought aromas of toast and tastes of vanilla while packing some tight tannins. Ruby red with dried berries on the nose, this Pinot sets up an interesting contrast for the next pour. Also a Pinot, the 2010 Turner Vineyard is a dark cherry pie in a glass. Its luscious, round mouthfeel is similar to the previous taste, but where the Carr Pinot brought raisins and cranberries, the Turner brings cherry cola and even rhubarb.
Moving to the 2009 Carr Morehouse Syrah, we start to get introduced to some crafty, older vines. The deep color, heavy feel, and full aromas of mint and plum create a robust wine that gets deeper as it opens. Syrah’s traditional home is the northern Rhone valley in France, but it has a second home in the Santa Barbara valleys, where it has become the straw that stirs the drink in winemaking circles. A good Syrah is like tasting a winemaker’s secret signature.
The last red was the 2010 Carr Cabernet Franc, grown in the well known Camp Four Vineyards, and featuring peppers, peppers, and more peppers on the nose. For some history, Cab Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of a grape variety you’ve probably heard of: Cabernet Sauvignon. For this reason alone, Cab Franc is to be applauded; but even if Cabernet Sauvignon had never found its way to Bordeaux soils (and then Napa), Cab Franc would still deserve respect as one of the great varieties. Full of character, this Cab Franc brings out dark chocolates, raspberries, and did I mention pepper?
There are many more Carr wines to taste and take home, and judging by the range in the tasting, I would expect every bottle to have noteworthy characteristics. If you live in Santa Barbara or are visiting for a few days, this is a great place to plug in and feel connected to the whole community. Friday nights feature live music in the evenings, and there are three great wine clubs to join.
I highly recommend the experience all around.