Grassini Family Vineyards TR Review
Address: 813 Anacapa St., El Paseo # 6 Santa Barbara,California 93101.
Phone Number: 805-897-3366
Tasting Hours: 12:00-6:00
Region: Santa Barbara County, California
Review Date: 2/23/2013
The Grassini tasting room in “El Paseo,” just off the beaten path of State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, should be on your map if you are serious about tasting what the Central Coast can do with Bordeaux grapes. I almost skipped Grassini, honestly, because I was short on time; and generally wanted to avoid the more touristy side of town. I’m glad I was told by every other winery to make El Paseo a stop on my tour. Don’t miss these tasting rooms if you love wine.
Nestled inside El Paseo complex, a 1922 addition to the 1826 Spanish adobe Casa de la Guerra (which is in the National Register of Historic Places), the Grassini tasting room opens onto a luxurious courtyard surrounded by tasting rooms from Au Bon Climat, and Margerum – the winery owned by the mastermind behind well-known restaurant The Wine Cask (also in El Paseo).
The experience inside is simple, focused on the tasting. There is only a bar (although the fine reclaimed Oregonian wood is stunning) and two big comfy armchairs (though together they are more conducive to luxuriating in a happiness coma than actually carrying on a lengthy conversation). This is not to be mistaken for a bar, and it is not really designed for comfortable lingering. This is a room meant for sophisticated wine drinkers to enjoy sophisticated wines.
I learned a few interesting details about the winery before any juice hit my glass. The 35 acre, 100% family estate vineyard in the new Happy Canyon AVA, was planted with grapes in the 1990’s, carries the family name Grassini, and produces some of the most solid Bordeaux style wines in the Central Coast – one of their best named after grandfather Articondo Grassini, who began passing along a green thumb from his garden in Pisa, Italy. Dedicated to sustainability, the winery itself springs from the hillside, allowing the rear of the house to extend into the ground and provide naturally refrigerated caves – to go with their solar energy up front. The winemakers use biodynamic farming and hand tend the vines – they even have roaming fowl for natural fertilization.
And then I was introduced to the 2011 Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc. Bright, balanced, citrus notes… it is delicious. This is a good start, I thought to myself. Most tastings don’t lead with their best, and I really liked the mouthfeel and fruit in the first taste. The expectations were raised. The second Sauvignon Blanc was also balanced, with more apple and oak that gave a nutty almost caramel apple effect.
Then I tasted the Articondo.
The Articondo Cab/Merlot/Petit Verdot (50/44/6) starts with raspberry on the nose and folds jammy chocolate notes under round tannins and a luscious mouthfeel. If you’ve ever bit into a good chocolate covered strawberry, you will begin to understand the mouthwatering fullness of flavor that came from the first taste of this 2010 vintage. Based on the body, I think this wine will add lots more complexity given some time lying down on a rack; but I’d be proud to serve this at any dinner party right now. This was the best of the Grassini wines, and stayed on my mind days later.
After the Articondo, it was hard to follow with the spicy 09 Cabernet… it just didn’t work. Ask them to serve Articondo last if you do drop in, I think it would give the Cab a chance to lead you into their best offering.
The pourer reminded us we were visiting the tasting rooms for more discerning palates, and stayed mostly out of the experience. The wine is good enough to stand alone; but youll want to make this a pre-dinner stop with a companion in order to get the full effect.
The $10 tasting will get you four pours, when next door you’ll get seven for the same price; but if you see El Paseo’s trifecta of tasting rooms as one big wine visit then you can get 17 pours for $30. I’d recommend booking dinner at the Wine Cask, and arriving a little bit early to walk through the tastings and choose which bottle to open over your well-crafted meal.