Timbre Winery Review
Address: 2705 Aviation Blvd Santa Maria,California 93455.
Phone Number: 310-977-5615
Tasting Hours: By appt.
Region: Santa Barbara County, California
Review Date: 3/2/2013
I love wine. I love wine tasting. There’s something beautiful in the act of both giving and receiving the gift of a few ounces of the meticulously crafted art and applied science that we call wine. It is a humbling thing to consider the amount of time and passion that is put into each drop of the wine we casually drink at dinner. There’s a moment right when the winemaker pours that splash into the glass – the moment of the giving and receiving – that inspires me. If you ever get a chance to meet a true winemaker in his/her winery, don’t miss it.
I met Joshua Klapper, the rockstar winemaker of La Fenêtre, at his winery in Santa Maria for a personal tour and tasting (you’ll need to call ahead, this is not a tasting room), and I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon. The reputation of La Fenêtre precedes itself from hundreds of miles away in Los Angeles. That’s where I was first tipped off by a venerable wine guru about the up-and-coming winemaker. I was told Klapper was starting to show wines that could rival any in the Central Coast (basically the coastal area between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles), and maybe beyond.
I knew I would taste fine wine, but I didn’t know what to expect from the experience. Driving through suburban Santa Maria shows the industrial side of the wine industry where many smaller winemakers rent space and equipment from larger facilities for their production. This is not the winery nestled among the hillside vines – just to be clear about what youre getting yourself into if you decide to visit. I was excited to see the facilities because I like the science behind the process. When I pulled up to the winery and was greeted out front with a smile from Klapper himself, I began to realize this was not going to be an ordinary tasting.
He carries himself with an ease and poise that calms and inspires. He didn’t dress up or down for this meeting. He wasn’t trying to impress me falsely. There were no tasting cards. This is authenticity. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is a winemaker in a winery talking about his passion for making wine. He rolled out a pushcart in front of stacks of barrels, and began opening bottles like we were participants in a show-and-tell.
Formerly an award winning young sommelier in Los Angeles, Klapper tells his story of driving between the vineyards of Santa Barbara and L.A., of loving the drive to the wine valley, and of dreading the drive back. He paints poetic scenes of sunsets, rolling hills, and the magic of the Chumash highway… and then the contrast of the tail-lighted lanes of frenetic L.A. freeways. He says he made the trip for a few years before finally realizing it was time to reverse the start and end points on his map. Around that time, he bottled his first La Fenêtre vintage, earned some recognition, and the map has stayed reversed – or righted, depending on which way you look at it.
Known for his self-proclaimed obsession with Burgundian grapes (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (also Gamay, but it’s not in his wines at the moment)), Klapper leads with a pink Pinot Noir – a subtle rose’ with nice light acidity. As we sip the 2012 from his “everyday drinking” brand A Côté, Klapper tours me through the facility, telling the story of the name “La Fenêtre.” He cites the quote, “Art is the window to a man’s soul,” by Ladybird Johnson, and tells me wine is his art, thus, his window. Eventually he pulls an ounce of his prized Chardonnay from the cold stabilization tank to try. It’s a solidly built treat. He tells me that 2012 was a really good year, and we move back to his cart for more bottle tasting.
Next up is the 2009 La Fenêtre Chardonnay from Sierra Madre Vineyard. The bouquet of blood oranges leads into a nutty, creamy, zesty palate that I absolutely love. Aged in 40% new French oak (all of Klapper’s wines are neutral-minimally oaked), the natural acidity is there to stitch together the whole package. I hesitated to pour out the last splash. “It’s okay, we spill tons of it during production, don’t feel bad,” Klapper says, coaxing me to move on to the Pinots. I’ve tasted some of his acclaimed reds (Presqu’ile, and Le Bon Climat in particular), so I reluctantly agree to his clever bribe of more excellent wine.
I’m offered three distinctly different expressions of Pinot Noir at this tasting – one from his 2011 A Côté label (that was still going through a bottle shock period), one a young 2011 Santa Maria Valley from La Fenêtre that showed nice fruit up front and the special character of a wine that’s destined to age well, and the final a 2010 La Fenêtre from Bien Nacido that could drink for days. The graceful Bien Nacido is aromatic with baking spice and red berry notes, sour flowers on the palate, and a vanilla finish that suggests there’s room to decant (and/or age). It turned out to be the best Pinot I tried on my trip through eleven wineries. As a special treat, I was shown a badass Syrah from one of the nearby barrels… not sure which one, but it profiled like a big, bold, geeky Syrah with cured meats and black spices. I gather that winemakers love to make this varietal as a sort of signature or personal expression – like it’s the winemaker fraternity’s secret handshake.
We finished after a taste of his Dr. Klapper Riesling – my favorite Riesling on my journey (and I love this varietal). This is an acid trip with slight residual sugar and all the right notes: stone fruit, orange peel, and night-blooming jasmine. You’ll want to put a ring on this one, take it home to meet your mom, and spend a lifetime growing old together (in other words, the bold acid means you could store this for a really long time and be happy with its end result at any point in your life). I thank him profusely, buy a couple of bottles, and then its time to leave.
Klapper walks me out, offering advice on which way to drive, where to stay, which other tasting rooms to try, and his informed opinion about the functional differences between Napa and Santa Barbara – which you’ll have to ask him about yourself when you call and visit. I heeded his advice, taking Foxen Canyon between Santa Maria and Los Olivos in order to skip the 101; I stayed in Solvang, and I made sure to stop at a few great tasting rooms along the way. It was a trip I won’t forget for a long time.