I left my heart in Santa Barbara.
Yes, I know Tony Bennett’s mellifluous tones lament San Francisco, of which I’m very fond too. In fact, I remember my first trip to San Fran well – quite amazing since I was only 3½ years old. We had flown from Prestwick, via Boston and New York, and eventually landed on the other west coast. It was rainy, it was just like landing back in the west of Scotland. Then I remember the wonderful warmth that swaddled the little me, a radiant heat that seemed new and gorgeous. I remember thinking I’d flown all the way to heaven.
I’ve been back many times to California and though I enjoy the cities, yes, even the seemingly endless sprawl of LA, I prefer to get out into the country and soak up the pace of life in some of the more rural counties. None is better, to my tastes, than Santa Barbara. I fell in love with its beaches, its Spanish architecture, the galleries and outdoor markets, tree-lined beaches, sapphire blue skies and then, eventually, inevitably, the vineyards and the wines.
It was around about the time that the movie Sideways came out, but unlike many, the movie maker was not my informer. I found it myself on a tour around Los Olivos when my buddy and I went for a tour. He was driving and I wholeheartedly took advantage of this happy twist, and imbued like a thirsty student, eager to learn. I discovered that Viognier is the name of a white grape and more importantly, that I enjoyed it. I liked the balance of many of the wines and in the gentle heat and light breezes I enjoyed Santa Barbara Viognier or Rhone grape based white blends, with gusto – and local breads and cheeses alongside. It w
as all very artisan and although corporate America was behind some of it, that’s not what I tasted.
At A Case of Wine we always try and stock some wines from Santa Barbara. I really enjoy showing that county’s wines, sharing some memories and evangelising about its credentials for potential visitors. This month we are enjoying Cambria Winery Viognier. It’s elegant, gently honied and freshly fragrant from vineyards in Santa Maria. Perfect with soft goats’ cheese served under a satisfying sun or as a Scottish winter approaches, leaning against your Aga. With such great wines and its leisurely lifestyle, it’s Santa Barbara that calls to me.