Have you heard the news? "Santa Barbara County is the shining star in California in this vintage (2020) and this is where California wine lovers should focus their attention and wine budget," said Jeb Dunnuck in his review of Santa Barbara County 2019/2020 vintages released this week. How did our wines fare in Jeb's report? We're pleased to announce straight A scores of 93 - 95+ points! With these fantasic scores from Jeb Dunnuck, and previously announced scores from Anotonio Galloni, some of these wines are flying off the shelves...

Santa Barbara County
Looking at the 2019s and 2020s 

By Jeb Dunnuck | AUGUST 30, 2022

...While 2020 is an incredibly challenging vintage for most of California due to widespread smoke taint (and readers should be skeptical and critical of most 2020 reds), Santa Barbara County had a terrific vintage.

The result of a cooler spring and summer, and harvested before the heatwaves in October, the 2020 Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays show classic, elegant profiles reminiscent of a slightly cooler to normal year. In contrast, the Rhône and Bordeaux varieties, which were harvested primarily in October after a series of heat events, offer much more richness and opulence and show decidedly more powerful profiles.

Looking at the growing season, the year started with an early, wet, and cold spring, with March significantly cooler than average and receiving a whopping 5 inches of precipitation, which helped make up for an incredibly dry January and February. The cooler weather persisted into April, which delayed bud-break, before warming toward the end of the month. May saw a few moderate heat spikes, with temperatures topping out in the mid-90°F range for some of the more inland AVAs. Despite the cooler weather, as well as some significant wind events during the spring, fruit set as a whole was solid, and yields were healthy.

June and July both saw roughly average temperatures, with June slightly warmer and July slightly cooler, with highs in the Sta. Rita Hills getting into the 80s°F, and further inland seeing highs topping out around 90°F.

Verasion kicked off early in August with perfect weather at the start of the month. However, August 13 began a series of significant heat spikes. At this stage, Sauvignon Blanc was mostly ripe and ready for harvest and was more impacted by the heat than the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rhône, and other Bordeaux varieties, which were still not entirely through verasion. A second heat wave arrived on Labor Day and saw three days of significant heat throughout the region. Sta. Rita Hills recorded highs over 100°F, which is almost unheard of, and Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, and the Happy Canyon Region all saw severe heat.

Luckily, this heat wave was followed by a three-week period of cooler, even weather through the end of September that allowed the vines to recover, sugars to drop, and producers to wait and harvest healthy, perfectly ripe, balanced fruit. The vast majority of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria was brought in during this period. Going into October, two heat waves, one at the start of the month and one mid-month, pushed along the more heat-loving Rhône varieties which were all harvested during this period under distinctly different conditions.

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