Kick On Ranch, Santa Barbara, California 2017
It absolutely needs no introduction. It’s planted all over the world (oh- except where it’s banned in France!) it’s notorious, misunderstood, abused, reviled, botrytised and devoutly worshipped… but arguably the best-of-the-best come from its OG German homeland (for 6 centuries) on the Rhine River, where it cranks out minerality in slate rock “soils.” While some translation is usually required to gauge a bottle’s sweetness, riesling always liebe to deliver its boundless bright acid, floral bouquet and endless nerve: sometimes apricot petrol fruity, sometimes pure rock crunch, sometimes nutty savory. It’s almost more verb than grape. Riesling.
WINEMAKER: Graham Tatomer has had his sites focused on Riesling and Grüner Veltliner since high school, and he began his winery dedicated to those grapes in 2008. A harvest gig in school first introduced Graham to the oldest Riesling in Santa Barbara at Lafond Winery, and this first love propelled him to work-study with Weingut Knoll in the Wachau, Austria. Add on some apprentice time with the guru of the Santa Barbara mountains, Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards, and Graham has now become the voice for soulful Riesling in the New World. Kick On Ranch takes on the incessant cold Pacific winds that are pulled into the little Los Alamos Valley, one of the three east-west valleys in Santa Barbara County. This makes for perfect Riesling country as it loves to mature slowly to impair that high-toned fruit and instead draw its stone backbone and tense sense of place from the long, cold growing season and sandy river cobble soils. Fermented to absolute dryness under Graham’s purported “full Austrian treatment’, the wine sees some skin contact and is aged in neutral barrels.
TASTING NOTES:Pour this glass, and then let’s all stop and praise Graham for bringing serious F*in’ trocken riesling to California! White tea, meadow flowers, sushi ginger, salinity, apricot velvet, crushed river rock, jump in to the stream of consciousness that gushes from this glass. This is why riesling is the king and Kick On kicks the arse.
A SEVEN PERCENT STORY – BAY AREA RULE BREAKERS
Most of the world’s wine regions are like a green map showing where watersheds flow, where valleys catch cooling breezes and reflected sunlight from the rivers below. Floating along Germany’s Rhine River or the Danube in Austria, one can see how the precipitous vines nearly hold the rocky banks up, and how those rocks build up wines with a dizzyingly deep terroir structure. In California, where most rivers are ephemeral and dry up in the golden months of the summer, our best wine regions often rely on the Pacific Ocean and its omnipresent, often brutal, frigid wind and fog.
Where Austrian and German vines reach for the slightest sun and warmth in the steepest climes, here in California the sun abounds, and it is the cold hard love of the Pacific that tames wild fruit and lofty alcohol to let the vines express their subtlety and their inner mineral. While there are still precious few examples to point to, this month’s Californer-Austrian güdness is an inspiration for the füture of German+Austrian grapes on our shores.