Santa Barbara County

Review: 2009 Kunin Roussanne

Kunin Wines is small on production, but big on quality. I stopped by the bungalow that houses the winery on the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara when I was there this summer. The tasting room is fresh and airy, a perfect locale to sip a flight of whites.

My favorite Kunin was the 2009 Roussanne, so I brought a bottle home with me. I finally had a chance to open it a few months later.

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The wine smells grassy, but there’s honey there, as well. When you sip it, it’s tart. Pineapple is there, too.  It’s crisp and kind of oily, so the flavors stick with you, even after you’ve swallowed. This isn’t a gulpable wine. It’s complex–it’s got a lot of layers to it, but it’s not chewy. In fact, this French grape makes for a quite thin drink. It’s lean and mean, but honestly, it’s not for everyone. This wine is not for the flowery white wine lovers.

Kunin makes their Roussanne in stainless steel, while traditional winemakers put this Rhone varietal in oak. Roussanne is often blended, but Kunin lets it stand on its own. The winery only produced 210 cases of the 2009, so it’s definitely a special find. Oh, and it’s a screw top!

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Seth Kunin opened his namesake winery in 1998 and believes in letting the wine speak for itself, rather than manipulating it with fancy vintner tricks. His message on kuninwines.com is clear: let Mother Nature do the heavy lifting:

If the weather was a bit warmer one year, and the wine from that vintage shows more ripe fruit and less acid, then this is an accurate representation of the fruit and its terroir. If the next vintage is cooler, with more earthy flavors and tart acidity, then so be it. That is what Mother Nature intended for you to taste. The process should not be blurred by invasive winemaking techniques.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Kunin
  • Type: Roussanne
  • Origin: Central Coast
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Price: $28
  • Alcohol content: 14.2%
  • When to drink: When you want to have a deep discussion of philosophy and literature with a dear friend, you know like the French do.

Review: Area 5.1 Majestic 12

Remember how I raved about Area 5.1’s White Light? Well, I liked the winery’s Majestic 12 just as much, if not more.

This red wine blend is jammm-my.  Playing along with the alien theme throughout the whole wine tasting room, Majestic 12 is named after a secret committee allegedly formed in 1947 to recover a UFO that intelligence officials have called bogus and a hoax. But some believers still hold fast to the conspiracy.

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Area 5.1’s owners went with the alien theme because they’re…drumroll please…”resident aliens” from Australia living in the U.S.

One of the owners, Martin Brown, told the Santa Barbara Independent that the grapes used in Majestic 12, Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo, pull from different areas in Italy.

“There’s a little Piedmont, a little Tuscany, and a little Po River,” Brown said.

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Now let’s check out the anatomy of the wine:

  • Sangiovese can be tart, smoky and leathery and have a cherry flavor. It’s one of the top grapes grown in Tuscany.
  • Barbera, as I’ve written about before, tends to be crisp due to its high acidity and you can feel the briskness in the Majestic 12. Barbera, also an Italian grape, is lesser known than Nebbiolo. The Barbera wines I’ve had have mostly been blends, many with Nebbiolo, and tasted like cherry and a deep anise. Blending the two tends to soften the punch of Nebbiolo.
  • Nebbiolo, like the other two, can have a strawberry flavor and like Barbera have give a wine a crisp kick due to the acidity. The grapes grow primarily in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Area 5.1
  • Type: Blend of Sangiovese, Barbera, and Nebbiolo
  • Origin: Santa Ynez
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $28
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: While sitting on a porch at night, preferably somewhere far away from light pollution so you can see the stars and ponder the meaning of life, the universe and everything.