Recently, Tracy and I took a road trip to Santa Ynez where we ended up in the small town of Los Olivos. This is a beautiful quaint little town with a somewhat rustic atmosphere of days gone by. The location of this town is in the middle of the Santa Ynez wineries which is the heart and soul the businesses in this small community. Though they have unique boutique shops, antique shops, etc, it will not take you long realize that wines and food are the primary reason that Los Olivos flourishes. The recognition of the quality of the wines coming out of Santa Ynez Valley has been proliferating over the past few years.
On this trip, Tracy and I discovered Barbieri Wine Company which was recommended to me by a couple of good friends. The tasting room is located in the heart of this quaint little town. Walking in we were given a warm greeting by owners Paolo Barbieri and Erin Kempe.
Moving up to the tasting bar I began talking with Paolo on their wines and history as glasses were set out in front of us for the tasting. Paolo began by telling me that he had completed and was certified as a Master Sommelier by the The Court of Master Sommeliers in 2003. This certification is only held by 220 people in the world. This is an extremely difficult program and if you don't believe me, go see the movie Somm, then you will gain an appreciation of the amount of work and dedication required for a person to reach this status.
Paolo was born in Parma Italy where his love for wine began at an early age. In old world countries such as Italy, wine is a common mainstay with meals and as such provided Paolo with the desire to become involved in the wine industry. Moving to England and finally to the United States, he began developing a career in the restaurant business. His forte was establishing wine programs for various restaurants.
In 1998 he moved to Las Vegas and helped open casinos like Bellagio, Wynn and Cosmopolitan Hotel. Erin Kempe is Paolo's fiancee whose background lies in the culinary world. Working in restaurants in Texas she began to develop a passion for food and wine pairing and how they interact with one another. Erin pursued this passion to the bright lights of Las Vegas where she met Paolo in 2007. Talk about a match made in heaven, Erin's career path in the culinary world and Paolo's credentials in the wine and restaurant business were perfect. Their relationship fueled the desire to create their own wines.
Paolo became heavily involved with wines from the Santa Barbara region and with the help of Joey Tensley produced 375 cases of Syrah in 2005 from the Colson Vineyard. This planted the seed for Paolo and Erin to produce wines from the Santa Barbara area.
In 2005, Paolo and Erin opened Barbieri Wine Company. His specialty is Syrah varietal wines. Most of you know that I have a soft spot for this varietal not to mention Old World Wines. The Syrahs at Barbieri are so unique that I will have trouble explaining them to you. None of his wines are sweet or jammy. Each have subtle nuances that provide unique characteristics of the vineyards and his skills as a vintner to entice everyone's palate. The balance and profile is exquisite. But this was true for all of the Barbieri wines that I tasted. Here is a list of the wines that I sampled on my visit:
2014 Kempe Rose of Syrah - Santa Barbara
2014 Kempe Bianco - 70% Viognier, 15% Grenache Blanc & 15% Roussanne - Santa Barbara County
2009 Barbieri, Colson Vineyard Syrah - Santa Barbara County
2010 Barbieri Rodneys Vineyard Syrah - Santa Barbara County
2011 Barbieri, Anonymvs, Syrah - Santa Barbara County
2012 Barbieri Aureus, Syrah & Grenache - Central Coast
2005 Three Creek Syrah - Santa Barbara (Happy Camp area)
2007 Reeves Ranch Syrah - Santa Ynez
2005 Barbieri KYLIX Syrah - Santa Barbara County
All of the wines that Paolo poured were fantastic. One thing that is important to me is that the older Syrah wines were developing fantastically and they definitely had the body and acidity for further development. My favorite wine was the 2005 KYLIX Syrah because of it's firm roots in the Old World style that I love so much. Tracy liked the Colson Vineyard Syrah that showed a little less earthiness and more of a fruit forward profile. But there is a caveat to this statement. It is by no means a fruit bomb or cloyingly sweet. It had a perfect balance and harmony between fruit, sweetness and acidity without the typical barnyard nose that is associated with Old World wines. Both or should I say ALL of the wines are great.
Now that I have expressed my opinion on the beauty of their wines, the adventure gets better. Step through the back of the wine tasting room and you will find yourself in a cheese lovers paradise. They sell so many unique cheeses and munchies that it begs for you to pop a bottle of their fantastic wine and sit on their patio outback and enjoy life the way it should be. Life could not be better. Barbieri is a Syrah lovers mecca. I know that I will be back. The hospitality and quality that they put into the wines is phenomenal. I cannot wait for my next adventure with Barbieri wines when I return, but next time I am planning on enjoying lunch on their patio with a bottle of KYLIX and some of their fantastic cheeses. Guess Tracy will need to come over to the Old World side. I Love the KYLIX Syrah.