"New Tasting Room"
Foxen Winery was formed in 1985 by Bill Wathen and Dick Dore. The winery is named in memory of Dore's great-great grandfather, Benjamin Foxen, who was an English sea captain that came to the Santa Barbara area in the early 1800's. In 1837 Benjamin purchased Rancho Tinaquaic with a Mexican land grant consisting of 9000 acres which is now a large part of Foxen Canyon. The anchor that is displayed at the winery and on the wine bottles is the trademark of the winery paying homage to the sea captain. When visiting Foxen Winery you have an option of three different wine tasting flights at two different locations or tasting rooms. The original and oldest tasting room is known as the "Shack" named Foxen 7200. This tasting room offers one wine tasting flight consisting of Bordeaux and Italian styles that are bottled with a new and unique label that says, "foxen 7200".
In 2009 Foxen built a new winery and tasting room just up the road from the "Shack" where they offer two wine tasting flights which focus on Burgundy and Rhone style wines.
Tracy and I stopped at the newest tasting room located at 7600 Foxen Canyon Road after missing and driving past the original "Shack" located at 7200 Foxen Canyon Road. Yes, they are just a stone throw from each other but even our GPS failed to find the Shack. Entering the tasting room we were greeted by Jonathan Lynn who explained the three different tastings that are available and proceeded to go into details of the two offered at this site.
Jonathan started us off with a Chardonnay that I really enjoyed. The profile was between French and American in style by not being overly buttery or oaky with a nice sharp acid crispness. It is not difficult to see why this wine received a rating of 90-92 points by Wine Spectator and 92 points by Wine Enthusiast. This chardonnay was excellent. Next was the Rose of Mouvedre which as the Foxen brochure says, "Bandol inspired Rose". Bandol is located in Southern France where most of the grapes grown are Mouvedre. Bandol is renown for their rose wines. Kudos to Foxen. This rose was light on the palate with beautiful acid balance and a subtle fruit profile of Mouvedre. If you were blind tasted on this rose you would probably conclude that it was a French rose from Bandol. Foxen also has a Syrah from Tinaquaic Vineyards that displayed a little bit of Old World on the nose with subtle notes of barnyard. But once on the palate you are met with beautiful fruits and spice notes. Foxen's Syrah adds 8% Viognier which produces floral notes and rounds out the mouth feel providing further complexity to this wine. This practice is used in Northern France in Cote Rotie wines where up to 20% (co-fermented) Viognier can be added to the Syrah.
Now for their Grand Finale, "PINOT NOIR"! If you love Pinots like my wife does, this is the place to go. This region produces some of the finest examples you could ever hope for from light delicate Burgundian styles to full bodied heavy weights that the Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers will enjoy. Johnathan provided us with a unique adventure through Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills where he showcased some fantastic examples that are produced by Foxen. He was very knowledgeable about the terroir and vinification processes providing details for each wine making this tour informative and fun. Here is a list of the Pinot Noirs sampled and there were many more available on wine list.
2013 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
2012 Sebastian Vineyard
2012 Fe Ciega Vineyard
2012 Block 43 Bien Nacido Vineyard
2012 Block 8 Bien Nacido Vineyard
After completing our first stop at Foxen we thanked Jonathan and proceeded to their original winery/tasting room the "Shack" to taste Foxen's Bordeaux and Italian style wines. Entering the old tasting room it is not difficult to see why it is called the "Shack", it definitely shows the age of time and nostalgia of early wineries. Inside there was an ambiance of cheer as people sampled the wines, talked and laughed. Listening to the conversations you soon realize that this old tasting room has its share of regulars. We were greeted by Heather and Mo and asked if we would like to taste the wines. Bellying up to the bar Heather and Mo set out glasses and started us off with a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. Being a typical hot California summer day the bright acid crispness with beautiful citrus flavor of this wine was very refreshing.
Next we sampled the 2012 Pajarito from Happy Camp Santa Barbara. This wine is a Bordeaux/Meritage blend consisting of 45% Petite Verdot (Vogelzang Vineyard) and 55% Merlot (Vogelzang and Grassini Vineyard). This wine is gorgeous with the powerful rustic flavors of the Petite Verdot that are softened by the added Merlot. Great example of showing how Petite Verdot, which is generally less than 20% in most French Bordeaux wines, can offer so much and be so good.
Moving down their wine list our hostesses poured a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Vogelzang Vineyard. This wine uses 10% Merlot which is not uncommon for a Cabernet Sauvignon. Taste was very good and it is definitely a drink now style of wine. A very unique wine on their list was their 2012 Range 30 West. Where did they ever come up with a name like 30 West for a wine? It just so happens that this is the US Geographical Survey designation for the area of Happy Camp that the Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes are sourced from for this wine. Excellent wine with a big and bold profile with a lot of dark fruits in harmony with a good balance of acidity.
I stated earlier that the shack was for serving Foxen's Bordeaux and Italian wines. One Italian wine we tried was the 2012 Guillermo Grosso which consists of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very nice example of an Italian style wine. Tracy and I both commented that it would highly accent the flavors of pasta or any other such Italian dishes. This wine is all about food. Heather and Mo poured a wine at the end of our tasting that I and a close friend of mine share a passion for, Cabernet Franc. I wish he could have been with us to taste this wonderful version of this unique wine. One of my many favorites at Foxen.
Foxen Winery was a big surprise for me. I have had Pinot Noirs from their winery but never knew how dedicated they are at making this very challenging wine. They have definitely showcased the beauty and diversity of this varietal from the various terroirs of this region. My hats off to them as all of their wines were excellent and displayed creativity and uniqueness that both Tracy and I enjoyed. You can bet that we will return.