Wrapping up my week in Buellton at the Wine Bloggers Conference, the focal tasting seminar on Ballard Canyon and its Syrah was the highlight of the conference for me. One of the newest AVAs, Ballard Canyon was established within the Santa Ynez Valley in 2013. Long known as an excellent source for Grenache and Syrah, the area is a long, thin canyon running north to south in a curving line. This orientation shelters it from much of the wind and cooling breezes that the rest of Santa Ynez experiences making it an excellent location for the richer, bolder Rhone red grapes.
Ballard Canyon has come in to it’s own, now with a brand identity as “The Syrah AVA”. The panel discussion that we attended at WBC included a tasting of 6 Syrahs from the area, as well as an in depth look at the AVA and those wines. We were able to taste along with some rock star winemakers and growers from Beckmen, Harrison-Clarke, Jonata, Kimsey, Larner, Rusack, Saarloos & Sons, and Stolpman.
Syrah is coming of age today, and has been called one of the most electrifying wines in the US. With an AVA that hsa ideal conditions to grow it, Ballard Canyon has become the Syrah AVA. Syrah can be vastly different depending on cool vs warmer climate growing regions, and Ballard Canyon creates some of the best cool climate Syrah in California. With approximately half of the AVAs vines planted to Syrah, vintners are able to focus of the microclimates within the canyon, and create excellence in style.
The wines coming out of this region are cool climate wines, which are moderated by the warmer climates surrounding it; with the wind, weather, and sandy soils dominating Ballard Canyon, Syrahs from this area are broad and distinctive, with a mix of characteristics that you can only find here.
Some quick notes of the wines we tasted:
Rusack Wines - Lighter and fresh, with wonderful acid and deep red and blue fruit.
Kimsey – Rocking in the glass with chocolate dried fig, and espresso
Harrison-Clarke Wine - Bursting with ripe bosenberry, blueberry and espresso notes, followed by a black raspberry finish
Jonata – co-fermented with 5% of Viognier, blackberry, dark chewy beef jerky, tobacco lead, aromatic and dense.
The over whelming these of these wines are that you have deep complexity, richness, as well as acid which balances the wine. The large diurnal shift in temperatures allows for both ripe bold flavors, as well as maintaining the acidity levels, which produces wines with more structure and interest than a warmer climate Syrah.
Ballard Canyon is the place to be, and I can’t wait to taste more wines from this region!