Sta. Rita Hills on the up. Tyler – La Rinconada 2014

For anyone who enjoys lunacy as a past time, blind tasting is there or you to occupy your spare hours and potentially drive away any potential spouse. I do sympathize with people in this pursuit though as it’s a great way to truly understand wine. However, for anyone willing to go further and attempt the Master Sommelier exam, I find you a different kind of crazy, especially once I heard about the “Fuck You Wine”.

As if the idea of an exam to test you on the microcosms of “classic” wines (think Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Napa, etc.) wasn’t hard enough, it’s become a well-known fact that there is almost certainly a wine of the “Fuck You” variant in there as well. What exactly does this mean? Well, it’s a wine that you’re probably not going to be able to figure out and it could easily derail your tasting as you bumble around as to what it can be because the “Fuck You Wine” will very much seem like many wines yet will be none of them.

I’ve learned that apparently my beloved Priorat wines can come up in this section. For anyone who knows them and loves them (if not get the books), you’d probably think, “What’s the big deal? Surely Priorat is singular.” Unfortunately, it’s not as the styles of the wines change, as well as the blends, and the villages can have a massive influence on the resulting wine. Priorat wines are in fact very, very hard to identify blind and they’re the exact kind of wine a Master Sommelier exam would toss at you to say, “How bad do you want this little gold pin?”

But, “Fuck You Wines” aren’t just reds and as the winemaking world evolves, sacred cows of style are more readily duplicated than you might think, such as the case with Santa Barbara and especially, Sta. Rita Hills; an AVA that’s not even two decades old, yet has exploded in quality. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines coming from this region, while still sprinkled with a bit of New World dust are reaching a profile closer to the wines of Burgundy with each vintage than anywhere else.

When I was in San Francisco last year, I picked a bottle of this Tyler Winery single vineyard Chardonnay and tossed it into my blind tasting wines along with some from Burgundy. It was exceptionally hard to pick out and ultimately it was only vintage differences (this is a California ’14, the Burgundies were ’15) that would sometimes allow me to essentially guess which I had in front of me. If I’d had perhaps higher quality Burgundy wines, the differences would have probably have been clearer, but then again, so would my wallet.

There is a great deal of comfort in these wines reaching the quality levels they have though as if you love Burgundy character, they’ll be a lot more accommodating in terms of price. This is doubly so given that this particular wine is Californian which, while $60 locally, is a hell of a lot more affordable than any wine from a vineyard that ends with “Montrachet”. You will however have my sympathies if you get it blind on an exam. Probably just better to enjoy it like I’ve heard normal people sometimes do, in a glass, during an evening.

La Rinconada 2014
Green apple, frothy lemon juice and peel, gunmetal flint, a touch of reductive notes, chamomile, leesy, brioche and toast, light waft of vanilla. Crisp lemon on the palate, very zesty, generous yet not blatant oak use, very refined with high acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Chardonnay 13% $60
** 92