' Santa Ynez Wine Country - Blog


June 4, 2013
By Ross Rankin, Winemaker Imagine Wine, Santa Ynez, CA

Not everyone likes to talk about aging, but I’m a big fan of it. Aging wine, that is.

There are many different kinds of wine making styles but two are distinctively different: the first is wine that is made in stainless steel vats. The grapes are often picked slightly before they are ripe to ensure that the alcohol content is below 14%. Grapes picked at lower Brix (sugar level) required to keep the alcohol level down tend to be more tart and contain higher acids. Below 14% the wines escape the higher tax threshold which can be very expensive for large scale producers. Wines produced in stainless steel most often are bottled and sold within one or two years of their production. Wines produced this way require less processing and are less expensive to produce and are therefore often a price value to the customer. The vast majority of wines are made this way.

The second type of wine making often involves picking the grapes when they are considered ripe by the winemaker and often result in higher sugar content. Depending on the wine and the winemaker’s preference wines from the warmer areas of Santa Barbara County may produce wines over 14% alcohol. Wines like these can be stored in stainless steel or aged in Oak Barrels. Wine aged in “active” oak barrels (1-4 years old) allow the wine to gain body, structure, and layers of flavors. It can be an expensive proposition to age wine as oak barrels are pricey. Oak barrels also allow the wine to evaporated concentrating the flavors, aromas, and body of the wine. The wine is also often kept in expensive cold storage during aging, again, adding expense to the process. Many wines processed in oak barrels are purposely made to improve with age both in the barrel and ultimately in the bottle.

So, what is the difference in the finished product? Stylistically, the wines are just different. There are many delicious wines that are born from stainless barrels and bottled and sold within the one to two years. Wines produced in oak will have greater structure and layers of flavors and aromas not possible if they were produced in stainless steel. They also will be more likely to improve with age and preserve well due to the added influence of tannins picked up from the oak. Ultimately the wine consumer makes the decision which wines they prefer. It comes down to an individual’s palate, tastes, and preference.

At Imagine Wine, we produce wines that are Aged by Design©. Aging wine for many years allows our wines to evolve and change during the process in no small part due to the influences of the oak and the original winemaking techniques. In 2013 we are bottling our 2007 vintage limited edition Paradise Mountain Syrah which has been aged six years in three different kinds of oak. It is an extraordinary wine not to be missed (projected release Fall of 2013) by those that find it difficult to find wines that are aged and that have developed unique characteristics and complexity. In the tasting room, we’re currently serving and selling various varietals of our 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 vintage wines.


January 26, 2012
Imagine Wine winemaker Ross Rankin has added a new Red Wine to his portfolio with the release of “Panty and Boxer Dropper Reds”. Barrel aged for one year, Ross describes the Santa Ynez Valley Syrah as having spicy oak aromas, juicy blackberry flavors and a bright finish. “Just the ticket for those potentially romantic nights!” says Ross. The label alone is a “must see”!

Join the launch of this new release at the Casino Night Panty-Dropper/Boxer-Dropper Valentines Launch Party where “Sometimes you get Lucky.” “Lucky”, their new Bluebird Mascot, will be helping release the long awaited “Naughty” Panty Dropper and Boxer Dropper® Syrah at the liveliest and “funnest” Santa Ynez Valentines fake gambling party ever thrown! Enjoy a fancy “good time” evening of great wine (three glasses of wine included, additional wine may be purchased), fake-gaming (you will be given thousands in chips to win or loose at will), delicious appetizers, dinner catered by Polka-Dot, old movies, and the “Lucky Girls” hostesses who will keep the party hopping in their Roaring 20′s outfits.

Space is limited so DON’T Delay. Tickets are $60.00 per person if purchased before January 30th and $70.00 per person after February 1st. Tickets are available at www.imaginewine.com or call 805-688-1769. Saturday February 11th from 7 PM until 11 PM. 21 and Over Only.

Prizes will be awarded for the best “Panty Dropper, Boxer Dropper” themed costume (no idea what that might mean but remember it is COLD in February). For the rest of you Dressy Casual is the dress for the evening. The Party will be at the Imagine Wine tasting room 3563 Numancia Street in Santa Ynez from 7 PM to 11 PM. A portion of the Proceeds will benefit Santa Barbara Based Aeromedicos, a 30 year old Baja Mexico Medical Clinic www.aeromedicos.org.


March 27, 2011
Leslie Mead-Renaud joined the Foley Family of Wines in August of 2010, and is currently Winemaker for Lincourt Vineyards, Foley Estates Vineyard and the Two Sisters brand. She currently lives here in the Santa Ynez Valley with her husband Tim and their two dogs. We had a nice afternoon chat on the lovely grounds of Lincourt Vineyard and Winery in Solvang:

: Everyone wants to know how a Winemaker got started, so tell us your story.

Leslie: Well, I received my college degree from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resources, with an emphasis in aquatic resource management which is basically studying water pollution and providing environmental education. Unfortunately, that was a long time age when people weren’t quite into the environment as they are now. There were not a lot of jobs available in that field when I got out of college so most of the positions I held then were in forestry. I worked for the Forest Service in Oregon, conducting spotted owls surveys and later worked as an urban forester with PG&E in Calaveras County in Northern California. I happened to see an ad for a Lab Technician at Ironstone Vineyards in one those free weekly newspapers. Since I had chemistry background in college I thought it might be a good fit. I absolutely loved it, though didn’t know anything about wine at the time. That was in 1999. I then moved down to Sonoma and have been working in the wine industry ever since. I’ve loved it.

One of the things about this industry is that to get ahead you have to keep moving. I worked at several different wineries in a variety of roles, and then became an Enologist at Sonoma Creek Vineyards. I was later hired on as Winemaker for a small family owned operation. I really learned “by doing.”

SYVWCA: What is it about the winemaking experience that appeals to you?

Leslie: To me it’s this perfect blend of science and creativity. I‘ve always I loved to cook, to be able to create things by flavor, and I have always been interested in science. It’s a fascinating blending of the two.

SYVWCA: So what is a typical “Day in the Life” of a winemaker?

Leslie: It totally depends on the time of year. At this time of year, we’re watching the plants, hoping we don’t get a heavy freeze because we’re in the middle of a bud-break right now. Inside the winery we’re preparing for bottling, we’re putting blends together, stabilizing the tanks, and doing “market work”. This morning I was actually with several people who sell our wines throughout the country. I’ll go out to different markets, for example, I’m off to New York and Texas where we’ll meet with distributors, conduct wine tasting with sales people and visit with restaurants.

SYVWCA: What do consider one of your best vintages and why?

Leslie: 2007 and 2008 were probably the best; I don’t think it had anything to do with me, but favorable growing conditions. These were drought years where the plants didn’t grow as much and therefore the fruit was more concentrated. Because of the longer “hang time”, there were smaller clusters and smaller grapes which lead to really good concentration.

SYVWCA: What is your personal varietal preference?

Leslie: I’m partial to Pinot. I think Pinot expresses itself more differently than any other grape depending on where it is, what the climate is, what the root stalk is, whether it’s happy or sad. I think Pinot more than anything else tastes most differently within its own varietal.

SYVWCA: How did you come to the Foley Family of Vineyards?

Bill Foley actually called me on the phone himself. “Hi, this is Bill Foley and I have a project I want you to help me with.” I was quite amazed that he called me himself as he is a very busy guy. It would have been a tough opportunity to turn down. That project was Linocourt Vineyards and I later went on to include Foley and then Two Sisters.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I really look forward to getting to know the area and working with some pretty amazing fruit.

Well Leslie, we welcome you to your new home here in Santa Ynez Valley and look forward to your future vintages .

You can meet Leslie in person, next Saturday, April 2ndat Lincourt Vineyard’s Winemaker Barrel Tasting event. She’ll be offering a preview of Lincourt’s 2009 vintage wines, direct from the barrel! Reserve your spot here!


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