' Santa Ynez Wine Country - Blog


June 30, 2013
By Julie Farrell
Cimarone Wines

A barn-burner article was published recently regarding wine tasting. Perhaps the more appropriate phrase is wine judging. This is tricky topic for wineries.

A great score from one of the major critics almost definitely translates to increased sales, particularly if a large portion of the winery’s inventory is sold through distributors. For the harried wine-lover who

has little time to kibitz in an independent wine shop, a high scoring wine found at a Big Box store offers purchase security when making an otherwise uninformed wine selection. It’s the if the guy or gal who tastes wine for a living thinks it’s good, it probably is mentality…and typically that’s a pretty reliable purchase philosophy.

As one might surmise, a poor score will likely precipitate the opposite reaction: 1) the big stores might not carry the wine; 2) the distributors may pay less attention to the brand; 3) the consumer looking at several scored wines will likely select the wine with the higher score within his/her price range .

Seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it? Not according to Robert Hodgson. In an article from the UK’s Guardian, we learn that Mr. Hodgson, a California vintner, has been running a little test since 2005. Turns out Mr. Hodgson, make that Professor Hodgson, came up with some pretty interesting data from his study of the California State Fair Wine Competition. The net result? Only “…about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group. Another 10 percent, on occasion, scored the same wine Bronze to Gold.” And significantly, “…a typical judge’s scores varied by plus or minus four points over the three blind tastings. A wine deemed to be a good 90 would be rated as an acceptable 86 by the same judge minutes later and then an excellent 94.” The variation in score can be the difference between a sold out wine, and a wine that lingers on the shelf…and it’s the SAME wine!

But hold the phone. A study conducted by Penn State and Brock University, showed that some people DO have a better sense of taste than others. “What we found is that the fundamental taste ability of an expert is different,” says John Hayes of Penn State. Another argued that it may not be nature as much as nurture. Perhaps experiencing a broad array of wines allows the critic to hone his/her skills to develop a more differentiating palate. Makes sense. If you’re a seasoned tennis player, you might feel the difference in the tension of tennis strings, but if you’re just starting out, it’s the last thing you’ll notice. But if the average consumer is not in the ‘supertaster’ gene pool, and doesn’t regularly sample myriad wines, where does that leave us?

We say, drink what you like. Don’t let the potentially pretentious side of wine get in the way of enjoying a variety of wines. Are we delighted when one of our wines receives a high score? You bet. And you may find over time that you share a similar palate with a particular critic. This may be helpful when seeking out new wines. But in general, we feel that wineries that are dedicated to small lot, handcrafted wines tend to place greater emphasis on quality vs. quantity. Add a talented winemaker, and carefully farmed fruit planted in targeted terroirs, and whether you have a highly trained palate, or you’re new to the world of wine, you’ll likely be pleased with your purchase.



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.


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