Loring Wine Company: 40th Birthday Road Trip

We knew we only had time for one more winery. We dithered for a moment in the pouring rain, then dashed to Loring Wine Company for one reason: because their graphic design is darn cool. Little did we know that many of their grapes are sourced out of our very own Monterey County!

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Mike strikes a wine-tasting pose.

Loring focuses largely on pinot noir. I was feeling a little pinot-whelmed, but I bucked up, put on my big-girl palate and did my darndest to key into the fine distinctions between the various vinos on offer.

2009 Sierra Mar Vineyard Chardonnay: This had a caramelized oak scent and tasted of honeyed oak with a hint of kiwi.

2009 Keefer Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): I was surprised by the smell, which was a mix of oak and burnt popcorn. After that smell, the fruity taste was unexpected. Lest you think this was a fruit bomb, know that there was enough oak to round out the flavors.

2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: The smell reminded me strongly of Dr. Pepper. Its texture was surprisingly thick, almost syrupy, with light tannins at the end to add complexity.

2009 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir: Clearly I was in a soda pop state of mind, because this wine’s scent reminded me of nothing more than grape soda. It tasted like blueberries with heavy spice at the finish.

2009 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir: It smelled like a leather shop located next to a winery. Its flavor echoed the smell, with a little licorice to round the taste out.

2009 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir: My notes consist of “Candied fruit tannins YUM!!!”

2009 Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir: This smelled of caramel and leather, and tasted of burnt sugar and leather (but less sweet than that description implies).

2009 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir: This nose was loaded with musky tannins, but the flavor was full of fruit, like an alcoholic version of Izze’s Sparkling Blackberry juice.

Boy, at the end of this tasting, did I ever wish we’d booked the Super 8, Travelodge or Best Western that are all just a block away rather than booking a hotel all the way out in Thousand Oaks. (I’d wish this even more after we got to our allegedly-swank but actually-skanky hotel, but that’s another story.) Clearly, one of these days we’re going to have to book a weekend stay at one of those lodgings, just to try all the wineries in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. Who’s coming with us?