Carhartt, located directly across the street from Saarloos and Sons, is known as the “worlds smallest tasting room” and they weren’t kidding! This tiny tasting room had a couple at the counter, a big group on the back patio and us at the end of the bar squeezing in. None the less Robin welcomed us immediately to the tasting room and got us set up. The group on the back patio, Robin told us, were local kids back from College and Afganistan. They came in looking for Chase,which is the name of the owner’s son, and then she realized they were really looking for her son, whose name is also Chase. He was not yet home from college. They asked us to take a photo of them with Robin in front of the tasting room. When they were gone Robin invited us to head into the back patio and be comfortable in the barrel chairs and she would bring us our tastings.
The barrel chairs were VERY comfortable and the wines..sublime. The garden patio is beautiful. The tiny tasting room filled up and another couple joined us on the patio. All of the wines here were extremely nuanced and layered and many were surprising. The 2010 Savignon Blanc from the Faith Vineyard at Carhartt has the expected bright grapefruit on the nose, but then is much smoother on the palate and slightly sweeter than you would expect. The 2010 Pinot Noir from River Bench Vineyard….okay, we tasted several styles of Pinot Noir on this trip and I love the Bien Nacido Pinots that we tasted in Paso, but this, this is a completely different animal. I am in love. Elegant, sophisticated it has lavender and forest floor on the nose, the mouth is butter and oak and lavender. It is light in the mouth but sooooo complex! This is a stunner. The 2009 Estate Merlot from Rancho Santa Ynez was deep with licorice & tobacco. The mouth feel was big at the top and then ends clean making it the perfect food wine. Finally the 2009 Fourplay is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot (a Meritage minus 1). With a nose of dark berries, cedar and toasty oak this is balanced and beautiful. I will admit that we had fallen in love with the place the people and the wines, and without a second thought we joined the wine club here. Before leaving Robin told me that Pete would call me the next day to welcome me to the wine club. He handles all the wine club stuff. She also gave me a Carhartt business card, which has Mike Carhartt’s cell phone number on it in case we need anything. This is truly a family run business. Mike grew up raising cattle here and then turned the cattle farm into a vineyard. Bill from Foxen encouraged them to make their own wine. He had been buying their Merlot grapes for that great Merlot that I mentioned yesterday. Mike’s wife Brook does the lab work creating the wines and their son Chase is currently going to Cal Poly studying Vinticulture and Enology, is home in the summer to assist in the vineyard. All the grapes are manually basket pressed in small batches. I look forward to finding a way to get out one of their pick up parties or the annual dinner that is held for members at the Ranch.
Wine Club Party
So…as folks who rarely have the weekend off, when we had a vacation the first thing we did was to check our wineclubs and see if any had special events. Voila! The Carhartt Winemakers Dinner fit perfectly! The Dinner is held at the winery on Rancho Santa Ynez just south of Los Olivos. Limited to 120 guests the event feels like a family affair with Brooke, Mike and Chase out greeting guests and pouring wine. We began thinking it was going to be cold and in fact many people went to get coats. I however had not thought to pack one…it didn’t matter with the food wine and conversation I never got cold. A band played jazz with a keyboard/trumpet player and a dog. (yes keyboard with one hand, trumpet with the other). Lights were strung over the lawn and candles set on each table. A roving magician wondered entertaining guests. Richard’s quick wit and ability to deal with hecklers was impressive. He also helped a table of people who didn’t know each other to bond. Dinner was great, the wine fantastic and we made 7 new friends! The raffle ended the night and our table seemed always just a number away from a win. Finally Michael’s number came up! We won a bottle of 2009 Fourplay. While it was a prize worth saving, the only way to finish this evening was to pop the bottle and share with all of our new friends. It took some work! They tried to talk us out of opening it and then when opened the pourer tried to tell us “Oh no, I think it’s corked! I’ll take it home for you!” HA we poured a glass for everyone at the table and enjoyed a charming moment of community with these other wine lovers. A perfect end to the evening.