Le Clos Secret Vineyard – A Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Hidden Gem

Our hidden Le Clos Secret vineyard is nestled next to an olive tree orchard.

The access road into the vineyard.

Have you read Peter Mayle’s novel A Good Year?  It was published in 2004, or roughly when we were getting knee-deep in the business of growing wine grapes.  In it, the protagonist (Max Skinner), parachutes out of London banking into the world of wine when his late uncle bequeaths a Luberon Valley vineyard to him.   The novel traces Max’s evolving passion for the vineyard and winemaking with elements of romance and humor.  But the central intrigue revolves around a mysterious portion of the vineyard known as ‘Le Coin Perdu’ (the godforsaken spot).   At first glance, Max sees it as scorched earth; a place where only the most hearty of vines could possibly eke out an existence.  As you might guess, it turns out that this rocky, forlorn patch of vines is turning out the most exquisite wine on the estate.

Steep Wine Grape Vines in Le Clos Secret Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, CA

Steep slopes of Le Clos Secret vineyard

Which brings us to our Le Clos Secret vineyard.  Visible only to one neighbor, it is tucked away in a hidden portion of the ranch.  In fact, its closest neighbor is an olive tree orchard.  Planted on steep, rocky soil, its locale evoked images of Le Coin Perdu, where the crusty winemaker Roussel had planted, “…the best Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Merlot.”  Here we planted two clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, 08 and 337. Roughly translated, Le Clos Secret means the secret enclosed vineyard.

Rocky soil in Le Clos Secret vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, CA

Rocky soil makes farming challening.

Though challenging to farm due to the rocky soil, and difficult to get to with our tractors in inclement weather, it has been producing beautiful fruit and luscious wine. We crafted a Bordeaux blend that relies heavily on our Cabernet Sauvignon from this vineyard, as well as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  Our 2007 Le Clos Secret earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Steve Heimoff who called it, “…one of the best and most delicious Bordeaux blends to emerge from that warmer area…” And our 2008 was christened with 91 points and written up by Marc Hinton of Enobytes, “This is one of those wines whose blend obtains a singular expression where the final blend exceeds the sum of its parts. The aromas are expressive and the flavors are refined.  The finish is all finesse, no fooling, a very serious wine worth seeking out.”

We suppose that perhaps Mother was right, all good things worth having come from hard work.

Cheers!

Rock Pile Collected from our Vineyards, Cimarone Estate Wines, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, CA

Rock piles collected from our vineyards.

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Santa Ynez Wine Tasting – The Newest Addition to Los Olivos Wineries

Los Olivos Wineries - Cimarone and 3CV Santa Ynez Wine Tasting RoomWhether you’re wine tasting in Santa Ynez Wine Country for the first time, or whether you’re a veteran Santa Ynez wine tasting aficionado, our new Los Olivos tasting room has something unique to offer.

Our wines are handcrafted from estate grown grapes from our Happy Canyon Three Creek Vineyard.   Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara is the newest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Santa Barbara County, and Cimarone is the first  (and only) Happy Canyon winery to open a tasting room in the charming town of Los Olivos.

While many older Santa Ynez and Los Olivos wineries are focused on Rhone and Burgundy varieties, we are intensely dedicated to grapes hailing from Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc).  Our Happy Canyon climate and terroir are ideally suited for their optimal growth, mirroring geologic and temperate elements of Napa and Bordeaux.  We also feature a lovely Sangiovese because the feisty Italian loves our terroir as well.

Santa Ynez Wine Tasting, Los Olivos WineriesDon’t be fooled by our youth…major wine critics such as Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast Magazine have already awarded scores of 90, 91, and 92 for our efforts.  In fact, Mr. Heimoff called us, “A brand to watch.”  But the best judge is always your own palate, so come sample the fruits of our labors for yourself!

Visit us!  Look for our logo dog, Kali, on the sign.

2982 Grand Avenue

Los Olivos, CA 93441

(805) 688-8011

Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Cimarone and 3CV Los Olivos Wine Tasting Room - Santa Ynez Valley Wineries

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Directions to Cimarone Estate Wines Winery

Due to local restrictions, we are rather limited in terms of visits to our winery…but our tasting room in Los Olivos, California is opening very soon.  In the meantime, here are the directions to our winery:

From the South

From the SOUTH:

• From highway 101 in Santa Barbara take the exit marked highway 154, Cachuma Lake.

• Follow 154 for approx. 21.2 miles (over the pass and past Lake Cachuma)

• Turn RIGHT on Armour Ranch Road (immediately after crossing the Santa Ynez river bridge). Follow Armour Ranch for 1.3 miles.

• At first road intersection turn RIGHT onto Happy Canyon. Follow Happy Canyon for 1.5 miles.

• Turn LEFT onto Westerly Rd (ignore signs saying private road. Gate will open automatically. Follow Westerly approx 0.6 miles)

• At road junction turn RIGHT onto Fletcher Way. Our gates are about 1/3 mile on your left – marked Three Creek Ranch.

• Buzz in or drive through at the gate.

• The winery is approximately 75 yards ahead on the right.

From the NORTH:

From the North

•Travel south on highway 101, take the highway 154 exit signposted to Los Olivos and Cachuma Lake (this will be after the Los Alamos exits). You will turn LEFT back over the freeway and travel approx.4.9 miles to Roblar Road.

• Turn LEFT onto Roblar. Follow Roblar until it ends in a T-junction with Baseline Rd, approx 3.4 miles. (note: along the way Roblar Rd. turns into Mora Rd.)

• Turn LEFT on Baseline Rd and follow for approx 2.4 miles until it T-junctions with Happy Canyon

• Turn LEFT on Happy Canyon Rd. Follow Happy Canyon approx ½ mile.

• Turn LEFT onto Westerly Rd (ignore signs saying private road). Gate will open automatically. Follow Westerly approx 0.6 miles.

• At road junction turn RIGHT onto Fletcher Way. Our gates are about 1/3 mile on your left – marked Three Creek Ranch.

• Buzz in or drive through at the gate.

• The winery is approximately 75 yards ahead on the right.

Cheers!

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90 Points for our Cimarone Le Clos Secret Bordeaux Blend Wine!

James Suckling

James Suckling, formerly an editor at The Wine Spectator for 29 years, recently published his reviews of Central Coast wines on his new venture, JamesSuckling.com.  We are delighted to report that our 2008 Le Clos Secret earned 90 points!  Mr. Suckling had this to say about Bordeaux blend, “A solid wine with plenty of berry, currant and spice character.  Full and silky, with bright acidity and a clean finish.”

90 points for our Le Clos Secret Bordeaux blend wine

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Vineyard and Winery Visit with Wine and Good Food

We had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Bella McDowell of Wine and Good Food and her charming husband Brandon.  They enjoy retreating to pastoral Santa Barbara Wine Country to escape the hustle and bustle of Orange County in southern California.

Brandon, Bella, and Roger with Kali and Mac in the vineyard

Roger explaining the dynamics of grape farming

Bella has reviewed several of our wines on her blog WineandGoodFood.com, but we had not yet had the opportunity to tour the vineyard with her.  She and her husband have long loved wines.  Like so many of us, Bella’s love of wine developed at the table of good friends who would share their wine ‘finds’ with her.  When we asked her what made her decide to start her blog, she replied that she would often consult her own favorite bloggers before ordering or buying wine.  As she studied wine (with her keen legal mind) and developed her own palate and sense of likes/dislikes, she thought that she would start writing reviews herself.  This would serve as a means of chronicling her own tasting experiences, but serve as a reference for friends and others as well.  We’re glad she dove in!

Bella and Brandon is the barrel room

Bella’s passion and palate don’t end with wine.  She is a self-proclaimed foodie who is adventurous in her own kitchen, as well as dining out.  Her wine reviews consistently include a recommended culinary pairing, making for a more complete wine experience.

If you’d like to read Bella’s post about her visit to Cimarone, just click here.  She said this about our 2008 Le Clos Secret, “A beautifully complex wine with tastes of dark fruit and structured tannins.”

Cheers!

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The State of the Vineyard – Spring at Cimarone Wines

Budbreak

Spring is an exciting time in the vineyard.  Like expectant parents, we wait with great anticipation for our babies to emerge from the vines.  ‘Budbreak’ is the first outwardly noticeable event in the birthing process.  Tiny bulges appear between the leaf stalk (petiole) and the shoot stem.

Budbreak

Inflorescence – Petit Verdot

The buds mature into shoots which unfold with leaves and inflorescences; the part of the plant that bears the flowers and eventually becomes a grape bunch.  Just after budbreak, we experienced some rather low temperatures in Santa Ynez.  This is a particularly vulnerable time in the development of the delicate young grapes, and as farmers we walk a precarious line between wanting temperatures to stay low enough to deter premature budbreak, but high enough after budbreak to ensure no damage due to frost.  We count ourselves lucky, as the vines are thriving and it appears that we did not suffer any frost damage.

As the weeks pass, the inflorescences elongate and the flowers begin to separate.  At the beginning of flowering, the calyptra or ‘caps’ begin to fall and flowers become visible.  Unlike the flowering of apple or cherry trees, no one is going to exclaim, “Honey, look at the gorgeous grape blossoms in that vineyard!  Pull over so that I can snap a picture.”  Grape flowering is hardly noticeable to anyone but growers, vineyard workers, and  winemakers.

Flowering underway

Trimming vines for optimal growth and sun exposure

Trimmed vines

Most grape vines are hermaphroditic; that is, both the male and female parts are present, and the plants are self-pollinating.  At Three Creek Vineyard, we are just at the point where flowering is underway, but by no means complete.  We are trimming the vines and ensuring that the inflorescences have just the right amount of sunlight to allow this efficient fertilization process to occur under optimal conditions.  We’ve turned our cover crops under to contribute nutrients to the soil and aid in water conservation. By incorporating the stems into the dirt, we open up pathways in the soil for vine roots, air, and water.

Tractor turning under cover crops

Next up: Full flowering and fruit set!

Cheers!

We’re not the only ones looking after our babies in Santa Barbara Wine Country!

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Wine and Food Pairing: Roasted Mushroom Soup and Cimarone 3CV Cilla’s Blend

Karen Miner of Tasty-Trials.com, did what few people have the courage to do; she decided to follow her passion.  She quit her day job, dabbled in a few follow-your-passion-possibilities, and finally landed squarely at the convergence of two of her loves: cooking and writing.  She launched her blog Tasty-Trials.com in August 2010 and hasn’t looked back.  She weaves heartfelt stories into every original recipe.  In addition to an active subscriber-ship, the Bay Area resident has been a guest-poster for numerous food blogs and most recently has become a contributor to the food section for the online women’s magazine, SheKnows.

We at Cimarone are the fortunate recipient of an original recipe developed specifically with and for our Cimarone 3CV Cilla’s Blend.  Bon appetit and thank you Karen!

While this may not be the quickest soup to get to the table, the time spent developing each ingredient’s flavor pays off in the end. 

Roasted Mushroom Soup

Serves 4 as first course

1 pound blend of assorted mushrooms*, cleaned

1/2 tablespoon chopped rosemary

5-6 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

3 ounces of shallots, peeled and cut into quarters

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup 2009 Cilla’s Blend red wine

1-14.5 ounce can low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt

pepper

*Use any assortment of mushrooms you like, but try to stay away from white button mushrooms. Cremini, oyster, enoki, and shiitake are good choices for more flavor.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (Position one rack in the middle and one rack at the bottom of the oven.)

Prepare mushrooms by cutting up larger varieties, as needed. (If using larger mushrooms, like whole cremini or shiitake, cut into pieces. Clustered varieties, like enoki, should just be broken apart but do not need to be cut unless very large. Try to make pieces similar size.)

Toss mushrooms with 4-5 tablespoons olive oil on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast mushrooms on bottom rack for about 18 minutes, until soft and browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and reserve.

In a small glass baking dish, toss shallots with 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Roast shallots on middle rack for 20 minutes, until soft and starting to caramelize, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and reserve.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leeks and red pepper flakes, turn heat down to lowest setting, and let leeks cook in butter for about 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic during the last few minutes of cooking.

To the cooked leeks, add the roasted mushrooms and shallots and turn heat up to medium-high. When pan is hot, stir in red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan, and let simmer until wine is almost completely reduced. Add chicken broth and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Using an immersion blender (or food processor), puree soup. Check seasonings and adjust as needed. (If soup is too thick, add extra chicken broth until desired consistency is reached.) Return to low heat and heat through.

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