Deep Sea Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County 2013
"I don't drink Chardonnay," says the young woman who just walked into my tasting room on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. Peering over the tops of her Warby Parker shades, she reads the Signature and Reserve flight options. They both offer Santa Barbara County Chardonnays. She loves white wine she says, assuredly. Just not Chardonnay. She turns to her friend who nods in agreement, her adorable sun hat bobbing vigorously but miraculously staying put. Anything But Chardonnay, she says.
ABC for short, I think.
I want to ask her "why don't you like it?” but its a busy Saturday in the tasting room, and customers are lining up, ready for their next taste of Deep Sea or Conway wine. Even if I did get a moment to ask the girls, they may not actually be able to tell me why they don't like it. Most people I meet who "don't like" a varietal, can't really describe why they're not into it. Maybe they had a few bad versions of a good thing. Maybe their parents drink Chardonnay, and they find it uncool, drab, and tired. Maybe they've tried a million, and never found one they enjoyed. But my heart tells me that out of every 10 Chardonnays you try, even if you don't like Chardonnay, there will be at least 1 that will surprise you, and convert you for life.
So instead of focusing on past negative experiences with Chardonnay, instead I smile and tell them, "Ours is different. You might like it, want to give it a try?"
It's hard to say no when someone is offering you wine. I know I rarely do. Intrigued, they want to say yes. I leave no room for hesitation. In a flash, there is a crystal clear Deep Sea wine glass on the bar, and I am pouring them a splash of our Deep Sea Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, 2013.
"Ours is different," I say again, as the beautiful, golden straw colored wine flows into the glass. "It's grown in Santa Barbara, which has a cooler climate than other parts of California. Our grapes are harvested earlier, to preserve a freshness that you don't get when your grapes are too ripe."
"Mmm.." Warby Parker says, still skeptical as she lifts the glass and inspects its contents. The sunlight streams in from our patio's open doors. It casts a perfect streak of sun into the glass and the wine shines. I feel like a nervous artist, showing my work for the first time. It's exciting, and scary.
I go on..."We celebrate higher acid here, and do our best to keep our wines lively and bright, with tons of citrus and only a hint of the tropical fruit notes associated with really ripe styles."
She tastes. The Warbys come off as she smiles in surprise!
"That's GOOD!" She says, and she turns to Sun Hat immediately, wanting to share her discovery. "Try it," She commands. "That's really good,” she says again, like she can't believe it.
"Right?" I laugh, because this is the most fun part of my job.
Sun Hat tastes, and her eyes go wide. "It's so different!" She says. "Normally I don’t like Chardonnay, it's too...too"
"Buttery? Syrupy? Oaky?" I suggest. (I like to help with adjectives sometimes. Its the writing major in me).
"Yes!" Warby says. "All of those things."
So I tell them, there's no popcorn butter and thick crème brulee notes here. No burnt toast, no fake vanilla syrup. Just delicious Santa Barbara Chardonnay, elegant and fresh, with notes of white peach, lemon, and green apple. Bright acidity and a hint of vanilla bean complement the fruit flavors in this crisp, modern style of Chardonnay.
"I have another Santa Barbara Chardonnay..." I say, still smiling at their discovery that they do and can, enjoy a Chardonnay.
"Can we try that one too?" asks Warby, as she steals her wine glass back from her friend and finishes the last of the Chardonnay still in the glass.
This kind of interaction happens all the time, and it continues to amaze me what a bad reputation Chardonnay has among the millennial crowd. They don’t want to drink it, but when they try it, its like this crazy epiphany happens. This thing they've been coaxed to dislike, or reject, has suddenly become a new best friend.
These “Taste Conversions” as I like to call them, are all part of the learning and tasting process. Those of us who are lucky enough to make wine, or be on the other side of the bar have a great opportunity to convert these voracious wine drinkers and turn them on to all kinds of wines they “don’t like”. Because the truth is, there’s too much Chardonnay out there to hate them all. I’m just happy when ours is the one that inspires someone to fall in love. Chardonnay is definitely a wine to fall in love with, and I am a great matchmaker.
When the girls leave, I notice they buy two bottles of Deep Sea Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2013, and two bottles of our Deep Sea Chardonnay, The Sea Turtle, 2011. They make sure to show me, with pride, that they are taking the Chardonnay home. High fives all around.
I’m proud too, that another person will now go forth, and share their new and positive experience with our modern take on a timeless classic.
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