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A New Wine Wonderland

Happy Canyon Proves It Deserves Respect

BY // 02.15.17

How many of you have tasted wines from the Happy Canyon AVA? A Syrah, perhaps, or a Sauvignon Blanc?

Not familiar with Happy Canyon? That’s forgivable, because it’s an AVA that became official only in 2009. It’s situated on the far eastern boundary of Santa Ynez Valley, and is graced with weather that is generally warmer than its fellow parts of Santa Barbara County. The AVA is known for its nutrient-poor soil, varying from cherts to serpentine cobbles to sandy and clay loams. “The excitement over Happy Canyon relates to the high-magnesium (and) serpentine-laced terroir,” writes the AVA’s governing body.

And that’s a good thing, the poor soil, because the grape vines benefit from it by having to work harder to produce, and in a good year, what is produced is stellar. Low yields, concentrated flavors, wines with character and great cellaring potential.

That’s where the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard comes in. I tasted it last week, and it’s a Happy Canyon keeper. First, this wine is drinking well now, though it is obviously young. It possesses a deep ruby color in the glass, and a hint of eucalyptus and dark berry notes mark its bouquet. We drank this with a simply seasoned rib eye steak, and I’d recommend that pairing any day of the week. (It would also go week with lamb chops or a beef stew.) The mouthfeel here is structured and somewhat taut, a reminder of the wine’s age.

The 2013 Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon is a worthy bottle.

It’s a fine thing to taste a wine and enjoy it, while at the same time sensing fully that what’s in the bottle is going to be much more wonderful in a decade. I can state with confidence that the Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon fits that bill. (In fact, the winemaker tells us that it would be good in your cellar for 20-plus years.)

Tyler Thomas is the winemaker at Star Lane, and he’s done something special with the 2013. It’s aged for 20 months in oak (35 percent new), and was bottled in August of 2015. Alcohol is at 14.4 percent, and the grapes were harvested in September and October of 2013. Its Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which were selected from various Happy Canyon lots, are supplemented with some Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec.

Elizabeth Anthony

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You can order this directly from Star Lane for $50, or ask for it at your favorite wine merchant.

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