When Jeff Butler, the director of sales for Refugio Ranch Vineyards in Los Olivos, reached out with a wonderful invitation to experience his special vineyard, he didn’t flinch when the invitation for one grew to an invitation for ten. If you’ve been following the adventures of the QBP during #wbc14, you’ve realized that we are loud and proud, love wine and long for the ‘off the beaten path’ experiences that are not replicated with larger conferences.
“The more the merrier,” he said – probably not quite realizing what was in store. We met at the tasting room and tried the 2013 Aqua Dolce de Refugio on the patio. The wine, which was made of Malvasia Bianca, was very refreshing with notes of honey, orange blossoms, white flowers and nectarines.
We loaded up the cars and coolers and headed to the winery, where we promptly lost Thea Dwelle, who joined us with her carload of folks a few minutes later. The winery, which is on private property and not open to the public, is a sanctuary. Imagine flowers everywhere you look, beautiful vineyards, an inviting front porch, a fantastic host and the wines, oh the wines.
Refugio Ranch was originally part of one of the original Spanish land grants. The Gleason family discovered the property, which was a cattle ranch for several hundred years, in 2005. They brought in Daniel Roberts from Napa who analyzed the soils and microclimate to discover the winery was ideal to grow Rhone and Sauvignon Blanc wines.
- 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with notes of peach, apple pie, citrus, minerality and almonds. This was a great wine.
- 2011 Tiradora – a very different version of the same grape with lots of lime, stone, pear, citrus and herbs. Loved this one too.
- 2010/2011 Ineseno – a Rhone blend of Rousanne and Viognier with lots of depth. This was made in a white Bordeaux style – I tasted brown butter caramel, tropical fruits, orange and dried fruits. I liked them both, but ordered several bottles of the 2011.
- 2012 Viognier – white jasmine, peach, nectarine, honeysuckle and dried fruit were the primary flavors that I tasted. Another delicious, complex wine.
- 2011 Escondrijo – this was a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Petite Syrah with notes of raspberry, cherry, licorice, black tea and spice. Yum.
- 2010 Barbareno – a blend of Syrah and petite sirah with floral, cherry, mocha and spice. Great depth and layers in this wine.
- 2010 Nectar de Refugio – a honeyed, complex dessert wine that was a wonderful end to a wonderful day.
Interesting fact – in spite of a drought over the last three years, the region and vineyard is on target for another great harvest year and no one can explain why. The climate is unique – Jeff talked about letting the wine “hang out.” It takes patience, perseverance and confidence, he said, to let the wines do what they do. And as the former winemaker for Star Ranch, he has quite the resume to understand the entire sales/marketing function and how to uniquely position the value proposition of Refugio Ranch. As a marketing person, I have to say the tasting notes just rocked as he described the wines in detail as well as the perfect dish to go with every wine.
He talked a lot about terroir or a sense of place, which connects wine to the land. We had a soulful experience with good friends, great wine, tasty food, a few chickens and a very special vineyard.