Kathy Joseph is part of the second generation of winegrowers that were fast followers on the heels of the pioneers in Sta. Rita Hills and in Santa Barbara County in general. She was also responsible for planting one of the largest vineyards in the county – the 100-acres Fiddlestix property – and has used the grapes from there, particularly the Pinot Noir, to fuel her widely acclaimed Fiddlehead wines.
At the end of last year, she sold Fiddlestix but will continue to make Fiddlehead wines sourced there and from Oregon, the second source of Pinot for more than 20 years.
Recently, Joseph, a merry sort though serious about wine, hosted a tasting on Zoom. Among some of her more-interesting thoughts: “I like to cross-pollinate myself,” she says about being experimental and making wines from vineyards located a few hundred miles apart. And she also is very definite about what she likes in structuring her wines: “My love of French wines is how they feel in my mouth. So I want to regulate my winemaking decision to make my wines less big than other winemakers might make theirs.”
With four of her Fiddlehead wines, we add some zip to this edition of The Dozen – along with some great Champagne bubblies.
2016 Fiddlehead “Fiddlestix” Sta. Rita Hills Gruner Veltliner ($30). A lovely wine with great green fruitiness, lots of minerality, some barrel notes, and enough heft to promise moderate aging potential.
2016 Mira “Hyde Vineyard” Napa Valley Chardonnay ($95). Just delicious – full-bodied with lovely fruitiness, a hint of toasty oak, and a floral finish.
NV Henriot “Brut Souverain” Champagne (about $50). A snow-like freshness, fresh apples, tightly knit texture, light hints of tannin, and a crisp finish – very good.
NV Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($92). Minerality comes on like drinking from a tin flute – quite complex with green notes, mellow apples, brown bread, hints of tannins, and floral touches in the finish.
2012 Henriot Brut Champagne ($104). Very elegant with rich and intense apple flavors, intense bubbles, crisp minerality, and great mouthfeel.
2008 Billecart-Salmon “Louis Salmon” Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($197). A complex wine that urges you to think while you drink – metallic minerality with green notes, dried fruits such as apricot, shortbread, and good acidity. Fairly big and quite refreshing.
2021 Domaine de Cala Côteaux Varois en Provence Rosé ($20). Very aromatic with lovely pastel flavors of citrus and strawberries and a long, crisp but creamy finish.
NV Bricoleur “Isa Rosa” California Brut Rosé ($50). Good intensity of refreshing bubbles, metallic minerality, and light wild-strawberry flavors.
2015 Fiddlehead “Seven Twenty Eight” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($45). It needs a little time to open up, but when it does, it delivers lean, smoky, tart, lightly tannic Pinot with hints of cola and lots of black raspberry flavors.
2015 Fiddlehead “Oldville Reserve” Oregon Pinot Noirs ($55). More fruit-forward with jammy flavors (not texture) of black raspberry, yet amazingly fresh in the finish.
2014 Fiddlehead “Lollapalooza Fiddlestix” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($88). More rounded with earthy and savory notes to go with the black raspberries, both complex and friendly.
2016 Mira “Hyde Vineyard” Napa Valley Pinot Noir ($95). A big wine, but not a heavy one, with flavors of dark cherries and hints of cranberries and cassis with a grounding taste of earthiness in the finish.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo courtesy of Fiddlehead