Nestled in a peaceful corner of Santa Barbara County, off the Foxen Canyon Trail in the Santa Maria Valley, Cambria makes high quality wines that will appeal to a variety of palates. Since the climate is fairly cool in this area, the grapes that thrive are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. On my recent visit to Cambria I was fortunate to try a wide array of their wines and was very impressed.

View from Cambria

Before I entered the winery, I was taken in by the endless view. My visit was prior to bud break and I could only imagine the glory of this scene when the vines are full of fruit. There was a sense of vastness which was accentuated by the peace and quiet around us on that Friday afternoon.

Upon entering the tasting room, the two women working immediately made me feel welcome. Ellen and Jan were both in a wonderful mood and that set the stage well for my tasting experience. I was lucky to have arrived at the time that I did because the buyer for a very large retailer had just left and they had opened some additional wines off of the tasting list for her.

The white wines are varied enough to appeal to a variety of preferences, as well as food pairing options. The 2010 Viognier was fruity and smooth, with peach aromas and nice balance. Fans of this varietal would be happy sipping this wine on a sunny afternoon while resting on their porch. The two Chardonnays that I tried were what I now call “Restrained California” in style. Both were rich and creamy, yet the oak used did not overshadow the fruit. I was particularly taken by the Clone 4 Chardonnay ($27) as it was perfectly balanced; tropical fruits like mango drifted by this lush and easy to drink wine.

Tasting the wines at Cambria

The Pinot Noir portfolio is extensive and I was fortunate to try five different wines made from this varietal. The 09 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot ($25) was smooth and spicy with cherry overtones. The 07 Bench Break Pinot Noir ($34), however, was much earthier with a richer tannic structure. My favorite was the next Pinot, the 08 Bench Break ($34), as it was much brighter than the previous vintage and perfectly balanced; red raspberries, earth, spice and everything nice. Pinots like this one offer a lot in terms of aromatics, and as the wine opened up, the aromas evolved. It was like I had a scratch and sniff sticker book and every few minutes the wine took me to a different page.

Next up were the unfiltered Pinots which continued the high level of quality and complexity. The 08 Clone 23 and the 08 Barbara’s ($60) rounded out the Pinot selections and were lovely. The two Syrahs that I tasted were rich and full bodied; perfect wines for grilled meats and other heartier fare. My favorite was the 07 Estrella Syrah ($48).

Cambria is an estate winery which means that they grow the grapes in their own vineyards in addition to making the wine. This allows them to control the quality and yield of the fruit which provides the winemaking team with the best possible crop. The weather in this area includes warm days and very cool nights, which both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay love. The heat allows the grapes to ripen, however, the cool evenings preserve the acidity needed to make balanced wines.

Cambria distributes many of their wines so one does not need to travel to the Santa Maria Valley to try them, however, that is highly recommended. The website for the winery has some lovely food pairing recommendations including recipes.


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