2005 Babcock Vineyards Chardonnay Rita's Earth Cuvee Sta. Rita Hills

Babcock Vineyards Chardonnay Rita's Earth Cuvee Sta. Rita Hills

Bryan Babcock has made a number of critically acclaimed wines over the years, but he considers his 2005 Rita's Earth Chardonnay a "once in a lifetime" bottling. Through lucky twist of fate, he was able to source the majority of this wine's fruit from two of the most hallowed vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills region: Sanford & Benedict and Babcock Estate vineyards.

Planted in 1971, the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is literally where winegrowing began in the Santa Rita Hills. This 135-acre parcel is located at the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley, and has a mantle of hard, siliceous chert-gravel covering deep, well-drained soils--an ideal medium for Burgundy varieties.

Walt and Mona Babcock's vineyards are situated in the same western part of the Santa Ynez Valley but were planted a bit later, in the early 1980s. While their son, Bryan, was in graduate school studying enology at UC-Davis, they sold their first few harvests to other winemakers. Bryan finished grad school in 1984 and the Babcock Winery produced its first wine that same year. Since then, Bryan has become one of the top winemakers in Santa Barbara County, best known for his outstand Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The Santa Rita Hills have a perfect microclimate for these Burgundy varieties. Each summer morning, a heavy Pacific fog moves eastward through the Santa Ynez Valley, holding morning temperatures in the 50s and 60s; by midmorning, heat from the mountains pushes the marine air back out to sea, warming the valley. In the early afternoon, the balance tips again, and a cooling breeze blows inland from the Pacific. By sunset, temperatures cool to the 60's. The net result of this excellent microclimate is a cool growing season that lasts 30 to 45 days longer than most other California regions.

The 2005 Santa Rita's Earth Chardonnay is a special wine. It's made with meticulously grown fruit from the oldest vineyard in the region, and it's made by one of California's best winemakers. Robert Parker gave it 90 points and praised its " attractive notes of orange and tangerine blossoms, crisp acidity, full-bodied, juicy fruit, and a subtle touch of wood." Drink now.