Santa Barbara’s SAMsARA Winery: Current Releases

Located in Goleta, home to UC Santa Barbara, the SAMsARA winery is owned by Joan and Dave Szkutak who purchased it in 2017 from Chad Melville.  SAMsARA sources grapes from some of Santa Barbara’s best vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills and elsewhere. The wines reviewed here were made by Matt Brady, who joined SAMsARA in 2016 when it was still owned by Melville; he is an economics graduate of UCSB and previously made wine at Jaffurs.  He picks early, leaves a significant portion of whole clusters, and has a gentle touch in the winery, resulting in wines that are consistently refined, balanced, and perfumed on both the nose and palate. Superb winemaking! SAMsARA also has a tasting room in Los Olivos.  SAMsARA is just one of the wineries we recently visited in Santa Barbara.  Keep an eye out for the update of our 2020 report Sta. Rita Hills: A New Look.

The Wines

Winemaker Matt Brady

SAMsARA 2019 Chardonnay Zotovich Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills ($52) 93  Fermented with ambient yeast and matured in all neutral French oak, the Zotovich Vineyard Chardonnay is elegant and delicate, beginning with a perfumed bouquet of flowers, almonds and white pepper. The refined palate offers a beautifully balanced combination of white stone fruit flavors, bright acidity, and firm minerality.  The 35 acre Zotovich Vineyard is located in the northern part of the Sta. Rita Hills, 9 miles inland from the Pacific.  It has a southeasterly exposure and is renowned for its diatomaceous and sandy loam soils.

SAMsARA 2018 Pinot Noir Kessler-Haak Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills ($58) 92  Light carmen red in color, the Kessler-Haak Vineyard presents fine aromas of rose petal and red cherry skin. On the palate, it’s silky and refined with medium-light weight vanilla cherry flavors. Made with 30% whole clusters, this is a graceful wine. Could use a bit more staying power on the finish. Located in the cool, northwest part of the Sta. Rita Hills, the organically farmed Kessler-Haak Vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir clones on sandy loam soils with very low yields of 1.2-1.5 tons/acre.

SAMsARA 2015 Pinot Noir Rancho La Viña Vineyard Sta Rita Hills ($58) 92  The Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir is beautifully crafted showing fruit and savory nuances.  It begins with lively scents of raspberry and cherry with an underbrush accent. Soft on the attack, it reveals light red fruit and herbal notes on the palate. Drinking beautifully now. Matured in 25% new French oak.  Rancho La Viña, located in the far southwestern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills, this 34.5 acre vineyard is one of the coolest of the appellation. Originally a Mexican land grant, today it’s owned by descendants of J.W. Cooper who purchased it from the original owner, María Jesús Olivera de Cota, in 1872.

SAMsARA 2018 Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard Sta Rita Hills ($68) 95  The Radian Vineyard is stylistically consistent with other Samsara Pinot Noirs, but it has more depth, concentration and structure that augur well for extended aging.  Earth and underbrush notes are complemented by darker red cherry fruit and a hint of forest floor.  Crisp on the attack and refined in style, it finishes long and pure with rich extract.  100% whole cluster fermentation. Raidian Vineyard is the westernmost in the Sta. Rita Hills, and the block that provides the fruit for this wine comes from the top of the hill where it’s exposed to the Pacific’s fog, cold and wind.

SAMsARA 2019 Cuvee d’Inspiration Syrah Grenache Santa Barbara County ($48) 93  Medium dark red. This Syrah based blend (75% Syrah, 25% Grenache) presents red and black berries with notes of underbrush on the nose.  Silky smooth on entry, the texture is refined and delicate with good structure, finely honed tannins and fresh dark red fruit.  Finishes with good length.  A great bistro wine!

SAMsARA 2017 Grenache Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Barbara County ($52) 94   Pale red in color, this is a perfumed, delicately styled Grenache revealing red berries and cherry skin aromas. The red-fruited palate is round and full with gentle tannins and lively, bright acidity.  Located east of Santa Maria, the Colson Canyon Vineyard has heavier soils and days that are a bit warmer than the Sta. Rita Hills, perfect for Rhone varietals.

SAMsARA 2018 Syrah Zotovich Vineyard Sta Rita Hills ($52) 93  Medium dark red. Exuberant scents of dark red fruit with hints of forest floor on the nose.  The palate is very appealing—lush and full but with a sense of refinement.  Superbly balanced. Made 100% whole cluster with 14 months in all neutral French oak.



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