On the table tops of the Santa Ynez Zaca Mesa

Posted on March 22, 2012

Zaca Mesa, a pioneer of Rhone varieties in the Santa Ynez Valley

Zaca Mesa is a Pioneer in the Santa Ynez valley, it is one of the first to plant Rhone varieties.  Zaca means “peaceful & restful”.  It is situated 1500ft on a plateau (hence the name mesa, or table top in Spanish) and lies above the fog line and provide excellent drainage. This is Indian land. All the estate vineyards are farmed sustainably.  The vineyards are easy to farm and the plateau allows for even ripening.

Ken Brown was the first to plant Syrah in Santa Barbara back in 1978.  He used vines from Eberle and Chapoutier.  He was one of the original Rhone Rangers at Zaca Mesa, since then many other winemakers passed through the cellar such as Bob Linquist and Lane Tanner.  Today the winery is owned by John Cushman who was an original investor.  What was once 1,600 acres is now downsized to 750 acres with only 200 acres devoted to vines.  Today the focus at Zaca Mesa is in lower yields and quality.  I was very surprised by the result of this tasting.


Chardonnay ‘09

1,000 cases produced.  Sourced from the cooler portions and does not go through malo-lactic fermentation.  It is aged in 50% new oak.   There are aromas of ripe apples, melon and pineapple.  It is a bit warm on the palate with hints of toasted oak.

Retail $16


Viognier ‘09

The Viognier is aged in Stainless steel and then for 3 months in neutral barrels.  It does not go through Malo-lactic fermentation.  Tropical fruits such as papaya and cantaloupe are prevalent on the nose and on the palate it sits full.  The wine finishes with a mix of flavors ranging from jasmine to cinnamon and spice.

Retail $16



Roussanne ‘09

There are only 10 acres devoted to Roussanne.  The wine spends 1 year in oak, 60% of it is new and does not go through malo-lactic fermentation. I got a little heat on the nose which blew of and opened up to aromas of ripe pear and baking spice.  It satisfies the Chardonnay drinker because it has the weight, the intensity and the oak that many have come to love in a Chardonnay.

Retail $22


Z Cuvee ‘08

A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre & Syrah in 20% new wood.  It shows blackberry, blueberry and violets.  It finishes with a sweet spice and peppercorn.

Retail $15





Z Three Reserve ‘08

49% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre 20% Grenache on 40% new oak for 21 months.  The grapes are selected as being the best of the vintage. Each is fermented separately and then blended.  It is a lot more ripe with tomato jam, earth, leathery notes and ripe plums.  It is soft and silky on the palate and is a tad bit hot.  The finish is long and the tannins left me sucking.

Retail $30


Syrah ‘08

It is quintessential Syrah, deep purple color showing blue fruits.  There is a sweet oak character tasting like coffee and cocoa with a drying minerality.  It sees 30% new oak and is in barrel for 16 months.

Retail $20




Mesa Reserve Syrah ‘07

The grapes come from high density plantings with combinations of different rootstocks. The wine is hand punched and is aged in new French oak for 26 months.  It has a much deeper purple hue.  It has aromas and flavors of Blueberries, Cocoa powder, Nuts and blue flowers.  The wine is juicy, mineral and a lot leaner than expected.  Very good.

Retail $33



Black Bear ‘07

This Syrah comes from the first Syrah planted back in 1978.  The cuttings were brought from Chapoutier.  The wine spends 21 months in 100% new French oak and only native yeasts are used.  The Aromas are of tobacco, black fruit, blue and red berries.  It has a bit of heat on the nose but is soft and silky on the palate.  As the wine evolves more and more flavors start to appear, such as violet bubble gum.  The wine is intense and I can feel the tannins in my gums.  Delicious!

Retail $50

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *