A Santa Maria winery with a tasting room in Los Olivos has been recognized for one of its premier wines. Solomon Hills Estate Wines’ 2015 Chardonnay was named a Top 100 Cellar Selection of 2017 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Although more than 22,000 wines were reviewed by the publication, less than 4 percent reportedly were awarded the accolade. The list was narrowed to an exclusive 100 wines based primarily on quality.

“We made the list because of quality, value and style,” said Will Costello, master sommelier and estates ambassador for Bien Nacido Vineyards and Solomon Hills. The Santa Maria winery chose Los Olivos for its tasting room, he said, because it’s a popular destination for wine aficionados.

“Los Olivos is in the middle of wine country and around 30 percent of the [local] wineries have tasting rooms in Los Olivos,” said Costello, noting that Solomon Hills’ 2015 Chardonnay should be available for purchase in early December at a retail price of $45 per bottle.

“Solomon Hills is the western-most and coolest winery in Santa Maria,” Costello said. “It’s mainly the way the mountains run, east and west … so they bring in the cool ocean breeze every afternoon between noon and 4, typically.”

Because the award-winning 2015 chardonnay was produced in limited quantities, Costello said the bottles are available only through mail order or in person at Solomon Hills’ Los Olivos tasting room.

The master sommelier, who also runs the Solomon Hills distribution network, explained the winery places great emphasis on producing “balanced” wines with more earthy tones and lower alcohol content than some of the chardonnays of the past.

“The fact that Solomon Hills is in such a cool area lends itself to more European-style wines with less alcohol, more minerality and, typically, less fruity,” he said. “It’s gonna taste like the earth and the sort of sandy soil of the region. Santa Maria is one of the coolest wine regions in the world. It’s actually as cool as the Champagne region of France and the Mosel region of Germany.”

The result is what Costello calls a refreshing wine, and a stark contrast to the more robust wines that were popular a decade or so ago.

“California’s wine making in the late ’90s took a turn toward the powerful, in-your-face, front-forward, high alcohol style,” he said. “We want to make a wine that is more balanced, with less alcohol, less fruit and more mineral driven.”

Costello said one of the concerns about stronger wines is they tend to have a shorter shelf life, meaning collectors may be disappointed if they wait too long to uncork a wine containing a high percentage of alcohol.

“The European style is the hallmark of what our winery is about,” said Costello, emphasizing that Solomon Hills wines have less of an oak-barrel flavor and more earth tones. “It’s about making wines that are more in harmony. What we see in the wine community is that those [1990s] wines that were award winning did not have harmony — they didn’t last because the alcohol was too overwhelming.”

Now that Solomon Hills has received recognition for its 2015 chardonnay, what’s next for the winery?

“Our wines will continue to evolve in what we consider a positive way,” Costello said, returning quickly to the 2015 chardonnay and its 2017 Top 100 selection by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

“We only made 147 cases, so get them while they’re hot,” he said, emphasizing that Los Olivos is the place to buy the 2015 chardonnay from one of the world’s coolest wine-making regions.

Solomon Hills Estate is located in the Santa Maria Valley Appellation of Santa Barbara County. The winery’s tasting room is located at 2963 Grand Ave., Suite B, in Los Olivos. 

For more information visit www.biennacidoestate.com.

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