June 2, 2017
Winemaking is about storytelling, and the story behind Zaca Mesa is definitely worth telling. -Eric Mohseni, Zaca Mesa Winemaker
Zaca Mesa, one of the most storied wineries around due to it’s history. Established in 1973 when there were only two wineries in Santa Barbara County. Zaca Mesa is the first winery in the area to plant Syrah grapes, which helped kick start the Rhone varietal love affair throughout California.
Zaca Mesa’s Black Bear Block of Syrah is the oldest in the Central Coast. The vines themselves came from Gary Eberle, who acquired them from a UC Davis professor, who had taken them from Hermitage in France! Black Bear Block is all original rootstock– a rare find these days.
(Fun fact: “Black Bear Block” earned its name when vineyard manager Ruben Camacho found black bears there munching away on the grapes!) Today, Zaca Mesa’s estate exclusively grows Rhone grapes, everything from Viognier to Grenache and Syrah.
The story doesn’t end with the grapes, though. Located in a big ol’ barn up in the Santa Rita Hills, Zaca Mesa has been lucky enough to experience such legendary winemakers as Ken Brown and Bob Lindquist. Zaca Mesa has consistently kept quality wines above all else, and it’s that commitment to quality that attracted current Head Winemaker Eric Mohseni.
But it was the moment that he set foot on the Zaca Mesa property that he knew “this is where I want to be.”
Eric worked part time at The Wine Country in Signal Hill during his undergraduate days at Cal State Long Beach, where he majored in food science and chemistry. As his role quickly grew, he became the buyer for Southern Hemisphere wines, which launched an obsession with Sauvignon Blanc. That, in turn, lead him to move to New Zealand to work a harvest and fully immerse himself in winemaking. But it was the moment that he set foot on the Zaca Mesa property that he knew “this is where I want to be.”
Still a chemistry major at heart, Eric loves experimenting with barrels and aging. Recent additions to the winery include massive concrete tanks and elegant clay amphorae, both of which are used to produce Syrah and a Grenache-Mourvedre blend. Those wines are big, deep, and tannic, as the concrete and clay are obviously less porous than oak barrels and allow very little air in. This kind of curiosity and experimentation allows Zaca Mesa to produce varied styles of wine from the same block of grapes, from smooth and round to big and bold.
Eric credits Vineyard Manager Ruben Camacho, Cellar Master Agustin Robles, and the entire Zaca Mesa staff with the winery’s success because of their ongoing commitment and dedication. Ruben has been with Zaca Mesa for over 40 years, and Agustin isn’t far behind. Eric believes that the camaraderie found there is crucial to the finished wines.
The best way to fully appreciate the story behind Zaca Mesa is to experience the wines for yourself. Visit the property, or stop by Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café on June 30th to meet Eric and maybe get a story or two in person! Details on our special event page.
These three featured Zaca Mesa wines are 20% off during the month of June. Discount applied online or in our store on Grand Avenue in Los Olivos, CA.
Zaca Mesa 2014 Viognier: The aromatic beauty from Condrieu, France, Viognier creates plush, perfumed wines. By harvesting through multiple picks in the vineyard, Zaca Mesa manages to maintain both aromatics and acidity equally. This lends to the vibrancy without denying the heady aromas. The perfect wine for a summer afternoon.
Zaca Mesa 2012 Z Cuvee: An homage to Cotes-du-Rhone! This blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault is an easy sipper indeed – upfront fruit and soft tannins make it impossible not to appreciate this wine. Very versatile and can pair with a wide range of food. Make this your go-to wine to up your barbecue game!
Zaca Mesa 2013 Syrah: Zaca Mesa knows Syrah, and you can taste that immediately. Big, bold, and brash, this is the wine you want to have with roasted meats, particularly game. Pair this with venison or lamb to really allow those dark berry and herbal notes to shine.