Around Silverlake Wine, Keith and Larry Saarloos are affectionately known as Big Saar and Big Larr, respectively. Their personalities and their drive to accomplish say it all. When they first purchased the property that Windmill Ranch Vineyard currently sits on, it was an apple orchard. Apples apparently weren’t as easy to sell as grapes, so they were advised to plant a vineyard. They did. After farming grapes for a while and selling off most of their harvest each year to the best producers in Santa Barbara County, they were advised to make wine from a portion of their crop. They did.
The Saarloos & Sons tasting room will be open shortly in Los Olivos on Grand Avenue directly across from Carhartt Vineyard Tasting Room and one space north of the Qupe/Verdad/Ethan tasting room. Keith gave me a tour of the 19th century home that until weeks ago was the family owned and operated Divine Day Spa which is now housed at the Fess Parker Wine County Inn just down the road a bit on Grand Ave. For the time being, you can buy their wine directly from the Saarloos & Sons website. Also the Daughter’s Chardonnay and Purper Hart Syrah are available at Silverlake Wine. There are no other outlets for the family’s hard work. They’re happy with that. “Maybe I’d sell some wine to a restaurant if they found me and asked me to sell them some,” says Keith when asked where he wants his wines to be. “Otherwise I’m content to just have them in the tasting room and at Silverlake Wine.”
194Five The Union (85% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Marriage. Union. Not just a metaphor, in fact it’s a joy for me to have enjoyed Purper Hart, the 100% Syrah offering from Saarloos & Sons before opening 194Five The Union because it allowed me to see the effect of the blending between the family’s Syrah from their Windmill Ranch Vineyard and a 15% influence of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Harmon Family Vineyard (they only purchase fruit from vineyards in the area owned and operated by families!). The Syrah is meaty, juicy, inky, masculine. The Cabernet counterpart is much more pretty, feminine, soft and delicate. The marriage between the two is like that of the depicted on the front label (Keith’s grandparents at their wedding in 1945) – to leave a long-lasting impression on those who drink the wine and see the label. This is not a wine to miss. Berry fruit, fruit tannin that is so well integrated you’ll almost miss it, underlying earthiness that is imparted from the soil structure of Windmill Ranch Vineyard. You can only buy this wine at the Saarloos & Sons website.
Ring Effie Unk (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) – This is the only current release Saarloos & Sons that I opened with food, and I brought it to a 7-course tasting menu so it was a special part of the meal. Opened closer to 63 degrees because it traveled an hour with us to the restaurant – no mention of Merlot on the front label, instead they have chosen to give it a family name (or a proprietary name). With the way “Sideways” bastardized Merlot sales, it makes sense not to call a wine made from Merlot, Merlot! The wine was immediately decanted while we left a small bit in each of our glasses to see how it changes on glass relative to in the decanter. Up front earthiness akin to Lalande de Pomerol (MERLOT!). Tannin is integrated, obvious instance of fruit tannin rather than barrel tannin. Violets, figs, blackberry jam. Shale and graphite on nose and mouth – this is the expression of Cabernet Franc in the blend though only 5% of the composition. It is obvious the soil these grapes are grown in is suited to making the vines struggle, probably given minimal irrigation. Great concentration with finesse on the palate. By far the prettiest of the new releases from Saarloos & Sons, and I’m glad I enjoyed this wine last in the lineup because it shows how versatile the family winemaking is. You can only buy this wine at the Saarloos & Sons website.
Both of these wines are available for purchase on the Silverlake Wine website or by calling 323.662.9024.
Coming next for the Week in Drink will be a series of profiles of Wine Directors, Sommeliers, Winemakers, and Vineyard Managers – stay posted for profiles of Wine Director of Wolfgang Puck’s Cut Dana Farner, and Winemaker Maynard James Keenan.