What better way to begin a Saturday in January than in beautiful Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara County, California. It was the perfect start to a three day wine tasting excursion in SBCounty. Steven Gerbac of Rusack Winery was gracious enough to meet us early on Saturday morning after a flight delay and traffic delay on Friday afternoon. The three of us walked the vineyards where Steven taught us about the soil and climate of Ballard Canyon as well as the vines planted where and why. We then went inside and tasted an array of Rusack wines.
Rusack 2013 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay: This wine poured a bright gold into the glass and opened with bright aromas of orchard fruit, melon and citrus. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of crisp apples and pears along with Korean melon and citrus zest. It was a well-structured wine with crisp acidity that lingered pleasingly on the palate. SRP $24.
Rusack 2013 Santa Maria Valley Reserve Chardonnay: This wine poured a straw color into the glass and opened with aromas of orchard fruit, citrus and hazelnut. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of apples and pears, lemon zest and toasted hazelnuts. It was creamy yet clean, well-balanced with round acidity. SRP $32.
Rusack 2012 Catalina Chardonnay Santa Catalina Island: This wine was crafted in the exact same manner as the SBC Chardonnay; therefore, the terroir becomes the focus of this Chardonnay. It poured a straw yellow into the glass with aromas of citrus and tropical fruit on the nose. On the palate this wine offered flavors of apples and pears with Meyer lemon zest and a touch of vanilla. It was heavier in texture yet still crisp with round acidity. SRP $60.
Rusack 2012 Catalina Pinot Noir Santa Catalina Island: The wine poured a bright, dazzling ruby into the glass and opened with aromas of ripe berries. On the palate this Pinot Noir offered layers of flavors including ripe red cherries, cranberries, and plums with a gritty minerality, subtle pepper notes and a touch of citrus blossom and crème brulee. It was soft yet elegant with well-structured acidity and tannins that linger on the palate. SRP $72.
Rusack 2012 Catalina Zinfandel Santa Catalina Island: This cool climate Zinfandel was from a wild clone from the 1800’s discovered on Catalina Island. The result of the cool climate and old vine is a very distinctive Zinfandel. This wine poured a light yet vibrant ruby into the glass and opened with ripe berries and spice on the nose. On the palate this Zinfandel offered flavors of ripe red berries with cranberries and currants, pepper, soft leather notes and a touch of vanilla. Steven Gerbac called this a wine “a Pinot Noir on steroids” and he was right. It was delicious yet like no other Zinfandel I have ever tasted; rather, it was like a bold and peppery Pinot Noir. Delicious! SRP $72.
Rusack 2012 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir: This wine poured a bright ruby into the glass and opened with crisp aromas of ripe red berries. On the palate this wine offered flavors of ripe red cherries, strawberries and raspberries with baking spice, pepper and a touch of coffee. It was light and lively, full of round fruit yet balanced with acidity and light tannins. SRP $30.
Rusack 2012 Santa Rita Hills Reserve Pinot Noir: This wine poured a deep ruby into the glass and opened with aromas of ripe berries and spice. On the palate were flavors of red cherries, raspberries, blueberries along with floral notes, a touch of leather and cola, and spice. This wine was round in the mouth with well-balanced acidity, gentle tannins and a lingering finish. SRP $40.
Rusack 2012 Sangiovese Ballard Canyon Estate: This was the 2nd to last vintage of Sangiovese; Steven Gerbac has removed the Sangiovese vines to produce more Syrah. It poured a vibrant ruby into the glass and opened with red fruit and spice on the nose. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of flavors of bing cherries, raspberries, plums and currants along with Asian spice and chocolate. It had round concentrated fruit that was well balanced with acidity and ripe tannins that left a lingering dryness on the palate. A great food wine! I am sorry to see it go. SRP $32.
Rusack 2012 Syrah Ballard Canyon Estate: This wine poured a deep garnet with violet highlights into the glass and opened with bright aromas of flowers, berries and spice. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of black berries, black raspberries, and red cherries along with cassis, violets, leather, spice and an earthiness that lingers on the back of the palate. This wine was beautifully balanced with great acidity and lush tannins. SRP $27. A great price for an outstanding wine!
Rusack continues to receive a bounty of accolades for their wines and their Catalina winery is the first of its kind with a unique terroir that produces wines like no other place in the world. Rusack is a boutique winery located in Ballard Canyon under the ownership of Geoff and Allison Rusack; however, they have hired an outstanding wine maker in Steven Gerbac and as great owners, Geoff and Allison allow Steven to produce high quality wines without interference.
From the Rusack web site:
Our mission is to create world-class, handcrafted wines that reflect our commitment to excellence and our love for this region.
That commitment begins in our Estate Vineyard, which we re-planted in 2003 in order to capture the true character of Ballard Canyon, and which we meticulously farm in small lots. It extends to the winemaking process, during which we go to every possible length to achieve the delicate balance of “elegance & power” (Robert Parker, August 2010) for which our wines have become known around the world. Finally, it extends to our label, a Catalina tile, a family legacy symbol of our belief in the beauty of what arises from blending craft, earth, art and family.
I strongly encourage you to visit the Rusack web site to learn more about the people and winery, to view their entire portfolio of wines and to order some of their outstanding wines. Do not delay!
We had a wonderful time at Rusack learning and tasting. And it was a treat to meet Steven’s beautiful wife and daughter! Thank you to Kara for scheduling our visit and Steven for being so gracious with your time.
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with our Rusack tasting and their outstanding wines is When I Look To The Sky by Train. The entire experience felt like a beautiful Train song to me. I chose this song because of the relationship between wine and terroir. So much of it involves the sky: sun, rain, wind, temperature, fog…from the sky we get wine!
Get your own bottles of Rusack wines and let me know what song you would pair with them. Cheers!