Very Viognier

On a crisp, sun-laden day, I paid a visit to Sycamore Creek Vineyards, newly owned by Frank Leal of Leal Vineyards. The driveway was lined with Manzanillo olive trees whose ancient, gnarled trunks belied their recent plantings. The olive trees, strung with twinkling lights for evening magic, along with the lovely working women in the tasting room and the very solid wines—all trademarks of Frank Leal’s success in the business.

The tasting menu is mixed between the older inventory of the previous winery owners, which is still quite relevant, and the newer wines that Leal has produced. But being partial to Frank’s wines, I enjoyed his the most.

The aromas of the 2014 Viognier ($30) transported me to the tropics. With a racy acidity, this is a well-balanced white with flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and a honeyed finish.

My two favorite reds of the day included the 2014 Pinot Noir ($36), aged for eight months in French oak. It’s a showy ripe cherry of a wine with a touch of vanilla and spice on the finish. On that particular day, the crowd around the tasting bar agreed that the highlight red was the 2013 Reserve Cabernet made from estate grapes. With complexity beyond its youth, the bold dark cherries exploded on our palettes, lingering on in a smooth finish.

The expansive outdoor patio surrounded by vines and more olive trees leads to several bocce ball courts, a pizza oven for events and a grassy dog park for four-legged friends.

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