Wineries We Love: Saarloos & Sons

10 years ago by Tim

My first exposure to Saarloos + Sons was on an episode of Grape Encounters back in 2011. I was immediately intrigued by their branding, though I hesitate to use that word because their "brand" is really all about the Saarloos family. Each label bears a family photo or something else of significance to the family. For example, Courage, a 2009 100% Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, bears a letter from FDR honoring the service and death of John Saarloos. The label of the 2010 Brotherhood, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, is a photo of three of the Saarloos brothers.

Every year, they also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend which honors the marriage of Gilbert and Bertha Saarloos - the 2010 vintage bearing a recreation of the wedding invitation. Keith says “this blend is a perfect representation of any marriage: two varietals (two people) from our two estates (two backgrounds) making the one blend (the union). Interestingly enough, the bouquet and palette do not match, echoing the old adage 'opposites attract.' Two lives creating one life together."

Saarloos & Sons is truly a family operation. Brothers Larry and Harvey farm the vineyards. Keith, one of Larry’s sons, is the winemaker and handles marketing, while his cousin Brad handles operations. As Brad puts is, "Keith tries to get the train going as fast as he can down the tracks, while it’s my job to make sure it stays on the tracks." Greg, Brad's brother, interned last summer though he recently got a job with another winemaker in Santa Maria. Kirk, the fourth cousin, is currently coaching baseball in Texas after a major league pitching career.

We initially ordered a selection of four wines to taste back in 2011, and we were so impressed that we immediately joined their wine club. The Brielle Sauvignon Blanc - named for Keith’s daughter Brielle Hunter - was incredibly complex and vibrant. Given how few clubs we’re actually in, and how few we actually stay in long term, it’s not insignificant praise that we’re still loyal club members almost three years later. It is really hard not to love the balance and complexity in their wines across the board, and their Grenache Blanc remains a favorite.

We brought a 2009 Saarloos Big Larr to a PAWineTalk Syrah dinner, one of the few events where we didn't taste the wines blind. This put the Saarloos, which no one had heard of, at a disadvantage - and yet it beat out a laundry list of better known and more expensive Syrahs, including Qupe Bien Nacido, Gary Farrell Ramal Vineyard, Jean-Luc Columbo Cornas, Two Hands Ares and couple of Guigal Brune et Blondes.

Saarloos & Sons produces about 3,000 cases of wine per year, most of which is sold directly to consumers through their tasting room and wine club. Keith once told me "it's easier to make great wine than to sell it” - but they do sell out of most wines each year. Their release prices are very good for California wines of this quality - though I would note that the high prices sometimes seen on their site simply reflects that a wine is basically sold out. To put it in perspective, their entry level club membership includes quarterly shipments of 3 bottles for about $115, and the Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Blanc I’ve mentioned previously both sell for around $25. I’d highly recommend checking out these wines and think you’ll fall in love just as we have.

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