By Steve Jacobson –
When I first heard about FLYING GOAT wine (around 2002), I was in a wine store in Santa Ynez (Santa Barbara Wine Country). The wine merchant was telling me how wonderful the Flying Goat Pinot Noirs were. I was cautious in that I hadn’t tasted the wine… and the bottle was going for about $35. But the guy made such an impression on me, that I decided to give it a shot. And that purchase had a major impact on my life in the wine world.
Once I opened the bottle, I knew that there was something very special about the wine. It was just a wonderful Pinot Noir. After the bottle was gone, I was thinking when would I be able to experience that again? So I did a little research and found that there was a wine store who carried Flying Goat wines within a couple of miles of where I lived. Hmmm… that could be dangerous… Actually, it was great to learn this because it introduced me to WADE’S WINES. I have frequented that shop since that time, not only because of the great selection, but also because of the incredible wine tastings and the very knowledgeable team that works there. I have gained a large amount of information and education from these guys… plus it wasn’t long after I started going there that the Flying Goat himself – winemaker Norm Yost – came there to talk about his wines. That is when I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time.
Before I get into the wines, here is a short bio on Norm. He graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. His college roommate graduated from the winemaking program with a job… but Norm didn’t have one. So he adapted and went to work for a variety of wineries that went from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to Russian River in Sonoma County, and then settling in Santa Barbara County. In 2000, Norm launched Flying Goat Cellars, where he focuses on Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wine. He is currently President of World of Pinot Noir, and has been a board member of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance and Santa Barbara County Vintners Association as well as a winemaking instructor at Allan Hancock College. His partner (and wife) is Kate Griffith, who holds Master’s Degrees from UCSD and Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. She focuses on the marketing and selling of the handcrafted wines… (and is a great lady, too!!)
Flying Goat is not a traditional estate style winery. The tasting room is located in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. Norm buys his grapes from different vineyards throughout the Santa Barbara County and Central Coast regions. Since Pinot Noir is all about “place”, you can really sense and taste the differences in the various vineyards that the grapes are sourced from. When you go into the tasting room, there is a set of mason jars that contain the soil from each of the vineyards the grapes are sourced from. If you visit, be sure to open each of the jars and smell the soil. It is amazing on how each of those soils and smells translates directly to each of the wines.
Here is a list of the different vineyards that Norm makes his wine from:
• Bien Nacido Vineyard – Santa Maria Valley AVA – An historic and iconic vineyard.
• Dierberg Vineyard – Santa Maria Valley AVA – One of my personal favorites! (And a MISSOURI connection – but that’s a whole other story.)
• Garey Ranch Vineyard – Santa Maria Valley AVA – Added in 2008 to the Flying Goat portfolio.
• Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard – Sta. Rita Hills AVA – Norm developed this former horse property into a vineyard when he was the winemaker for FOLEY (Another great Pinot Noir winery in the area)
• Rio Vista Vineyard – St. Rita Hills AVA – The eastern-most vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. (Another one of my faves!)
• Salisbury Vineyard – San Luis Obispo County – Less than two miles from the ocean on the Central Coast. (I drink this one quite a bit as well!)
• Solomon Hills Vineyard – Santa Maria Valley AVA – The most western vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.
• Sierra Madre Vineyard – Santa Maria Valley AVA – The most northern vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley (15 miles from the coast). In 2011, the vineyard celebrated 40 years!
• Clos Pepe Vineyard – Sta. Rita Hills AVA – For GOAT BUBBLES BLANC DE NOIRS – Right in the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills.
So now you know about Flying Goat wines. You are probably wondering where did the name “Flying Goat” come from? Legend has it that Norm owned a couple of pygmy goats named NEVER and EPERNAY as pets… and “lawnmowers”. They also were a source of enjoyment and entertainment for him. When pondering a name for his new wine venture, Norm came up with “Flying Goat” because he wanted it to be fun, and full of happiness and enjoyment. And not to confuse the issue but if you ever visit Maui, be sure to check out the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm. Having a little Surfing Goat goat cheese from Maui with Flying Goat Pinot Noir is a good thing.