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Compared to the buzz of the Funk Zone, Benjamin Silver’s one-man show on Reddick Street keeps the calm on Santa Barbara’s Eastside.

Paul Wellman

Compared to the buzz of the Funk Zone, Benjamin Silver’s one-man show on Reddick Street keeps the calm on Santa Barbara’s Eastside.


In Search of Silver Wines

Benjamin Silver’s One-Man Show on Reddick Street


The Funk Zone isn’t the only neighborhood traversed by Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail. Wine tasting — along with, perhaps, even more actual winemaking — occurs in many other pockets of the city, from the easy-to-miss Jaffurs Wine Cellars on East Montecito Street and the stylish, tucked-away home of Sanguis Wine on Ashley Avenue to the three-pronged tasting hub of Margerum Wine Company, Au Bon Climat, and Grassini Family Vineyards in the El Paseo complex on Anacapa Street.

But even if you know those spots, you may be yet to visit Silver Wines, which owner Benjamin Silver — who’s been working Santa Barbara wine country for nearly 20 years — opened on Reddick Street in 2007. After a childhood as a “faculty brat” in Amherst, Massachusetts, followed by college studies of veterinary science, Silver began working at Zaca Mesa in 1994 and was making his own wine by the mid-1990s, including a 1996 syrah that he opened recently and was happy to find that it “fucking rocked.” After Zaca Mesa, he began making wine for the owners of White Hawk Vineyard and steadily grew his personal production of a wide range of wines — from syrah to cabernet franc to viognier to sangiovese super Tuscan blends — to about 1,800 cases annually.

After boosting to 3,000 cases in 2009 and 4,000 in 2010, Silver — who continues to be a “one-man show” with no employees —is today scaling back and even skipped the 2012 harvest to focus on bottling and unloading his existing inventory. Now wanting to make only what he can sell directly to customers through his tasting room, Silver explained, “I’m trying to resurrect my brand.”

It’s a resurrection worth waiting for, as a tasting of his current offerings revealed that Silver has been focused on making low-alcohol, varietal- and vineyard-expressive wines before it was en vogue, including a 12.3 percent pinot noir. “If I’ve learned one thing, it’s how much sweetness and alcohol does to buffer the complexity of a wine and butt heads with food,” said Silver, who believes that less watering in the vineyard fosters more interesting wine while cutting down on water and power bills. “I give my wines a lot of time in the barrel and in the bottle,” said Silver. “I give my wines whatever they need.”

Here are some highlights:

2009 Grenache Blanc: Candied, night jasmine aromatics lead to crisp drinking. “This is the only wine I’ve ever seen that starts open and gets tenser,” said Silver, who put 7 percent viognier in this bottling from Camp 4 Vineyard. (12.9% alc.; $25.)

2008 Saviezza: A super Tuscan blend meaning “wisdom” or “knowledge” in Italian — Silver spent some college time in Siena — this is a rich, chocolately, cherried combo of 90 percent sangiovese (old vines from the Santa Maria Valley’s historic Tepusquet Vineyard), 5 percent cab franc, and 5 percent cabernet sauvignon. (14% alc.; $30.)

2008 Trentotto File: From the 38 rows of syrah that Silver helped plant in the White Hawk Vineyard comes this minerally, herb-infused blend of the spicy clone 174 with the meaty clone 470. “In the finish, it leaves an opening for the food so that the flavors can come in and marry with the wine,” said Silver. (13.4% alc.; $28.)

To set up an appointment-only visit, call 805-963-3052 or see silverwines.com.

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