I lived in Laguna Beach growing up, a surprising town surrounded by more conservative cities that lent credence to the political expression, “Orange Curtain.” Access to Laguna is had by only two ingresses, PCH and the 133. The best part of that unique town was the beach, clean and infinite—relatively speaking—where I would come home from school and go swim when the water didn’t require a wetsuit. Since I left, I think one of the things that I miss most is waking up to the smell of the ocean (I lived really close); the salinity in the air was palpable. I’m reminded of my salad days when nosing a bottle of great white wine. The memory impetus was brought on by a bottle of Santa Barbara Chardonnay, 2009 Sandhi Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County—the entry-level in their cavalcade—dressed smartly with a demure label and sans foil to show off the glass. I chilled down the contents, opening the bottle over dinner with a couple of friends.

A pale gold liquid filled our glasses, with decent perfume of lemons and vanilla undercut by the salty spray of ocean mist. As we took our first sip, a confluence of minerals, citrus and a touch of new oak tornadoed across our palates, in its wake we were left with a complex, sinewy wine that possessed impressive balance. The alcohol was low and the acid was high for California Chardonnay and all winemaking techniques were gracefully in check.

Sandhi’s entry tier Chardonnay was delicious with dinner and long after we finished. Though I drank it miles away from my favorite beach, the bouquet easily brought me back to the Anita Street shores that I once tried my best to surf when the blackball wasn’t in effect. I can’t wait to see what else these Sandhi guys have in store.