Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Iron Chef Cat Cora moves to Santa Barbara

Check out the article in the SB Independent. Looking forward to this... "Nonetheless, Cora isn’t here just to bask at the beach. “I definitely am looking to open a signature restaurant in Santa Barbara and am looking at properties and talking to people,” she said. “When we really have the news and the location locked in, I’ll let you know. But that’s definitely a goal, bringing something unique and wonderful." -source : SB Independent

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Canyon Vineyards: Barrack Brand wines

Santa Barbara County became famous for Pinot because of a certain movie. I agree there are great Pinot's but there's more than Pinot in Santa Barbara County. One of the more exciting developments are the wines from Happy Canyon. Bordeaux varietals are growing well there and they are a great bargain considering the quality of these wines. I 'm betting that it may not be that way for long.

The Barrack Brand's winemaker is Doug Margerum. Tom and Laurel Barrack, through Colony Capital, also owns Château Lascombes in Bordeaux. I think this gives you a hint of the kind of money and thinking behind Happy Canyon.

I recently had the Barrack Brand Bordeaux blend and it has rich fruit, dark earth, chewy tannins, and just a fabulous velvetly mouthfeel. The Barrack 2004 "Ten-Goal", Santa Ynez Valley is the higher end wine and its a classic blend of cab, merlot, and cab franc. Happy Canyon also has a polo field on it, hence the name Ten-Goal which apparantly means you are an awesome polo player which I suppose is quite rare like the wine.

For the price, I really enjoy the Piocho which is a bordeaux blend( mostly merlot). Piocho is the Indian name for the property and also the name of the owner's polo team. Despite whatever some movie tells you, there are good merlots. Plus with all the Pinot hype, these wines get overlooked and you'll get a bargain. At least they'll be a bargain till someone makes a movie about how much they love bordeaux blends from Santa Barbara County.

I've found these wines at Wade's Wine in Agoura Hills,CA, Wine Country in Los Olivos, and Tastes of the Valley in Solvang.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

John Kerr Sighting at Celebration of Harvest

One of my all time favorite Chardonnay's from Santa Barbara County was made by John Kerr. I loved the 2000 J Kerr Reserve Chardonnay. I think its sold out but for $15 bucks the 2000 J Kerr Chardonnay is a steal. We also got to try the 1998 J Kerr Reserve Syrah. John told us it was blended with a bit of viogner. A very complex syrah. Its still has plenty of time to age.

Mosby's Teroldego: More Finds from Celebration of Harvest

Mosby makes an eclectic collection of Cal-Italian wines that are worth checking out. I really enjoyed the 2004 Mosby Teroldego at Celebration of Harvest. Mosby's tasting room is right off the 246 when you get to Buellton. Stop by the farmhouse and explore their wines. The Primativo is always good and a bargain too.

A more in depth look for the reasons behind the Firestone Sale to Foley Vineyards

Dennis Schaefer's interview with Adam Firestone is right here

Saturday, October 20, 2007

To Soak or not To Soak

Check out this extraordinarily long "discussion" regarding Pinot Noir and the meaning of color...
here.. You get to hear some local SB winemakers duke it out and discuss how they make wine.

Interesting fact discovered about 10 pages in,there is a white Pinot Noir.. Domaine Serene Coeur Blanc

Friday, October 19, 2007

Huber Vineyards: Cheers for Charlotte--> The Red Report-- 2005 Charlotte's Reserve Dornfelder

Dornfelder is a German Wine that is a full bodied red with plenty of tannins. It also tends to be a bit sweet in flavor. The color is a deep dark red. Be wary because your teeth will be tinted after a glass. Nothing permanent, just part of the experience. See the picture to get a hint of the dark color.

The Hubers were pouring 2 Dornfelders. I preferred the 2005 Huber Charlotte's reserve Dornfelder. It was jammy and rich and delicious. For me , its the perfect dessert wine or night cap. And its named after their beloved dog who passed away this year.

We had our good friend of the Huber's with us so we got to tour the Huber's Wine Celler in their house. For a second we all felt like we were in Germany. The Huber wood carved crest greets you on your way down. ( see picture)

Cheers for Charlotte was a fantastic West Coast Wine Country Adventure.

Huber Vineyards Cheers For Charlotte: The Red Report

Bring on the Red!

2005 Flying Goat Solomon Vineyards Pinot Noir was my favorite pinot of the day. The 2005 Rio Vista Clone 2A Pinot from Flying Goat was hiding a bit today. According to Norm, its his shy teenage girl pinot. I have to agree, it does really open up if you give it time. We had enjoyed this wine very much at Flatbread the night before so I knew her game. Today was about tasting so no time to savor.

I had not heard of Prodigal Wines so I was interested in tasting their Pinot Noir's Both were Santa Rita Hill's Pinot and tasted very much in line with what I expect from that area. Bright fruit and a touch of spice. On to Badge Pinot Noir by Bruno D'Alfonso. This is a solid Pinot and I have to love the Ode to Eric Clapton . I admire the goal of making a wine that tastes as good as Eric Clapton sounds. The DiBruno Sangiovese is just awesome. No fancy wine tasting notes, if you having anything remotely Italian and a bit heavy, have this wine with it.

Kris Curran didn't disappoint as usual. She did make a brief appearance at the event, but had to go. We hope all went well with her dog's surgery.
Curran 2004 Syrah Four dog Blend: Simply superb syrah, delicious

Curran 2004 Syrah Black Oak Vineyard. Big and bold syrah, not for the white wine spritzer crowd. Bring on the steak.

Huber Vineyards: Cheers for Charlotte: The White Report

Wow $10 bucks to get access to the Huber Vineyards, their wines, Norm Yost's Flying Goat wines, Prodigal, and DiBruno and Curran. I'm still shocked we got all that for the price of 1 drink in LA. We started with the whites.

My first wine was the Curran Gerwertzaminer. If you find this wine, you must buy it. An absolutely beautiful nose, so floral and feminine. I wanted it as a perfume. And on a warm day just a great lovely white to sip. Next was the DiBruno Pinot Grigio. Again, I wasn't dissapointed. I skipped the Curran 2006 Grenache Blanc because I 've enjoyed it before. Traudl of Huber Wines pictured to the left. Norm Yost to the right

Then we moved on to see our dinner companions from the night before and try the Flying Goat Pinot Gris. A light and lovely wine to have with a cheese plate. We skipped the 2006 Goat Bubbles because we had a bottle the night before and we already know its a great pinot noir sparkler.

The Huber's offered two different 2005 Chardonnay's. poured by Norm and Traudl. One was oak fermented the other was stainless steel. In the end I liked both but loved the creamy mouthfeel the oak gave the varietal. In the end its what you prefer, right?

Prodigal made a Pinot Gris but there wasn't any left by the time we got there.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The World is Flat Bread

After pouring for the wine fans at Celebration of Harvest, We dared to try to race to Flatbread in Los Alamos so we could put our name in for a table. By some good fortune we got our name called in less than an hour. We ran into Norm Yost of Flying Goat and his party who were still waiting so we offered to combine our tables and had a great time. Great people, great food! We found out some wine scoop too: Norm is making a Pinot Noir this year from a vineyard in Avila Beach.

Flatbread can be challenging when its crowded but the food is just outstanding. You'll find lots of local winemakers here having dinner. And there is NO CORKAGE so bring in a great wine or two you found out tasting. We had an amazing fresh squash harvest soup and a yummy buratta cheese margarita pizza special. I love ending a day of wine adventures here. Check it out the next time you are touring Santa Ynez Valley. Actually don't, because that way I can still get a table.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Koehler 2005 Magia Nera: Bring on the new world Super Tuscans

Here's a pick from the Santa Barbara Vinters Association's Celebration of Harvest 2007.

Cabernet and Sangiovese Super Tuscan blend. Tasting notes: Plush rasberry fruit with spice. It made me crave spaghetti and meatballs.

Try the 2005 Koehler Magia Nera.

Santa Barbara's Celebration of Harvest Weekend: Pouring for the wine loving public

Instead of cellar work at Central Coast, we got let out into public today to pour the 2005 and 2006 wines. This was my first experience at Celebration of Harvest from behind the table. ( See the view from our table) I volunteered to help Jeff Wilkes(pictured below) pour his fine wines. Its amazing the variety of wine fans that attend these events. There were novices who really got jazzed learning about the influences of terroir. They really wanted to understand why the wines all taste so different. Then there were people who came prepared with all sorts of wine geek gear like necklaces to hold their wine glass.
The best was to see how genuinely interested most people were in the wines. Its so gratifying to discuss wine with wine lovers. Another tip for you wine tasters, if you've been a fan of the winemaker and talk about previous vintages you loved, you sometimes might get poured some of the extra special bottle under the table. Shhh.. Plus you get to hear great stories from the winemaker.

Overall a great day, we were pouring 3 different pinot noirs that were a hit at the festival. Numerous people came up and said that this was the best Pinot they tasted all day! See my previous write up for tasting notes

I didn't get to taste too much since I was working but I will recommend a few in upcoming posts.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Top Picks for Harvest Festival Weekend in Santa Barbara County Wine Country

  1. Driving up from the South, I'd start out by stopping at Summerland Winery just south of Santa Barbara. They will be having snacks and a 20% discount on wine. Their black label Pinot Noir is a steal at $20 retail. Etienne's wine's in the single vineyard collection are just delicious.
  2. If you want to stay around SB, stop by Jaffur's Tasting Room
  3. Either go on to the festival or stop by any of these tasting rooms. Alma Rosa,Foley, Melville, Then on to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto and try Palmina and Fiddlehead.
  4. Sunday, I'd recommend ABC open house right in the middle of the famous Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria or over to the Cheer's for Charlotte Event at the Huber Vineyard.
  5. Otherwise Sunday, drive up to Foxen Winery and then swing back to downtown Los Olivos and head over to Wine Country , Longoria, and Andrew Murray after grabbing a snack at Panino.
These are great tasting rooms anytime of the year so if you don't make it this weekend, come up soon.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wine in Paradise: Ojai Vineyards Red Blend

On my way to Old Kings Road in SB for trivia, we stop into Paradise Cafe for the Paradise Burger, medium rare with grilled onions. I scan the wine's by the glass list and find Ojai Vineyards Non Vintage Red. This wine really starts to open up in the glass after a few minutes and it was delicious with the Paradise Burger.

I'm going to have to pick up a bottle or two for home because at $16 a bottle retail its a bargain

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cheers for Charlotte: Sunday Event at the Huber Vineyard

Cheers for Charlotte is a benefit for the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society
Sunday, October 14,
11am to 4pm( $10/person)

Reasons to Go, if you need them
1. Its Sunday, you aren't working
2. It’s for charity
3. The Huber's are releasing their Reserve Dornfelder wine
4. The Huber’s will be joined by

  • Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars. This is good Pinot!
  • Bruno D’Alfonso of Badge and DiBruno. He’s also the maker the best Sangiovese from SB Wine futures this year. ( my opinion only )
  • Steve and Mary Russell of Prodigal Wines
  • Kris Curran of Curran (Also the winemaker for the mythical Sea Smoke Pinot)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Green Vineyard practices that are just darn cute: Mini Sheep

Santa Ynez Valley already had Mini Ponies ( read this with your Dr Evil voice) across from Buttonwood, now Clos Pepe has Miniature Old English Babydoll Southdown Sheep. Lets just call them Mini Sheep. Growing to less than two feet tall , they move through the vines eating grass and weeds and leaving behind some uh.. "fertilizer" Sounds much better than pesticides or fueling up the tractor to mow the rows. And because of their short stature, they can't reach the fruit. Genius!
More information: Article at Women and Wine & Check out this video of mini sheep over at Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley at Treehugger.com
Navarro Vineyards cuts their fuel use in half using these cute creatures for weeding.
Support Navarro and try their Edelzwicker (a mix of Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris). Its a steal at about $12 bucks a bottle in their tasting room and its delicious. Plus your dollar is going to support the mini sheep.

Pine Ridge Tasting on Thursday in Thousand Oaks,CA

Ensconced in what I believe was at one point a Taco Bell, a nice wine shop and tasting room has opened up north of LA in Thousand Oaks, CA. This Thursday Pine Ridge is coming to pour their wines at the Wineyard. I'm a big fan of their wines. I previously mentioned their great bargain wine the 2006 Chenin Blanc/ Viogner. They also make a great Chardonnay that has been barrel fermented ( aged sur lie, with occasional stirring). The winemaker also chose to inhibit MLF( malolactic fermentation). I completely agree with the choice, it shows of the fruit characteristics without that boring oak chard that is just so 1980. And the Cabernet is also wonderful, hailing from the famous Stags Leap District.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Scientists continue to improve Mouse Health: Resveratrol is good for a Mouse's longevity

Science has proven that mice can get fat and still live as long as mice fed a usual mouse diet if their pig-outs also included big doses of resveratrol. Resveratrol is found in wine in case you weren't in the know.
Resveratrol also has shown in Rodent studies that it :

  • lessens the sensitivity of rats to pain.
  • Resveratrol in combination with statins works better than either one alone in improving lipid levels in rats with high cholesterol and in improving their recovery after heart attacks
  • resveratrol can greatly reduce risk of developing more aggressive prostate cancers
  • low doses of resveratrol aid in sensitivity to insulin and could open up new new therapies for type 2 diabetes

Lets hope there are some good studies in humans to acertain if this translates to people. But I'm glad all these rodents can now live longer, I was worried. In the mean time have some wine just in case :) Check out this whole article in the LA times

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Life is a Cabernet.. Sauvignon that is

We managed to sit on a Beckman 2001 Purisma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon till dinner tonight. A testament in restraint for us. Thank you K & T for the bday present

Tasting Notes: Big currant and cherry to start with a finish of leather and chocolate. Part of me is sad that I don't have another bottle to see what it would taste like in another 2 years.
I paired it with a starter of spinach salad topped with, bacon, eggs, and sauted mushrooms and diced shallots. The dressing was a walnut oil based vinagrette. The shallots were used to sauted the mushrooms and diced into the vinagrette. The shallots and mushrooms were a great bridging flavor to the Beckmen Cabernet.

Recipe for Walnut Vinagrette
  • 1/4 cup balsamic
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • blend and then add 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • add 2tsp minced shallots and pepper to taste.
I heated a serving of fresh spinach about 10 seconds a plate in the microwave, added crumbled bacon and hard boiled egg slices, topped with sauted mushrooms ( still warm) . Toast walnuts if you have them. I had leftovers minced shallots from the vinagrette so I used them while I sauted mushrooms.
Then my husband brought in the big guns: BBQ bone in NY steaks: Medium Rare of course.

Can your friends guess your wine order before you speak up? Are you in a wine rut? Impress your friends and go with Grenache

I know, you just love only pinot, or syrah, merlot, or cab.. Impress your friend and branch out into Grenache!

I recently got a chance to have some of Longoria's 2001 Santa Barbara County Grenache. It was tasting great. Such vibrant rasberry and some zippy pepper on the finish. I'm sure it would be hard to track down the 2001 but I recommend picking up the Longoria 2005 Grenache.

I'm also a fan of these Grenache Producers
Opolo Vineyards in Paso Robles alway makes a big fruity pleasing Grenache. I haven't found anyone who didn't ask for another taste
Alta Maria Vineyards 2005 Grenache “Nielson Vineyard”Santa Maria Valley: This was amazing at 2007 Santa Barbara Wine futures.
Beckmen Vineyards 2006 Grenache “Purisima Mountain Vineyard”Santa Ynez Valley. Another standout from Wine Futures

Please share your favorite grenache here by commenting.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Kaena 2005 Hapa, Santa Ynez Valley : Go Native with this Hawaiian Winemaker in the Santa Ynez Valley

2005 Kaena Hapa (65% Grenache 20% Syrah 15 % Mourvedre)

is delicious. Plush, dark fruit ,with vibrant flavors. It was one of my favorites at Wine Country's tasting last week.

Owner/Winemaker Mikael Sigouin set out to produce the finest syrah and grenache. Read more about the story here. Kaena is the winemaker's given Hawaiian name and it translates to “potential for greatness”. Try this wine and see what you think.

Pagan Rituals Rule: Come to Celebration of Harvest! Oct 13th

If you don't have plans for Saturday Oct 13th, I 'd recommend checking out this link and making a trip up to the Santa Ynez Valley.

I'll be there wandering about and helping pour for Jeff Wilkes. Stop by and enjoy the Pinot. All 100 plus winery members of the Vintners' Association will be pouring at Rancho Sisquoc in the Santa Maria Valley. Make a weekend of it.

Vintners' Visas are available for local wine events from Friday to Monday. I'd highly recommend the ABC Open House on Sunday. It's always a blast.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bien Nacido Pinot Punch Downs: Yeast 1, Me 0

The 2007 Block Q Bien Nacido Pinot Noir was at it peak fermentation last Tuesday. Punch down's at this point are way better at working my core than most of the pilates and yoga I've done. They should seriously work this routine into a Boot Camp class. Even still, this is way better than my day job!

Its an exciting time to see the yeast hard at work making what's going to be great pinot if you look at the track record for this wine. The 2005 J Wilkes Block Q Bien Nacido Pinot Noir just got 90Pts from Robert Parker. I was fortunate enough to taste the 2006 vintage right before bottling. Its just spectacular. Lovely fruit, notes of spice and cola and a fabulous well rounded mouth feel.

I think the 2006 will be available next spring. I'd look for it at Wine Country in Los Olivos if you are up touring SB County. Jeff himself comes in to pour his wines there on occasion.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Pressing Matters :Solomon Hills Pinot Harvest Log 2007

The yeast have had their way with the 9 tons of 2007 Solomon Hills pinot. It's was at -2 Brix and ready to be barrelled down into a mix of new and older french barrels. 4 tanks were fermented with Assmanhausen and 4 used another. Yes, you read that right, the yeast is called.. Assmanhausen. Anyway, This should result in differing complexity that will contribute to the final blend.

But before I got to take the juice out of the tanks and move it to the barrels.. I got schooled in the art of barrel washing and sanitizing. After filling with water and dumping, you use a barrel washer ( really a sprinkler like device) hooked up to an Ozonater to give a final rinse to the barrels so you can resuse barrels from the prior year. The idea is that these barrels will impart less oak to the wine compared to the new barrels and thus giving the winemaker more options for blending and thus a more complex final product.

Then I drew off the free run( juice in the tank) from below the cap ( grape solids) and moved the free run pinot noir juice to their new expensive french oak habitat. These barrels will later be transfected with a secondard malolatic fermenting beastie ( yeast) to finish the red wine fermentation. Malolactic Fermentation yeast beasts will, by just being themselves,change the Tart malic acid to the softer tasting lactic acid and thus make yummy well rounded pinot. Hence the name : Malo--> lactic fermentation.

The solids left in the vats were taken to the Bladder Press for a gentle nudge by a large air bag to coax more precious wine out of them. This wine was moved to a stainless steel tank for and will be racked into barrels in the morning.

We got to taste the Press run coming off and its certainly baby wine at this point. It had distinct notes of tartness. The astrigency is hard to miss at this stage, akin to drinking cranberry juice, the fruit is fleeting and then seems to dry your tongue out. But no bitterness at all, so so far things are looking up for the 2007 Solomon Hills Pinot Noir!

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