Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Imagine you are hosting your own OTBN event and in walks Dorothy and John...

Tim Duggan is probably one of the more eclectic and entertaining individuals you could encounter in the Central Coast Wine Country. Always ready to wax philosophical about wine or find what works for your palate, not to mention having worked for some of the best winemakers in Santa Barbara County, and now making his own wines as well as running Wine Country with his family and working for Longoria Wines as their Sales & Marketing Director….., we were happy to get a chance to interview him on some magical Open that Bottle Night Happenstance.

Hi Tim. We‘re glad to get a chance to chat with you about one of the more serendipitous wine experiences I ever heard of. Before we get to that, how did you think your OTBN event would go and what wine did you choose and why?

Well, Sherrill O'Neill, my mom, is a huge follower of the Wall Street Journal wine section and thought that OTBN would be a cool party to host at Wine Country. We invited a bunch of people we knew in the wine business and all of the people on our mailing list, but only expected around 25 people to show up - this down economy has really put the dampers on frivolity. We ended up opening a 3L bottle of the Santa Barbara County Auction 2004 Pinot Noir Cuvee - a blend of pinot from 10 wineries produced for auction at the event. It turned out to be a pretty darn good wine, too - rich and ripe with a slight hint of pepper.

Considering this is the 10th year of a tradition that Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher started as long time wine writers for the Wall Street Journal, and you decide to host your own Open That Bottle Night event, and in walks in Dorothy and John… what ensued? Did you recognize them at first, what did they bring to pour?...We want the scoop….

At the point that Dorothy and John walked in there were only about 10 people in the room. I've never met them before, but have heard them talk on the radio a few times. Sherrill recognized them immediately but was literally struck dumb when they came in the door and asked if they could participate in our OTBN. I knew for sure who they were when I saw the wine that they pulled out - A 1999 Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine from Westport Rivers in Massachusetts. I mean who else would roll into Santa Barbara County with a wine like that. The wine by the way was stunningly good - better than any domestic sparkler I've ever tasted. To make an already long story short, I introduced myself to them and told them what an honor it was to have them show up to our party - pointing out that it was a miracle that Sherrill - who was still standing mute next to me - was still upright because they are her favorite wine writers. The rest of the evening was great. They talked to every guest as the place filled up to about 60 people and then they left to go eat in the bar at Mattei's Tavern.

What were the big wine standouts that night from Wine Country’s OTBN ?

The 2004 Auction Cuvee and the 1999 Westport Rivers sparkler were excellent. We also had a criminally young, but extremely tasty 2006 Chambolle-Musigny from Dujac Pere et Fils, a mini-vertical of Longoria Fe Ciega Pinot Noir from 2003-2005, a Brewer Clifton sparkling wine from 1993 that was great, and a 2002 Syrah from Santo Tomas ,a Baja California producer, that was pretty neat. There were other nice high-end Pinot Noirs and Syrahs from the crew of diligent Los Olivos wine pourers from the various tasting rooms in town - Andrew Murray, Consilience, Addamo, etc. Of course we opened a 2005 Sforzando Cabernet Franc, because I'll damned if I didn't show my own wine to the only nationally published wine writers to ever come into our store. They even told me that they liked it before I told them that I made it

What can you possibly do next year to top this?

Have an 80's theme party and wait for Elvis Costello to show up. Honestly, this was the serendipitous highlight of my 9 years in the wine business. But we will definitely be having another OTBN on February 27,2010 and I'll make sure that Dorothy and John know they are invited.

Any upcoming events at Wine Country that you think our readers would enjoy attending?

We have a mini-event called Global Wine Splashdown - a monthly comparative tasting between three wines of the same varietal - one from SBC, one from another country, and a third from abroad, California at large, or local; every day as a part of our tasting flight. This March is Grenache, April will be Pinot Noir, followed by Sauvignon Blanc in May and then Chardonnay in June.

All right now that we got the scoop on OTBN, we’d love to learn more about you.

What is your favorite varietal and why?

Pinot Noir hands down, although good Grenache is up there. I like medium-bodied wines with subtlety and good acidity. Not the kind of wines that Parker and Laube tend to give high scores to and not really popular with consumers who have cut their teeth on wine by chasing big scores from them. This is actually kind of good for me - most of my favorite wines have had very little change in price or availability in the last 10 years.

In tough times, people seem to be leaning towards beer, why should they reconsider wine? How can the wine novice find some good bargains?

Wine is better for you, but if I have a choice between a good beer at $10 a six-pack or or a plonky bottle of wine for the same price, then it's not even a tough decision. But honestly, the biggest mistake that people make in trying to find affordable wine is buying it at a grocery or big box store. Most of the affordable wines there are suspect - either cobbled together dishonestly and with no craft or mass-produced in frightening ways. They'd be the Natural Ice of beer world - good in a pinch to get drunk at a frat party, but not good to have with food that you or someone else has taken time to prepare. Instead, go to your local specialty wine retailer and tell them what kind of wine you are looking for and for what price. I can get anyone an affordable bottle of good wine, but they have to communicate with me and trust me.

It may be easier to list where you haven’t worked in Santa Barbara County but share with us a favorite memory or two from your work in the wine industry?

So many great events and memories. Meeting my wife, Kathleen, at the Firestone Tap Room after a hard day of slinging Sauvignon Blanc in the Buttonwood tasting room. World of Pinot Noir Paulee in 2005 at the ABC/Qupe winery was awesome. Being on a panel about SBC Pinot Noir at the Santa Fe Wine and Chili Festival with Bruno D'Alphonso and Dick Dore. Every Fiddlehead event. Trips to NY, Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, etc. Bringing my own Cabernet Franc to last year's Franc fest. Spinning all vinyl in the Buttonwood tasting room. My vineyard wedding. Your vineyard wedding. It's been a fun ride.

What is your favorite wine and food pairing ever?

2002 Fiddlehead Pinot Noir Cuvee 728 with a both great neo-classic paella and then a roulade of veal with root vegetable gratin at Espuma in Rehoboth Beach,DE. It showed the versatility and elegance of the wine by being a perfect compliment to both diverse dishes.

What is your favorite wine and food pairing for our everyday reader to recreate at home?

Anything with good mushrooms and Pinot Noir. If you are ambitious in the kitchen then pair duck with Pinot Noir.

In keeping with Tim’s eclectic nature, I couldn’t resist some off topic questions:

If you couldn’t work in the Wine industry, what would you do? And don’t answer work in the beer industry…. But feel free to share your new favorite beer.

I'd probably work in business development for a non-profit (which is arguably what I do now in the wine business these days) or be a professional dinner party guest. Maybe go to law school. Write movie reviews? I don't know. My new favorite beer is Weihenstephaner Korbinian Dopplebock - dark and chewy with a noticeable mocha edge. It would be good with a Beef Stew or April baseball viewing.

Should I be devastated at the loss of Weapon X (Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles) to the Denver Broncos?

Duh, yes. He was getting a little old, but was the Eagles best player on defense for the last 10 years. It's hard to replace that kind of talent and experience. What will they do, suit Brian Westbrook up on defense, too?

Is Manny Ramirez good or bad for the Dodgers?

Frustratingly good, not just as a player but as a marketable persona. My prediction - He'll sign with them in a couple of weeks, hit .345 with 35 HRs and 126 RBI, open a chain of Latin food restaurants, be the subject of at least 2 viral videos, make Joe Torre smile, and lead the Dodgers to another improbable playoff run. The only players in his era that are at the same level with him in talent have tested positive for steroids. I'll take insanity over performance-enhancement scandals any day.

What do you think in pop culture has “jumped the shark” recently and why?

NBC and Jay Leno - how can you become more irrelevant to TV than by filling the 10pm time slot with an hour of the guy who wasn't relevant enough to keep the 11:30 time slot?...Twilight makes Harry Potter look like James Joyce...and Burn Without Reading might be the beginning of the end for the Coen Brothers - how do you make a movie that lame with that much talent?

And of course finally, what are you drinking right now?

2007 J Wilkes Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard - I gave up beer again for Lent.

Check out the Wall Street Journal Article "A Sparkling Night of Stature" by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher to get their OTBN perspective and you too can visit Wine Country in Los Olivos and check out their Facebook Fan Page to keep up with new events! You never know what they'll be pouring or who will be there tasting.

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Chris Martin said...

Santa Barbara is one of the best places to wine taste I think in California. Great vineyards and a wide selection of award winning wines. I really enjoyed reading your blog-you have a lot of good insight. I was just in Santa Barbara wine tasting and I went to several different places but I really enjoyed the Hitching Post, delicious! I stayed at a great hotel I just recently discovered which is really close to the area-the South Coast Inn (www.goleta-hotel.com). Elegant and they always go above and beyond to make your stay the best.

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