Monday, July 30, 2012

Santa Barbara's 9th Annual California Wine Festival

The 2012 California Wine Festival was held at Chase Palm Park at the Beach on July 21st. 
The weather was ideal on Saturday and I enjoyed the scenic beach-side location, listening to live music, talking with wine makers, and sampling the food and wine.

The festival included wines from 80+ different wineries, 5 breweries, numerous food purveyors, a few pouring spirits, and another 20+ vendors... something for everyone.



Hearst Ranch Winery

Winemaker Jeremy Leffert (at left) is doing something right!  The wines from Hearst Ranch Winery were all very good. My favorites were 2009 Three Sisters Cuvée Red Wine (California State Fair double Gold Medal winner), 2008 "Lone Tree" Cabernet Franc, and 2010 "Babicora" Malbec. The 2009 "Chileano" Tempranillo, 2011 "Glacier Ridge" Chardonnay, and 2010 Three Sisters Cuvée White Wine were also excellent!

Inception Wines
Jonathan Hirsh poured his highly rated Inception wines. The white wine winners were a 2010 Inception Viognier and a 2009 Chardonnay - both from Santa Barbara County. I especially liked his 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. The 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County and 2009 Pinot Noir, Central Coast were excellent as well. 

Steven Kent Winery
Steven Kent poured his 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Premier, Ghielmetti Vineyard from Livermore Valley.  It's made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, (100% Clone 30), in 100% French Oak barrels, and sells for $100 a bottle.  Only 30 cases available. It was awesome!

Fontes & Phillips
Ashley poured some nice Rosé - both with the clever marketing nickname of "Panky" and a pink wristband. Both the 2011 and 2009 were made with the classic blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah.  The 2011 was very good, and the 2011 was excellent!  The 2009 SBC Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley) is good, but their 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, was very good. They also make a 2009 Chardonnay and a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.

Hoyt Family Vineyards
Chase poured a 2009 Tempranillo, a 2008 Cbernet Sauvignon, and a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both of their Silver Medal winner Cabernet Sauvignons were very good!

Stacked Stone Cellars
Catherine poured Stacked Stone's flagship and award wining 2009 "Zin Stone."  I couldn't get Donald to open the double magnum of 2005 Reserve though! They also poured the Gem (50/50 Syrah Zinfandel) and the Quarry (100% Cabernet Sauvignon. All very good wines.
Donald Thiessen Owner and Winemaker

Cliff Creek Cellars
This was an interesting change - wines from southern Oregon. Bethany poured a 2011 Marsanne Roussanne, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Cabernet Franc, 2006 Claret, and 2006 Syrah. I tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and both were very good.

Byron Wines
Byron Wines poured a 2008 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley (oaked) and a Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County 2010. My notes indicated the Pinot Noir was made from Clone 4.

Edna Valley Vineyard
Everything from Edna Valley is good - at least that's been my experience.  And the three wines that were poured lived up to my expectations:
2010 Sauvignon Blanc - Paragon
2010 Chardonnay - Paragon
2010 Pinot Noir - Paragon

Houdini poured some very good wines: 2009 Talaria Chardonnay, 2010 Napa Valley Dean Block Chardonnay, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Oakville Merlot And somehow, there was a 2010 Kiarna Cabernet Sauvignon on their table too. I liked both the Houdini and Kiarna Cabernet Sauvignons and the Houdini Merlot.

Murrietta's Well
My favorite new white blend of the day was the 2010 "The Whip." It's a blend of aromatic white grapes from Wente Family Estates vineyards. The Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, White Riesling are from Arroyo Seco. The Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon are from the Livermore Valley. Fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel and neutral oak barrels, the aromas and flavors include white peach, lime and jasmine. A great summer wine!

Artiste Winery & Tasting Studio

Artiste's wines are all good - and popular with Denae's 40th Birthday Bash girls too!  And the Artiste team was doing a very good job pouring wine.

Cambria Winery
Cambria poured a very good 2007 Pinot Noir, Bench Break Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley.

Concannon Vineyard

The Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah from Livermore Valley were both very good.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

The first wine I tasted of the day was the 2011 Kenneth Volk "Jaybird," Santa Maria Valley. It was a very refreshing Chardonnay that was unoaked, or, naked as a "Jaybird." I didn't get back to taste more of Ken's wines, but I really enjoyed all of them at the previous wine festival at the Museum in Santa Barbara.

Oak Ridge Winery
ORW from Lodi poured OZV (Old Zin Vines) and Moss Roxx, Ancient Vine Zinfandel. Both zins have a little Petite Sirah in them.  They were both very good!

Pretty-Smith Vineyards & Winery

Pretty-Smith makes great wines and I had a chance to taste a Cabernet Sauvignon and talk with Lisa Pretty about her new book, Eat This With Paso Robles Wine. It looks like a great book with a focus on food recipes and what wines to pair with them.

V2 Wine Group
V2 Wine Group had a very large assortment of wines and I tried a nice comparison of unbaked Toad Hollow Vineyards 2010 Mendocino County Chardonnay versus an oaked Qupe 2010 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Y-Block – Santa Maria Valley.  Both were good in there own way.


Spicy treats from Pacific Pickle Works were a nice change of pace!

Hey, these guys look related to Taste N Trip - Touring & Tasting.  Sounds like a good idea!
Kerrygold Cheeses and Butters had a nice sampling of products. My favorites were the Cashel Blue and the Garlic and Herb Butter.

The Pulled Pork Sliders from the Santa Barbara Brewing Company made a great snack!
The Sidecar Restaurant was very popular serving slow roasted baby back port ribs with blood orange BBQ sauce and charred corn and cabbage slaw.  It was so good I ate it without taking a close-up picture of it!
What is the "Night Out" doing out in the day? Promoting a smart phone app for up-to-the-minute information based on your location, including deals, happy hours, and events. The  deals are from your favorite places that are near you.

Fun, Fun, and More Fun enjoying the day.

And when you're done with it, be sure to dispose of each individual item appropriately!  The rules were posted on top of each bin and I noticed quite a few puzzled looking people reading them carefully.

A memorable festival for sure!


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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Santa Barbara Wine Festival 2012

Santa Barbara Wine Festival at the Museum of Natural History
The 2012 Santa Barbara Wine Festival was held on Saturday, June 30th from 2:00 to 5:00 pm on the grounds of the Museum of Natural History.  Proper ID was required for entrance or you were promptly eaten by a T-Rex.
This is the second wine and food event of three (that I know about) in the Santa Barbara area this year.  In addition to the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival 2012 held in April, there is a "California Wine Festival - Santa Barbara" scheduled for July 19th - 21st near the beach at Chase Palm Park.

This festival was located in the back of the Museum of Natural History in a few areas across Mission Creek and along the back of the museum near the entrance.  It was a very comfortable setting, although at times it was a little crowded, especially in the picnic area.

I spent about an hour at each of the three general areas and only managed to cover about 40% of the wineries and restaurants. You'd think three hours would be plenty of time to sample most of the wine and food at 58 wineries and 24 food booths!  Well, it might be if you were the only person tasting - but that wouldn't be any fun!

I  enjoyed sampling wines from the following wineries.

Alma Rosa founder Richard Sanford and Jon Knoll poured a great 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills and a 2009 Chardonnay, El Jabalí Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills.
Andrew Murray Vineyards is dedicated exclusively to Rhône varieties. They poured a 2010 Syrah, Watch Hill Vineyard and a very nice red blend, a 2009 Espérance (60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre). Wine Enthusiast rated it 91 Points. 

Au Bon Climat Jim Clendenen poured a XXX Anniversary (2010) Santa Maria Valley Estate Bottled Chardonnay, and if you asked nicely, a rare XX Anniversary (2000) Santa Maria Valley Estate Bottled Chardonnay. Both were very nice!
Additional wines included an ABC 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley; 2010 Clendenen Family Vineyards Gewürztraminer, Santa Maria Valley; and a 2004 Clendenen Family Vineyards Nebbiolo, Santa Maria Valley.

Beckmen Vineyards poured a nice 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Their website has "no products in this category" listed under Cabernet Sauvignon.  Must be a limited quantity.

Brewer-Clifton - Greg Brewer poured a 2009 Chardonnay, Sweeney Canyon, a 2010 Machado Pinot Noir, a 2010 Mount Carmel Pinot Noir, and a very nice 2010 3-D Pinot Noir.  Greg is also the winemaker at Melville Winery and has another wine label - "diatom." Brewer-Clifton has received rave reviews for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.

Cambria Winery poured a 2007 Bench Break Vineyard Pinot Noir.  Cambria's tasting notes indicate that it's a little  young and undeveloped, but the long and balanced pinot noir should continue to grow and evolve over the next decade.  I agree, it was young, but tasted good otherwise. 

Carr Vineyards and Winery poured a very nice 2009 Pinot Noir, Turner Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills.  The 2009 harvest was just over 2 tons to the acre making the fruit rich and full of flavor. The Pinot Noir clones used were 113, 777, and Pommard.

Daniel Gehrs Wines poured a 2008 Petite Sirah, Paso Robles that had soft tannins and tasted like blackberry.

Fiddlehead Cellars
an excellent 2008 Seven Twenty Eight Pinot Noir and a 2009 Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc. They specialize in Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc - that's all they make!

Flying Goat Cellars - Kate Griffith poured an interesting 2010 Goat Bubbles Rosé, Solomon Hills Vineyard (from Pinot Noir clone 23) and a fantastic 2008 Pinot Noir, “Dijon” Rio Vista Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills.  The Pinot Noir grapes are from three different blocks and three different clones (115, 667 and 777) in the Rio Vista Vineyard.
Gioia Wine poured a nice 2010 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County and a 2009 Bacia Bianca, Santa Barbara County (didn't try it).

Huber Cellars poured a 2008 Dornfelder and a very good 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills (Silver Medal Winner at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition).

Ken Brown Wines poured a 2008 Syrah, a very nice 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills that combined Pinot Noir from all corners of the appellation, and a 2010 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County. 
Kenneth Volk Vineyards poured a 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Cuvee, Santa Maria Valley, a 2009 Mourvedre, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley, and a 2009 Zinfandel, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley.  I really like all three, especially the Mourvedre!

Koehler poured a 2009 Grenache and very good 2009 Syrah. The Grenache was light-bodied with notes of raspberry and I tasted a little oak with mixed herbs.  The Syrah had an earthy, blackberry aroma and tasted like blackberry and pepper.

Mosby Winery & Vineyard poured La Seduzione, made from a Cal-Italian varietal, the  Lagrein grape, grown at the French Camp Vineyard. The wine had a flavor of ripe black currants and a finish with soft tannins.

Next to the Mr. Picky booth Dave Teckman of Per Cazo Cellars poured a 2010 Tres Blanc (45% Grenache Blanc, 35% Roussanne, 20% Viognier) that had bright fruit flavors with floral notes. I especially liked the 2010 red blend they poured named "ZinG." The blend of 38% Zinfandel and 62% Grenache had a medium body with a peppery finish.
Sagebrush Annie's had some fantastic, aged red wines available for tasting. Larry & Karina Hogan poured three excellent Cabernet Sauvignon wines - a 2004 (Clone 7), a 2007 (Clone 337 & Clone 7), and a 2008 (Clone 337, Clone 7 & Clone 8). The Clone 8 adds a blueberry flavor. I also tasted their 2008 Zinfandel and a 2008 Merlot that were both great.

Sunstone Winery poured a very nice 2007 Eros Merlot blend. The tasting notes mention aromas of blackberries, cherries, black truffles, rhubarb and anise seed with tastes of blackberries, cherries, plum, tobacco leaf, toasted almonds, black licorice, and a cocoa flavor at the finish. A very enjoyable blend!

Chris Marks

Kristi Marks

Sweeney Canyon Vineyard
Chris Marks, Vineyard Manager, and Kristi Marks, Winemaker, were both very popular and pouring their red and white wines. Chris was pouring the award-winning Pinot Noirs from Santa Rita Hills and Kristi was pouring a 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills.  I tried the vertical of 2007 (Clone 777), 2008 (Clones 115 & 777), and 2009 Pinot Noirs and found each to be a winner.

Tablas Creek poured a 2011 Tablas Creek Vineyard Rosé  blend of 58% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache and 12% Counoise, and one of their signature wines, a 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel, which is based on Mourvèdre.  For more about Tablas Creek and their wines see my earlier blog entry: Paso Robles Wine Festival Weekend (May 18-20, 2012).

Doug Timewell and Terrie Leivers from Toucan Wines poured some Zins and a very good Carignane. The 2009 (unreleased) and 2008 Toucan Wines Estate Zinfandels  both tasted very nice. The award wining 2008 had 14% of Estate Petite Sirah blended in it and the 2009 was 100% Zin.  The unreleased 2010 Old Vine Carignane, Evangelho Vineyard, Contra Costa County was my favorite of the these three wines. 

Joey Gummere of Transcendence Wines poured  a 2011 Chardonnay, Zotovich Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills (Clone 76). This was my first wine taste of the day and the crisp/acid of Chardonnay paired well with the nearby ceviche.

Vogelzang Vineyard poured a 2009 BirdSong “Red,” Happy Canyon that was a blend of 40% Cabernet, 18% Cabernet Franc, 16% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot, and 12% Malbec.

My favorite wines were:

And the Top 3 wineries that I discovered were:

The festival food complemented many of the wines very well.  I didn't get to try all of them, but those that I did sample were very good.  I enjoyed appetizers and beverages from Country Catering Company, Linda's Gourmet Latkes, Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro, Renaud's Patissiere and Bakery, Root 246, The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, Via Maestra 42 and the following... 

 Whole Foods & D'Angelo's Bread was a great place to start!

Dry Soda Co. gave out bottles of very flavorful and slightly sweetened soda.
My wife liked the Rhubarb and has since stocked up on several other flavors.

Pastry Chef Tiffany Buchanan served the very popular FreezerMonkeys.  Described as "Natural Frozen Treats" with bold flavors, they are made only from whole fruits and natural ingredients.  I really enjoyed the Raspberry Thai Chili!

San Ysidro Ranch (Stonehouse Restaurant) made my favorite appetizer of the day - tuna tartare on criss-cut potato chips!  They were working hard to keep them on the table, but they disappeared very quickly. At least while I was around ...

Pacific Pickle Works - Bradley Bennett, Principal Pickle & Emi Umezawa, Pickle Packer, served mini Bloody Marys.  My friend Richard tried one and he liked it. They looked good, but I tried to stay focused on wine.

Village Modern Foods served a cool Firecracker Summer Salad.  It was made with farmers market corn, green beans, and tomatoes with ginger beer battered farmers market onions. 

Finally, how about some ubiquitous Water in a Box from Rustad Spring in Norway? It seemed to work well as a rinse container for wine glasses.  And if you don't need to drink out it it directly these are a great eco-alternative to plastic bottles.  The small boxes have a Carbon Footprint that is only 25% of comparable plastic bottles.

Even though I don't live in the Santa Barbara area I managed to run into several wine tasting friends.  It was good to see friends and museum volunteers, Betsy and Guy, at the festival.

It was a great festival for tasting wine and food.  And if it had been a few hours longer I might have enjoyed visiting some of the other wineries on my tasting list.  Oh well, I'll catch them next year!

Gary Coon

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