Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter Wine Classic, Santa Barbara, 2013

Another fun California Wine Festival event was held at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort on Sunday, January 20th from 6:30 to 9:00 pm.  My wife and I were able to visit most of the 36 wineries and 15 food booths (if you count the Acqua Panna & San Pellegrino as food) in the 2 1/2 hours.

Well, maybe I could have used another hour to visit the dozen wineries I missed, but it’s my fault … that New Year’s resolution of “Swirl, Sniff, Sip & Spit” seems to slow me down considerably.  My old “Gargle, Gulp & Go” technique was much more efficient and faster, but it tended to degrade my wine appreciation, as well as impair other basic capabilities. I find my challenge with the 4S approach is the spit part.  Sure there’s usually a dump bucket available, but I still can’t bring myself to squeeze in past a bunch of people standing there tasting wine (and apparently drinking it) to actually spit into a bucket.  I saw a very sophisticated wine taster from Europe do this pretty effectively at a winery once.  I was impressed, and yet it was still gross to watch.  Anyway, my solution, for indoor tastings at least, is to sip less and dump more wine – except once in a while when it’s an awesome wine!

Speaking of awesome wines – I had a few extra sips quite a few times at the Winter Wine Classic.  This is the first wine event that I’ve be to where over 80% of the red wines that I tasted scored a 4 or 5 (out of 5, of course) and 60% of the white wines that my wife, Devon, tasted were in the 4-5 range.  Even if I did have to miss the second half of the AFC championship game, it was great to attend this event.  The competing football schedule on Sunday might have accounted for a little extra elbow-room.  There were about 400+ people in the ballroom, but it could have held a few hundred more.  This made it one of the more relaxed wine tasting events I’ve ever been to, a nice atmosphere, great food, terrific wines, and live music.  It was well worth the price of admission.

Music supplied by Gypsy Guitar and Violin duo
Vincent Zorn & Vedant Koppera.

Shopping + Wine = Kissy's Creations

Wine Tasting
Devon tasted white wines and I focused on red wines. The following are a subset of the wines available - just the ones that we tasted.

Au Bon Climat
2008 La Bauge Au dessus Pinot Noir - 91 pts, Wine Advocate, 90 pts, IWC - $30
2010 XXXth Anniversary Chardonnay - $40

Ahnfeldt Winery - Consulting Winemaker is Paul Hobbs
2007 Reserve Classic Bordeaux Blend- 91 pts, Wine Spectator - $85
2008 Reserve Cabernet, Diamond Mountain Vineyard - $90
2008 Reserve Merlot, Hartman Vineyard - 91 pts, Wine Spectator - $65
2010 Provocative Cabernet Sauvignon - 91 pts, Wine Enthusiast - $28
2011 Reserve Chardonnay, Gaps Crown Vineyard - $45

Ampelos Cellars
2007 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, RHO - $45
2008 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, LAMBDA - 92 pts, Wine Spectator - $35
2008 Sta. Rita Hills Syrah, GAMMA - $35

2011 Pinot Grigio - $21
2010 Chardonnay - $24
NV Sparkling Wine - $16

Bouchaine Vineyards
2010 Estate Chardonnay - Gold Medal, 2012 Sommelier Challenge - $30

DAOU Vineyards 
2010 DAOU Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - $56
2010 DAOU Celestus - $46
2011 DAOU Chardonnay - $42

2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley - $44
2010 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley - $32

Flying Goat Cellars

2009 Pinot Noir Clone 2A Rio Vista Vineyard - $42
2009 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard - $42

2008 Pinot Noir Dijon Rio Vista Vineyard - $44

Foley Family Wines
2009 Chalk Hill Estate Red - 90 pts, Connoisseurs Guide - $70
2009 Two Sisters Chardonnay, Courtney's Vineyard - 91 pts, Wine Enthusiast - $55
2010 LinCourt Steel Chardonnay - $18
2009 Lancaster Cabernet Sauvignon, 93 pts, Tasting Panel Magazine - $75

Fritz Underground Winery
2009 Reserve Chardonnay, Russian River Valley - $50

Grassini Family Vineyards
2010 “Articondo” Bordeaux Blend - $38

Hammersky Vineyards
2010 Viognier - $28
2009 Open Invitation Estate (Zinfandel - Merlot) - $34
2009 Estate Zinfandel - $39
2009 Red Handed Estate - $44
2009 Party of Four Estate - $54

Honig Vineyards & Winery
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - $60
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bartolucci Vineyard - 93 pts, Wine Spectator - $75
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Campbell Vineyard - $75

Lone Madrone Wines
2009 Old Hat (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah) - $46
2009 Tannat - $40
2009 Von Dog (Tannat, Cabernet, Syrah) - $54

Medlock Ames Winery
2008 Merlot, Bell Mountain Vineyard - $38
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bell Mountain Vineyard - $52
2009 Kate’s & B’s Cabernet Sauvignon - $75

Melville Winery
2010 Estate Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills - 92 pts, Wine Spectator; 91 pts, Wine Enthusiast; 91 pts, Stephen Tanzer; 91 pts, Robert Parker  - $34
2011 Estate Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills - 91 pts, Stephen Tanzer - $26
2011 Estate Pinot Noir -Terraces (new release) - $56

2011 7 Heavenly Chardonnays - $14

Miner Family Winery
2009 Stagecoach Cabernet Sauvignon - 93 pts, Connoisseur’s Guide - $75
2009 Wild Yeast Chardonnay - $50
2010 Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir - $60

Roxo Port Cellars
2008 Magia Preta - Bronze, Sunset International - $75
2008 Paso Mélange - Silver, Sunset International and San Francisco Chronicle - $44
2008 Ruby Tradicional - Silver, San Francisco Chronicle; Bronze, Sunset International - $44

Saddleback Cellars
Chardonnay - 90 pts, Stephen Tanzer - $29

Silver Oak Winery
2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 91 pts Wine Spectator, 94 Wine & Spirits - $70

Star Lane Wines
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara - $44

Tablas Creek
Espirit de Beaucastel Blanc - 94 pts, Rhône Report; 93 pts, International Wine Competition, 91 pts, Wine Advocate - $40

Viansa Winery
2010 Sangiovese - 2 Silver Medals - $30
2010 Zinfandel - 2 Silver Medals - $35

Food Tasting
The complete list of food purveyors included:

We didn't have a chance to visit each booth, but we still enjoyed sampling many of the tasty appetizers.

My first stop was Rodney's Steakhouse (at Fess Parker) for the Crab Cake with Garlic Aioli. It paired well with Bouchaine Chardonnay.

Casa Blanca served some pretty spicy quesadilla triangles. I was surprised, but I liked them! A good way to clear my pallet and move on to tasting red wines.

Blush Restaurant served a tasty trio of colorful appetizers.

And continuing with a spicy theme, Cabot Creamery had a very tasty and spicy cheese offerings. I visited it several times and enjoyed it with a fresh roll from Marmalade Café.

After tasting the Grassini “Articondo” Bordeaux Blend I paired it with a nice chocolate cupcake from Cupcakes in Wonderland.

Enterprise Fish Company was very popular with their excellent lobster bisque. It paired very well with the Star Lane 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.

Georgia's Smokehouse served some real food - smoked sausage - and I enjoyed it while sipping the Lancaster 2009  Cabernet Sauvignon.

Devon tried the Kerrygold Cheeses and I'm sure they were as great as I've had at past festivals... buttery, creamy, tasty.

Wine Ratings
White wines that Devon liked best (rated from 4 - 5):

I did try the Bouchaine 2010 Estate Chardonnay as my first taste of the evening - very nice!

White wine values (the ratings related to the price):

Red wines that I liked best (rated from 4 - 5):

Red wine values (the ratings related to the price):

New Finds & Good Deals
We had a truly enjoyable evening with plenty of new wineries to visit and new wines to sample.  Wineries that I was glad to learn about were Ahnfeldt, Ampelos, DAOU, Hammersky, and Medlock Ames.  Devon liked discovering Bianchi and Fritz Underground.

Of course it's all subjective, but for the best values in white wines, Bianchi, Melville, Bouchaine, and Foley/Lincourt appear to be good deals.

Ahnfeldt, Ampelos, Au Bon Climat, Viansa, Grassini, and Lone Madrone were tops on my value list for red wines.  And red wines from Flying Goat, Hammersky, Melville, DAOU are still good buys too.

And all alone in its class - Roxo Port Cellars - is always a winning port wine to me.  I enjoyed all three, but my favorite is the 2008 Magia Preta - the only wine I rated a  5+!

What did you think of this tasting event?  Leave a comment below...


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March/April - Exploring the Ventura County Wine Trail