Monday, April 22, 2013

First Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival

Wine Fest Entrance and taste of Chavez Cellars 2010 California White Merlot
The first annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival was held at Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce on Saturday, April 20th. The local wineries, food vendors, and boutiques were in festival tents that lined the Reyes Winery entrance, surrounded by vineyards with new growth. As usual for the area, it was a comfortable sunny and breezy day.
The Sierra Pelona Valley Vinters Association put on a festival that was larger than I'd imagined.  I recognized some of the participants from the LA Wine Fest at Raleigh Studios there as well. 
The most impressive thing I noticed about this wine festival, compared to others, was the enthusiasm that many of the fledging winemakers had.  Quite a few that I spoke with were previously home wine makers and had taken the next step in the wine biz; but were still only producing limited quantities.  Out of the 12 wineries I sampled, only five of them had tasting rooms, and one was planning on opening one soon in the area.
I didn't have a chance to visit every winery, but it was a very good introduction to the Antelope Valley of the California High Desert, the Leona Valley, and the Sierra Pelona Valley AVAs.  Out of the 40 wines Devon and I tasted, most were very good and I have added an asterisk to the 18 below that we especially liked.
We started out with a refreshing shot of Naked Juice, which is almost like food. Afterwards the focus was on food and wine, and we skipped the beer, sangria and tequila.
Our first food tasting was from Porto's Bakery & Cafe--truly gourmet baked goods. Devon had the chocolate-dipped strawberries and I had the guava cheese strudel and cheese roll.  They also served chocolate tart and flan, but we were pacing ourselves.  My favorite was the guava cheese strudel, although I'm sure I would have liked the chocolate-dipped strawberries too.
Thelma's and Luis were serving Chinese Chicken Salad, Short Ribs, and Brownies. Devon said it was delicious!
I liked the Poke with Plantain chips from Custom Catering. Great with my Antelope Valley Winery 2011 Desire rosé.
Luis from M Cigars was doing custom cigar rolling and trying to keep his Dominican tobacco wrappers moist in the windy conditions.  His cigars would probably go very well with some of Reyes Winery's Agua Dulce Delight port.
And wine-filled Truffles from Truffles n Toffee paired with Reyes Winery wines would be another great treat! Clever that the truffles contained nine different wines from Reyes Winery. We bought a box for later. The Cabernet Truffle samples were awesome, and potentially messy if you didn't put them completely in your mouth before biting down.  The burst of wine from the inside of the chocolate made a nice combo if you kept it off your shirt.
(Wine festival fashion tip: wear multi-colored shirts with complex patterns on them to camouflage any food or wine spills, preferably stain resistant too.)
We also liked the artistry of the cupcakes on display from Mi Dolce Vita Cupcakery.
Mickey's Momma's California Style Barbeque Sauces 
These guys spiced up the festival with Lemon & Pineapple BBQ sauce that included Shock Top beer and a Teriyaki & Peppercorn BBQ sauce that had Jack Daniels in it.  No wonder they're both good!  We bought a bottle of each.
Great music by several bands was played during the festival. The orientation of the stage projected throughout the row of food, boutique and winery booths.  Sierra Highway had a nice acoustic sound.
Agua Dulce Winery
2008 Merlot   
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon   
*2008 Zinfandel
Alonso Family Vineyards
*2010 Grenache
2010 Juan's Red   
2010 Tannat
& Stephen Hemmert Vineyards
2010 Zinfandel 
Antelope Valley Winery
*2011 Desire (Rosé)
*2011 Dry Muscat
2007 Tempranillo
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Coruce Vineyards
Oh, I get it, Coreen+Bruce=Coruce. Guess "Brueen" sounded too much like making beer :-)
*2012 Viognier (Central Coast)
2010 Syrah
*2009 Zinfandel

 Douglas Gould, Wine Negociant/"Short lil Bastard"
*2008 Napolean Complex (Bordeaux blend made at the Leona Valley Winery) - only
100 cases available.

Harris Wine Biz
*2011 Petit Verdot
*2011 Cabernet Franc
*2011 Syrah
*2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

High Dessert Cellars/Chavez Cellars
*2010 California White Merlot
2010 Tempranillo   
2010 Zinfandel 

Two Hearts Vineyards
2011 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay   
*2011 Syrah Grenache (Highs & Lows)
2010 Super Tuscan (75% Cabernet, 25% Sangiovese)   

Mascari Vineyard, Bouquet Canyon Vineyard
2011 Sangiovese
2010 Sangiovese - Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon   
2011 Merlot (Temecula)

Oreana Winery
2010 Chardonnay - Santa Barbara County   
2010 Pinot Noir - Central Coast

Reyes Winery   
2011 Chardonnay
2010 Syrah, Sierra Pelona Valley   
*2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sierra Pelona Valley
*2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sierra Pelona Valley
2010 Merlot, Sierra Pelona Valley   
2009 Merlot   
*Rosa's Rosé (available at the
V.I.P. lounge)
*Agua Dulce Delight, Sierra Pelona Valley (port)

Pulchella Winery
*2011 Zinfandel, “City Slicker” Paso Robles
2011 Field Blend, Red Head Ranch, “The Red, White & Blue” from Paso Robles includes
10% Alicante Bouschet (Red), 5% Orange Muscat (White), and 85% Zinfandel (Blue).

The wineries we enjoyed discovering and talking with were: Antelope Valley Winery, Coruce Vineyards, Douglas Gould, Harris Wine Biz, High Dessert Cellars/Chavez Cellars and Pulchella Winery.  The most impressive overall wine tastings were at Reyes Winery, Douglas Gould (although his wine list was a little short), Harris Wine Biz, and Pulchella Winery.  Visiting tasting rooms for Reyes Winery and Pulchella Winery is definitely on our travel list.  I think the next trip north will include the wine trail I've mapped below.  It appears that from Rosamond to Oldtown Newhall is about 66 miles.
 A.) High Dessert Cellars/Chavez Cellars
3045 90th Street West Suite A, Rosamond, CA 93560

B.) Antelope Valley Winery
42041 20th St. West, Lancaster, CA  93534

C.) Agua Dulce Winery
9640 Sierra Highway, Agua Dulce, CA 91390

D.) Reyes Winery
10262 Sierra Hwy, Agua Dulce, CA 91390

E.) Pulchella Winery
24261 Main Street, Oldtown Newhall, CA 91321

Some other destinations in the area could include Le Chene Restaurant, with their famous wine list, and Coruce Vineyards when they open their tasting room in Acton.  And since “Short lil Bastard” is made at the Leona Valley Winery, visiting Leona Valley might be a good destination too.
The man behind it all--wine maker, trail blazer, artist, festival organizer, and also looks like he's in the secret service or something... Robert Reyes
Great wine festival!  How about the next one?  The 2nd Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival is scheduled for April 26, 2014, so save the date!

And a fun side trip is visiting the nearby Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.  You've probably already seen some of the famous scenery in the park on TV or in the movies.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Beautiful Wine at Magnavino!

I recently had an opportunity to try some new white wines at Magnavino Cellars.  I had tasted their Gewurztraminer at the Ventura County Wine Trail's Local Food & Wine Challenge in January.  It scored highly on my wine-food pairing ratings  with C-Street's seared diver scallops!  And I really liked their 2010 Viognier that was barrel fermented in French oak. It sold out not long ago, so I guess a few others liked it too! I knew Maganvino had a few white wines, in addition to their very good line-up of red wines, but I hadn't had a chance to try their new white blend and Chardonnay wines until now.

The 2011 Beautiful, White Wine Blend, is a blend of six varietals, none of which are listed on the wine. I haven't had much Chablis lately, but this secret blend reminded me of a nice Chablis.  It's a light wine that goes well with appetizers, or drinks well by itself.

The 2010 Butterfly, Chardonnay is unique and it had a concentrated fruit flavor with a little bit of butter. I found it to be lighter than some other Chardonnays I usually drink, but well balanced and worth buying a bottle.

According to Robert Wagner, Owner/Winemaker at Magnavino Cellars, both the Beautiful and the Butterfly wines are close to selling out.

I took home a bottle of the 2011 Gewurztraminer and I already know it goes well with scallops, but I'm thinking of trying it with some Thai food, maybe chicken satay with peanut sauce. The floral notes, tropical fruit and spiciness of the Gewurztraminer should pair well with the interesting flavors in Thai food.

My all-time favorite from Magnavino has been their Sangiovese. I'm a fan of the varietal in general and their 2010 Sangiovese is a very good example of a medium-bodied Sangiovese. It has both a nose and flavors of strawberries and cherries with spice and a hint of earth.

The 2010 Trifection was new to me and it figures that any blend of Grenache, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah would be a hit! I enjoyed it thoroughly and bought a bottle.

While I enjoyed sampling these wines, I toured the vendor fair going on in the barrel room that's adjacent to the tasting room. Crafts, clothes, jewelry and wine tasting blend well together!

I enjoyed comparing the 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel and 2010 Zinfandel side-by-side. Both were very good, but my slight preference was for the regular Zin and its jammy black cherry and raspberry flavors.

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Syrah, 2010 Magnatude, and 2010 Petite Sirah rounded out the tasting (and I hadn't bought any tables or chairs made out old oak barrels from the vendor fair yet).  

My favorites from the last few red wines were the Syrah, with flavors of dark stone fruit and a hint of white pepper, and the Petite Sirah, with blackberry, plum and dark chocolate flavors.

Overall, I enjoyed the visit with Robert and Barbara Wagner at Magnavino, and sampling their new wines was informative and fun. I recommend dropping in for wine tasting the next time you're on the Ventura County Wine Trail. There's always something going on at Magnavino, even weddings.

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