Thursday, April 24, 2014

After The Santa Barbara Vintners Festival

What to do after the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival?  
After tasting 80 different wines at the Vintners festival on Saturday a trip to some nearby wineries on Sunday was a great way to taste another 20 wines--for an even 100 tastes! On Saturday we drove west from Buellton along the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Trail (East Highway 246) to stay in Lompoc. The next morning we visited a few places in the wine ghetto that I'd heard so much about. We also stopped for one tasting along 246 on our way back.
Photography by Devon Scheef
Sunday morning we found the Cajun Kitchen in Lompoc and had beignets and other Cajun food for breakfast. It was excellent!
We were ready to start tasting early so we could beat the rush hour heading south from Santa Barbara back to Westlake Village.  
We drove around Lompoc until we reached the wine ghetto and, yes, it was industrial. It was only about 10 am when we found Zotovich Cellars and they were open; unlike most other places that weren't open until 11 or 12.  I enjoyed tasting a few Zotovich wines at the last two wine festivals and it was a priority place to visit--so it worked out perfect that we found it first!

We enjoyed the Zotovich wines, tasting room, discussion about their winemaking history, and the cheese and crackers.

An extensive line-up of wines was available for tasting and it took about an hour to sample them all:
2010 Chardonnay Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2011 Chardonnay Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2012 Pinot Noir Rosé Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2009 Pinot Noir Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2010 Pinot Noir Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2011 Pinot Noir Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2009 Syrah Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2010 Syrah Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
2011 Syrah Estate, Sta. Rita Hills

All of them were above average wines, but I especially liked the 2010 Pinot Noir Estate Sta. Rita Hills. Definitely tasted the sweet red and dark berry flavors in their tasting notes. This turned out to be the best red wine I tasted at both the wine festival and on our mini-tour.

The other exceptional wines were:
2009 Pinot Noir Estate Sta. Rita Hills
2011 Pinot Noir Estate Sta. Rita Hills
2010 Syrah Estate Sta. Rita Hills.

In other words, I really liked ALL of their Pinot Noir!  And the Goat Gouda cheese was great too.

My previous tastes of Brewer-Clifton were the 2012 3-D Chardonnay at the wine festival the day before and several of their wines at the Santa Barbara Wine Festival in 2012 (2009 Sweeney Canyon Chardonnay, 2010 Machado Pinot Noir, 2010 Mount Carmel Pinot Noir, and 2010 3-D Pinot Noir).  
I wasn't crazy about the 3-D Chardonnay (with Meyer Lemon zest aroma and Lemon Curd flavor it was just too lemony). However, the other five wines that were being poured in the tasting room were all excellent as far as I'm concerned:
2012 Chardonnay, Gnesa Vineyard
2012 Chardonnay, Hapgood Vineyard
2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
2012 Pinot Noir, Machado Vineyard
2012 Pinot Noir, Hapgood Vineyard

The crackers, cheese, fruit, and chocolate snacks were very good too!

The Foley vineyard and winery are a change from the wine ghetto in Lompoc. The estate is a scenic location and the winery tasting room is a collection of wine tasting bars, a gift shop and a fireplace lounge area.

The mixed flight of wines included two white wines and three red wines.  And they were all very good, of course!
2011 Chardonnay, Steel
2011 Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills
2010 Chardonnay, Bar Lazy S
2011 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
2011 Pinot Noir, T Anchor Ranch

My favorites were the two Chardonnays and the 2011 Pinot Noir, T Anchor Ranch. The Chardonnay in steel was definitely lively and zingy while the toasted oak and honey in the SRH Chardonnay was much more mellow.  Luckily, I like both styles! The T Anchor Ranch Pinot Noir with its raspberry and strawberry fruit plus leather is a special wine (and has a special price to go with it, although it's a little better if you join the wine club, of course).

Devon liked the 2011 Chardonnay, Steel and the shopping was fun too.

It's tough to compare all of these very nice wines, but I like to consider my individual wine ratings and the retail price of each wine so I can think about shopping for these wines while considering my budget. I get the following results for the eight white wines:
  1. Foley 2011 Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills
  2. Foley 2011 Chardonnay, Steel
  3. Zotovich 2011 Chardonnay Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
  4. Zotovich 2010 Chardonnay Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
  5. Brewer - Clifton 2012 Chardonnay, Hapgood Vineyard
  6. Brewer - Clifton 2012 Chardonnay, Gnesa Vineyard
  7. Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery 2010 Chardonnay, Bar Lazy S
  8. Brewer - Clifton 2012 Chardonnay, 3-D Vineyard
Adding the retail price into the mix made the rosé the top-rated wine on the combined rosé/red list.  The rosé/red wine rating vs. retail price results are:
  1. Zotovich 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé Estate, Sta. Rita Hills   
  2. Zotovich 2010 Pinot Noir Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
  3. Brewer-Clifton 2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
  4. Zotovich 2011 Pinot Noir Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
  5. Foley 2011 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
  6. Foley 2011 Pinot Noir, T Anchor Ranch
  7. Zotovich 2009 Pinot Noir Estate Sta. Rita Hills
  8. Zotovich 2010 Syrah Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
  9. Zotovich 2011 Syrah Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
  10. Zotovich 2009 Syrah Estate, Sta. Rita Hills
  11. Brewer-Clifton 2012 Pinot Noir, Machado Vineyard
  12. Brewer-Clifton 2012 Pinot Noir, Hapgood Vineyard
What a great area to visit! Next time I need at least a 3-day weekend to cover more of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto and Sta. Rita Hills Wine Trail.


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Grand Tasting

The Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Grand Tasting was held at a new venue this year--River View Park in Buellton.
As advertised, it was a fun event! Wines from over 100 Santa Barbara County wineries were available for tasting, along with some delicious food from local restaurants and catering companies, plus live music, art exhibits, and a variety of wine country vendors.
Wine Is Art
The Tasting Goal:  I started wine tasting with a specific list of wines that I had tasted before and liked (just to see if they were still great), and those wines that I'd missed tasting at other wine events, plus some that I'd heard were good, and then, any that I thought looked good.  The process was a little tricky because I did the  tastings in two rounds: white wines and then red wines, with a rosé or two and a tawny port added in for good measure. Only a professional taster can make it to the second round of red wines, and only a professional with a designated driver can make any real progress tasting many of the red wines.  My final count was about 80 wine tastes (43 whites, 37 reds) and I had a designated driver.
Pictured above are Terecero Wines, Verdad / Qupé, Toretti's Family Vineyard, Grassini Family Vineyards, Lafond Winery & Vineyards, Tantara Winery, Vogelzang Vineyard, Cinque Stelle Winery, Silver Wines, Au Bon Climat/Clendenen Family Vineyards Winemaker Jim Clendenen with friend, Ken Brown Wines, Koehler Winery, Mosby Wines, and Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards.

A large list of the white and red wines I was able to taste is available as a PDF if you click here.  Or you can squint at the image below.
We all know Santa Barbara County has great wines, but I was surprised how many I rated highly this year. And three of the white wines were over the top - Kenneth Volk Vineyards 2013 Melon de Bourgogne, Qupé 2012 Bien Nacido Cuvée, and Transcendence 2012 Chardonnay, Zotovich Vineyard.  I'm sure I missed many other great wines, but these are the ones I liked at the time.
On the second trip around the grounds I tasted fewer red wines than white wines, but I still found some very nice Pinot Noir, Syrah, and blended red wines.
Wineries that occurred frequently in my higher ratings:
  • Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
  • Artiste Winery & Tasting Studio
  • Happy Canyon Vineyards
  • Ken Brown Wines
  • Kenneth Volk Vineyards
  • Lafond Winery & Vineyards
  • Martian Ranch & Vineyard
  • Melville
  • Qupé
  • Rusack Vineyards
  • Tantara Wines
  • Tercero Wines
  • Vogelzang
  • Zotovich Cellars
I'll have to visit these wineries for more in-depth tasting when I get a chance.

Great food with colorful displays!  Pictured above from the top left, clockwise, are:

Petros - Spanakopita

El Ranchos Vintner’s Festival Sandwich - BBQ Tri-tip on garlic crostini topped with Mississippi Caviar (black eyed peas, tomatoes, jalapeños, avocados, green onion, vinaigrette dressing)

é Farms - Colorful display of veggies

Avant Tapas & Wine - Piquillo Hummus, Wood Fired Pita, Fresh Radish, Local Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Palmina - Cutting board of chocolate treats with blood orange, sea salt, …

The Willows
- Sergio’s Signature Meat Balls

Pictured above from the top left, sorta clockwise, are:

Starting Gate Restaurant - Carne Asada Tacos, Salsa Roja Spicy or Salsa Verde Mild

The Hitching Post II - Grilling Sliders

Cattaneo Bros - Grilling and Serving Sausage

Mirabelle Inn & Restaurant - Shrimp Tostada with Cilantro Crema

New West Catering / Industrial Eats - Wild Boar Pastrami On Rye Crisp With Remoulada, Kraut and Gruyere

Succulent Cafe Wine Charcuterie - Lavender & Green Apple Chile Verde

Global Gardens - Pastry

All of the food was very good, but I could have eaten more of these:
  • El Rancho’s BBQ Tri-tip Sandwich
  • Cattaneo Bros’ Grilled Sausages
  • Starting Gate’s Carne Asada (Salsa Roja Spicy) Tacos 
  • Succulent Cafe’s Lavender & Green Apple Chile Verde 
  • Mirabelle’s Shrimp Tostada with Cilantro Crema
  • The Willows’ Meat Balls
Trattoria Grappolo must have had great food too, but there was a  very long line every time I checked.

Lots of FUN!

We enjoyed it all, and since we were in the neighborhood we visited the Lompoc Wine Ghetto on the following day. Hope to come to this festival again next year--and I'll have an even better wine tasting checklist ready to go!


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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Magnavino Black & White Soirée

In case you missed the Black & White Soirée wine club parties at Magnavino Cellars during the last two weekends, I've put together some Taste N Trip notes about the one on Saturday, March 29th. Everyone was asked to dress in black and/or white for this soirée, which is a party or reception held in the evening, but you already knew that, right?
Although there was a line in front of the winery, everyone was checked in while still in line and walked right in when the doors opened. Maybe the Eventbrite registration sped up the entry process from previous wine club parties.  In addition to making good wine, Maganvino Cellars has figured out how to put on well-orchestrated parties and special events!
First things first, of course! Robert Wagner has a taste of wine before the party gets going.  And then the whole Magnavino crew assembles for the black & white soirée... wait a second, who's that guy with the red tie on? Didn't he get the memo? Close enough.

Hosts Robert & Barbara Wagner posing with premier wine pouring assistants Debbie & Tim Gandy.
 Robert & Barbara drinking red & white while wearing black & white and looking classy as usual.
I think Robert & Barbara greeted every single wine club member!
Wine club members were able to taste two white wines, nine red wines and one desert wine (after dinner).  Four other wines were for sale, but not available for tasting.

Some of the wines being poured won medals in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Those that had not won any medals yet were just released and missed the competition in February.  The red wine medal winners were: 
2011 Grenache Rosé – Bronze
2010 Petite Sirah – Platinum, Best of Class
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – Gold
2010 Syrah – Silver
2010 Trifection – Silver
2011 Tuscan Romance – Silver
2012 Guilty Pleasures – Bronze
2011 Tre Gemme – Bronze
2010 Zinfandel – Bronze

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition listed the category, price range, AVA, and designation for these wines also.
After a tour around the barrel room I headed to the tasting room to check out the wine.
I noticed a white and rosé on the tasting list, but I decided to focus on the red wines. 

2012 Pinot Gris
2011 Grenache Rosé


2010 Trifection
2011 Tre Gemmé Cuvée
2010 Zinfandel
2011 Old Vine Zinfandel
2011 Merlot
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Syrah
2011 Magnatude
2010 Petite Sirah

2012 Guilty Pleasures
(available for tasting with desert only).

My first taste was the 2010 Trifection, a blend of Grenache, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah, and it was poured in expert fashion by Tawnie. I had really liked the Trifection when I tasted it last year, but this time around it wasn’t exactly how I remembered it; still an interesting blend though. It was difficult to select a favorite red, but the 2011 Merlot, although a little young, struck me like the winner of this tasting. In a very close second place were the 2010 Zinfandel, 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 Syrah. And almost as good were the 2011 Tre Gemmé Cuvée (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre or GSM), 2011 Magnatude, and 2010 Petite Sirah. Guess I really like the Magnavino red wines!
Black & White Appetizers
I was sorry to see that the 2010 Sangiovese and the 2011 Tuscan Romance were not available for tasting, but at least they were still available for purchase.  I've always thought these two reds were great!

Daniel Davies, a master of classical and jazz piano, session player, and vocalist that’s played around the world, was doing a fine job of sounding like Sinatra and keeping everyone entertained. 
The dinner buffet was prepared by Command Performance Catering Group and was very popular as soon it arrived.
My dinner plate with rosemary foccacia bread, assorted broiled vegetable salad with pine nuts, feta cheese and a white balsamic vinaigrette, a creamy risotto, and Beef Burgundy with pearl onions, mushrooms in a red wine sauce went very well with the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Excellent food and wine!
And the wine got even better when I was surprised with a special glass of Tuscan Romance, courtesy of Rob and delivered by Tawnie.
Mark Delgado, Robert Wagner, Tawnie Jeanne, Scott Ballew
I was happy to finally taste the 2011 Tuscan Romance, a Super Tuscan blend, that has all of my favorite Magnavino wines: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  No wonder it was by far the best wine from Magnavino!  And if you can still buy it, it's drinkable now, but it could also age for a few years if you can wait that long.
Kate Wiegers of neighboring Strey Cellars was tagging and bagging wine orders for pick-up.

Black & white cupcakes from 'I'd Rather Be Baking Co.' went well with red or desert wines.
Master of the cupcake from 'I'd Rather Be Baking Co.' Mark Delgado and Jeralyn Negri toast... oops, time for a refill!

Kate Wiegers & Scott Ballew of the newly opened Strey Cellars, kind of like a Magnavino spin-off, and it's located in the same complex. Driving from wine tasting to wine tasting just got easier in Oxnard!
A great time was had by all...
Floral Design by Laurie of Unique Floral Design in Simi Valley.

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