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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