Saturday, March 22, 2014

Simply Wine Festival 2014

The Simply Wine Festival, held at the Four Seasons in Westlake Village was a nice change of venue. Most of the wine and food festivals I attend are held outside. This was a classy fund raiser for the Make-A-Wish® Tri-Counties that had a goal of making a four-year-old girl's wish to visit Disney World come true.
It was a busy day at the Four Seasons--Bloom, another tasting event, and Simply Wine were listed on Today's Events.
The event was sold out and the ballroom and outdoor tent-ballroom were filled with people looking for fun, food, wine, beer, spirits, and electric cars.
The first stop on the way in was your own personal photo op (mugshot). You can see all the photos taken by Four Blessings Photography on Facebook. It looks like these people were already having fun!
Some string quartet music was being played in the hallway before  encountering jazz and DJ tunes. See the MUSIC section below for more.
I'm not sure if it was running or not, but this Tesla Model S was a beauty and it was kept occupied all evening with people checking out the control center. It looked like it had a lot of room in the trunk!
Celebrity Cruises with its iconic "X” advertises its luxury, contemporary design, and food & wine dining experiences. Their use of a holographic speaker was novel and the motion-activated feature was eye-catching. She may look real from this angle, but the very thin depth of about an inch was a giveaway.
This setting was well decorated with lots of Red Roses and Red Gerbera Daisies in vases. No wonder I was thinking 'Red Wine' as soon as I walked in.

Simply Wine Festival gave awards for wines and spirits in the following categories:
  • Most Outstanding Varietal in its Category
  • Best in Blends
  • Excellence in the Spirits Space
  • Exceptional Value (Best Buy)
  • Category Innovator

Sparkling Wine
I started the evening's tasting with some sparkling wines at Gloria Ferrer Brut and Vina Sympatica.  Gloria Ferrer is a favorite and I enjoyed their Brut. 
Sherrijon Gaspard, CEO & Co-Founder Vina Sympatica | SIMPLY VINO poured me a taste of her Vina Sympatica White (above). It was crisp with a flavor of pear and apple, and made from French Colombard grapes! French Colombard is widely planted in California and it adds a floral quality with a nice tart acidity. 
Another sparkling wine, Magnifico Giornata, with its flavored bubbles, was so popular that I had to use my ballroom-drone-cam to get a shot of the action.  They were pouring their infused sparkling wines: Lavender Honey, Ginger Pêche, and Grapefruit Blanc.  Grapefruit Blanc sounds like a nice alternative to a Mimosa.

White Wine
Casa Barranca Winery
After a few sparkling wines my mission was to make it through the ballroom, hallways, and tent while tasting white wines only (and make a second circuit tasting reds).  I found some Albarino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chenin Blanc/Viognier, and Pinot Grigio.
A nice new wine discovery for me was the 2010 Santa Rita Hills Zotovich Estate Chardonnay from Zotovich Estate Vineyard & Winery. The tasting notes mention lemon, lime, and caramel corn on the nose and wet riverrock, squeezed lime, Seckel pear on the palate with a bright acidity and finish of toasted marshmallows. I'm not sure whether I've ever had a Seckel pear or not, but I thought this wine was an excellent Chardonnay!
And I really liked the 2012 Kenneth Volk Vineyards Chardonnay,"Jaybird", Santa Maria Valley ("Naked as a Jaybird" or unoaked) poured by Tim Gabriel (above). And another unoaked favorite was the 2012 Aquinas Unoaked Chardonnay from Don & Sons.
Gagnon Cellars, a boutique winery (as you can read on their nice graphics behind them) with small production wines, poured a great 2011 Chardonnay - Artist Series "Valle Vista"
Although the Gagnon Cellars winery is in Temecula (and the owners live in Calabasas) this Chardonnay comes from grapes grown in Santa Clara County. I enjoyed the toasted oak flavor (yes, I like both unoaked and oaked!) and the fact that it was unfiltered. Well worth the retail price of $22 a bottle!
Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards poured a very nice 2011 Chardonnay Reserve (100% Chardonnay) that was aged in French Oak and part of it was aged in stainless steel. This produced a crisp, rich, and well balanced Chardonnay. I also tasted the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. 
The Montes Alpha 2011 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile was featured along with Kaiken Wines.  The Chardonnay, that was fermented in French oak barrels, had a flavor of tropical fruits and is supposed to age well.  The 2011 Kaiken Ultra Malbec, Argentina won an 'Exceptional Value Wine' award (presented by Martha Peretz, center, and Jeanette Jimenez, right).
The Panaro Brothers Winery poured a nice 2010 Grenache Blanc (and red wines 2009 Barbera, and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon). Pictured above are winemaker Vito Panaro, head wine-taster Ryan Panaro, and assistant winemaker Carl.
Larry Schaffer, wine blogger at Wine Verbiage and owner of  Tercero Wines, poured a few white wines: 2012 Grenache Blanc and 2012 Viognier.  The Viognier was well balanced and very good!
Cinque Stelle Winery was pouring their estate 2011 Albariño. It's one my favorite styles and similar to Viognier. Tasting notes describe this wine having aromas of baking spices, apples, pears and flavors of peach pie.

Red Wine
Larner Winery
Alma Sol Winery
Some awesome red wines were being poured by Ryan Hays at Westerly Wines! I tasted the 2011 Côte Blonde, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (95% Syrah, 5% Viognier), the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot), and the 2010 Fletcher's Red, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 23% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet).  The Côte Blonde and the Cabernet Sauvignon were both excellent. The production level isn't very high, the prices aren't very low, but the quality makes it worth the price!
Roxanne Hoyt poured the 2010 Estate Pinot Noir and 2011 Estate Syrah from Zotovich Estate Vineyard & Winery. The Pinot Noir with its raspberry nose and palate was my favorite. The Syrah was good, but a little too peppery for my taste, at least without food.
Vinemark Cellars poured their 2012 Pinot Noir, 2012 Primitivo, 2012 Petite Sirah, 2012 Mezzanotte (75% Primitivo, 25% Petite Sirah).  All very nice reds from Paso Robles grapes.
Pretty good wine! The Patel 2010 Red Wine won the Wine Category Innovator award. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon received 94 Points from Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate.
The 2008 Aduentus Classic, Bordeaux-Stye Blend, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina from Antigal Winery & Estates won the Best in Blends Wine award. It also won the Taste N Trip award for Best Pouring Style!
Cinque Stelle Winery was pouring their estate 2011 Tempranillo. Their tasting notes indicate that it's a balanced wine with bright acidity and rich flavors, baked berry notes and leather finishing on the palate with tobacco and exotic spices.  You can't beat that berry, leather and tobacco combo!
Barbara Wagner of Magnavino Cellars poured her gold medal-winning 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2010 Syrah. I like all of the reds that Magnavino Cellars makes! I was disappointed that their 2011 Tuscan Romance wasn't available that night, it's great too.
It was fun to catch up with Mike and Chris Brown of Cantara Cellars.  I always enjoy their 2010 Frankenvine (Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Old Vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Malbec) and 2010 Quattro (Mourvèdre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel) red wines.
I enjoyed the opportunity to do a vertical tasting of Pinot Noir at Toretti Family Vineyard. The 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley (Sold Out) was described as "earthy," the 2010 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley was "fruit forward," and the 2011 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley was "soft." All very interesting and tasty!
Larry Hogan pours his gold medal winning Sagebrush Annie's red wines: 2006 Stone Pine Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 Sagebrush Annie's Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Sagebrush Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Sagebrush Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Sagebrush Annie's Zinfandel, and 2010 Sagebrush Annie's Merlot. Very good red wines from grapes grown in the Ventucopa area--the Sagebrush Annie's, Stone Pine Estate, Core, Barnwood and Laetitia vineyards.
It was a beautiful night and enjoying this view of the Four Seasons was a good way to get some fresh air.
Jaffurs Wine Cellars
I was happy to taste the Dragonette Cellars 2012 Pinot Noir, SRH and 2011 Syrah.  Even though it was one of my last tastes, I thought the Pinot Noir was outstanding!
I did see Kay a few weeks ago! So I didn't re-taste the 2011 If You See Kay, Cabernet Sauvignon Blend from Lazio, Italy. It was great! I was hoping to taste Layer Cake's 2011 Primitivo too, but it wasn't available.

A panel of judges met in advance of the event and decided on the following winners in these categories.
  • Most Outstanding Varietal 
    • Montes Purple Angel 2011
  • Exceptional Value
    • Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2011
  • Best in Blends
    • Aduentus Classic Red Blend 2008
  • Category Innovator
    • Patel Red Wine 2010 
  • Excellence in Premixed Beverages
    • Myx Fusions Peach Moscato 
  • Excellence in Beer
    • Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer 
  • Category Innovator 
    • Allagash Tripel
  • Exceptional Value
    • Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc
  • Excellence in Spirits 
    • Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal Chichicapa 
  • Category Innovator
    • Breaker Bourbon Whisky
  • Exceptional Value 
    • Channel Islands Distillery Aged Rum

There some great looking samples of wine-friendly food being served by Mastro's Steakhouse and others. I was on a wine tasting mission though and skipped many of those with long lines.
La Dolce Vita Ristorante was kept busy serving their plates.
I did get an opportunity to sample the tasty small plate mix from Paul Martin's American Grill.
And the pasta from Café Firenze Italian Restaurant and Martini Lounge was very good, especially if you (and those around you) like garlic!
Some spicy chocolate is always fun! The Chocolate Traveler offers delicious chocolate, spicy wedges in decorative tins; the answer to messy, broken chocolate bars. They go great with bold red wines.
Sweet Arleen's Cupcakes from Westlake Village, winner of the cupcake wars on Food Network, had a nice display with their Red Velvet, Chocolate-Chocolate, and Mint n' Chip cupcakes.
Sprinkles Cupcakes Westlake Village are part of the local cupcake wars with their clever topping graphics--my favorite is the Strawberry.
Bread Basket Cake Company -- these look better than bread!
"Who needs dinner when you can have dessert?" is a quote from Randy of the The Kandy Jar Homemade Candy.  I can identify with that at wine festivals. I noticed several winemakers checking their candy out and had to investigate.  Their fudge was out of this world, and it tasted just like homemade to me! A sweet ending to the event.

Walking around the festival I heard a nice variety of music.  

A string quartet played in the hallway, a jazz quartet entertained in the ballroom, and a DJ kept the tunes going constantly in the tent ballroom.
Jazz guitarist Paul Weitz, bassist Dominic Genova, drummer Gus Duffy, and jazz/pop vocalist Donna Deussen perform 'Round Midnight' at the Simply Wine Festival 2014.  Click here to play the video.
 All sorts of hip music from the DJ.

This was really a classy event as the organizers intended. In addition to some new wine maker acquaintances, I met some interesting people, like Michael Schulman, with the WineCRU. The WineCRU sounds like a fun group that is focused on the appreciation of enjoying wine and increasing knowledge in the growing, harvesting, producing and drinking of wines.

Assuming there will be another Simply Wine Festival in 2015, I suggest that you don't miss it!

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