Thursday, May 28, 2015

California Jazz & Wine Fest 2015

The 4th Annual California Jazz & Wine Fest presented by the Rotary Club of Westlake Village Sunrise was recently held at a new location, the Community Park in Thousand Oaks. This event contributes the proceeds to school music programs and other nonprofits.
When I arrived around noon I noticed the Westlake High School Jazz Band was already playing on the Main Stage. They sounded pretty good for a high school band. Watch them play on CoonToonStudios YouTube.
I picked up my festival glass and began with a tour of the local craft breweries. I visited the LAB Brewing Company at Twisted Oak Tavern, Firestone-Walker Brewing Company, Enegren Brewing Company, Surf Brewery, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company and Aldabella Brewery. Aldabella’s Citra IPA, Firestone-Walker’s Union Jack, Figueroa Mountain’s Hoppy Poppy IPA, Surf’s South Swell Double IPA, Enegren’s Protector Imperial IPA, and the LAB’s Imperial Oatmeal Stout were all hoppy and bold favorites.
After a side trip to the Bistro Stage to catch the Barrelhouse Wailers perform I was able to sample some wines from Golden Star Vineyards - their Chardonnay, Antelope Valley, is very nice, the Purple Haze is a great Zin blend, and the Zinfandel from Paso Robles is good too.
In between catching the great musical acts I also I managed to taste these wines:
Squashed Grapes - Zinfandel
Malibu Estate Cielo Wineyards - Syrah
Sunland Vintage Winery/Giovinazzo - The Goddess (Tempranillo & Dolcetto), Sangiovese, and Old Vine Zinfandel
Panaro Brothers Winery - Dolcetto
Vinemark Cellars - Primitivo
Navarro Vineyards - Pinot Noir
ViñAlegre - Primitivo
Magnavino - Tré Gemmé (GSM).

It was good to see that a few different options were available with local spirits from Channel Islands Distillery Rum, Cutler’s Artisan Spirits and TeQava Tequila. And I noticed that the Ventura Limoncello Company had a large line of fans waiting to sample their Limoncello and Orangecello liqueurs. Unfortunately, I missed out on all of these tastings figuring that blending beer and wine were all I could tolerate.
The gourmet food trucks that circled their wagons around the park included Tokyo Doggie Style, The Surfer Taco, Slammin’ II Sliders, Cousins Maine Lobster, Belly BombZ, Sweet Arleen’s Cupcakes, Baby’s Badass Burgers, and The Grilled Cheese Truck. Lots of people appeared to be enjoying the various gourmet truck dining options.
The musical acts that I caught on the Main Stage and the Bistro Stage included:
Westlake High School Jazz Band
A very classy group of kids playing jazz like seasoned adults.

Oskar Cartaya and the Enclave with guest Justo Amario
Oskar is an awesome bass player and his friend, Justo, plays sax, flute, and clarinet. Together they’ve played with an extensive who’s who of jazz and pop.

Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band
Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band, a Grammy-winning, 18-member ensemble with virtuoso trumpet, saxophone, trombone and percussion players performed a mix of rock, blues, Latin and other musical styles. 

Barrelhouse Wailers
Playing Prohibition-era hot jazz and blues the Wailers sound like a time warp back to the 1920s & 1930s. Any band with a tuba and a resonator guitar has to be different!

Tony Ybarra & Friends
I’ve seen Tony perform by himself in quieter settings at wine festivals before, but when he’s teamed up with his friends they really kick it up a notch! His latin flavored music was hot, especially when he played along the other guitarist, who was no slouch himself!

Click here to play a short video of the musical acts I watched on stage with pictures from the fest.

Although I missed last year’s fest, it seems like this event is getting a little more together every year. I liked the new venue with a stage at each end, the wineries & breweries on one side, the food vendors on the other side, and the marketplace in one area near the main stage. I’ve had some of the food from the trucks before (Slammin’ Sliders & Cousins Maine Lobster), so I know they are very good quality. What I’m not so sure about is if the benefit of ordering what you want from the trucks, is better than getting smaller samples as part of the festival (probably with an increased ticket price). I’ve been to several festivals where the free food samples have run out very early, so that can be a problem too. It would be interesting to see if people prefer to pay for food samples in the ticket price or directly to the food vendor of their choice. I think sampling new gourmet treats are part of the fun at festivals, so I'd tend to vote that way.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Judging The Best In Fest Beer

Curtis Taylor with Beer Judges: Erin Peters, Monie Wickenden, Zach Rosen, and Joby Yobe.

For the 22nd Annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival
Casa Pacifica's Best in Fest Beer Competition was recently held at Barrelhouse 101 in Ventura. Curtis Taylor, Certified Cicerone, selected the beers and orchestrated the beer judging event. Curtis’ blog,, focuses on beer and food pairings, so he knows what he’s doing.

The entries were judged by a panel consisting of cicerones, certified beer judges and industry experts that included:

  • Erin Peters, Beer Judge & Journalist, practically wrote a book while tasting, but must have known what she was doing, otherwise she wouldn’t be   called “The Beer Goddess.”
  • Monie Wickenden, Beer Specialist at Wine Warehouse Beer.
  • Zach Rosen, Certified Cicerone, beer educator, writer, chemical engineer and deep thinker, appeared to be the most expressive taster and really pondered the beer pairing possibilities.
  • Joby Yobe, proprietor of Barrelhouse 101, also started the Ojai Beverage Company. Joby said that he, like everyone else, has liked IPAs on his beer journey, but his favorite style, depending on the situation, is now Belgian beer.
The craft beer entries were picked up from festival-participating breweries on a Friday beer run that started in Santa Barbara and ended in Agoura Hills. 
Donuts - The default food to pair with beer.
The beers were served (along with coffee and donuts) on Sunday morning at Barrelhouse 101 before they opened for regular business.
The Judges In Action
The judges evaluated each beer style on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression in a blind tasting at the bar. In addition to a lot of viewing color, sniffing aromas, and tasting the flavors in each beer, the judges made food pairing suggestions as they tasted. The beer pairings will be posted on in an upcoming post.
After about two hours of judging the eight different beers, the top three beers were selected for a second round where they would vie for the Best in Fest award. While the first round was an individual activity for each judge, the second round was done in a collaborative format at a table on the patio (because by now the bar was open for business). 
The four judges had an animated discussion about the relative merits of each beer and selected a winner from the three different styles.
This part reminded me a jury process, where there’s an opportunity for the more compelling arguments to influence the overall outcome. Either way, I would have found it a tough decision to make.
Boris-Oatmeal Stout, Delusions of Grandeur-American Barleywine, Santa Barbara Pale Ale-IPA
The first place award went to the The LAB Brewing Company’s Boris, a barrel-aged Oatmeal Stout (9.6% ABV and 49 IBUs). Way to go brewmaster Roger Bott (aka "Dr. Hops)! 
The other two beers that made it to the second round included the Pure Order Brewing Company’s Santa Barbara Pale Ale, which is really an India Pale Ale (7.7% ABV and 80 IBUs), and not necessarily the last or least, the Institution Ale Company’s Delusions of Grandeur American Barleywine (12% ABV and 100+ IBUs).  Congrats to brewmasters James Burge of Pure Order Brewing Company and Ryan Smith of Institution Ale Company, your beers impressed the judges.
You be the judge!
If you can make it to the festival, try checking out these beers for yourself.  No promises that they’ll be able to serve each beer entry at the festival, due to quantity limitations, but if you download this list of beers you will be able to look for them and pick your own winner(s).

See you at the festival!

Twitter: @TasteNTrip