On the 11th Day – A Ballard Canyon Syrah from Larner & Beef Stew

Larner Reserve Syrah with Beef stew and Polenta

We’ve come to the 11th Day in our 12 Days of Wine and we pulled a beautiful bottle of Ballard Canyon Syrah out from Larner Vineyard & Winery.

2013 Larner Estate Syrah – Reserve

Larner Ballard Canyon Syrah
Larner 2013 Ballard Canyon Syrah Reserve

Our finest Syrah from the 2013 vintage has a vivid bouquet of violets, cassis, blueberries, pepper, vanilla and espresso. The intense, full palate has a layered texture of chalky tannins followed by a smooth finish. Fermented with 20% whole cluster, 4% Viognier and aged 36 months in 30% new French oak barrels.

Larnerwine.com

So this is a big Syrah.  This is not just their Estate Syrah, but a bottling of the best of the lots of the Estate Syrah from 2013. 

Ballard Canyon AVA

The view down @ballardcanyon from above @saarloosandsons Windmill Ranch Vineyard. #sbcwines

This AVA is in the Santa Barbara Region and is nested inside the Santa Ynez Valley AVA.  At about the half way point of the East West Valley of Santa Barbara, the climate is perfect for Rhône Varieties and Syrah thrives here. 

You can visit the AVA site and read about the climate and varieties here.

Larner Vineyard

We have been lucky enough to spend significant time with Michael Larner soaking up his amazing knowledge of the area and the soils.  You can find all sorts of articles and interviews on our Larner Winery & Vineyard page.

What to Pair?

I reached out to Larner Vineyards and Jeni who runs the Tasting Room and Wine Club responded with a great pairing for winter.  A Beef Stew made with the Syrah to pair with the Syrah!


Hi there Robin! Here is a recipe that we definitely recommend to go withour Reserve Syrah! Nice and hearty and pairs perfectly with the wonderfully balanced 2013 Syrah!

Jeni Torres Larner Wine Club Manager and Tasting Room Lead

Here is the beautiful recipe she shared with us.

Beef stew with mushrooms and polenta

  • 3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 thick bacon slices, cut into 1-inch –wide strip. (I used unsalted bacon)
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 4 cups of 2011 Larner Syrah.
  • 25 pearl onions
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 20 ounces of mushrooms, you can used brown button mushrooms, quartered, shitake cut in half,
  • cremini mushroom or if possible fresh porcini mushroom. I soaked the dry porcini mushrooms in the warm water and added this water to the stew.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon on tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of baby carrots, cut
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 springs of thyme
  • Salt. If you use the salted bacon don’t add salt,you can always do it at the table.
  • Some olive oil
  • 3 cups of polenta

In the heavy pot cook bacon, until the bacon turns light brown and crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels. Keep the fat.

 Dry the meat in the paper towel and cook it in the bacon fat until brown. Put the meat aside in the bowl. Add 1 cup of beef stock to the pot,increase the temperature and try to scrape all the brown bits from the bottom.  Pour this liquid over the meat in the bowl.

 Add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil to the clean pot and add chopped onion. Cook until golden.

Add garlic and cook until soft. Add all the mushrooms and cook until soften, about 2 minutes

Add 3 tablespoon of flower and cook for1 more minute stirring. Pour 2 cups of beef broth to the mixture, stir and add to the meat.

Return the beef and all the juices that have accumulated to the pot. Add 4 cups of red wine.  I used Larner Syrah 2011. 

Add 2 tablespoon of the tomato paste, herbs and bring the meat to the boil. Simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is soft.

Boil some water in the pot, add small onions and cook for 10 minutes. Peel the onion. Clean the carrots and cook them until soft.

When the meat is ready add the bacon, onions and carrots to the pot. Remove the herbs.

If your beef stew is too thick add more beef broth.

In the medium pot bring 9 cups of water to the boil. Add polenta in the thin stream stirring all the time until polenta starts to separate from the side of the pot. Your polenta should be very soft and runny. You can also follow the instruction on the box.

Pour the polenta on the plates and cover it with beef stew. You can also sprinkle it with some chopped parsley. (Optional)

Beef Stew with Polenta
Beef Stew with Polenta

This was a delicious meal and was beautiful with the Syrah. As you can see I did not add the parsley, but I did add a pat of butter on top of the polenta before ladeling on the stew.

Want some?

Well I don’t know if there is any of the 2013 left but you can find their beautiful Syrahs as well as other Rhône style wines in single varieties as well as their Elemental Blend on their site.

They also have a tasting room in Los Olivos, next to the Los Olivos General Store where you can taste their wines.

Larner Vineyard & Winery Tasting Room

2900 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
T | (805) 688-8148

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

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Mark Horvath, Crawford Family Wines on Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 6

This Episode of the Seminar takes us West toward the coast to the chilly area of Sta. Rita Hills.   Winemaker, Mark Horvath speaks about his Sta. Rita Hills Syrah from Zotovich Vineyard.

Crawford Family Wines

Crawford Family Wines produces small lots of Pinot, Chardonnay and Syrah in the “garagiste” style of winemaking all from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. They pull from vineyards like Babcock, Bentrock, Radian, Rita’s Crown and Zotovich.   They recently started a Rhone program from the Ballard Canyon appellation, but today we are diving into their Sta. Rita Hills Syrah. While working in Sonoma, Mark took UC Davis extension classes which introduced him to a group of energetic and enthusiastic Santa Barbara Winemakers. An opportunity arose at Babcock and Mark joined as Assistant Winemaker. While there he met Kenneth “Joey” Gummere and the two formed Kenneth-Crawford Wines. They produced wines together for 10 years. Mark and his wife Wendy now have Crawford Family Wines (read the transcript or watch the video to find out more about the name)

Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

When you hear Sta. Rita Hills you usually think Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This AVA is cool climate and these Burgundian grapes do well here, but so does Syrah. Most of the area is planted to Pinot Noir (2100 acres) or Chardonnay (500 acres) with the remaining planted 140 acres divided between such varieties as Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Syrah.

Syrah here buds early and harvests late, so there is a lot of hang time. Mark speaks of March bud break and November or December Harvests. This allows for elegant Syrahs with bright acidity.

Crawford Family Wines has a tasting room in Buellton in the Zaca Creek Industrial Park at 92 Second Street Suites G & H. They are open Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm and by appointment the remainder of the week. Visit their website at http://www.crawfordfamilywines.com/   or give them a call at 805.698.3889.

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 6: Mark Horvath on Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

The Transcript

Wendy Thies Sell: Okay. “Go west young man!” they said and so west we shall go, to the Sta. Rita Hills. Mark Horvath of Crawford Family Wines makes small lots of wine, focusing on fruit from the Sta. Rita Hills. He sourced his Syrah for this wine from Zotovich Vineyard, with it’s deep sandy soils on the 246 corridor between Buellton and Lompoc. The fruit here ripened slowly in the cool foggy climate. Mark, tell us about this wine and why you are so passionate about Sta. Rita Hills.

Mark Horvath: Sure. First of all, thanks for coming. I appreciate everybody being here, thanks for inviting me. I’m really proud to represent the Sta. Rita Hills up here today. I moved here and started making wine here in 1998. No one was really making Syrah from the Sta. Rita Hills then. There were a few isolated plantings. I was working for Bryan Babcock at the time and we had a section of Syrah that he really hated. He never wanted to put much effort into it, he just didn’t feel like it was the right place. But every year we made the wine, I was struck by how interesting it was, how it held onto it’s acidity. We’ve been talking about how in these cool climates Syrah really hangs on to it’s acidity and there was a freshness and a vibrancy about that wine. It would be big and rich on the one hand but then have this tremendous backbone of acidity that would keep it fresh and bright. It was very peppery, it was very spicy, it was not his cup of tea, but for me it really ignited this curiosity. I had a project for a number of years called Kenneth Crawford Wines that some of you may remember, and our goal out the gate was, we always knew we would make some Pinot and some Chardonnay and some other things from the area, but our goal out the gate was to make some Sta. Rita Hills Syrah, and as much of it as we could. At the time there was even a bit of resistance, in the Sta. Rita Hills to us championing Syrah, because the focus of the area at the time, trying to establish itself in the marketplace was very specific to Pinot and Chardonnay. We really felt like we were bucking the trend, by promoting Syrah, but we were convinced that Syrah in the Sta. Rita Hills, in that climate, was special and unique and worthy of that attention. So I’ve been making Syrah from the area for a very long time. I don’t think I’m as brave as Scott. You’re drinking the youngest wine here is mine. Partly purposeful, partly the dynamics of a very small winery, in needing to get wine out into the market. I bring the fruit in, it cold soaks for a few days, it is then inoculated and spends a good 14, 15 days during fermentation, pressed off, I use only neutral barrels for this wine, because again, like these other guys, I really want to let the fruit shine through. I want you to smell and taste Sta. Rita Hills fruit. I agree, I’ve made wine from fruit from Ballard Canyon from the Los Alamos area, they are all excellent Syrah producing areas. What I love about the Sta. Rita Hills is the really dark earthy qualities we get in the Sta. Rita Hills, that tar and creosote, maybe fresh tobacco leaf, that kind of thing that comes out of the wines. But I’m really most struck by the structure of the wines from the area. That sort of quivering tension we get between rich ripe fruit and striking acidity and a bit of minerality that we get in the core of that wine. That’s what I love about the Sta. Rita Hills. There it is.

WTS: Mark also produces Pinot Noir. Can you compare and contrast, producing Syrah with Pinot? What are the differences for you?

Mark Horvath: Well, comparing and contrasting Syrah and Pinot Noir in the Sta. Rita Hills in particular, is really interesting because I think Pinot Noir has a lot of the same characteristics in the Sta. Rita Hills that Syrah has in that, it is such a cool and challenging area to grow grapes in. Same thing happens with Pinot Noir, I think Sta. Rita Hills is rather famous for making somewhat dark, rich, but definitely spicy Pinot Noir. Our Pinots are known for being on the spicy side, and I think that’s very distinctive about the area. Syrahs are the same way. I think there’s a lot of sandy soil. You know Zotovich Vineyard is a really interesting vineyard in the fact that it’s not a very interesting vineyard to look at. It’s a very flat, very simple deep sandy vineyard, and yet the fruit that comes out of there is just extraordinary. You know, I source from these really dramatic hillsides in a lot of different areas in the Sta. Rita Hills that are really amazing to look at and as a winemaker, you stand there and go “Wow, this is going to make something interesting, I mean, look at this soil, look at this aspect, and the wines are awesome. Then you go over to Zotovich and you stand there and it’s like “Hmm.” , you know, I hope this does what I think it’s going to do, and it does every time. It’s really interesting and unique. I think its…Larry touched on it, there’s all this sand on the surface and it is like beach sand at Zotovich, it’s probably 12 to 15 inches of just beach sand. But then below that you’ve got all this ancient seabed, you’ve got sedimentary rock, you’ve got all this really interesting stuff, that I think the vines really dig deep for. And it’s what ends up making the wines so unique from there. I think the Sta. Rita Hills has this great, I use the word “tension” and probably too much, but I just feel like between ripe rich fruit and vibrant fresh acidity, both the Pinot Noirs and the Syrahs have that same characteristic, obviously different flavors and aromas, but that structure, that tension, that freshness in the wines, I think holds through whether it’s Pinot, Chardonnay as a matter of fact as well and Syrah. I think the area is known for that.

WTS: Can you tell us where the name Crawford Family comes from?

Mark Horvath: So my middle name is Crawford. My first project with “Kenneth Crawford”, it was our middle names, it was better than Mark and Joey’s wine. That just did not have the right ring. I told my dad early on “Horvath is not going on a label, it just doesn’t work for a wine label.” I had to deal with Horvath my entire youth and so I wasn’t going to put it on a label. It’s also my Mom’s maiden name and my Mom was instrumental when we moved here in helping finance a young winery and so it’s sort of an homage to Mom as well. So, yeah, Crawford is my middle name.

WTS: Thank you for sharing, I didn’t know that. And so Crawford Family Wines tasting room is in Buellton.

Mark Horvath: That’s it! Right around the corner, right by Pea Soup Andersen. I use a little of the PSA yeast as a matter of fact. It’s been known to float around my winery too.

WTS: His lovely wife Wendy, gotta love a Wendy, she is at the tasting room today.

Mark Horvath: Yep, she’s there manning the fort.

WTS: Thank you Mark.

Mark Horvath: Thank you.

Scott Sampler of CCGP on White Hawk Syrah

Scott Sampler

Syrah Seminar 2016 Santa Barbara Vintners

Our Syrah Seminar Series continues with Scott Sampler of the Central Coast Group Project speaking on his “Names” 2012 White Hawk Syrah.  This is another Syrah from the Los Alamos Valley in Santa Barbara County.  This Valley lies at the mid point, North and South of the Santa Barbara Region.

The Central Coast Group Project

Scott Sampler, Central Coast Group Project

The first thing that strikes you about Scott Sampler is his humbleness. He is quiet and almost a little shy. Even the name of his winery “The Central Coast Group Project”, is not all about him, it’s meant to be inclusive of all the people that helped him along the way to bring this wine to fruition.  Of course once you get him speaking on wine…And today he was speaking on his White Hawk Syrah.

We met Scott at the beginning of the Spring Weekend at the Big Bottle Bash. We happened to be sitting with a friend of his, Eric, who helps him in the winery (again…another in the Group). Scott came by to pour some of his wine, and Eric had already prepared us for tasting something different. Scott is playing with maceration times. Typical extended maceration times are from 7 to 44 days, but Scott poured us a Grenache that had a 100-day maceration period and a GSM that had been 120 days in maceration.

We had an opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with Scott at the Larner Fête, and there will be more on that to come!

Wendy Thies Sell shared one of my favorite quotes from Scott with us, and you will find it in the transcript below. Wendy said “The first time I met Scott…I was crazy enough to ask him ‘Are you like a mad scientist…?’ and without even blinking he said ‘No I prefer to think of myself as more of an alchemist.’”

Extended Maceration

Okay, so let’s delve into a little on this extended maceration thing.

First off, what is maceration? It’s the time during fermentation when the grape skins and colors are left in the juice. Dr. Vinny likens it to steeping tea. http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/42983

You also sometimes hear about “cold soak” or “cold maceration”.  That is when you leave the grapes on the skins in a cold temperature, this keeps them from going into fermentation.  Cold soaks pull color and flavor typically without pulling so much in the way of tannins.

Extending the maceration during fermentation you get more color and flavor from the grape skin and seeds. This can also change the wines texture. You can add complexity, but you can also overdo tannins, which can make the wine astringent where it will overly dry your mouth out. I did read about Polymerization, where the mouth feel is rounded because the tannins form a chain. (This is way sciency and I will do more research and speak more with Scott, because this kind of thing fascinates me).

So Scott, in April, still had grapes macerating from the 2015 harvest. I look forward to tasting these!

The Central Coast Group Project 2012 “Names”  White Hawk Syrah

At the seminar we tasted Scott’s 2012 “Names” White Hawk Syrah from White Hawk Vineyard in Los Alamos. This was his first vintage. He picked all of the grapes on the same day, but separated them into lots according to block and clone. This had a 43-day maceration time, and then aged 20 months in neutral French oak with 18 months on the gross lees and he produced 150 cases.

The Central Coast Group Project has a website at http://www.ccgpwines.com/

They are a working winery and do not have a tasting room, but…they can occasionally do a tasting by appointment. You can reach them at (805) 874-2316.

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 5: Scott Sampler – Central Coast Group Project on White Hawk Syrah

We broke the video of Scott’s portion of the Panel discussion into two parts and the Transcript holds extra information not included in the footage.

The Transcript (with extras)

Wendy Thies Sell: Next up is another wine sourced from White Hawk Vineyard in Los Alamos, Central Coast Group Project’s 2012 “Names” Syrah.

The first time that I met winemaker Scott Sampler was February 8th, 2014. Michael Larner had invited me to come to the Buellton Bodegas, where he and several others make wine. And he said, “You should go meet Scott, you should go taste his wines.” And the door had a big sign, “DO NOT ENTER and or Knock”, and I was afraid of what we were going to find in there. But it was February, and Scott still had Syrah cold soaking in bins in his winery that had not been pressed yet. His 2013 harvest, still wasn’t over in February. He pulled back the plastic covers and I was intoxicated by the aromas. And then we tasted from the barrels and I realized that he was on to something. That wine in the barrel is what we are tasting today. He believes that he is probably the only winemaker, anywhere doing this. 2012 was Scott’s first vintage with this wine label and this is his first time on a wine panel. So thank you so much Scott for debuting your wines with us.

Scott, tell us about this unique, labor-intensive way of making wine.

Scott Sampler: Well I wouldn’t say I’m the only person doing long maceration, skin post fermentation macerations, but now I’m doing 6 month, 7 month macerations and those are a little bit unusual, a lot unusual for red Rhone varietals or just about any varietals. It’s pretty unique in California. There are some crazy Italian wine makers that I’ve liked over the years and that’s kind of where I started, where I got the idea to experiment with this. I kind of like to say that my grandmother taught me how to make wine, ‘cause it’s like cooking sauce. It’s like something that you can understand after fermentation, you stir and taste and as the flavors develop over time then you develop structure and depth and balance and then you press.

Two weeks before the harvest in 2012, I didn’t have a project. The first project that I was in just fell apart and I didn’t have any grape sources and I didn’t have anyplace to make the wines. And so, I started telling people. People like Michael Larner, who I was getting fruit from previously, actually stepped in and figured out a way for me to get fruit. At White Hawk, fortunately it was a bumper crop in 2012. Some of the vineyard managers were able to sculpt areas out of sold out vineyards, where I could get my fruit. White Hawk was definitely one of my favorite vineyards. I’m kind of a younger, …well not in age, but in experience, wine maker and I’d been going to Silver Lake Wines when it opened, and there’s this cool guy, George, he used to be the sommelier at Campanile, the classic restaurant in LA, and he had this dead vintage White Hawk Wines, I mean, it was a dead label. They had made an estate wine and stopped making it. So he had these old vintages, 2002, 2001, and I was tasting these in 2010. I thought the fruit was amazing. It kind of had the structure and the spice and some of the more savory qualities that I like from the Northern Rhone, but it also had the California sunshine beaming through it. So when I came up here, I sought out this fruit. It’s really hard to find, because at that time I guess Mesa Vineyard Care didn’t even have a website. I finally found it and was just lucky that someone was just coming off the vineyard when I made the phone call and got on. The reason why I called it the Group Project was because of the generosity of all these people. I was in a different industry before this and what really struck me, was just how generous the wine culture is in this area, how generous winemakers are with each other in terms of the knowledge of making wine. I just feel greatly honored to be up here with my comrades.

WTS: Scott makes many, many different Syrahs and you’re really focused on Syrah, while you do make other varieties. Tell us about the other wines that you make. There are quite a few.

Scott Sampler: I do mostly red Rhones, so Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, some skin fermented Viognier and a have Merlot, Cabernet, Sangiovese, but this is all coming out later. The 2012 vintage, because I was just scrambling for fruit 2 weeks before harvest, is just all Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre. I essentially made 4 Syrahs from White Hawk. I picked all the fruit on the same day, and then vinified it separately. So different clonal selections, different blocks, all vinified separately, all native ambient yeast, meaning that I don’t inoculate, but you know there’s a lot of yeast floating around in the air. I used to joke that I used the PSA 246 (laughter from the room), Pea Soup Andersens 246 yeast strain, because where I was making the wine that year was very close to Pea Soup Andersens. It was really hot, that fermentation was really hot, and the 2012 ferments were really hot they got into the 90’s. Now I’m making wine at the Buellton Bodegas. I was making wine with Michael Larner at his first spot and then moved with him to the Buellton Bodegas so now my fermentations are a little cooler. This had a 3-day cold soak, it was 43 days on the skin pomace stirring every day and then pressing. Neutral oak 20 months, racked once at 18 and then bottled at 20. Sulfured twice, I don’t use any sulfur through these long extended macerations, I try to keep things alive for as long as possible.

WTS: Scott your 2015 Harvest isn’t over yet is it? (This is April of 2016 keep in mind)

Scott Sampler: No.

WTS: He hasn’t pressed the fruit that was picked yet in 2015.

Scott Sampler: No I’m still totally all in the 2015 harvest, just pushing (Chris Hammell “summer is coming”). I know. At first you start out with a lot of fear that your wine might turn, there’s a lot of risk of oxidation and other bacterial and microbial things that can happen. As I’ve been doing it, I’ve just been able to do it longer and longer and the wine goes through different cycles and so I’m trying to see how far I can go. I like where it’s going, it goes kind of deeper and deeper into the grape. We’ll see, maybe, I don’t know. I’m pushing it to the edge this year. We’ll see what happens.

WTS: The first time I met Scott I said, I was crazy enough to ask him “Are you like a mad scientist in here?” and without even blinking he said “No I prefer to think of myself as more of an alchemist.” So Scott does not have a tasting room but you’ll take people by appointment.

Scott Sampler: I’m happy to show people around if they give me a call and I’m around, I’m happy to introduce people to the winery.

WTS: Thank you Scott.

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