Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara’s newest AVA

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Ballard Canyon is the newest of the AVA’s in Santa Barbara County, established in October of 2013.  This relatively small AVA encompassing only 7,800 acres sits at the center of the Santa Ynez Valley with Los Olivos to the North East and Solvang to the South. It produces Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier.  Syrah accounts for almost half of the planting.

ballard canyon ava

ballard canyon ava

Ballard Canyon runs North-South, which protects it from the winds coming through the transverse valley than runs through the Santa Ynez Valley.  Happy Canyon is thought of as the warmest part of the region with daytime temperatures of 102, but it also drops to 48 overnight.  Ballard canyons highs are a little lower, but their nighttime lows are also a little higher, this allows the  grapes to stay warmer over night and warm up more quickly in the morning.

There are 18 Vintners and growers in the Canyon and 6 wineries:  Larner, Stolpman, Rusack, Saarloos & Sons, Jonata & Beckmen.

The first vines were planted in this area in 1974 at the Ballard Canyon Winery.  Today this property is Rusack Vineyards.  The 17 acre estate was replanted in 2003 with varieties of grape that would capture the character of Ballard Canyon.  It is now planted in Sangiovese and Syrah primarily with bits of Savignon Blanc, Semillon and Petite Sirah.  Everything is farmed in small lots.

The Rusack’s bought this property in 1995 and in 2013 hired Steven Gerbac to be their winemaker. In addition to their Ballard Canyon property, the Rusack’s have a newly planted vineyard on Santa Catalina Island (but that story is for another day).

The winery is set back in on the property and you follow the winding drive through the old oaks to their tasting room. They have a lovely redwood deck on the front of the tasting room with tables and great vineyard views.  It is shaded by the oaks so it makes the perfect spot for a picnic.

Larner is on the southern end of Ballard Canyon.  When Michael and Christine Larner purchased the land in 1997 it was nothing but sage and chaparral with Texas Longhorns on the property.  Now the 34 acres of vineyard include 23 acres of Syrah, 6 acres of Grenache and smaller plots of Viognier, Malvasia Blanca and Mourvedre. For a number of years they sold fruit to wineries, but in 2009 they began making their own.

Michael Larner is also the instigator behind the Ballad Canyon AVA.  In 2010 the vintners in Ballad Canyon gathered to coordinate an event on Syrah.  Michael got them together again after the event and recruited Wes Hagen  of Clos Pepe to help them develop plans for creating the AVA.

You can visit the Larner Tasting room is located in Los Olivos.  They hope eventually to have a beautiful tasting room on their property in the old Ballard General Store.  (again, another story for another day)

Tom Beckmen purchased a 365 acre hillside property in 1996 that is now Beckmen Vineyards.  With elevations of up to 1250 feet, this property would become the Purisima Mountain Vineyard. Tom & his son Steve farm this property and  they are certified biodynamic. They vineyard is planted with seven clones of Syrah that fill 18 blocks, five clones of Grenache that fill 8 blocks and smaller plantings  of Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rousanne, Marsanne, Mourvedre and Sauvignon Blanc. The soils here are clay and clay loam with a limestone subsoil, which while typical of the soil in Rhone, is a rarity in California.

Their tasting room is at the winery and is south of Los Olivos.  Take a picnic and enjoy the views from one of the three gazebos at the duck pond after your tasting!

Stolpman was founded in 1990 by Tom & Marilyn Stolpman.  This vineyard in the limestone hills was turning out fruit for cult wines like Sine Qua Non & Ojai Vineyards, until in 1997 they started producing their own wines.  Their winemaker Sashi Moorman (who also works with Sandhi & Evening Land) joined them in 2001 and works closely with the Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano.  They have experimented with high density plantings and dry farming.  They produce Syrah, Roussane, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc with limited plantings of Grenache, Viognier, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay which they mostly use for blending.  Today Tom’s son Peter manages the vineyards and winery.

Stolpman's Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

Stolpman’s Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos on Alamo Pintado, in their little red cottage.  The cottage has fables. One says it was moved here from Arroyo Grande in the early 1900’s. Another claims it was built from scrap lumber from an old military barracks.  Regardless the Stolpman’s have filled it with a great staff and designed a Tuscan inspired bar. Plus they have a picnic area under the persimmon tree out front.  In the summer they even have a farm stand with local produce.

Jonata (pronounced Ho-na-ta, which is the Chumash word for “live oak”)has an 84 acre vineyard with sandy soil planted in Syrah, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc.

When they originally bought the property the French vineyard expert they brought in found only 5 acres of land on the 600 acre property that he felt were suitable to growing grapes.  Matt Dees joined them in 2004 as their winemaker and Ruben Solorzano is their vineyard manager.

Here there is extreme detail in the growing.  Each shoot and cluster is individually manicured.   Lots are separately pulled from each distinct part of the vineyard and put into different barrels or tanks before blending.  Well known French wine expert Michel Rolland comes in to check aging potential before bottling.  As a result of all of this extra attention and the fact that if a vintage doesn’t live up to their standards, they simply won’t produce a wine from it, these bottles can run up to $125 per bottle. Their 2010 La Sangre  de Jonata Syrah was given 97 points by Wine Advocate.

A little back story.  This winery is owned by Stanley Kroenke, a real estate developer who owns the Dever Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.  He is also one of the leaders of the consortium that purchased Screaming Eagle.

Wines here are only sold through the mailing list. http://jonata.com

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Windmill on Saarloos & Son’s Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Last but not least I will mention Saarloos & Sons.  Their Windmill Ranch Vineyard lies within this AVA.

Saarloos & Sons is a family business that is 4 generations in the making.  Each of their releases is unique and is never duplicated.  Their goal is to capture the year in a bottle and bring you a high quality wine that they name in honor of a family member.  They have a 250 year plan, thinking not just for the next generation but for the next 50.  Their goal is “Honoring + Preparing”  and their wines are heartfelt and unique.  Their winemaker and resident chronicler is Keith Saarloos.  Check out the blog for amazing vineyard videos and for philosophic posts on life, family and farming (amongst other things).

And head to their tasting room in Los Olivos.  If you are lucky, Brad will be there and will fill your glass and your spirit as he passionately talks about the wines and his family that made them.

And…have to mention, if you are there on the weekend, try the cupcake pairings!

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons tasting room in Los Olivos

Over the upcoming Vintners Spring Weekend you will be able to taste many of these wines at the Grand Tasting on Saturday April 12th.  In addition, Steve Beckmen will be leading a Vineyard Hike with with wine at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard on Friday Spril 11th.  Larner will be pouring wines at the Barrel Toasting Seminar and Tasting at the Buellton Bodegas on Friday evening. Also Friday evening Beckmen and Larner will be pouring at the 90+ Wine & Dine event at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara.  Beckmen will also be pouring on Sunday at the Farm-to-Table Picnic at the Fess Parker Ranch.

2013 Spring Vintners' Festival at the Mission Santa Ines

2013 Spring Vintners’ Festival at the Mission Santa Ines

Visit http://www.sbvintnersweekend.com  for all the Spring Weekend Events or http://www.sbcountywines.com for anything you want to know about the Santa Barbara County vineyards or wineries.

Shale Oak – a holistic sense of sustainability

Shale OAK Winery

In researching for our trip to Paso, I came across CellarPass.  Cellar Pass provides online reservations for tastings at wineries.  I found Shale Oak through them and scheduled a 10 am tasting.

This stunning tasting room is off of 46W on Oakdale road. The winery released it’s inaugural vintage in May of 2011, and opened their tasting room later that year.  This winery was built to be sustainable and the building is LEED certified.  At least 1/3 of the wineries energy needs are supplied by the solar photovoltaic panels on the building. The redwood used on the building is 100 year old reclaimed wood from Vandenburg.  All the items in their gift shop are repurposed items.

The owner Al Good was raised in Virginia and is an entrepreneurial farmer.  He has developed a holistic approach to the agriculture business.  The sense of land stewardship is what drives Shale Oak.  Their winemaker Curtis Hascall is in his early 30’s and grew up in Watford England.  He graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in food-science.  He worked with Consulting winemaker Kevin Patrick Riley before coming on board with Shale Oak.  Consultant winemaker Kevin Riley is well know in Paso and consults for several wineries as well as owning and running Proulx with his wife Genoa. His adventure style shows in the wines.

Before we began our tasting our pourer got us each a small glass of a palate cleanser called evo that was developed by a couple for their senior project at Cal Poly.  The pH is the same as wine, so it is better than crackers or water.  Our tasting began with the 2011 Sui.  Sui is the second element in Japanese philosophy and represents water, fluidity, magnetism and suppleness.  This blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Albarino, Pinot Grigio is bright and clear with honeydew melon and a nice minerality.  We next moved on to the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I know…Cabernet as the first red on a menu?  Seems a little out of order doesn’t it?  But this is  a lovely approachable soft cab with just a little petite Verdot.  The Cab has a very interesting nose.  It is deep rich and smoky.  On the palate it is lighter bodied almost with a Pinot Noir mouth feel, but still a very deep nose.

The 2009 Syrah had berries on the nose and was meaty and smoky on the palate.  This is a fruit forward new world style wine.

The 2009 Petite Sirah has a sense of caramel, this is a bigger wine, but very approachable.  You get violets on the nose.  Unlike many Petite Sirahs this is not heavy or inky.  It has great aromas and flavors but is lighter on the palate.  They once did a pairing of this with an ice cream with a caramel ribbon (yum).

The 2009 Petit Verdot is dry but not as dry as a typical Petit Verdot.  You get a burst of raisin with this.  This one sits at 16% alcohol but is not hot.

The Cabernet and all of their whites are grown on their Pleasant Valley Vineyard on the East side. Here on the property by the winery they grow Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel.  The Zin is young and not producing much yet so they supplement their Zin by buying fruit from Willow Creek Farms right down the road.  Willow Creek is owned by Kevin Riley.

Their white wines are aged in stainless, and the reds in oak.  Their 2012 Zin is currently aging in New Oak.

The tasting room is stunning with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows on the front, clean lines and a sense of peacefulness.

They have a beautiful patio where they have music on the last Sunday of each month.  They sell wine by the glass and encourage people to bring their lunch and enjoy the patio.

Really this place is stunning and the wines were really wonderful.

If you need a little Zen time, this is the place to come.  Bring a snack, get a glass of one of their wines and relax and rejuvenate on the serene patio with the beautiful water features.

Sculpterra Wine & Art – Roaming the sculpture garden

Sculpterra Winery

Sculpterra is located on the East side of Paso off of Linne Road. This unique winery greets you with a magnificent sculpture garden.  Surrounded by gorgeous iron fencing by master black smith Robert C. Bentley the garden itself is filled with the beautiful sculpture work of John Jagger.

Dr. Warren Frankel bought this property back in the 1980’s and moved his family there in 1990.  Paul his son is the winemaker, a graduate of Cal Poly in Viticulture and Enology.  Paul is more than just the winemaker, he also manages the vineyards, deals with fruit and juice sales and occasionally can be found pouring in the tasting room.

As we were here on a Saturday, the winery was busy and had an accordion player playing live in the tasting room.  In addition to making their own wines, they also sell bulk fruit and juice to small independent winemakers.  They do a wide variety of wines here, including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Mourvedre, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines are lovely and it is a wonderful place to come grab a glass of wine and wander the sculpture garden for a little art fix.

Enjoy a virtual stroll through their amazing sculpture gardens…you’ll have to provide your own wine, I recommend a rose.

Frangipani, a piece of paradise on the De Portola Trail

Frangipani Winery

Frangipani…for me I immediately think of the musical “South Pacific”.  Frangipani is the word they use for plumeria the island flower that I grew up making leis with in Hawaii.  So…I envisioned a tropical paradise.  I thought, this winery must be owned by someone creating their own paradise.  Well…it’s a bit simpler than that.  The owner/winemaker is Don Frangipani.  He has however created his own piece of paradise here on the De Portola Wine trail.

We stopped by Frangipani on our final morning in Temecula on our last trip.  They had Sunday Brunch advertised on their website and it seemed like the perfect way to wrap up our trip.

Frangipani Dog Frannie

Frangipani Dog Frannie

We were greeting in the parking lot by “Franni” dog and greeter.  After getting a good scratch he led us to the door.  We were early (as usual) and it was pretty quiet when we arrived.  JoAnn Frangipani, Don’s wife set us up with Mango Mimosas with their house sparkling and pointed us to the buffet.  There were fresh muffins and pumpkin bread as well as bagels with lox. The cook made us fresh pulled pork benedicts and we enjoyed the granola fruit parfaits while we waited for that to finish.  Several groups came in while we were there.

Frangipani Patio

Frangipani Patio

They have an outdoor patio with a great view and bocce ball courts.  JoAnn says the patio stays pretty full in the summer.  We didn’t taste here as we were getting on the road to head home.  I look forward to coming back, tasting and enjoying the patio.  The atmosphere here is warm and friendly and JoAnn immediately makes you feel welcome and at home.

Frangipani View

Frangipani View

Don began working with wine in 1995 at Cilurzo Winery in Temecula.  He opened Frangipani in 2003.  He loves red wines and mixes classic French varieties of Petite Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with old world Italian styles.  They grow Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese, Grenache and Petite Sirah on their estate.

Monte de Oro – “Vines, Wine, People”

Monte De Oro depcicted in oil

This Temecula Valley winery is impressive as you drive up toward the end of Rancho California Road. The building sits on a rise and is expansive and inviting. In the early mornings there are typically balloons taking off from here making for picture perfect morning shots with their vineyards out front.

Monte De Oro Tasting Room Window View

Tasting Room Window View

The Monte de Oro winery is owned by OGB (One Great Blend) Partners, which is a collection of 68 family owners from across America, South Africa and the UK.

The Vineyards are located around the valley. The first, Vista Del Monte was planted in 2002 with 18 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They added 18 acres at the DePortola vineyard and 23 acres at the Galway vineyard in 2003 planted with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli.

In 2007 they broke ground on the winery and in 2008 planted their 4th vineyard at the winery growing Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Committed to sustainability the winery created a basement wine cave under the winery rather than building a barrel room above ground that would need to have a system for climate control. One of the most impressive sites in the building is walking across the glass floor that allows you to see down into the barrel room. They are also planning to build a gravity flow winery which reduces the energy needed to pump the wine as well as being gentler on the grapes, and they are looking to add solar panels to supply energy in the future.

The tasting room here is huge with beautiful views of the patio and beyond that the valley. They offer a variety of tours and private tastings that you can schedule in advance in addition to the Standard and Black Label Tastings available daily in the tasting room. Also open on the weekends is the MDO Bistro offering a Bistro menu Friday thru Sunday from 11-4.

Monte de Oro patio

Monte de Oro patio

When we visited the winery was busy and it was towards the end of the day. We tasted through a wide variety of their wines, most of which they produce about 250 cases each. All of the wines are very affordable running from $18 to $33 per bottle. watched a group head out for a tour while we were there and I would like to return to do a tour and learn a little more about their wines.

A Cloudy afternoon at the View (Winebar not the talk show!)

View Bar Tivioli Village

I spent an afternoon with Joey at the View Wine Bar (420 South Rampart Las Vegas at Tivoli Village) awhile ago and shared with you  in my Adventures in Sauvignon Blanc blog. Well today I took Michael along for lunch at The View.  The weather was about the same, cloudy and a little windy, but the view was better because the fountain was full and working (as opposed to dry and filled with men in yellow vests cleaning it!).  The location is a little hard to find, which is why we are talking about it here and giving you directions.  You will find it above Brio at Tivoli Village. To get there, walk past the entrance to Brio and around the corner and look for LV Market!  Enter there and cross through the downstairs bistro and take the stairs to the 2nd floor. Head to the front of the building and relax in the industrial decadence of the “View”.

View from View Bar

View from View Bar

You can see the fountain out the front windows and the mix of industrial architecture with exposed ceilings and ducts and tufted couches and seats with natural woods and wine bottle light fixtures in plumbing pipes is enchanting in my opinion.  My advice is to go on a weekday mid day and sit at the bar.  Joey will be working and she is full of great advice on food and wine.  If you like a little more action, well then hit it in the evenings when Joey tells me the place is hoppin’!

Michael and I strolled up and had a seat at the bar to enjoy the view.  The menu is full of great small plate items so you can order a bunch and enjoy.  We ordered the risotto cakes (which I enjoyed last time) the tuna tartare tacos, the Tivoli wrapped dates and the Gnocchi Gratin.  Michael started with the S.A. Prum, Essence Riesling from Germany and I started with the Cloudline Pinot Noir.  The S.A. Prum is from Mosel, and the Cloudline is a Willamette Valley Pinot.  We both enjoyed the wines and felt both were good food wines.  We tasted with the Tivoli wrapped dates which are dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds wrapped in prosciutto and  then set in a balsamic reduction.  We moved on to tasting with the Tuna tartare tacos, which were mini hard shell tacos with raw tuna, avocado, fresh lettuce and a little creme fraiche.  Then the gnocchi gratin, which went surprisingly well with the Pinot! The acid cut through beautifully with the cheese and paired nicely with the risotto cakes which are breaded fried squares of risotto topped with grated parmesan and lemon zest.  The lemon zest added a wonderful fragrance!  Michael moved on to an Italian Pinot Grigio called VOGA which again paired great with the food.  We talked about European wines and how they are meant to pair with food which makes them different from many new world wines that are blended to drink alone.  As we moved on to dessert, we settled on the Dark Chocolate Nutella Cake and paired it with the Condundrum Red (which obviously is a whole lot of Zinfandel and a bit of Petite Sirah) and Joey’s favorite (that she let me taste when we walked in) Earthquake Petite Sirah from Lodi.  The Earthquake was beautiful on it’s own while the Conundrum was a little hot.  When paired with the Chocolate Nutella cake, both were stunning!

View Wine Bar Tivioli Village from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.

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Wilson Creek, so much more than Almond champagne

Wilson Creek Sign Art in Oil

I will admit to a bit of snobbery.  I really had no desire to go to Wilson Creek in Temecula. I mean you find bottles of their Almond champagne in Long’s Drug Stores (well you did when they were around).  I figured how could they be creating wine I would like to drink?  Well… there is a lot more to them then the Almond champagne.

Wilson Creek is located at the far east end of Rancho California Road and it is rare that you will get there and find the parking lot not full.  While the grounds are huge and beautiful, a favorite for weddings and the buildings and event center large and impressive, this is still a family affair at heart.

Wilson Creek View

Wilson Creek View

Gerry and Rosie Wilson acquired the 20 acre vineyard in 1996 with the simple intent of running a fun family business and making great wine. With the entire family, children and grand children as well as 5 golden retrievers who can be seen often on property, they have succeeded in making this a family affair.

The Lower Garden is open to parties of 10 or less for picnicing. They just ask that you don’t come to camp!  No tents or shade covers, ice chests or animals and no outside alcoholic beverages.

The Creekside Restaurant offers a menu for lunch that can be enjoyed around the grounds.  You place your order at the Concert Stage and it will be delivered to you in the upper garden.  You can enjoy this in the lower garden also, but you will need to pick up your order.  The menu includes a variety of lunch items as well as a full wine list, beer and other beverages.

With their Event Center Wilson Creek stays busy with Corporate Events and private parties.  The Event Center includes 3 spaces that can accommodate 50-300 people each with a dance floor.  In addition they have two stages that can accommodate up to 400 guests.  Really this place can be party central for 6 or 7 large parties at time!

Bill Wilson is the son and owner.  He works with his Mom & Dad, Brother & Sister, Wife, brother in law & sister in law.  (Did I mention that this was a family affair?) Bill’s Mom and Dad can often be seen on the grounds with their two golden retrievers. They have 92 acres and grow 12 varieties on the estate and then source some grapes.  The varieties used in their wines include: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah and Zinfandel.  They also . When you listen to Bill you know that you are not dealing with a corporation, this is a joyful family affair.  They incorporated what they loved about the wineries they visited when they created Wilson Creek.  And it’s not just about their winery, they want to promote Temecula and encourage people to come and taste, enjoy and learn.  Listen to the great interview with him at http://www.temeculawines.org/videos/ and see exactly what I mean.

I didn’t think it was possible that Wilson Creek used Methode Champenois for their almond champagne, and I was right. There is no way they could do that and sell it at that price!  What I was surprised by, was that they do use the Charmat method which is fermenting the wine in bulk in stainless steel tanks!  The final method they actually refer to as “cheating” on their site.  In this method CO2 is injected into the wine.  Typically this method causes very large bubble that can cause Huge headaches!  They do not cheat at Wilson Creek.  They do, by the way have a wonderful section of their website on wine education called Wine 101 that Mick Wilson put together with fascinating information on Barrels, Port, Champagne, Wine Varietals and much more.  http://www.wilsoncreekwinery.com/Wine-101/Default.aspx

Wilson Creek Picnic View

Wilson Creek Picnic View

The next time you are in Temecula, drive all the way out Rancho California to Wilson Creek, taste some wine, stroll the grounds and say hello to the Wilson’s.  You will know them by the golden retrievers at their sides!

Wiens, Barrel Tasting Room

Wien's Front Entrance

We have long been members of Wiens Wine Club.

Wien's Barrel Room from main room

Wien’s Barrel Room from main room

On our first trip to Temecula it was the last stop of our second day and we loved their wines.   Not trusting ourselves, we went back the next day in the morning to be sure that our consumption of wine the day before had not swayed our thoughts and were reassured that these were wonderful wines.  So…we stop by whenever we are in Temecula but of course we are always there through the week and never had the opportunity to taste in the Barrel Room whichis open exclusively for members on the weekend.  So….since we had a weekend…..

Wien's Barrel Room

Wien’s Barrel Room

The barrel room is stunning, it is warm and intimate and Susan who poured with us felt free to give us lots of information.  We began our tasting with their new sparkling wine done in the traditional medod. The Chanson de Soliel (Song of the Sun) is a beautiful Blanc de Blanc that is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir and it is done in a Brut style.  I got citrus and lime and a little yeast.  This is leaps and bounds above their Amour de L’Orange in style and sophistication.

Next we tasted the 2011 Solace which is a white blend with Roussane.  It had a dusty nose and nice acid. They mention camomile and lemon grass in their description and I definitely got that.

Now on to my favorite…the 2011 Verdelho.  Another one of those wines that you hear multiple pronunciations of it’s name.  I had been pronouncing it ver-DEY-ho but Susan said ver-DEL-oh, so I guess this ranks right up there with my learning curve for pronouncing Paso Robles (it’s ro-buhls), I was getting too fancy for myself.  Maybe that was just the tricky little joke that this wine started me out with to prime me.  This wine has all the tartness of a Savignon Blanc on the nose and lots of grapefruit ont he palate and it is completely “playful” as Susan put it and unexpected.  This wine also has pear on the nose and it is not overpoweringly tart or sweet.  When you take a sip it rolls up the center of your tongue and dissipates in the back of the palate.  It was enchanting and made me giggle!  I am infatuated with this wine.

We moved on to the 2011 Pinot Noir which is loamy on the nose like soil, green and earthy with good pepper and silky tannins.  It was cool in the mouth with cranberry and tart red fruit.  Yumm…

The 2011 Tempranillo-Petite Sirah Blend was plummy with strawberries and earth.  It was very smooth but had a thick mouth feel.  This is a lovely sipping wine that is warm in the mouth without being hot.  Complex with what felt like low tannins.

Now on to the Crowded (always one of my favorites) and the Reflection.  The 2010 Crowded is a blend of 38% Zinfandel, 26% Barbera, 18% Pinot Noir, 9% syrah, 6% Sangiovese, 3% Petite Sirah.  This leans Italian and is cool and smooth.  The Reflection Michael tasted more tannins.  I really enjoyed the Reflection (and look forward to drinking the 2 bottles that just arrived with the last wine club shipment).

Even though we were already feeling very VIP (there was a cheese tray on the side for everyone and Susan was taking very good care of us) Susan then went to pull a Cabernet Franc for us to taste.  This was cool with fresh black fruit and very soft tannins.  Like a well behaved Cab Franc this wild beast likes to nestle in velvet.

When we had entered the barrel room there were just a few people, by the time we left it was full, but still quiet and thoughtful.  Filled with people who really wanted to taste the wines and learn about them.  The public tasting room outside was packed when we left filled with people, who, if they like good wines, will soon be joining us as members.

Wines you can’t forget, part three

Vineyard view Lange Estate 2011

On to Part three of the wines I can’t forget.  We will venture into Paso Robles, Virginia and Oregon!

Lone Madrone The Will.

The enchanting grounds at Lone Madrone Paso Robles

Okay it’s no secret that I have a wine crush on Neil Collins and I had done research on their winery before going there so I was extra excited when his sister was pouring for us.  The grounds transport you before you ever enter the tasting room.  The story behind The Will probably got to me also.  The Will is a blend of Petite Sirah, Grenache Noir and Zinfandel source fromt he organic dry farmed Heaton Vineyards.  It is known to stain teeth!  The grapes are grown on Will’s Hill named after the Heaton’s son Will.  The wine is named in memory of Will.

The Porch at Veritas in Virginia

Veritas Cabernet Franc.

Here’s my Shout out to Virginia wineries!  I did a wine tasting day with my two best friends from College in Virginia this year and fell in love with Virginia Cabernet Franc.  My best friend found a new favorite wine in Cab Franc.  It is rich without being big and fruity, and it is easier drinking than Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the last stop of our day at Veritas and after our tasting we enjoyed a bottle out on the patio.  Of course the setting and the company made the wine taste better and makes me want to drink it to revisit that day, but also, Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite reds!

Wildhorse Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir.

The view from Wild Horse Winery

I happen to be a big fan of Kenneth Volk.  I love the way he pushes boundaries.  So going to Wildhorse was a little like a pilgrimage.  It was late in the day in the middle of the week and we were the only ones in the tasting room.  We had a fantastic tasting with a fabulously well informed (if not enthusiastic) pourer. I enjoyed everything, but when he poured the Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir I was enthralled.  This is barnyard in the best sense.  All hail to Bien Nacido for providing such incredible fruit!  We left with a bottle and I will track this wine down!  This is a wine that I will drink with my eyes closed.

 

Trisaetum Reisling.

Trisaetum Riesling with Tapas

Trisaetum was one of the last vineyards we visited in the Dundee Hills and it is WAY out on a backroad. We were there early and were the first tasters of the day.  This was a departure from our Oregon tastings because they specialize in Reisling.  The variety of Reisling that they create from several different vineyards is amazing.  Their Coast Range Reisling stands in my memory as my favorite.

When we visited the winery we did get great service from an eager and knowledgeable pourer and once others wandered in for tastings we were able to stroll the beautiful art gallery in the tasting room.  So ambience and people played a part in our initial love of the wine.

It’s fall and time for me to order some of this!  We were lucky this summer to find that Khoury’s had a few bottles of their Estate Reserve Reisling so we snatched those up.  And yes, compared to other Reislings that we had been drinking this was still far superior.

So…that’s the tip of my iceberg for wines that I can’t forget.  Of course as I have been writing more and more wines have come to mind and I know that there are many more out there that I have yet to taste.  And…did I answer the question as to why?  Probably not.  As usual wine is hard to pin down, the experience  and the taste are connected in ways that we cannot fully understand or describe but that we can most certainly enjoy.

Wines I can’t forget, part two

More on great wines that I can’t forget.  We started this in the last blog with my list of the 15 wines that I want to drink again.  These are wines that stand out in my memory.  Most were tasted at the winery and perhaps some of why I like them is because of the atmosphere or the day.  Any way we are back with 5 more of those wines and today we begin with

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc

Grgich Hills if I remember correctly was only the 2nd winery we visited in Napa.  The experience was good and informative (when I say informative you can read: Robin liked the people in the tasting room!).  We left with a split of the Fume Blanc and directions to Gott’s Roadside with directions to pair with the Ahi Burger.  It was raining and we were in the tent with tables behind the place and I was very happy.  Perhaps I was just really hungry, perhaps it was that I love ahi, perhaps because I was just learning about pairings and the guidance made me a little giddy.  At the time I only new a little about Mike Grgich (like that when you watch bottle shock…he was the winemaker behind that historic wine!) and I knew nothing about Joel Gott.  This was a memorable wine for me, I think, due to the place and time in my wine education.

Carhartt Pinot Noir

Carhartt Vineyards patio at the "Worlds Smallest Tasting Room" Los Olivos California

The tiniest tasting room on the planet is in Los Olivos, CA and I have waxed poetic on this place quite often.  So yes…the atmosphere and the people play a big part in why I love this wine.  But this one I will go on the record for saying, even if you take all that away, I would still be enamored by this wine.  I love bold Pinots with smoke, meat and barnyard.  This Pinot on the other hand was elegant and delicate and smelled of violets.  I was completely taken off guard and transported.  I adore this wine and cherish the experience of this tasting.

Tablas Creek Vermentino

Tablas Creek Tasting Room Paso Robles, CA

 

So this wine we did not taste at the vineyard!  I love Tablas Creek and we have been there twice and are very proud to be wine club members, but this particular wine was given to me as a gift from a friend.  I cannot thank Laurie and Al enough for giving me this glimpse into Vermentino.  This simple Italian white is not fancy but really fulfilling.  We make sure to pick up a bottle whenever we visit now.

Terry Hoage Syrah

View from Terry Hoage Vineyards Paso Robles CA

We stumbled upon this vineyard at the recommendation from someone in another tasting room.  The property is lovely as you can see by the vineyard view. They are on a hilltop with chickens running free and a lake on the property.  Terry Hoage played footbal at the University of Georgia in the 80’s and then played 13 seasons in the NFL as a free safety.  They moved to Paso to build a home and put in a small vineyard for landscaping.   That evolved into a love for growing grapes and then making wine. The tasting room was elegant and the staff well educated on wine.  This was the last wine we tasted that day and we left with a split that I covet in my wine cellar.  I’m afraid to drink it!  I don’t want it to be gone!

Vino Robles Petite Sirah

Vino Robles Paso Robles CA

 

It’s a struggle to get me on the Petite Sirah bandwagon. I find it often inky and sometimes cloying.  Our tasting at Vino Robles included the cheese pairings and that might have set me over the edge.  It was heaven.  I know it is here in a previous blog post, but we had a cheese with coffee and lavender that was stunning and this Petite Sirah was gorgeous.  Was I affected by the elegant surroundings, by the informative and friendly staff, by the gorgeous cheese, by the comradery with other patrons during our tasting?  Perhaps, but I still want to drink this wine again.

Stay tuned for the last 5 of my wines I can’t forget in the next post!