Esther Glen Farm and Winery with Ryan Pickens

Vista Hills Uncommon Wine Festival Ryan Pickens

We met Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, and had a chance to taste his wines.  The Uncommon Wine Festival gave us an “uncommon” occasion to meet and speak with several newer winemakers, who have smaller labels.  It was an opportunity to taste many interesting wines and hear the stories first hand of how they were conceived and made.  This was the 9th Annual event, but it was Ryan’s first time at the festival.

A little bit on Esther Glen

The name comes from Esther and Glen who came to the Dundee Hills in the 1960’s to start their holistic farm and be self-sustaining.  In 1970 Craig Rathkey came to Esther Glen. He was farming with a 1950 Vintage Formal Cub tractor and a 1948 John Deer “M” tractor.  He restores old tractors, as well as antique clocks.  In 2015 Ryan Pickens met Craig Rathkey and now Ryan makes wine with the sustainably farmed grapes grown on the vineyard.  The Estate is 15 acres located on the Willamette Valley Floor across the street from Sokol Blosser.

Ryan Pickens, the winemaker

Esther Glenn Winemaker, Ryan Pickens

Esther Glenn Winemaker, Ryan Pickens

Ryan put his Marketing degree to use working for the Benzinger Family in Sonoma, CA selling wine.  It was there that he learned about sustainable and biodynamic farming.  Talking with the Benzingers, he got the itch to work on the other side of wine, in production. He started with a harvest internship and was hooked.

“That was in 2012 and I haven’t looked back since.  I went to New Zealand, Germany, Australia, during that time also, trying to find which wine I wanted to make for the rest of my life, and Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are those three and Oregon is that place, that I’ve really found my heart, so I moved here in 2015.”

He does still work full time making wine for somebody else, so this is a side project.

“Yeah so this is just so fun, and I feel so blessed to be able to do this. I never thought that I would actually be able to start my own label.”

We tasted the two wines that Ryan was pouring, the 2017 Pinot Gris and the 2016 Pinot Noir.  Both are own rooted.

Esther Glen_Wine Bottles

Esther Glen_Wine Bottles

2017 Esther Glen Pinot Gris

This is the 2nd vintage of Pinot Gris for them, they are just getting started.  The 2016 is sold out, so not so bad for their first vintage.

The nose is bright with meyer lemon and the then a little softer on the palate. This wine retails for $18.00

2016 Esther Glen Pinot Noir

This is the first vintage of Pinot Noir for them.  It is a mix of Pommard, 777, 115 and 667.  It is aged in 20% new oak.

 “(I was).. Trying to capture, so when I moved here this forest floor, this mushroom characteristic, that everyone was talking about, and happy to see that this is starting to blossom out like that .”

There was definitely forest floor on this wine as well as leather and cola on the palate.  This wine retails for $28.00

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On Sustainability and holistic farming

Coming from Benzinger where they farm biodynamically and then at Esther Glen where that was the original idea of Esther and Glen, the grapes here are farmed sustainably.  Certification will come eventually, but it is a process and a cost and the vineyard and winery are young.  Regardless the idea of holistic farming is important to Ryan.

“Yeah, so you want to give back to the land you know, who knows if we are going to be there for 10 or 20 years, but we want to make sure that that land is ready for the next person coming around.  So really you’re just taking care of it for the next generation.

Esther Glen does tastings by appointment only and you can reach them by phone at (503)583-0970 or email them at [email protected]

You can also find them online at EstherGlen.com

And on social media on Facebook  and Instagram

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

Santa Barbara’s Wine Collection of El Paseo

El Paseo of Santa Barbara Central Coast Wine Country

Downtown Santa Barbara is picturesque with the Spanish Colonial Architecture and the trailing bougainvillea. In the heart of the Presidio Neighborhood lies the Paseo de la Guerra or El Paseo. This beautiful complex with it’s interior courtyards and passageways is the restored home of Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, the Commandante of the Presidio.

This historic property was purchased in the 1920’s and through several owners was designed into the paseo that it is today. In addition to the Casa de la Guerra Museum housed within the property, there are Shops, Wine tasting rooms and restaurants. It is a beautiful place to step back a little in time and slow your pace. The tasting rooms have gathered as the Wine Collection of El Paseo. We strolled into the center of the interior courtyard entering from the State Street side and began our tasting at…

Jamie Slone Wines

23 E. De La Guerra Street

Santa Barbara CA 93101

(805)560-6555

Open Daily 12-6

If you are a racing fan, you might know the name “Jamie Slone”. Jamie until recently, was a Formula Race Car Driver. When he would race in Indy Car weekend in Sonoma, the guys would always look to head out for a beer when there was time off. Jamie preferred to head into Sonoma and explore the wines. His fascination with wine led to the opening of Jamie Slone Wines. He works closely with his winemaker Doug Margerum, tasting blends and making suggestions, sometimes suggestions that are a little out of the norm..he has released a Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah blend and feels as if blends might be his new direction in the market.

When we walked into the beautiful tasting room we were greeted first by Sophie, their dog and then by Jamie himself. He is passionate and energetic and loves to share the experience of his wines. The tasting room he describes as an American Riviera Experience and it is both stunning and warm. His wife Kym joined us toward the end of our tasting in time for a photo.

The wines have depth and nuance. Jamie pulled out a bit of his 2013 Sauvignon Blanc for us to taste which is all but gone. We also tasted the 2011 BoRific Red blend. It is a blend of Merlot & Cab Franc and is named “BoRific” after Jamie’s nickname for Kym. We left with a bottle of the beautiful, 2013 Aloysius Chardonnay, named after Kym’s late father which is a balanced and elegant wine. He also has a lovely Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir and his 2012 Super Tuscan which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and just a hint of Malbec.

After a wonderful tasting, Jamie was kind enough to walk us down and introduce us at the MWC32 Tasting room.

Marjoram Wine Company

32 El Paseo (in the center courtyard)

Santa Barbara, CA 93101
805-845-8435

Open Daily 12-6

Jamie introduced us to the Tasting Room manager Rani at the MWC32 Tasting Room.  This tasting room is the Margerum Reserve tasting room. It is tucked inside the El Paseo as opposed to the flagship Margerum Tasting room on Anacapa Street. Rani set us up for a tasting and filled us in on much of the background of wine maker Doug Margerum.

Doug came from the restaurant industry and as such has a great love for wine and food. His parents originally purchased the Wine Cask restaurant which expanded to include a bistro and wine store. He sold the restaurant in 2007 to devote all his time to Margerum Wine, and then reopened it in 2009 with new partners. In addition to his own wines, he also makes wines for 2 other wineries in The Wine Collection of El Paseo, both Jamie Slone and Happy Canyon Vineyards.

We tasted the 2014 Riviera Rose, the 2013 Klickitat Pinot Gris (from the Margerum Ranch & Dampier Vineyards in Klickitat Washington), the 2011 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah (this is one of those wonderful Ballard Canyon Syrahs), the Black Oak Vineyard Syrah (from the Eastern side of the Los Alamos Valley), the M5 which is a Rhone Blend in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape style of Syrah, Grenach, Mourvedre, Counties and Consult.  Mid tasting Hugh, Doug’s brother, who in addition to dealing with the website and wine club is also an accomplished artist, stopped by with a Riesling for us to taste.  This came from the Kick-On Vineyard on the Western end of the Los Alamos Valley.

All the wines were beautiful and I am still dreaming about the Amaro which Doug started making 9 years ago, fortifying the wine with brandy and 40 different botanicals, roots, herbs, barks and orange peel…..this is amazing digestif, with many layers from the botanicals.

Grassini Family Vineyards

813 Anacapa Street, #6

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 897-3366

Open Daily 12-6

Lastly we revisted Grassini. The last time we were at the El Paseo, Katie Grassini had stopped by to greet us and we had a wonderful chat. The tasting room is done in deep dark woods.  The tasting bar is made of refurbished wood from old Fir trees and there are big comfy leather arm chairs. Their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was just given a top score by Jancis Robinson. While their vineyards & winery are not open to the public, they are located out in Happy Canyon where they grow Bordeaux varieties.

There are multiple tasting room experiences here, including the Estate Tasting Flight of their Sauvignon Blanc, the Equipo Red Blend, the Articondo Bordeaux Blend (named for Katie’s great grandfather), and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  They also do a reserve tasting of their library wines, a new Sauvignon Blanc flight and a wine and truffle pairing.

The estate vineyard in the warmer Happy Canyon AVA is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc with bits of Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  I was told that one of the two small blocks of Cabernet Franc is on a hill so steep that they put up a net at the bottom during harvest.  “To catch the grapes” I asked? “No, to catch the people”.

Their Equipo Red Wine is made by their team, “equip” being the spanish word for team.  The team has full control over a portion of the vineyard and a portion of the profits from this wine goes right back to the team.

Au Bon Climat

813 Anacapa Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805)963-7999

Open Daily 12-6

While we did not have time to stop by the Au Bon Climat Tasting room on this trip, we did stop in on a previous trip. Jim Clendenen is a legend in these parts. He has several labels including Au Bon Climat, Clendenen Family Vineyard, Ici/La-Bas, Barham Mendelsohn and Vita Note and you can taste many of these labels daily in his tasting room. There is a comfy couch and chairs, but I’m much more likely to be at the bar asking multiple questions of the knowledgeable people pouring the wine. You will find maps of the area vineyards laid out on tables in the tasting room which you can pour over to find each of the sourced vineyards. If you are familiar with the area, the names will be familiar beginning with the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, which is their primary vineyard source. In addition there is the Le Bon Climat Vineyard, tucked back into an valley in the upper part of the Santa Maria Valley. Twice annually they have an Open House here at the Winery, (it’s coming up this weekend!) If you are in the area, you should plan to go. Jim will be cooking! There is also the beautiful Rancho La Cuna vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley and the list goes on from their with famous names like Nielson, Sierra Madre, Talley, Sanford & Benedict and Los Alamos Vineyard.

This is the grand-daddy of them all.

Don’t miss this tasting room!

In addition you will find the main Margerum Tasting room next to Au Bon Climat on Anacapa Street as well as Happy Canyon Vineyards in the interior courtyard.

Margerum Shops Street View

Margerum Tasting Room

And of course the amazing Wine Cask Restaurant is also here with the newer Intermezzo Wine Bar that has small plates and wines on Tap.

If you find yourself in Santa Barbara, you can make a day of it just exploring the El Paseo with history, wine and great food all within steps of each other.

You will also be able to find all of these wineries at the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Grand Tasting in Buellton this weekend on Saturday April 25th. Visit the Santa Barbara Vintners site for more details on all the wineries in the area.

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.