Larner Fête 2016, Santa Barbara County

Larner fete, how it came to be

Larner Fête 2016

A celebration with 7 Winemakers each making wine from fruit sourced from Larner Vineyard

fête

a celebration or festival

from the Old French feste and the Middle English feast.

Tables at the entrance to the yard held sparkling wine glasses for the guests

You could smell the smoke from the grill and the portable wood fired pizza oven followed by the aroma of things set to make your mouth water. The buildings remind you of a small western town, with the barn looming in the center, filled with tables, each with it’s own winemaker, each serving a wine they created from grapes grown at this vineyard.

The food by Autostrada Wood Fired Pizza & Amaranto Catering

The beautiful Larner Vineyard Grounds and barn make an enchanting and welcoming place for an event like this.

Click below to dive into the visuals of the event or scroll down below it to read the rest of the story!

Larner Fête 2016

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Casa Dumetz

Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz pulls Grenache from Larner. She brought a 2014 Larner Grenache, and then a 2014 Grenache that is blended from 5 vineyards, all in Ballard Canyon (including Larner). All the grapes were picked on the same day, did a 5 day cold soak, were treated the same and then blended. She also had a GSM made with Larner Grenache.

Casa Dumetz 2014 Larner Grenache, a Ballard Canyon Grenache and a GSM.

McPrice Myers

McPrice “Mac” Myers began winemaking in the Santa Maria Valley. When he moved his winery to Paso Robles (he’s in the Adelaida AVA now) he still felt the pull of the fruit in Santa Barbara.

“Hommage a Stevan Larner” was first introduced in 2006 to honor Stevan Larner who planted Larner Vineyard in 1998. 2012 marked the tenth year Mac purchased fruit from the vineyard and he brought back Hommage a Stevan Larner to commemorate this. Mac will continue to produce this wonderful blend every vintage going forth. This is a Grenache Syrah blend. He also does a Larner Syrah.

Central Coast Group Project

Scott Sampler is exploring extended mascerations. His winery is in the Buellton Bodegas that Michael Larner founded, and is called the Central Coast Group Project. He feels that his wines are not produced by only him, rather it is a group effort with all the people from growers to all the people involved in helping to get the fruit in, the wine made and beyond.

“at the Central Coast Group Project (CCGP), the goal is simple: we hope our love of wine, generosity of spirit and humble efforts in the cellar fully translate to your glass, transporting you, if only for a sip, to the golden age… scott sampler, winemaker/proprietor”

Kaena

Mikael Sigouin of Kaena has been pulling fruit from Larner since the beginning. He is known as the “Grenache King” and the fruit from this vineyard is his favorite.

It is incredibly hard to get into the Grenache blocks at Larner and Mikael shared with us the story of how he managed to get the “Primo” block.

It seems that in the hecticness of harvest, someone accidentally picked his block. He got there and all the fruit was gone. The Larners were devasted about this mistake and asked what they could do to make it up to him. He asked for their best Grenache block in the future and so it has been ever since.

This block is located at the highest and steepest section of this amazing site, where the soil is a 7-foot deep bed of sand and then the vines hit limestone. It has the lowest yielding clone of Grenache #362. Great fruit, makes great wine.

tercero

Larry Schaffer of tercero was pouring and speaking passionately about wine. Again, he was pouring wines made from Larner grapes. He has a stunning 2011 Grenache from Larner that he says is the best Grenache he has made to date. 2011 was a cool year and these grapes were ripening into November. He only produced 3 barrels of this amazing stuff and we were thrilled to be able to taste it.

Oh, and do you see that loaf of bread in front of Larry? Yeah, he bakes too. If you are lucky he might be in his tasting room with a loaf when you drop by.

Larry is a champion of Rhones and leads the Santa Barbara Rhone Rangers. Click through to hear Larry speak on his love of Rhones varieties.

The Craig Jaffurs story

He escaped from a life as a cost analyst in the aerospace industry. After 17 years of that, he started life again, as a cellar rat at Santa Barbara Winery, and ended up deciding on a career in wine. In 1994 he made a Santa Barbara County Syrah that got great reviews in both Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate.

Craig himself was behind the table pouring the wines. This may have been a lucky last sighting, in August of 2016 he sold his winery in a rare (at least these days) family to family deal with Daniel Green. He is remaining with the winery through the first year of transition and then will sit on the board indefinitely. Perhaps he just needs a change every 17 years. Regardless it was great to have an opportunity to speak with him.

Larner Vineyard

Ah…then you have the Larner wines. Michael grows Rhone varieties, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, as well as a little Malvasia Bianca. Michael was instrumental in the creation of the Ballard Canyon AVA which is becoming more and more well known for their world class Syrah.

Michael spoke with us about this gathering of winemakers after the party.

 

 

Music was by Ruben Lee Dalton Band

a stage was set for the band, that spilled over onto the back of a flatbed truck to provide enough space.

The beautiful Coastal Oak in the Larner Vineyard

Want to know more about the Santa Barbara Wine Region? You can find plenty of information on our website. And while you are at it, follow us on Facebook or Instagram for great information on wine and the people and places behind the wines.

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2014 in Retrospect for Crushed Grape Chronicles

California Au bon climat

2014 was a big year for Crushed Grape Chronicles.  We honed our blogging and filming skills and got an in depth look at one of the most exciting wine regions in California, Santa Barbara County.

Our late 2013 trip to Santa Barbara got us hooked.  After visit with John and Christine at Hilliard Bruce and an exceptional morning harvesting pinot noir at Clos Pepe Estate for a sparkling project, we did a tasting with Wes Hagen and got a real look at the fantastic diversity and depth this area has.  Oh…and they have quite a few varieties of grapes too.

April 2014

We returned in April 2014 for the Vintners Spring Weekend.  We kicked off the weekend with dinner at Industrial Eats with the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Association.  Sta. Rita Hills is known for it’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and for it’s exceptional winemakers.  If you have not been to Santa Barbara, you may have a vision of this event in your mind of fancy people in suits at some fancy restaurant.  This is the glory of Santa Barbara.  Industrial Eats is a great restaurant in an Industrial area of Buellton, the city best known for it’s pea soup.  Here they source locally, so the menu changes depending on what is fresh and seasonal.  We did have uni and oysters…so the food was fancy, but you got to see and speak to the people who were making it.  The place is filled with community tables and it’s not very big.  The winemakers spoke about their wines in such humble tones.  This area is a community and they are happy to welcome you in.

We enjoyed a vineyard walk with Steve Beckman at the Purism Mountain Vineyard in Ballard Canyon.  I worked hard to keep up with Steve so I could ask some questions about this beautiful vineyard.  We have some great video’s posted as Steve talks about the soil at Purisma Mountain and gives us a little seminar on shoot thinning.

At the Grand Tasting we had the opportunity to speak one on one with so many of the amazing winemakers in Santa Barbara.

We had wonderful conversations with Michael Larner of Larner Vineyards and Winery, Christine Bruce of Hilliard Bruce, Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead, Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz, Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa and Mikael Sigouin of Kaena.  Again you are surrounded by some of the most fantastic winemakers in California, but this is all about sharing and community there is no stuffiness here.

Our 4th day had us doing a round about trip around the northern part of Santa Barbara County.  We started the day in the Santa Maria valley at Au Bon Climat and Qupe at their twice annual open house, where Jim Clendenen can be seen cooking barbecue.  We then drove around the north end of the valley to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto for a barrel tasting at Clos Pepe’s Winery (which is not at the vineyard) and finished our tastings at Fiddlehead being entertained and fed sliders by the fabulous Kathy Joseph.  We then took the long way back driving up past the new Evening Star vineyard that Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman have started on the outside edge of the Sta. Rita Hills and then up to enjoy the view of Fiddlestix vineyard.  Dinner found us a Matteis Tavern enjoying a stunning dinner at this historic location.

On our final day we made our way to Presqu’ile up in the Santa Maria Valley. This beautiful winery produces some exceptional wines and blends clean beautiful modern architecture with a warm air of southern hospitality.  When we got home we tried a recipe for strawberry, citrus and avocado salad inspired by Ryan in their tasting room to pair with their rose.

June 2014

In June of 2014 we were invited back to Santa Barbara for the first ever Key to Wine Country Weekend.  This is a weekend filled with special events at many of the wineries designed to give you an inside look at this amazing region.

We were lucky to be able to schedule an interview and vineyard walk with Michael Larner of Larner Vineyards and Winery at his Ballard Canyon Vineyard.  We had a great conversation with Michael which can be seen in a series of videos on our site.  Michael’s background is in geology so it was fascinating to hear his perspective on the Ballard Canyon soils.

We began events of the weekend with a vineyard walk at Riverbench Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, with their vineyard manager Rawley Hermreck.  We walked the vineyard, saw the new vines that were about to go in, waxed the top of a bottle of pinot and had a lovely lunch with Rawley and his dog Sadie.

That evening we attended the 1st annual Larner Winemaker Dinner held at the Ballard Inn and Restaurant.  Chef Budi Kazali created beautiful dishes to pair with the Rhone style wines of Larner Vineyards and Michael Larner spoke on each of the wines before each course.  It was an amazing evening filled with good food, good wines and great company!

Saturday morning brought us back to Presqu’ile Vineyards for an Taste through the vineyard event with 4 different winemakers all of whom were sourcing grapes from Presqu’ile. This eclectic group of winemakers from Storm, Luceant Luminesce, Labyrinth and Presqu’ile spoke on their wines and their methods and we were in wine geek heaven.  The setting was stunning also on the crush pad of the gravity flow winery at Presqu’ile.  There is a 4 part series on this conversation if you want to geek out also!

Then it was on to Cold Heaven for a Rhone-scent-ual experience.  Jars filled with white flours, olives, grapefruit, herbs, chocolate…and then some filled the tables, along with sheets for notes and aroma wheels.  Attendees were like kids in a candy store passing jars back and forth and making new scent memories, while tasting some amazing wines.

The day wrapped up at Imagine Wines in Santa Ynez, where they pair wine and art.  With beautiful sculptures, paintings and photos, live music, great wine, home cooked food and the ever entertaining winemaker Ross Rankin this made for a lovely evening.

While I had to head back to work, Michael was able to stay for a final event.  Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard did a vineyard hike and farm to table lunch. The hike was led by winemaker Karen Steinwachs and lunch followed a salad demonstration by Chef Pascale Beale with recipes from her cookbook “Salade”. All the items used were picked fresh from the gardens at Buttonwood which is a working farm.

July 2014

July 2014 found us in Santa Barbara again, this time for WBC14 (Wine Bloggers Conference).  This gave us another opportunity to see the area and talk with winemakers here as well as meet other wine bloggers.  We had a fantastic evening on a planned Friday night excursion planned by the Santa Barbara Vintners.  Various vehicles and buss’s rolled up to the Conference hotel and Bloggers piled in. Then the vehicles set off for mystery locations.  Our bus headed out to Sunstone Vineyard and Winery, where Michael Larner greeted us followed shortly by Bion Rice, the wineries President and CEO, in a t-shirt and jeans.  Bion gave us a tour of the stunning Villa at Sunstone, which is built from reclaimed materials from villages in Marseille and Provence.  We then gathered in the garden to sample wines and speak with winemakers from Larner, Core, Transcendence, Big Tar, and Sunstone.  Dinner family style followed and then a question and answer session with the winemakers refereed by non other than Keith Saarloos of Saarloos and Sons. The blog post on this fantastic evening is still to come so keep watching!

We also made a trip to see Bridlewood Winery just outside Happy Canyon where we enjoyed a stroll through the gardens, lunch by the creek and then a panel discussion with a sustainable theme. Moderated by Richard Martin from Food Republic with Bridlewood winemaker Mark Williams, Chris and Johanna Finley of Finley Farms Organic, Stephanie Mutz of Sea Stephanie Fish, Jake O’Francis of Valley Piggery, Jeff Olsson of Industrial Eats. This was an incredible discussion by the people who grow, raise or harvest our foods on their thoughts on sustainability and how they do what they do.  There were no easy answers here, but a heartfelt and honest discussion which was interesting and refreshing in such a large corporate winery (Bridlewood is owned by Gallo).

2014 the overview

So all in all, 2014 was a pretty amazing year!  I expect that 2015 will see us back in Santa Barbara (there is so much to explore there and more winemakers we would love to have an opportunity to talk with!) as well as exploring some other California regions, so expect more blog posts and videos on wineries and winemakers.

We will also continue our adventure in pairing wines and foods.  I am finding that the typical rules for pairing varieties is only the tip of the iceberg.  Wines are individual and change as they age, so a pairing is only for the moment and we look forward to more of those.  You will see more cooking videos here and on our sister site 4Farm2Mrkt and suggestions on pairings.

We also will probably dabble a little into things other than wine.  There is a post coming soon that is about chili and beer pairings.  As winemaker will tell you, it takes a lot of good beer to make wine.

And…if you have suggestions, on wineries or regions, restaurants or pairings…let us know!

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to keep up to date on the Latest Video’s

In the meantime…find a good bottle of bubbly or whatever you prefer and share a toast to a wonderful 2014 and an even better 2015 to come!

 

Thanks,

 

Robin & Michael

Crushed Grape Chronicles

 

Santa Barbara…yes Again!

Life is better with WIne

I know…we were just there in April, but ya know, the wines in this area are really amazing!  We are headed back first to the Funk Zone to visit some more tasting rooms. We have waxed poetic on ABC (Au Bon Climat) and Municipal Winemakers, now it’s time to explore some of the other Funky Wine Tasting rooms.

Au Bon Climate & Municipal

Au Bon Climate & Municipal

The plan is lunch at Pierre Lafond’s Wine Bistro on State Street for lunch and a flight.  In 1962 Pierre Lafond opened the first winery in Santa Barbara County since prohibition.  Mr. Lafond originally had a wine and cheese shop that became the place to be for Santa Barbara wine lovers.

Pierre LaFond's Wine-Bistro

Pierre LaFond’s Wine-Bistro

He started Santa Barbara Winery and later Lafond Winery.  So…we will taste some wine, have some lunch and maybe try a little of the new Kambucha made locally that is now on the menu.  And hopefully we will find a seat out on the patio where we can absorb some of the State Street atmosphere.

After lunch we will head to Grassini Family Vineyards to do a chocolate pairing. They have a tasting room near ABC and Margerum.  Their vineyards are located on the east edge of the Santa Ynez Valley in Happy Canyon.  Oddly enough for this primarily Burgundian style region, they are growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all Bordeaux varieties.  I look forward to finding out why they decided to grow Cab and what makes their vineyard Cab friendly.  They also have solar panels and are a gravity flow winery so I look forward to finding out more about that!

AVA Santa Barbara

AVA Santa Barbara

Then we head to the funkier part of Santa Barbara and stop by AVA Santa Barbara where I need to check out the amazing Elkpen murals of the region.

This winery is a wine geeks dream, the murals are all educational with details on the climate in each of the regions AVA’s.  They have wines from each of the 5 AVA’s in the regions.  They are owned by Seth Kunin of Kunin wines.  This should be a great opportunity to get a little more of the details of the area under my belt, with a big map to guide me.

Conway's Deep Sea Winery

Conway’s Deep Sea Winery

After that we will hit as many other tasting rooms as is feasible and plan to get a nice sunset time-lapse out at the Deep Sea Tasting room on Stearns Wharf that night.  Kalyra, Santa Barbara Winery, Carr, Oreana, Kunin, Riverbench, and Pali…you could all see us knocking at your door!  We will try!

Next stop Los Olivos!

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Danza Del Sol, exploring Temecula Wine Country

Danza Del Sol Winery, Taste Temecula Wine Country from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.

If you keep up with the blog you will remember that we were in Temecula back in December.  On that trip we stopped at Danza del Sol and fled in fear of the completely packed tasting room!  We intended to return mid week early in the day so we could taste the wines and talk with the people in the tasting room to find more out about this winery.  So…on this last trip to Temecula we did just that, pulling into the tasting room to be their first tasters of the day.  Tommy took care of us and was a wealth of information.

This winery had been owned by William and Katherine Filsinger who purchase 35 acres of vineyard property on De Portola in 1978.  The vineyards had been planted with Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc in 1972.  Dr. Filsinger planted the first Gewurztraminer in southern California.

The Winemaker here is Mike Tingley, who was the winemaker at Cirluzo.  With 30 years experience in the Temecula Valley his goal is “To craft varietal wines and innovative blends that not only are delicious, but have identity”.

The winery is now owned by Robert Olson and the winery now produces wines with a Mediterranean influence.

As we tasted through the wines here, there was nothing we didn’t enjoy, some though were out of the park wonderful.  The 2011 Le Blanc SV, the Sinfonia, the Rousanne, the 2011 Vermentino, the 2010 Mourvedre, the Cab Franc, Merlot, Syrah were all wonderful and we didn’t taste half the menu! The Trilogy and the 2010 Grenache were amazing.  This Grenache is the perfect early summer wine, when it is warm and you want the flavors of a red without the heavy body.

Tommy was kind enough to fill us in on all the geeky wine stuff, talking about the vineyard blocks and where each of the grapes were grown on the property.

We had originally planned to take a tour here, but the time slot we needed to fit in our somewhat full schedule was not available.  We will come back and do a tour with Tommy.  We were thrilled enough with the wines and the information that we joined the club.  They have a clubhouse just above the tasting room that is exclusive for members.   As we mentioned before…it gets crowded here on the weekends!

They have music on the patio on weekends as well as monthly “Get Sauced” events which include a cooking demo, class & small plates.  The tasting room is open daily from 11-6 and is dog and equestrian friendly.

Wine adventures at home

Tasting at Pippen Hill

A recent post on Wine Folly reminded me of how much I love finding new wines!  At heart I am a winery girl.

I love to find new wineries, meet the people in the tasting room and get to know the spirit and passion behind the label.  But…living in Las Vegas means that my opportunities for these occasions come only on weekends or vacations.  So…while landlocked and vineyard deprived finding new wines at the local wine shop is another invigorating way to feed my wine habit.

There are two ways to go about this and it depends on your circumstances.  If you have a great local wine shop with a knowlegeable staff that are fun to talk to then perhaps you wander in, tell them what you like and ask for interesting wines that might fit that profile.  If you are a geek like me you find something online or research areas and wines and then head to the wine shop with a list in tow, often to be disappointed by what the giant wine distributor has decided to carry.  I unfortunately don’t have a great little wineshop in my neck of the woods.  There is one in town that I love but it is a drive!  Most often due to lack of resources I head to the giant wine store and try to track down James if he is there because he never steers me wrong!

If you, like me, love trying new varieties and wines, you should pick up Mark Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine.  I have it on my Kindle and take a larger than usual purse with me to the wineshop so I have room for it and can whip it out to look up his recommendations. (Maybe I should download it to my phone and skip the bigger purse?).  Unfortunately more often than not the all the rage new wine from several years ago in New York is not to be found at the giant wine store in Las Vegas.  You would think in a town with sooooo many great chefs that we would have more variety.  Turns out, what they bring in for the restaurants and what they bring in for Joe wine drinker are two different things.  I usually get kinda grumpy and look for someone to complain to.  Then James talks me down and finds me a great alternative.

 

So try something new and have a wine adventure!  Find a perfect pairing, or search for one.  I tend to do the research at our house and then try to shop to match the wine.  Michael is much more freeform picking up all sorts of things and then pairing to see what it does.  He’s a rebel that way, sometime with great results, sometimes with disasters.  Another thought…inspired by the Mayo Family Reserve room (read my post on them here) is to buy two bottles, pop one open and drink it and find out what you crave to go with it.  Then you can shop and pop the 2nd bottle to enjoy with the pairing!  Or…go the full science route and pick up Francois Chartier’s Taste Buds & Molecules.

Regardless of how you approach it, get out of your wine slump and tickle your tastebuds with something new.  Often you’ll find a new favorite that is easy on the wallet too.  So this weekend…will it be a Cannonau from Sardinia? A Montefalco Rosso from Umbria?  Or Maybe a Negroamaro from Puglia. Thanks Madeline for the inspiration!  I’m on my way to the wine shop and another adventure!

 

Wine Geekdom, and Media Technology

Media technology is amazing.  So is wine geekdom.  I realized this morning that I was currently reading 3 books.  I picked up a beautiful hard backed copy of Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course the 2012 edition for my birthday.  I have downloaded a sample of Matt Kramer On Wine on my phone and on my Kindle I have a copy of Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking by Michael Gelb.  I have links to all my favorite Wine Blogs on my cell (Steve Heimoff, Terroirist, Vinography).  I check my e-mail on my phone as soon as I get up and I get the my daily fix of 1 Wine Dude and  get my FeedBlitz for the Tablas Creek Blog.  On Facebook I am friends with all my favorite wineries and even have some of them grouped into lists by regions.  I love when the Food and Wine Magazine comes each month and love it even better when I can steal Michael’s iPad and read the online version.  I love being able to click through and get more information.

Now I have other hobbies and other passions, but it was a little overwhelming to find that technology had me swimming in all kinds of information on my favorite subject anywhere that I was.  I’m constantly working on databases for different wine regions that we would like to travel to.  I am a research junkie.

I troll sites for new videos, like the Wine Down or the Lone Madrone site for Conversations with a Winemaker.  Yesterday I got sucked into research on the Mozart Effect and how that can tie in with wine tasting and making wines taste better (inspired by a chapter in the Michael Gelb book).  I was looking into the history of Virginia Wineries yesterday  for an upcoming trip and found the amazing website for the Virginia Wine Organization, beautifully laid out and with tons of easy access information on varietals being grown in Virginia that I have never tasted!

I started out being a little embarrassed by my geekdom, but as I look at it my pride is growing a bit.  I love this subject and I immerse myself in it and learn as much as I can, and yet I still feel like a novice.  I don’t think that will ever change.  There is too much to learn, too many opinions to read and see if I agree with and too many wines to taste.  Those we won’t ever run out of!