This past weekend was the time for our Annual trip to Santa Barbara for the Vintners Spring Weekend. The weekend was filled with great food, great wine and great people. We will start out with the overview here and then you can look forward to in depth posts on the winemakers we met and the events we attended coming up.
We started out early, the drive from Vegas is long, and arrived to the City of Santa Barbara in time for lunch. The coastal winds were kicking up and we were probably some of the last diners of the day to be able to enjoy the outdoor patio at Moby Dick’s. Then we took the beautiful drive up 154 through the San Marcos Pass to Los Olivos. We did a tasting with Mae Apple at Tercero and picked up a Magnum of Larry’s Abberation for the Big Bottle Bash. Larry was there and waxed poetic on Roussanne. He is always fascinated to listen to.
The Big Bottle Bash
The kickoff event of the Vintners Spring Weekend was the Big Bottle Bash at Presqu’ile. This event was sponsored by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. Presqu’ile is a beautiful Vineyard and Winery in the Santa Maria Valley with gorgeous views, beautiful gardens and amazing hospitality. We had been lucky enough to attend an event here on the Key to Wine Country Weekend held up on the crush pad, where 4 winemakers compared wines that they had made from the Presqu’ile vineyards. The Big Bottle bash began with a cocktail hour on the Presqu’ile members patio. There were lots of bottles open, a fire in the fire pit, blue skies and great conversations. We tasted through a Transcendence Grenache Rose, a Sandhi Chardonnay and a Presqu’ile Pinot Noir before Matt Murphy of Presqu’ile welcomed us and ushered us into the Tasting room for dinner.
This dinner by Chef Nick Barainca was served family style at two long tables and the magnums of wine were poured by several amazing Somms, including Rajat Parr who is also the owner of Sandhi, Dustin Wilson (from the Movie Somm) and Eric Railsback, one of the founders of Les Marchands in Santa Barbara and a founder of Lieu Dit Winery. There were amazing wines poured.. a Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc (they focus on Loire Valley style wines), a Le Bon Climat Pinot Noir (That is from the Clendennen Family Vineyards), a Pinot from a Vineyard near Sea Smoke that Raj Parr was pouring that might have been from Sandhi, but I am not sure, a Chateauneuf de Pape that someone had amazingly brought with them and a Dragonette wine. All of the wines were delicious and several were really interesting for a couple of reasons that I will elaborate on. One of the guests at our table, Eric works with the winemaker at CCGP (Central Coast Group Project). Scott Sampler of CCGP will be someone you will hear us speak more of here, and we look forward to following his wines. Scott is playing with masceration times. Masceration is the process of soaking the skins, stems and seeds to extract flavor and tannins at the beginning of the winemaking process. Extended mascerations can be anywhere from 7 to 44 days. Scott poured a Grenache that had a 100 day masceration period and a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend) that had been 120 days in masceration. I look forward to tasting his wines as they age and he experiments further. Lastly we also tasted the wine we brought, Aberration from Tercero. For this wine Larry was experimenting with how long you could leave a red wine in stainless steel. This wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache & Mourvedre aged in stainless steel for 4 months. This wine is fresh and bright and drinks a little like a deep rose. It’s great slightly chilled and perfect for summer. Dinner was dazzling and there will be more on that later.
Wine Seminar on Syrah
Saturday morning started off early with the Wine Seminar. This year the panel discussed Syrah in Santa Barbara County. Wendy Thies Sell did a magnificent job moderating the panel of 7 winemakers, growers and owners from all over Santa Barbara. We tasted 8 Syrahs from various areas within the Region, from cooler to warmer climates. There were wines from SAMsARA and Crawford Family Wines in the Sta. Rita Hills, Central Coast Group Project and Tercero Syrahs from White Hawk Vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley, Bien Nacido and Qupe Syrahs from the Santa Maria Valley and Larner and Stolpman Syrahs from Ballard Canyon an AVA that identifies itself as “Syrah Territory”. All the wines were wonderful and they were all different, some dramatically so. Watch back for more details on this seminar and more information on the winemakers and wines.
The Grand Tasting
From the Seminar we headed straight to the Vintners Spring Weekend Grand Tasting at Riverview Park in Buellton. This years event was set up by Wine Trails instead of alphabetically. For some trails this was great being able to taste wines from the same area made by different wine makers. For other trails like Lompoc or Los Olivos which are not located by vineyards, you could enjoy the great diversity of wine styles in this area. As always there was great food and music and so many winemakers to speak with. Some highlights of our tastings included Ca’ Del Grevino, Demetria, DV8 Cellars, Ferguson Crest, Lieu Dit, Refugio Ranch Vineyards, Solminer, Toretti Family Vineyard and Transcendence. We had been challenged at the Big Bottle Bash by Eric who we sat with to spend the Grand Tasting tasting with wineries that we had never tried before and we did this for the most part. Check back as we delve further into some of our new discoveries.
Dinner out (at SY Kitchen)
After the Grand Tasting it was time to think about dinner. Michael wanted to continue the trend of trying something new and challenged me to find someplace for dinner where we had not eaten before. We ended up with fewer options than we expected (we’ve eaten at quite a few restaurants in the Valley). We settled on SY Kitchen in Santa Ynez and were not disappointed. Outside the restaurant is unassuming, but as you stroll through the gate you see cozy outdoor lounge seating all around the yard. The entrance takes you to the bar area and from there you are ushered about the house to your seating area. We were on the partially enclosed patio which was perfect. We skipped appetizers to save room for dessert (Thank goodness!). We shared the parpadelle special with scallops and asparagus paired with a Grimm’s Bluff Savignon Blanc and the Gnocchi alla Salsaccia with tomato, sausage and smoked ricotta with a 2007 Arcadian Syrah from the Santa Ynez Valley. Both pairings were lovely and I was not familiar with either of these Wineries…so I have more research to do and you can look forward to finding out more about Arcadian and Grimm’s Bluff with me! The pastas were delicious and not too heavy so we could dive happily into dessert! We chose a glass each of the 2004 Vin Santo from Tuscany and the Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily. Then we asked our waiter for his help in pairing a dessert with these. He recommemded the Fresh Berry Plate with handmade coconut gelato, balsamic and hibiscus to pair with the Passito and the Home made Vanilla Panna Cotta with caramel and ladies’ kisses crunch with the Vin Santo. So needless to say…you can expect a future post on Italian dessert wines!
The Larner Fête
Sunday we attended the Larner Fête out at the Larner Vineyard. Vintners Spring Weekend is a great time for wineries to hold events, and Sunday is perfect as everyone is looking for a great way to spend the last day of the weekend. This event brought together 6 winemakers plus Michael Larner tasting wines made from Larner Vineyard Grapes. These winemakers included: Larry Schaffer from Tercero, Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz, Mac Myers of McPrice Myers, Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs, Mikael Sigouin of Kaena, Scott Sampler of Central Coast Group Project and of course Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard and Winery. We had amazing conversations with all of the winemakers and you can look forward to posts on each of them coming up. The event was held in the barn which hopefully one day will be converted into the Larner Winery. There was food from Autostrada who did wood fired pizzas and an array of sliders from Amaranto Catering and it was all delicious. The Ruben Lee Dalton Band played original music on a stage and a flatbed truck bed in front of the barn with picnic tables and umbrellas for relaxing between tastings.
We wrapped up our weekend with an interview with Michael Larner which will kick off an educational series on Syrah that will be coming up.
A weekend in Santa Barbara is always amazing. This place is filled with great food, wine and people. Big shout out to Morgen of the Santa Barbara Vintners for putting together such a great Vintners Spring Weekend. Keep in mind though, anytime is a good time to get to Santa Barbara Wine Country. If you want a big event, the Celebration of Harvest Weekend will be coming up in the fall. But don’t wait, there are Multiple Wine Trails and tasting rooms to be explored, pick a weekend…or there are many tasting rooms that are even open during the week. Trust me, you will need years to explore them all.