Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

Non traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

So we did a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year. We bagged the turkey and instead did a stuffed flatiron steak, and instead of potatoes for a starchy side, we went with a pumpkin lasagna. We of course tied in some traditional sides with cranberries in red Belgian ale, green beans almandine and a bright arugula salad with flavors of the season with apples, pecans, maple syrup and bacon. So what to pair with our eclectic Thanksgiving? We dug into the cellar and here’s what we decided.

Start with a sparkler!

It’s a celebration and I was ready to celebrate when we finally had dinner complete and ready to eat. We looked in the wine fridge and Michael pulled out a sparkling wine from a very (I mean VERY) small winery called Lumiére in Temecula, California. We did a blog post on them awhile ago which you can read here. Lumiére is only open on weekends and only once have we been able to stop by. The owner and winemaker’s mother, Martha was there pouring. They have a charming tasting room on a hill off of Calle Contento Road on the North side.(more on the winery here). One of the final things we tasted was their Voulez Vous Brut sparkling wine.

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This is a Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and it was lovely with the salad of arugula, pink lady apples, pecans, maple brown sugar bacon and the dressing of maple syrup and yogurt.

Chardonnay with Pumpkin Lasagna

So an Oaked Chard with a rich cheesy pumpkin lasagna seemed the right choice and allowed us to relish some great memories at the same time. We pulled a bottle of 2011 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay. This Santa Barbara County Chardonnay comes from the Los Alamos Vineyard and was a gift when we stayed at the Clendenen Ranch in the spring. This vineyard is beautiful, take a look at the photo on our homepage. That was the view we were privileged to enjoy. The home is warm and obviously meant for relaxing and entertaining friends & family. There is history here also. The first Au Bon Climat Winery was in a small barn that you can see from the house. The story, as Marissa told us is, after long days of harvest the folks that owned the house on the hill and had the olive orchards would invite the entire gang up for dinner. When the owner was looking to sell the property,s Jim Clendenen quickly bought it up, as it was filled with so many fond memories. The previous owner still makes olive oil from the olives on the trees, which you can find in her olive oil tasting room in Los Alamos called Global Gardens.

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This Chardonnay is one of their Historic Vineyard Collection Wines. They harvest by hand, gently press and then ferment in 75% new French Oak and leave them in these barrels to age surlee for another year.  The amazing thing about this wine is that you get the richness of the oak and a full nose and then it is beautiful and bright on the palate. If you ever want to explain to someone what French Oak is…pour a glass of this and stick their nose in it.  Au Bon Climat has a tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara and a history that is as rich and exciting as their wines.

So as a pairing the richness of the nose of the Chardonnay, went beautifully with the lasagna and then the brightness of the wine on the palate kept you from getting bogged down in all of that glorious cheese! One sip had your palate reinvigorated for another decadent bite.  The Lasagna was more than just pumpkin too. We did 3 different types of puree, pumpkin, queensland blue and sweetmeat. Each got a layer in the lasagna between layers of ricotta, parmesan and fontina.

Stuffed Flatiron Steak Screams for a Red

This recipe called for a dry red wine. While it suggested a not too fruity Syrah or Zin…Michael found a beautiful 2008 Ferrari-Carano Merlot. We opened this way early to start cooking with it and give the wine time to open up. We have a history here too. While working on Smokey Joe’s Café in Reno we were at the El Dorado Casino, which is owned by the Ferrari-Carano’s and got hooked on their wines there. We have since made a couple of trips to their Northern Sonoma Vineyard and Winery.

So these steaks are flatiron steaks which are a shoulder cut. They are pounded out and filled with a stuffing of toasted bread in olive oil, prunes rehydrated with the red wine, rosemary, roasted chestnuts, pancetta, pecorino, salt, pepper & cayenne. The Merlot went beautifully with this.

So there you have it. A feast to be thankful for with beautiful pairings that brought back great memories of visits to 3 different areas of California Wine country.   Now that’s a perfect Thanksgiving.

For more information on these wine regions:

http://www.temeculawines.org

Santa Barbara Vintners

Sonoma.com

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You can find more great Farm to Table recipes on our sister site  4Farm2Mrkt

Presqu’ile Key Weekend Part 2 – Chardonnay

Presqu'ile WInery Hilltop, Santa Maria Valley

In our second installment of the amazing conversation at the Presqu’ile Winery Key to Wine Country Event, we move on to a side by side tasting of Chardonnays.

The grapes for these two Chardonnays were again both grown on the Presqu’ile Vineyard. The Presqu’ile Chardonnay, made by winemaker Dieter Cronje is aged in neutral oak for 18 months. They typically harvest their Chardonnay early to retain the acidity. This is a mix of clones including Dijon clones 95 and 96 as well as the Davis clone 4. They had also been playing with a sparkling program and had some grapes from the 131 and 124 Champagne clones that were included.

The Labyrinth Chardonnay was all from Block B. Ariki Hill ages this Chardonnay in 30% new oak and the wine is fermented in the barrel on the lees.

A little back ground on Ariki (Rick) Hill of Labyrinth…

Ariki hails from New Zealand. While working in the dairy industry he started his winemaking. He found many similarities in handling fragile milk products and grape juice for wine. He pursues balanced wines that feature the region. He currently makes wines from Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles and the Yarra Valley in Australia. Most of his Paso wines are under the HAKA label. You can find more details about Rick and his wines on his website at https://labyrinthwine.com.

for More Conversations check out our Dirt to Glass Page

Presqu’ile Key Weekend Part 1 – Sauvignon Blanc

Presqu'ile WInery Hilltop, Santa Maria Valley

When you are a wine geek, there is no place you would rather be than tasting wine with a winemaker. In June, the Santa Barbara Vintners held their 1st Key to Wine Country Weekend. The weekend included multiple events at various wineries, meant to give you an insiders perspective on winemaking in Santa Barbara. Presqu’ile set up an event for Key Weekend, that gave you the opportunity to taste with 4 different winemakers. The amazing thing about this, was that all four winemakers were making wine from the grapes from the same vineyard. A side by side tasting while listening to the winemakers each speak about their wines was wine geek bliss.

This event was held at Presqu’ile Winery on the crush pad at the top of their beautiful gravity flow winery. Past the tables set with glassware and charcuterie were 4 smaller tables, behind which sat our winemakers. Presqu’ile Winemaker Dieter Cronje, was joined by Storm Winemaker Ernst Storm, Luceant Luminesce Winemaker Kevin Law and Labyrinth Winemaker Ariki Hill.

The discussion itself lasted a bit over an hour and we have split the conversation into 4 parts. This first section includes an introduction by Presqu’ile owner Matt Murphy, a bit of Santa Maria Valley history from Presqu’ile winemaker Dieter Cronje and then a side by side tasting of the  Presqu’ile 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and the Storm Wines 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

Of note with these wines the Storm 2012 Sav Blanc was done in  a mix of Neutral Oak and Acacia wood and was aged on the lees for 8 months.  The Presqu’ile 2013 Sav Blanc was done with a wild ferment and aged in a combination of Stainless Steel tank, concrete egg and neutral oak.

And…both of these winemakers are from South Africa.

Presqu’ile Winery – Taste through the vineyard

Presqu'ile WInery Hilltop, Santa Maria Valley


Starting the day driving north on the 101 to the Santa Maria Valley is never a bad thing. This section of roadway is lined with vineyards. Before you get to Santa Maria you take a right and drive out to the gates of Presqu’ile. Through the gate you see the expanse of rolling vineyards, you pass the Italian Villa of the vineyard next door and come up to the top of the hill where you find the elegant and modern Presqu’ile Winery and tasting room. Chances are you will be greeted by the winery dog as you walk in through the parking lot. Outside there are terraces overlooking a small amphitheatre, all set with comfortable seating perfect to curl up in with a glass of wine. The tasting room has a glass wall that slides open to make it open air during the day and as you look out when it’s clear you can see the ocean in the distance. The Tasting bar is spacious and dotted with bowls of seasoned pecans that came, like the owners the Murphy Family, from Mississippi.

“Presqu’ile” is the Creole word for “almost an island”. The Murphy family retreat on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi held the same name. Yes “held”, Hurricane Katrina laid waste to this place where the family had gathered for generations. So the family headed west to find a 200 acres of property in the Santa Maria Valley. Two generations of Murphy’s are now here and this new Presqu’ile has become the new gathering place for the family.

Tasting Room at Presqu'ile

Tasting Room at Presqu’ile

After we gathered in the tasting room, our group was escorted to the Key to Wine country weekend event, “Taste Through the Vineyard:  Explore Wines Sourced from Presqu’ile Vineyards Produced by Different Winemakers”. We were led back through the barrel tunnel. Cut into the side of the mountain this barrel lined tunnel is climate controlled (mostly naturally) and makes for a memorable entrance to the winery. We got into a shiny stainless steel elevator. I felt a little like I was going to a secret base in a James Bond film, but rather than heading to an underground laboratory, we headed up. The doors opened and we entered the sunlit crush pad. Glasses twinkled in the sunlight on sleek modern metal tables, set at the center with a thick wooden block abundantly piled with delicious charcuterie. At the front, just before the railing down to the tanks in this gravity flow winery, there were four smaller tables, each again bedecked with glasses and wines and behind them sat our four winemakers.

Key Weekend Glass Setting

Our host Matt Murphy stepped up to welcome us. He is genuine, warm, well spoken and his inherent sense of southern hospitality melded with the relaxed nature of the California that he and his family now call home. He set the stage for a wonderful conversation with these winemakers.
So we are in California in a winery owned by a Mississippi family…are you ready for it to get a little more exotic?
Our winemakers hailed from South Africa, New Zealand and the US. Presqu’ile winemaker Dieter Cronje and Storm winemaker Ernst Storm are both from South Africa, Ariki Hill of Labyrinth is from New Zealand and Kevin Law of Luceant Luminesce was exotic in that he was the only one without an accent.

Presqu'ile Wine Event

Presqu’ile Wine Event

We settled in, Matt handed things over to the winemakers and we did side by side tastings of wines from the Presqu’ile vineyards made by these different winemakers with different styles. I’ve spent some time as of late reading and listening to winemakers speak about growing grapes and making wine, but even the conversation here had an accent. There were terms that I knew well, but the direction that they brought to winemaking was fresh to me.
We spent the next couple of hours listening with rapt attention as these winemakers discussed their wines, their winemaking styles and the soils here at Presqu’ile Vineyards. Ernst Storm discussed his use of Acacia barrels, Dieter spoke to how he incorporates the concrete egg, we tasted with Kevin through his 2011 Pinot Noir to his 2012, two very different vintages and Ariki spoke about spoke of his love for one specific Cooper…I was so engrossed in the conversation that I almost completely missed the incredible charcuterie platter.
We drove back out through the rolling vineyards, feeling like we had not had enough time. I could have stayed all day talking with the winemakers, enjoying the wine and relaxing on this beautiful property. It’s okay…we’ll be back.

You can get an idea of what our day was like from the video here.  But…if you want to hear the full discussion, we will have it broken into 3 or 4 episodes and available in our “Dirt to Glass” series.

We also have  a great recipe for a Strawberry, citrus and avocado salad inspired by Ryan in the Presqu’ile Tasting room.  It is a great summertime pairing to go with their Rose of Pinot Noir .

Presqu’ile’s Winery, Vineyards and tasting room are located in the Santa Maria Valley at 5391 Presqu’ile Drive, 93455. You can reach them at 805-937-8110.

For more information on the entire Santa Barbara Wine Region visit the Santa Barbara Vintners.

Riverbench Vineyards and Winery, a Vineyard tour

Riverbench Vineyard


Michael and I started our Key to Wine Country Weekend with a Vineyard Tour at Riverbench Vineyards with the Vineyard Manager Rawley Hermreck. We arrived way early (I read 10 am and it was actually 11!) and actually beat Laura, the tasting room manager in. Really it was a happy accident though, Michael had time to take some great morning shots around the tasting room and vineyard and we relaxed in the garden listening to the birds. The birdsong was really amazing.

 

Riverbench Winery Patio

Riverbench Winery Patio

 

Riverbench is located in the Santa Maria Valley on Foxen Canyon Road. The vineyard established in 1973 planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and made a name for themselves as growers of these varieties. In 2004 the property was purchased by a group of local families, who shortly thereafter began producing their own wine. In addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay they now grow Savignon Blanc and Albarino. The majority of the fruit they grow is still for other wineries and winemakers. The Albarino is for Kenneth Volk who is just a stone’s throw away.

Rawley just took over for long time Vineyard Manager Jim Stollberg this year, but he’s part of the family (he’s the son of owner Randy Hermreck) and he has extensive farming experience and a degree in viticulture from Cal Poly, and from our walk with him, you can tell he has a great love for these vineyards.

Vintage 2014 Grapes

Vintage 2014 Grapes

 

Rawley started by walking us out to the Chardonnay block out front. Block 37 was one of the original blocks and these vines are indeed 41 years old. The style of trellising here is known as California sprawl. This is a Simple Curtain two-wire vertical trellis and is typically used when the anticipated vine vigor is moderate to high. There is a wire for the cordon and a higher wire that is for the foliage support. The rows here are at 12’ spacing. They do a beautiful Blanc de blanc sparkling wine from some of this Chardonnay.

Santa Maria Valley, Riverbench

Santa Maria Valley, Riverbench

We headed across the driveway to the back of block 38 to look at some of the Pinot Noir planted there. Here the trellises are Vertical-shoot positioned and Rawley showed us how the upper wires could be repositioned. We talked about frost protection. They did a little frost protection this year as a preventative measure, but luckily did not have any frost. They use oils and mixed chemistry to keep mold and mildew down and luckily this area never gets warm enough to have to worry much about mites. They do have gopher issues and have Owl Boxes and Raptor Perches. Owls make for great rodent control. You put up the boxes and the owls fly in. 1 owl will catch 1 gopher per night which really helps keep the gopher population down. Owls are not territorial like raptors, so you can put up multiple owl boxes without a worry.

We talked a little about handpicking as opposed to machine picking. Labor is becoming very hard to come by but the machines require a certain amount of space between the rows and they run a quarter million each. The machines are usable year round with attachments for picking, disking, spraying, mowing, and pre-pruning. Rawley watches the machines all the time over on the other side of the river up on the bench at Kendall-Jackson. As for how they harvest: they basically shake the berries off of the stems, so this doesn’t work for winemakers who want whole cluster presses or stem inclusion. The berries are shaken onto conveyor belts and then into baskets.

9000 plus plants

9000 plus plants

The front area of the block by Foxen Canyon road had been pulled out and was scheduled to be replanted the following morning. Rawley took us around back to show us the 9000 (yes 9000) baby vines that were waiting to be planted. I have seen dormant vines before waiting to be planted, grafted onto their rootstock, but this was new to see green potted vines. They all had green wax around their centers to protect the graft. Rawley’s nursery guy had designed a new kind of pot for the baby vines and convinced Rawley to try some in these new containers. Rather than being the short square pot like the kind you get on your vegetables at the nursery, these new pots were tall and thinner. They had holes on the sides, which kept the roots from growing out through air exposure. These new pots allow the tap root more room to avoid “j-root” (when the root reaches the bottom of the pot and turns back up). Rawley will see how they do compared to the other pots! We actually stopped by the next morning to watch as they were planting these vines.

Hand dip Pinot Bottle in wax

Hand dipping Pinot Bottle in wax

At this point it was time to grab Sadie, Rawley’s black Labrador and head into the back garden to put wax seals on some Pinot bottles. This evidently is Rawley’s job. Each bottle of Pinot from Riverbench has a wax top and is hand-dipped. It’s a simple but focused process and Rawley demonstrated before he let me have a go. You begin with what looks like a crock pot filled with the melted wax. Hold the bottle with your thumb over the center of the label and dip the bottle into the wax at a 45 degree angle. Make sure to allow the wax to reach the point on the neck of the bottle where the wine would come to when the bottle is standing upright. When you pull the bottle out, begin spinning the bottle and the excess wax will start to drip back into the crock pot. As you continue turning you gradually get the bottle to completely vertical. When it is done dripping you plunge it into a bucket of water to cool it and seal it. It was pretty fascinating and concentrating work, and I decided that Laura would have to put this bottle aside for me to purchase after lunch.

Picnic and Tasting

Picnic and Tasting

Laura then brought out lunch for us to enjoy with Rawley & Sadie on the back patio. We started our tasting with lunch with the Blanc de Blanc which is a lovely dry sparkling wine and was refreshing after our walk. We enjoyed the 2013 Rosé, the 2012 Estate Chardonnay and 2011 Estate Pinot Noir and finished with the 2013 Reisling. Paired with the salad & sandwiches as we listened to the birds and talked Rodeo with Rawley it made for the perfect lunch.

Riverbench historic overview

Riverbench historic overview

 

Riverbench Vineyard & Winery

6020 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria

805-937-8340

Open Daily 10-4

 

They also have a tasting room in Santa Barbara

137 Anacapa St. Suite C

Open Daily 11-6

www.riverbench.com

Watch for the next Key Weekend event coming up in December as well as other great events at the Santa Barbara Vintners site.  sbcountywines.com

Sta. Rita Hills AVA Wine Dinner

Industrial Eats


http://youtu.be/imy0wafJKY8

On industrial way in Buellton CA, you might not expect to find a dinner of fine wines and food pairings, but you are in Santa Barbara County and you should expect the unexpected.

Industrial eats was the location for this years Sta. Rita Hills AVA dinner at the SB Vintners Spring Weekend.

The evening started with a Clos Pepe Pinot Sparkling Wine, and Appetizer of Sea Urchin with avocado and just got better from there.  On Hand to discuss the wines were, Wes Hagen from Clos Pepe and Ken Brown, from Ken Brown Wines, along with Laura Roach, Enologist for Sanford wines and Jeff Connick, assistant wine maker from Dierberg &  Star Lane wines

This is just a preview of all of the wonderful food and wine, Watch for a more detailed blog post on the evening, with a full length video.

Sta. Rita Hills, the Burgundy of Santa Barbara

Hilliard Bruce Canopy Management
Vineyards of Sta. Rita Hills as viewed from Hilliard Bruce

Vineyards of Sta. Rita Hills as viewed from Hilliard Bruce

The Sta. Rita Hills AVA lies on the west side of the Santa Ynez Valley closest to the ocean.  The Marine layer and ocean breezes coming through the transverse valley make it the perfect growing region for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Here between the Purisima Hills and the Santa Rosa Hills the growing season is long and cool with heat spikes typically in late September and October. A typical day here sees early morning fog that disappates around 9:30 am, things warm up and then the wind comes up at 12:30 or 1:00 allowing the grapes to be left exposed without frying them.

Sta. Rita Hills AVA map

Sta. Rita Hills AVA map

20 million years ago this land was under the ocean.  The techtonic plates moved and the mountains were shoved up out of the ocean in a North South direction causing the Mountain ranges we are familiar with in California.  Over the next 12 millions years the mountains in the Santa Barbara area broke away from the plate and began their gradual clockwise turn bringing the mountain ranges here to an East West orientation.  They are continuing their move today. You can check out some cool animated footage of this 12 million year move on the Sta. Rita Hills website at:

http://www.staritahills.com/appellation/ to get a better picture.

The first vineyard was planted in the Sta. Rita Hills in 1971, by Richard Sanford. Richard Sanford was a Navy officer who was on a destroyer during the Vietnam War.  On his way home from the war he went to Nepal and began a spiritual quest.  Coming home to California he sailed competitively for a bit and this allowed him to meet people who were interested in a vineyard.

He studied Burgundy and it’s weather reports and began driving California with a thermometer looking for property with a similar climate.  He noticed that the area between Buellton & Lompoc rose by a degree for every mile inland you drove and the possibilities were wide ranging.

He teamed up with Michael Benedict, who was a botanist and they purchased 473 acres in Rancho Santa Rosa.  In 1971 they planted the now famous 120 acre Sanford & Benedict Vineyard on Santa Rosa Road.  They planted Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir & Riesling. They had open top fermenters, that Gary Gordon, a hot tub pioneer in Santa Barbara, helped them construct.  Their first vintage was 1976.

Today Richard Sanford and his wife Thekla own and operate Alma Rosa.

Richard Sanford got this all started and soon others followed, like Rick Longoria, Adam Tolmach and Jim Clendenen.  In the 1990’s Clos Pepe, Fiddlestix, Melville,    Fe Ciega and other vineyards were planted with Pinot and Chardonnay.

Clos Pepe Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills

Clos Pepe Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills

Balance here is easier.  The soil and climate combine to give you fruit that has lower sugars when fully ripe.  That gives you great acidity and lower alcohol.

The Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance was formed in 1997, when the area was simply known as Western Santa Ynez Valley.  Wes Hagen and friends spend time gathering soil samples and checking elevation levels and temperatures.  Richard Sanford, Bryan Babcock, Rick Longoria and others spent time studying maps, gathering data and then discussing boundries. AVA status was achieved in 2001.  Sta. Rita Hills AVA has a total of 30,720 acres with over 59 vineyards with 2,700 acres planted.

Now about that name, “Sta. Rita Hills”.  Well this story will tell you quite a bit about the area and it’s winemakers.  The original name was Santa Rita Hills AVA.  A very large Chilean wine producer “Vina Santa Rita” was concerned about this AVA name diluting its brand value.  Richard Sanford and his wife, Thekla,  were at the London Wine Trade Fair and marched right over to the Vina Santa Rita booth.  Here Sanford’s spiritual journey is shown in action.  He simply suggested that they talk about the problems and try to find a solution.  So he flew to Santiago, spoke with the owners and the Vina Santa Rita folks flew out to Santa Barbara for a visit and they ultimately decided that the AVA would use the common abbreviation for “Santa” which is Sta.

Picking Pinot Noir at Clos Pepe

Picking Pinot Noir at Clos Pepe

Michael and I had a wonderful opportunity last year to be part of the top of harvest at Clos Pepe.  Check out our great harvest video here.  The grapes we picked, early in the season were for a sparkling wine to be made by Norm Yost at Flying Goat Cellars.  I am very excited to get back out for the Vintner’s Spring Weekend and pick up a few bottles of that!  We also had a wonderful tour of the Hilliard Bruce Vineyard with John Hilliard and Christine Bruce.  You can see our video of their gorgeous property here.  I am looking forward to seeing their new winery that they have been building on the property.

The reservoir at Hilliard Bruce

The reservoir at Hilliard Bruce

To really enjoy the area, drive the 34 mile loop that links Santa Rosa Road and State Route 246.  I would suggest taking the curvy mountain road first.  Head south on the 101 from Buellton and turn west onto Santa Rosa Road.  The first stop is Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards tasting room, located on their El Jabali Ranch.  Here you will get the history of wine in this area.  This winery is organic and sustainable.  Being good to the planet is important here.  Further on you will come to Lafond.  You can also taste their wines at the Wine Bistro in Santa Barbara.  As you continue on you will come to Sanford Winery.  Now owned by Terlato Famiy Vineyards, this was the original vineyard planted by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict.  The stunning winery here was the vision and dream of Richard Sanford.  The winery is a beautiful stone and adobe design and the views of the vineyard are amazing.

The vineyards here are noteworthy names that you will see as vineyard designates on fine bottles of wine from this area.  From the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard if you look north across Santa Rosa Road you will see Fiddlestix.  Slightly east of of there is Sea Smoke, to your west is La Rincontada and Northwest lies the tiny Fe Ciega Vineyard.

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Continue down to Lompoc and visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Here you will find a gathering of many of the Sta. Rita Hills winemakers, including: Fiddlehead Cellars, Flying Goat Cellars, Jalama, Longoria, Morretti Wine Co., Pali Wine Co., and Zotovich.  Outside the Ghetto don’t miss Brewer-Clifton and Transcendence Wines.

Now you can head back into the Sta. Rita Hills via 246.  Plan ahead and call and schedule tastings at Hilliard Bruce and Clos Pepe.  They are appointment only, but well worth the visit.  Melville where Greg Brewer is the winemaker is just a little further east, along with Babcock and Huber.  Closer to Buellton Dierberg Starlane Vineyard will have tastings of their wines, both from the Santa Rita Hills and Happy Canyon.  Back in Buellton stop by and try the Viogniers at Cold Heaven.  Do check with the wineries, many are only open for tastings on Weekends.  Visit the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance for a list of the wineries with links to their sites.

I’ll say it again…the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend is right around the corner on April 10th-13th and is a great opportunity to taste wines from all of these vineyards and wineries.

In addition to the Grand Tasting, there is the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Dinner & Wine Pairing on Thursday night.  There will be a Vineyard Hike with Wine at Hilliard Bruce on Friday.  Flying Goat, Clos Pepe, Brewer-Clifton, Zoltovich and Fiddlehead Cellars will be represented at the Wine Education Seminar Series at the Hotel Corque in Solvang on Saturday. Brewer-Clifton, Longoria, Pali and Zotovich will be pouring at the 90+ Points Wine & Dine Event on Saturday night.

Brewer Clifton is having a Wine and Cheese Pairing Seminar on Friday and Flying Goat will hold their Winemaker Dinner at La Purisima Mission.

On Saturday Night Diergberg Estate, Fiddlehead Cellars and Sea Smoke will be pouring at the Grassini Family Vineyards Dinner Event.

Longoria will be tasting their New Releases and Library wines on Saturday, and Sunday and then they have their Annual Winemakers Dinner Saturday night at the Ballard Inn.

On Sunday Brewer Clifton has a Vineyard Tour an Picnic at Machado Vineyard as well as a Winery Open house that day.  Lafond will be having an open house also.

Flying Goat Cellars has a Open house & Vintage 2014 Multimedia Installation happening on Sunday.

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.

Superb Owl Snacks, Chardonnay and Popcorn

Game Day Pairings

Game Day Pairings

It’s Game Day and I’m off.  This is a rare thing for me, typically I would be working on a Sunday, but in Vegas….the only show that goes on today is the Superb Owl!  Michael is working so I have the day to myself.  So game day snacks and a wine pairing seemed in order!  I had a couple of inspirations today.  First was an article by Mark Oldman on Game day snacks and wine pairings 7-pairings-to-supersize-your-big-game-wine-experience.  The second was an article on WineFolly (love her!) on How to Improve your wine smarts in one month.

So…I have been delving into French wines this month, researching and learning more about them and I love popcorn.  I don’t often indulge, but Mark convinced me.  And inspired by Madeline, I will compare a couple wines.  And…to up the ante a little (it is game day) we are inspired by the Judgement of Paris.  If you haven’t seen Bottleshock, you should rent it.  Any way…I am off to find a Chablis from Burgundy and…a Chardonnay from Grgich Hills.  In addition to the popcorn…I’ll search for some other lovely Chardonnay Pairings.

Alright…back from shopping. Here’s what we have.  a 2012 Pascal Bouchard Chablis Le Classique,  a 2010 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay, and a 2010 Chateau de Rully.  My favorite guy at the wine store was in, so while it was crazy, I managed to pick his brain for a moment.  He gave a nod to my Chateau de Rully pick and suggested the Pascal Bouchard Chablis.  While it is unoaked, it has gone through secondary fermentation so it has a richer mouthfeel while still keeping the acid.  I was eyeing the Montrachet, but mentioned that I didn’t think I should invest in that without Michael home and he agreed.  So…Montrachet for another day.

Game Day Chardonnays

Game Day Chardonnays

I headed to the store and picked up some brie, some fontina cheese, peppered goat cheese, green beans almondine, lobster macaroni, popcorn & butter.

So a little about the Wines…where they come from etc and the pairings.

When Michael and I first visited Napa, Grgich Hills was the second winery we visited.  They were warm and friendly and open to educating wine novices, which we were at the time.  If you have not yet seen Bottleshock, and want the suspense, you might skip reading this next part.  Mike Grgich worked at Chateau Montelena as the winemaker in 1973 when that famous Chardonnay was made that beat out the French whites at the Paris tasting.  At 91 he is still active at the winery and in Napa and can be seen sporting his signature beret.

Grgich Hills 2010 Chardonnay

Grgich Hills 2010 Chardonnay

The Grgich Hills 2010 Estate Chardonnay; ($33)  Certified Organic and Biodynamically farmed, the 2010 vintage has good acidity with a definite butteriness from 10 month in French Oak (40% new).  This sits on the high side at 14.1% alcohol.  The butteriness of the wine lent itself to pair nicely with all of the cheeses, adding a depth of richness to the Fontina and Brie and unexpectedly taming the pepper in the peppered goat cheese.  It brought out the richness in the sauce in the green beans almondine.  But the Piece de resistance was pairing it with the buttered popcorn!  Heavenly!

Buttered Popcorn

Buttered Popcorn

Chablis is the northernmost area in Burgundy and they grow Chardonnay almost exclusively here.  Chardonnay’s here you will find unbaked. The soil here is Kimmeridge Clay which is a mixture of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells.  Chablis is so well known for it’s Chardonnay that when vintners in California fist began growing Chardonnay, they actually called it Chablis.

Pascal Bouchard is a family run winery with an Estate that sits in 4 appellations in Chablis : Chablis Grand Gru, Chablis Premier Cru, Chablish and Petit Chablis.  They use no new oak here and only the Grand Crus are aged in 100% oak.  The Petit Chablis and Chablis (like the Le Classique that we tasted) are 100% stainless steel.

Pascal Bouchard Chablis

Pascal Bouchard Chablis

The Pascal Bouchard 2012 Chablis; ($23) This wine is clean and bright with pear and fresh cut apple on the nose as well a a bit of chalk and dust.  This made for a bright clean pairing with all of the cheeses, making them feel lighter.  The acid was perfect to cut through the fat.  This wine would allow you to enjoy brie outside on a hot summer day and not have it be too heavy.  This paired nicely with the beans and  with the Lobster macaroni made for a lovely contrast.  The alcohol on this sits at 12.5%.

Chateau de Rully is a 12th century medieval fortress located in Cote Chalonnaise.  The vineyards here are maintained by Antonin Rodet, who sells these wines all over the world.  Cote Chalonnaise is south of Cote d’Or and Cote de Beaune.  The wines here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Chateau de Rully 2012

Chateau de Rully 2012

Chateau de Rully 2010 ($25) 11-14% alcohol; This wine had acid on the nose than the Grgich with a little effervescence.  I got butter and creme on the nose and a little dust that was not chalky.  Round and mellow on the palate, but with great acid for a wonderful palate cleanser.  This wine brought out the nutty character in the Brie and gave me interesting nuances when paired with the Fontina.  With the goat cheese?  Not so much.  But this was my favorite pairing with the Lobster Mac.  It compliments nicely the dish nicely making everything more aromatic in my mouth.

These three Chardonnays were all very different.  The Chablis was crisp and clean and lighter in color.  The Chateau de Rully has a little butter with good acid and lots of nuance and the Grgich Hills was by far the biggest wine in the bunch and really was a piece of heaven with the buttered popcorn.

Oh..and I did watch a little of the game and some of the commercials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baked Salmon recipe Paired with Chardonnay or Pinot Noir?

Herb crusted Salmon

Herb crusted Salmon

Salmon is a glorious fish that can pair with either red or white wine.  So tonight we did a taste test and pulled out 2 stunning bottles of wine from Santa Barbara County.

This was also another incredibly quick meal to make!  I did an Israeli Cous Cous, an herb green salad and then baked a big fillet of salmon.  I searched the web for how to best cook my salmon and found a basic method that I got to add the finishing touches to.  First…take your salmon out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you plan to prepare it, so that it gets closer to room temperature.  Next, preheat the oven to 475.  Get your baking dish set with a couple tablespoons of butter and a little olive oil and stick it in the oven to preheat.  Meanwhile get your herbs ready.  I had thyme, lemon thyme and parsley that I coated the salmon with on the non-skin side.  Once the butter has melted and the pan is hot, pull it out of the oven and put the fish in skin side up (so herbed side down) and stick it in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Then pull it out and peel the skin off.  The skin should come off easily, if it doesn’t stick it back in for a minute or two.  Once the skin is off, season with salt and pepper and flip it over.  Then season your herbed side also and throw it back in for another 3 or 4 minutes.  I admit, I saved the skin and toasted it up the rest of the way later and it accompanied the rest of the salmon for lunch today.

Here’s what it looked like right out of the oven.

Now for the wines.  I pulled out two wines that I have been wanting to get into. The Chardonnay is a 2010 from Hilliard Bruce.  We had the great pleasure to visit them on our last trip to Santa Barbara.  This Chardonnay is stunning. It is crisp with great acid, but still has that wonderful yeast on the nose.  You get a bit of oakiness in the mouth, but the acid beautifully balances it out.   It is aged in 100% French Oak, 30% of which is new and Christine does barrel fermentation with Montrachet yeast with full malolactic fermentation.   It is aged on the lees for 16 months.

Hilliard Bruce 2010 Chardonnay

Hilliard Bruce 2010 Chardonnay

The second wine, our Pinot Noir comes to us from Carhartt Vineyards another of our favorite places in Santa Barbara County.  The Carhartt 2012 Pinot Noir is from Riverbench Vineyards in Santa Maria Valley.  This is a young bold Pinot Noir and it was suggested to go with grilled planked salmon.  Lots of smoke and baking spice on the nose and very savory with lots of depth.

Carhartt 2012 Pinot Noir

Carhartt 2012 Pinot Noir

So, which paired better?  Both were good, but the Chardonnay really knocked it out of the park..  Keep in mind, Carhartt suggested a grilled planked salmon which would have had lots of smoke flavor.  Had we prepared the salmon that way I think it would have been the winner.  But, as it was the herbs paired beautifully with the Chardonnay, the acid cut through the fat in the salmon and it was amazing bite after bite.

Herb Crusted Salmon, Israeli Cous Cous, Salad, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.

Herb Crusted Salmon, Israeli Cous Cous, Salad, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.

 

Hilliard Bruce Vineyards – Part 1: The People and the Place

Hillard Bruce Entrance

The start of a 4 part series on our trip to Hilliard Bruce in the Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County.

We had a trip planned to Santa Barbara to visit wineries and I had tweeted looking for great spots for sunrise shots etc.  I had a response from a winery that was not on my radar.  Hilliard Bruce tweeted “ If you can, you’ve got to see the canopy management at Hilliard Bruce Vineyards at least once before you die.”  And well, when you put it like that, how could we not!  So we scheduled a visit with the tweeter, who turned out to be John Hilliard himself.

 

John Hilliard & Christine Bruce

John Hilliard and Christine Bruce are peaceful, gentle and thoughtful people.  They are both certified master gardeners, and perhaps their demeanor comes from this connection with the soil and growth.

Christine is an avid horsewoman and raises Arabian horses on the property.   She also has an extensive background in music studying classical piano and then falling in love with contemporary jazz and working as a professional keyboardist after graduating from the Berklee College of Music.

John came from a background in finance and maritime insurance until he decided to take up painting full time.  In Houston he was the Director and President of Diverse Works and a panelist for the Cultural Arts Council of Houston.  Later he took over his family’s shipyard business. (Talk about diversity!)

They divide their time now between the vineyard in California and their home in Miami where they are still part of the art scene.

It’s a joy to meet them, their dogs Wiglette and Jackson are always with them. And they love to be out on the property.  The pride in this place is evident as they show you around.

As they drove us around the vineyard we passed a section where several birds were trapped under the netting.  They net over 2 rows, so you can go underneath and still work on the vines.  John noticed the birds and we stopped to set them free.  Yes I’m sure that this keeps the birds out so that they don’t eat the berries, but John was mostly concerned that the birds were not trapped.  The kindness that exudes from John and Christine I am sure makes their wines better.

 

The Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills

View of Pinot Vines

They found this property as they searched for a place to breed Arabian horses and plant a vineyard where they could grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  This location idyllic for this.  It is located on 101 acres on the Western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, with 21 acres planted with vineyards in 2004.  From the top of the vineyard the view is amazing.  You can see the ocean to the West, to the North you can see Gypsy Canyon and to the West, Kessler Haak, Clos Pepe, Melville, Babcock Vineyards.  They are directly across Rt. 246 from Dos Hermanas Vineyard (previously known as Ashley’s Vineyard).

The soil here is a sandy silk that is very low in organic matter making it extremely fast draining.

They have 17.5 acres of Pinot Noir with Calera, Pommard, 115, 667, 777 and 828 clones.  The Chardonnay covers 3.5 acres in 76 and 96 clones, but they are about to plant more Chardonnay.

The property is also a showcase for their love of gardening with 300 date palms, apple trees, an avocado orchard, hundreds of roses and a stunning cut flower garden.

Christine’s vegetable garden is beautiful, a photographers dream.  With her love of beauty and art, she admits to sometimes having trouble harvesting in her garden and upsetting the beautiful visual.

 

Tomorrow we will explore their approach to sustainability!

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.

Wine in Arroyo Grande at Talley Vineyards

Talley Winery

During our April trip touring Wine Country from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles I had booked at tour at Talley in Arroyo Grande.  I was inspired by the interview in Steve Heimoff’s book “New Classic Winemakers of California”

 

Talley Winery Landscape

Talley Winery Landscape

Talley Vineyards is located in Arroyo Grande in the Southern part of San Luis Obispo County and the Talley family is a farming family.  Even today a good portion of their property is specialty vegetables.  They began growing grapes in 1982. Brian Talley, who was interviewed in Steve Heimoff’s book owns and operates Talley Vineyards with his wife Johnine.  The vineyards now comprise 165 acres in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys.

While on our tour we had several opportunities to speak briefly with their winemaker Eric Johnson.  He was overseeing the bottling of a wine for another vineyard that day. They have a large space and often process and bottle for smaller wineries.

Talley Winery Soil samples

Talley Winery Soil samples

I had read on their blog about them doing soil samples from their 6 vineyards….“Playing in The Dirt” is a great read.  We were able to see the soil samples that they are now prepping for a new vineyard museum room that will be in the tasting room.

They use traditional Burgundian methods in the cellar here.  Their Chardonnay is hand picked and whole cluster pressed.  It is only briefly in tank before being racked into French oak barrels with a light to medium toast. All of the wines are barrel fermented with native yeasts.  Wines here age sur lie for malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity.   The Pinot goes through cluster sorting and is mostly de-stemmed.  For vineyard designates they do 25% whole cluster.  Grapes are then gravity fed into small open top fermenters.  They cold soak for 3 to 5 days and again ferment with only native yeasts. After 10 days or so the wine is racked into French Oak that is medium-to heavy toast and aged for 15-18 months.  This is 30-35% new oak.

Travis Monk the Vineyard Manager also stopped by briefly.  He like Eric is younger (late 20’s?)  This is a new and young team, bringing great energy to Talley.  In the vineyards they do as little watering as possible.  They are lucky to have an aquifer on the property.

As the family still has their farming operations, they have a year round workforce.  When it gets close to harvest they can pull workers off of other jobs to harvest when the brix levels are perfect.

You would think this was a really small operation considering we got to speak with these people, but it is not.  They bottle under the Talley label for their estate grown wines as well as Bishop’s Peak which sources grapes from the greater Central Coast.  Talley Vineyards currently produces about 30,000 cases annually.  The Vineyard designate Pinots on the Talley label are really wonderful.

Talley El Rincon Adobe

Talley El Rincon Adobe

The grounds here are lovely and if have the opportunity tour the historic El Rincon Adobe. This house greets you as you enter the property and is on the label for Talley Vineyards.  It was build it the early 1860’s and is constructed of sun dried mud bricks that were made onsite.  The name means “The corner” in Spanish. The building was the original Talley tasting room until the new tasting room was completed in 2002.

Talley Picnic Area

Talley Picnic Area

They have a beautiful picnic area by the tasting room with great views of their Rincon Vineyard. This is the perfect place to stop as you drive between Santa Barbara and Paso for a tasting and a picnic lunch.

Talley Vineyard Old basket press

Talley Vineyard Old basket press