Zaca Mesa at 40

Zaca Mesa Sign

 

Zaca Mesa WIndmill foggy Morning

Zaca Mesa WIndmill foggy morning

This weekend Zaca Mesa Winery will celebrate it’s 40th birthday.  This winery has quite a bit of history.  The property was purchased by a group of friends in 1972 and the vineyard was planted in 1973 and they have been sustainably growing grapes in Santa Barbara ever since.  The winery itself was built in 1978 and expanded in 1981.  By the early 90’s they had determined that Rhone Varieties grew best on the property.  They were the first Central Coast winery to appear in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 back in 1995.  They are down to the last of their original owners and have been family owned for about 25 years.

Their first winemaker was Ken Brown who has since gone on to start the very successful Byron in Santa Maria.  The rest of the list of previous winemakers continues to look like a who’s who of Santa Barbara & Paso winemakers including: Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe, Daniel Gehrs of Daniel Gehrs Wines, Clay Brock of Wild Horse, Chuck Carlson of Curtis and Benjamin Silver of Silver Wines.

Their current winemaker is Eric Mohseni.  He started his career in wine retail then worked at Edna Valley Vineyards in 1997.  It was there that he got hooked on winemaking.  He started at Zaca Mesa in 2001 as the enologist worked up to Assistant Winemaker, then Associate Winemaker and finally took the reins in July of 2008.

All the wines here are estate bottled and grown.  They don’t buy or sell grapes.  They have about 750 acres of which 244 are planted with grapes.  20 acres are newly planted with Syrah.  They sit about 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Northern portion of the Santa Ynez AVA.  Soils here are mostly Chamise loam over gravelly beds of silk and clay so the soil is well drained.  Many of their vineyards are up on a high mesa at 1500 feet.  This gives them lower high and higher low temperatures.  The more consistent temps allow for slow consistent ripening.  The height also causes higher UV radiation, which makes the grapes smaller, and thicker-skinned giving them increased color and phenolic compounds, which can provide more flavor to the wine.

Zaca Mesa glass

Zaca Mesa glass

As to “sustainable” there is a “Code of Sustainable Winegrowing” developed by the California Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers.  It spells out “practices that are sensitive to the environment, responsive to the needs and interests of society-at-large, and economically feasible to implement and maintain.”  Zaca Mesa is sustainable using organic products, conserving energy and working efficiently to reduce waste.  They farm only one-third of the acreage leaving open space for wildlife and preserving ground water.

Zaca Mesa was the third stop in a little trilogy we were doing in Santa Barbara, the day before we had tasted at both Au Bon Climat and Qupe.  We rolled in early on a Friday morning and watched the coastal fog roll through the valley coming in from the North.  The property is beautiful with huge trees greeting you as you walk from the parking area to the tasting room.

It was the beginning of a busy weekend for them as they had their wine club pickup party happening the next day.  We rolled up and were the first guests in the tasting room.

Now onto the tasting!

  • 2010 Estate Viognier.  This wine received 91 Points and was the Editor’s Choice in Wine Enthusiast Magazine in the Feb 2013 issue.  The nose is very Viognier but on the palate it is dryer than expected and has lots of lemon lime.  It has the body of a Viognier but is crisper and brighter on the palate with a bit of minerality.  This wine starts out in stainless steel and then transfers to new oak after about 3 months.  $16
  •  Z Blanc.  This wine was not on the tasting menu but we managed a taste.  It is a blend of Grenache, Roussanne and a little Viognier.  The grapes for this were hand harvested, fermented and barrel aged for 10 months.  This had minerality and a little oak and would go great with shellfish.  This has great layer of flavor.
  • 2009 Estate Roussanne:  Michael does not normally like Roussanne.   There is some flavor in there that he usually finds off-putting.  This Roussanne has great weight and viscosity in your mouth. It is aged sur lee so it is mellower.  Michael didn’t mind this Roussanne.  Wine Enthusiast liked it and gave it 93 point in the February 2013 issue.  $25.
  • 2009 Estate Grenache Blanc:  A little brighter than the Z Blanc Blend with a bit more mineral, but less depth then the blend (obviously). $25
  • 2010 Estate Mourvedre:  This was smoky with a beautiful nose.  First I got smoke then blueberry.  It was cool on the palate and had a long finish.  I could have kept my nose in this glass all day.  $35.
  • 2008 Estate Z Cuvee: This GSM Blend is mostly Grenache (68%) with 18% Mourvedre and 14% Syrah. Lots of blackberry with big fruit on the nose.  This will cellar for another 7 years.  $20.
  • 2008 Estate Z-Three:  Another GSM with 51% Syrah, 37% Mourvedre and 12% Grenache.  This was a really wonderful blend (my favorite here) Loads of blackberry with a little blueberry from the Mourvedre and then a touch of raspberry from the Grenache.  This again will cellar for 5 or so more years.  Wine Enthusiast gave this 89 points in their February issue.  $42.
  • 2009 Estate Syrah:  I got blackberry, smoke, salted meat and a little bit of dried herbs.  Bigger tannins that lightly coat your palate and the roof of your mouth but not your teeth.  Warm on the back of the palate without being hot.  Yeah, this would be perfect with rack of lamp in rosemary and garlic.  This is great now and can cellar for up to 10 years, if you can keep from drinking it before then.  $25.

 

After our tasting we wandered up on the hill to where they have a small picnic area overlooking the winery and vineyards.  I could have strolled the grounds all day and maybe gotten Michael to play me a game of chess on the oversized chess board outside the tasting room, but….we had to press on to our next tasting! (Coming up next…Talley!)

Municipal Winemakers and the “Funk Zone” wineries

Life is Better with Wine

I have wanted to visit Municipal Winemakers for a while.  We stopped in on our last trip through Santa Barbara a year and a half ago only to find that they were sold out and had no wines to taste!  Well, if you are going to have a problem in the wine industry, I think that is the one to have.  As we planned another trip through the area I did more research on the winery.

Municipal Winemakers, Santa Barbara

Municipal Winemakers, Santa Barbara

They are kitschy, located in The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail’s “Funk Zone”.  Their winemaker Dave Potter wants to get the wine to the people.  He loves making wine and meeting people who want to drink his wine.  Distributors and sales…that creates the distance between the grape and the glass and takes some of the heart out of the process.  So…Dave makes his wines and sells them in his tasting room.  Small lots, high quality and it’s working if he is selling out before he can release another vintage!

This is not your average wine tasting room.  Outside you have to see the sign on the sidewalk to realize that it is a tasting room, otherwise it looks like an old dive shop near the beach in Santa Barbara.  There are picnic tables set up in an area out front.  When you walk in you first notice the wall of stacked filing cabinets.

Municipal WineMakers, File Cabinet Wall

Municipal WineMakers, File Cabinet Wall

As we walked up for our tasting the person pouring pulled one drawer open and pulled out two glasses and oversized index card with a typed list of the tastings!

We tasted through the list, which included a dry, Riesling (Bright White), a Rose (Pale Pink), a Red Blend (Bright Red), a Pinot (Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir), a Cab and a sweeter Riesling (Sweetness).  The bottles have great labels and each bottle has a bottle number listed.  The rose was Grenache, Cinsault and Counoise and the “Bright Red” which I really enjoyed was the same blend with Syrah.  The Bright Red was light on the palate but with big flavor.  They do also have a “Wine Fountain” where they serve wine by the glass or in 1 liter refillable bottles.

We walked the neighborhood enjoying some more of the “Funk Zone” before heading up State Street.  Next door there is an old red phone box labeled “Book Exchange” and filled with books.  I had seen these on Facebook, but this was the first I had seen close up!  Need a book, take a book, done with a book, leave it!  It is a great concept!  Lots of other wineries have tasting rooms in the area.  Anacapa Vineyards is not even listed yet, they are so new!  They have a beautiful tasting room with big windows and chalkboards on the walls filled with all kinds of interesting information on their grapes and wines.  It is a regular wine education classroom!

Oreana Winery

Oreana Winery

Oreana Winery up the street has old trucks painted with their logo out front and a juke box in the garage that is part of their barrel room.  Pali, which is next to Anacapa, has lots of windows and a patio on the side.  Santa Barbara Winery sits in a white washed building covered in vines.  In addition to the wineries listed on the Urban Wine Trail site, there are more popping up all the time.  We saw a side door on a building that said “Drake”.  This new little tasting room evidently recently opened.  When we were later at Sculpterra in Paso, the person pouring for us said his friend had just opened that tasting room (the wine world is a small world).

While we only had time to taste at Municipal, we will happily return to spend a day or two tasting in the area and enjoying the beach.  There are around 11 tasting rooms in “The Funk Zone” and another 9 or 10 within the downtown area, including Conway’s Deep Sea Tasting room out on Stearns Wharf.

For now…we were off to take a stroll up State Street and find Au Bon Climat (or ABC as it seems to be known here).

C’est la Vie – A Moulin Rouge themed evening of amazing food and wine

Europa Village, Moulin Rouge Themed Food & Wine Dinner from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.

We had relaxed at the Inn at Europa Village with white sangria on the balcony overlooking the Winery and Vineyards, then had a nap and now were dressed (to the nines) and heading down the to Musical Wine Pairing Dinner at Europa Village.  All afternoon the scent of smoked pork wafted up to our room from the smoker outside that Chef Dean was using.

We strolled into the courtyard with some other guests, commenting on the red windmill lit up and tacked to the end of the winery.  There was some confusion as to why it was there.  This dinner was Moulin Rouge themed!

Europa Village has 3 labels for their wines Vienza is their Italian varieties and blends, Bolero for the Spanish and C’est la Vie for their French wines. Tonight was to be a celebration of their French Style wines with hors d’oeuvres, dinner as well as a musical performance with singers and Can Can girls!

We headed into the tasting room and checked in.  The first pour of the night was their 2011 Viognier.  We grabbed a glass and headed back out to the courtyard to enjoy the beautiful early evening.  We had a seat at one of the café tables outside the tasting room and enjoyed the view of the gardens and the Inn.  You could see the fire pit going on the patio up at the Inn.  The Passé course came by to pair with the Viognier.  It was a Tarte Flambée with Crème Fraiche, Onion & Lardons.  A perfect bite to start the evening.  People gathered, many here were “Societe” Members (members of the wine club) and knew each other.  We met a few people and were introduced to a few more, and then we were all directed to “The Cave” for dinner.

This is a simulated Italian Wine Cave built next to the tasting room where they hold events.  Tables were set for 8 and the Cave was dim and candlelit.  We found a table and met some more new people.  Dinner began with a word or two from the presenters followed by Chef Dean Thomas coming to explain each of the courses we would be enjoying.  The sommelier then spoke about the wines and we finished things off with a song, “Come What May” from Baz Lurman’s film “Moulin Rouge” along with the Debut course of Mushroom Bisque with a Chevre Gourgere and chive oil, paired with the C’est La Vie 2011 Chardonnay.  Michael hates mushrooms, so I snuck a look at him out of the corner of my eye as he tested the soup.  I felt sure that he would take a taste and then politely put it to the side.  Nope, after one taste, he went back for a second and third and finished the cup.  Chef Dean you have converted him!

The third course was our “Prima” and finally I got to taste that smoked pork!  This was smoked pork tenderloin & roast belly, duck confit “Kronenbourg” choucroute, De Puy lentils and legumes paired with the C’est La Vie En Vie.  This is a Rhone Style blend of Grenache, Syrah Counoise, Cinsault and Mourvedre.  En Vie means “In Life”.  This dish was delicious and aromatic and rich.

The next course was the Fromage Amuse.  A little cheese course (we are dong the French thing here!) to round up the savory flavors of dinner

The Finale Course our dessert was a Grand Marnier Soufflé Glace (frozen) with Raspberry Coulis & Citrus Supremes paired with the Vienza Grenache Rose.  We stepped away from France with this wine and this Rose was definitely on the sweet side.  It made a unique pairing with the Glace.

Throughout the evening we had been entertained by Can Can girls and vocals some from the movie and others from other Moulin Rouge and French inspired movies and musicals.

We strolled out very full into the moonlight through the gardens and then back to our Inn on the hill.  The fire pit on the patio was enticing, but we were sated and sleepy so we collapsed into the comfortable bed and waited to be awoken by the sounds of hot air balloons.

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.

Frangipani, a piece of paradise on the De Portola Trail

Frangipani Winery

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

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

Frangipani Dog Frannie

Frangipani Dog Frannie

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

Frangipani Patio

Frangipani Patio

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

Frangipani View

Frangipani View

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

Europa Village, at Temecula CA

Europa Village corks

Europa Village winery endeavors to take you on a quick trip to Europe to enjoy the wines of France, Italy and Spain.  The gardens here are lovely and they have added a covered patio for large groups. They have a tasting room set up in a French café style plus a room set up like a cave for events.  The wines are under 3 separate labels C’est la Vie Chateau for the French wines including Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier and Savignon Blanc as well as En Vie which is a Rhone Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault and Mourvedre. Bolero Cellars has the Spanish wines including a Muscat Canelli and Albarino and the Libido which is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo.  Lastly Vienza brings you the Italian varieties which include Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, a Grenache Rose, Barbera, Primitivo and the Tuscan style blend Primazia which is Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Europa Village Patio

Europa Village Patio

Cave Music Event

Cave Music Event

There are no shortage of events here at the winery with Music on Friday nights, dinner plays, art events where you can learn to paint while sipping away, culinary classes with the chef from The Inn at Europa Village and wine pairing dinners.  We stopped in to see “Lady Truth” play the last time we were in Temecula.  Due to the cold weather everything was set up in the cave and they had wine by the glass or bottle plus there was a tent outside with a Panini vendor that you could order from.  When it is warmer I am sure that the patio makes for a stunning venue!

Europa Village Inn

Europa Village Inn

The Inn boasts 10 stunning rooms named after their wines, with most rooms enjoying a view of the winery below as well as a two-course gourmet breakfast each morning.  The Inn’s patio includes a fire pit and an eight person Jacuzzi.  You can wake up in the morning to watch the balloon tours float overhead, or get up a little extra early and take one of the Balloon rides yourself as they depart from the winery each morning.

This is a great place for a romantic getaway. Watch for Video Blog Entry coming Soon!

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.

Adventures at Van Roekel

Van Roekel Sign

Van Roekel is the sister property to Maurice Car’rie.  It sits on the hill overlooking Maurice Car’rie and is where their winemaker Gus produces his more refined wines.  The winery complex is on a drive that includes the Van Roekel winery, a small wine country art gallery, the Temecula Wine Makers Association offices and the Van Roekel tasting room.  The tasting room has a sparkling wine menu and a regular menu.

Van Roekel tasting room

Van Roekel tasting room

The pourers in the tasting room were friendly and we had great conversation while we tasted the wines.  We began with the Gewurztraminer which was crisp and not overly sweet and is a great buy at $12.95.  All the wines here are very reasonably priced.  We also tasted their White Zin , and the Chardonnay which was very crisp and slightly sweet and very un Chard like to me, but fascinating enough that I took a bottle home.  On to the reds.  The 2011 Merlot had a bit of oak and spice and a light mouth feel with butter on the end and only a slight hint of tannins.  The Syrah was medium bodied with light silky tannings and pepper with a cooling bit of eucalyptus on the nose.  This felt very finessed for a syrah, not your big fruit bomb or barnyard style syrah.  The 2008 Grenache was full of plums and had higher tannins.  The Papa Red is a non vintage blend that gave you cooked berries on the nose and a variety of fragrances that my nose could not pick out. They were very well rounded and blended.  Bright tannins fill your mouth and there is a little hint of oxidations which is actually very pleasant and provides a depth of flavor.  There is a little bit of barnyard/wet dog on this that is very nice.  This wine is extremely unique.

Our afternoon here was very nice.  The wines, while not what I typically think of for the varieties were very enjoyable as well as cost effective.  These wines are an adventure and one that caught me by surprise and I enjoyed.