Santa Barbara Wines with Savory Spring Tarts

Santa Barbara Wine Tasting

 

Savory Spring Tarts….you are questioning what that means, but your mouth is watering anyway.  You can find the details on 4Farm2Mrkt. Of course we needed to do wine pairings so you get those here. We had 3 different types of tarts and I ended up choosing 4 different wines to taste with them. All of these wines ended up being Santa Barbara Wines. So, here we go… Let’s start with the video, then after the jump you can read the details!

Tercero 2013 Rosé.

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This is a Mourvedre Rose made by Larry Schaffer of Tercero. We met Larry at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2014. He is fascinating and were lucky enough to speak with him in his tasting room earlier this year. Watch for the video interview which covers a WIDE range of subjects!
Larry’s tasting room is in Los Olivos and it is off the beaten path with the entrance on San Marcos St. They don’t have tasting notes here, but rather encourage you to see what you find in the wines.
Larry loves Rhones and is the president of the local Rhone Rangers Chapter, so a Mourvedre Rosé is right up his alley. These grapes come from the Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon. Larry foot stomps all of his grapes. (I think it’s a great way for him to expend some of his extra energy, because this gentleman has quite a bit!).
This is a rosé with depth. After a slow cool fermentation he puts it in French oak for 3 ½ months. It’s older French Oak so on the neutral side, but he says the wine develops some “funk” while there. I Love This Wine!

Grassini 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

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We met Katie Grassini a little over a year ago, in the Stunning Grassini tasting room in Santa Barbara’s El Paseo. Their family vineyard is in Happy Canyon which is on the Eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley. The warmer climate here (the temperature rises by a degree each mile from the ocean in the Santa Ynez Valley) is perfect for Bordeaux varieties. They do high density farming of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Petit Verdot. You will find “Grassini Vineyard” on many Sauvignon Blancs around the valley, their fruit is coveted by many winemakers. Their beautiful Sauvignon Blanc is whole cluster pressed and fermented primarily in Stainless steel, with a portion of it going into neutral oak puncheons.
This wine is bright without being too tart and is well rounded in your mouth.

Jamie Slone 2013 Aloysius Chardonnay

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Jamie Slone Wines is also in the El Paseo of Santa Barbara. His winemaker is Doug Margerum, but Jamie is very involved in the process. The day we stopped in, Jamie himself was behind the bar pouring and as it was early in the day, we were able to monopolize his time and hear many great stories. This Chardonnay “Aloysius” (pronounced alowishes) is named for his wife Kym’s late father. The grapes come from the Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria. This is a beautiful well rounded wine with just a touch of oak.

Anacapa Vintners 2010 Santa Maria Pinot Noir

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Anacapa Vintners, otherwise known as AVA Santa Barbara, The Valley Project, is a project by Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines. It explores the Santa Barbara area and looks at how the wines differ in the various AVA’s.
This wine is a pinot noir from the Santa Maria Valley which is in the northern part of Santa Barbara County. This was actually the 3rd AVA in the United States. The temperature rarely gets over 75 degrees and the growing season here is long making it perfect for Pinot Noir.
This Pinot had a bit of funk on the nose and I liked it! There were only 243 Cases of this wine produced.
If you find yourself in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone this is a “Don’t Miss” stop. The tasting room features a large Elkpen mural of the Santa Barbara Region which describes the climate and soils. As they pour your tasting, they will pull out soil samples so you can see what the different soil types are around the area. It is really an incredible educational experience, WITH WINE! What could be better?

Now to the pairings

 

The Strawberry Balsamic Tart we tasted with the Rose, the Sav Blanc and the Pinot Noir. I liked it best with the Rose. The earthiness of the wine, lent itself to the depth of the balsamic with the onions.

The Arugula Tart was meant to pair with the Rose and the Sauvignon Blanc, but it ended up working nicely with everything. Of course the natural pairing is with the Sav Blanc because of the herbs and goat cheese and indeed that was my favorite pairing, but surprisingly it went very well with the Aloysius Chardonnay by Jamie Slone. This wine is bright and tart and Michael liked it very much with the Arugula tart.

The Potato and Tarragon Tart is what I had opened the Chardonnay for and it did indeed pair well. The Pinot Noir also went well with the tarragon on the potatoes.

The lesson?

Suggested pairings are a great place to begin. But wines are individual and some of the nuances may surprise you and lead you to unexpected pairings. Don’t fight it! Give in to the experimentation!

 

To learn more about Santa Barbara Wines, visit the Santa Barbara Vintners site.

And for more great recipes for fresh farmer market produce visit 4farm2mrkt.com

Santa Barbara Wines- the Highlight Reel!

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural Central Coast Wine Country

We are back from our trip to Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles and I wanted to quickly get the highlights out and give some shout outs to people and places that made this an exceptional trip.

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro SB

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro SB

We started the trip in Santa Barbara, walking the beach, exploring the murals in the funk zone and then heading up to beautiful State Street for lunch and a flight at Wine Bistro Pierre Lafond.  This beautiful café has great sidewalk tables that let you take in the romance that is State Street while enjoying great food and wine.  There is great history here, more about that in a later blog.

 

Grassini Tasting Room

Grassini Tasting Room

Our next stop was Grassini Family Cellars.  This winery is located in Happy Canyon and they specialize in Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Their tasting room is located in the historic El Paseo shopping center near Au Bon Climat and Margerum.  This is a beautiful space and Katie Grassini stopped in while we were there and we had a wonderful conversation about their wines, the winery and the sustainable practices they are using there.

 

Carr SB Tasting Room

Carr SB Tasting Room

From there we headed off the beaten track a little to Carr and we tasted through their line up.  The space here is a converted Quonset hut giving it a feel of the inside of a barrel.  They also have wines available here on tap.

 

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

Now it was back into the Funk Zone proper to AVA Santa Barbara, previously known as Anacapa Vintners.  This beautiful tasting room features wines from each of the Santa Barbara AVA’s.  On the entire wall behind the tasting room bar you will find a huge Elkpen mural that shows the AVAs and describes the climates, soils and topography.  They have soil samples on the counter to look at and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable.  For wine geeks that get into the soil and climate this is heaven.

To finish our day we headed down to Stearns Wharf to Conway Family Wines Deep Sea Tasting Room.  This beautiful tasting room is on the 2nd level on the Wharf with beautiful views of the coast and the ocean.  Their Deep Sea Wines are made with coastal grapes.  Shout out to Lauren for a great tasting!

Conway's Deep Sea Winery

Conway’s Deep Sea Winery

 

We finished the day with some sunset shots followed by dinner on the end of the Wharf at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company…tiny and perfect!

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.

 

Just before bed I realized I had a message from Morgen McLauglin from the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, she had been searching to see if anyone was harvested so we could go get some harvest shots.  Well she found a small harvest happening at none other than Clos Pepe.  So we were up early the next morning to meet her at the vineyard at 5:45.

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

This unexpected boon turned out to be so much more than we expected.  Michael jumped in getting shots and Morgen and I chatted and she walked me down to meet Wes Hagen, the winemaker.  Wes handed us gloves, clippers, a bucket and a head lamp and directed us on the finer points of harvesting pinot noir.  The harvest was for a sparkling project that he was working on with another winery. We spent about 2 hours helping to harvest 2 rows of beautiful tight clusters of pinot noir and watching the sun come up.  And…we were lucky enough that Wes invited us to tag onto a tour and tasting he was doing later that day.

 

Vines at Carhartt

Vines at Carhartt

After a quick cleanup and breakfast at Succulent in Solvang, we headed to Carhartt for a winery tour with Joe the new Wine club manager.  We got to see all the new buildings the harvest prep and then head up to the ridge to see the vineyards as well as the newly planned vineyard site.

 

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons

We headed back into Los Olivos for a little wine and dessert!  “Enjoy Cupcakes” has cupcake flights available daily to pair with Saarloos and Sons tastings.  If you are here on a weekend, this is really something you shouldn’t miss.

We managed to have time for one more shared tasting at Presqu’ile.  This is a stunning tasting room that they unfortunately closed after Labor Day.  Don’t be too sad though, they have a tasting room open at their new winery in Santa Maria.  Everyone I have spoken to says the new winery is beautiful.  The wines here I found to have a unique flair which seems to come from their winemaker.  I look forward to stopping by the winery on our next trip.

At this point it was time to head back out to Clos Pepe.  I will have an entire post about our visit here.  Wes Hagen opens his mouth and fascinating facts fall out.  The wines were spectacular and the information and knowledge shared was beyond expectations.  If you are in the area and love wine, you should schedule a visit with Wes.

We ended our day in the world’s tiniest tasting room at Carhartt’s which becomes quite the gathering spot at the end of the day.  They are open an hour later than the other tasting rooms and end up being quite the industry gathering spot. And then caught a light dinner at Avant in Buellton.

 

Hilliard Bruce

Hilliard Bruce

The next morning we were off to Hilliard Bruce.  As I was tweeting about our upcoming trip, I had a tweet from them saying, “If you can, you’ve got to see the canopy management at Hilliard Bruce Vineyards at least once before you die.”  Well with an offer like that…  So we went.  This is a mind bogglingly beautiful property.  John Hilliard and Christine Bruce are both Certified Master Gardeners and they love their plants.  The entire property is beautifully landscaped and truly, the canopy management is beyond anything you will see anywhere else.  Again, you will get an entire blog post on this exceptional property, but let me say that between the wine, the property and the people this was really an amazing visit.

Lots more fascinating details to come as well as photos and video!

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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Adventures with Savignon Blancs

whitesaviog33120133I’ve been on a Savignon Blanc kick lately and it’s totally by accident.  I had a day off and Michael was working and I took myself to a movie and lunch.  I asked for a recommendation to pair with my lunch at The View Winebar and Joey  took the time to be sure to find something I would like.  After determining that we were going white and that I was having gnocchi au gratin she suggested a Sav Blanc.  I hesitated.  I am not usually a Sav Blanc girl, it’s a little too tart and often…I searched for the word and she replied “metallic”.  “Yes”.  “Wait” she said.  She popped open a new bottle and poured me a bit.  It was lovely.  Definitely a Sav Blanc and with the distinct grapefruit on the nose, but without that overly sharpness that I often get from a Sav Blanc.  So I enjoyed a glass or two of this lovely Savignon Blanc from Francois Chidaine Touraine Blanc 2010 from the Loire Valley.  It was perfect to cut through the fat in my luscious gnocchi au gratin and was really pleasant to just drink on it’s own.

Last night Michael and I went out to dinner at Grape Street Cafe.  It’s been awhile since we have had the opportunity to have dinner together with our schedules.  I ordered the Smoked Salmon pasta and asked for a recommendation for a flight to pair with it.  Our waiter suggested the Sav Blanc flight as the dish has a creme sauce.  This flight included Walnut Block “Collectibles” from New Zealand, Auntsfield Estate from New Zealand, Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc from Napa and Vogelzang 2009 from Napa.  Okay so not really Napa.  I came home and did my research today and found that the Vogelzang makes estate Savignon Blanc with fruit from their vineyards in Happy Canyon.  The winery itself is located in Santa Barbara.

So first my tasting notes on these wines.  Last night I snapped a shot of the flight menu, then put it away so that I could just taste the wines without being influenced by the winery or location.  The first wine (The Walnut Block) had a gorgeous nose!  There were lovely floral notes (it felt like more than one) lime leaf and zest and then subtle grapefruit.  I wanted to dab this wine behind my ears.  It was heavenly to smell.  On the palate it was aromatic with perfect acidity.  It was light and clean and was beautiful to balance the fried calamari we had as an appetizer.  The second wine (the Auntsfield Estate) was everything you expect from a Savignon Blanc.  It had big grapefruit on the nose and on the palate it was bold and tart.  The third wine (the Ferrari Carrano) was the Fume Blanc.  It reminded me of the Carhartt Savignon Blanc that I love so much.  The nose is a nuanced grapefruit and citrus but on the palate it is much more dimensional.  It is less tart and more balanced and rounded with a touch of sweetness.  The final wine was the  Vogelzang 2009 Savignon Blanc.  I was immediately surprised that the wine was more golden, but I didn’t look too closely in the dark light.  On the nose I immediately got oak.  On the palate I got the tartness of a Sav Blanc but then also a peat note that made me wonder if someone had scotch in this glass.  At the end of the night as I was getting to the bottom of my tasting glass, I noticed a squiggle of something burnt on the bottom of the glass.  Well, that would do it.  So my tasting on that wine has to be tossed out. But….after visiting the website I did find that this wine is aged in neutral chardonnay oak for 10 months.  So…maybe I did taste some in there?  Who knows.

Okay so now for my research on the wineries!

Francois Chidaine has been producing biodynamic wines for a while, but that’s not what he’s about.   As is typical of french wines this is not 100% Sav Blanc, it has a small percentage of Chardonnay.  His 40 to 80 year old  vines are trained low to hug the ground and by hand harvesting happens in mid October.  He does not encourage malolactic fermentation but lets the wines sit typically for a year on the lees.

Walnut Block in Marlborough New Zealand is named after the iconic walnut tree that is the regions oldest at over 100 years old.  The vineyard uses a three cane system and organic practices.  The Savignon Blanc is a wine that they say will cellar for up to 3 years.

Auntsfield Estate  is Marlborough’s first and oldest Vineyard.  The history page on their website is fascinating!  Filled with great stories!  My favorite….Bill Paynter who took over the property in 1905 and ran it until 1931 when the vines were removed and the land turned over to other farming had his final cask of wine hidden away and his sons were told it was only to be opened at his wake.  During shearing season while he lay ill his sons realize that the shearing shed was very quiet.  They found the shearers all asleep in the shed, having found and imbibed on the hidden cask the night before.  They now grow Savignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the property.

Ferrari-Carano is a winery that I go way back with.  I remember enjoying their wines at their Casino in Reno at the opening of the state of the art theatre with Smokey Joe’s Cafe.  So I have a fondness for them.  As to Fume Blanc, well that I fell in love with thanks to Mike Grgich and the fabulous pourer at his winery that suggested we take a split and pair it with the Tuna Burger at Gott’s Roadside.  So…here I bring together two loves.  And mind you last night, I had put the wineries out of my head as I tasted the wines, and this was one of my favorites.

Villa Fiore is Ferrai-Carano’s hospitality center.  They have tastings upstairs but I suggest setting up for  a reserve tasting in the Enoteca Lounge downstairs.  It is well worth it.  And allow yourself time to stroll the stunning Italian gardens on the property.  We enjoyed visiting a few years ago and long to return.  There is a coveted bottle of  their Tresor in my cellar.

Vogelzang Vineyard with it’s tasting room in Santa Barbara as I mentioned before grows it’s fruit in Happy Canyon, CA one of California’s newest appellations.  Located in the Santa Ynez valley (which has become one of my favorite areas) they  have a longer stretch of heat during the day because the morning fog burns off earlier than in the rest of the valley.  In addition to Savignon Blancs they grow Cabernet and Bordeaux Varietals.  Like most Santa Barbara County vineyards they don’t just grow grapes for themselves, they also supply grapes to well known wineries including Foxen, Dragonette, Fiddlehead and others.  I look forward to getting to Santa Barbara and doing a tasting here!

So…no longer afraid of Savignon Blancs I have a new appreciation for the range of this variety!