Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest Weekend

Firestone Vineyard Koehler Vineyard Curtis Vineyard

Santa Barbara is one of our favorite wine regions. Typically we find our way that direction in April for the Vintners Spring Weekend, with it’s Seminars, special events and of course the Grand Tasting.  This year, we thought we would mix it up a bit and we will be attending the Celebration of Harvest.  Fall rather than spring, post harvest rather than bud break…it gives a different visual of the area.

We just did a Flash tour through a large portion of California Wine country and our starting and ending point was Santa Barbara County.  You simply can’t beat the diversity.  With the East/West Valley and the temperature increasing a degree per mile as you drive from the cooler Sta. Rita Hills (think Burgundy) through the Santa Ynez Valley past Ballard Canyon (think the Rhone) and on into Happy Canyon (yep think Bordeaux), (not to mention the micro climates you find in Los Alamos Valley or the amazing Vandenburg fog that influences the grapes in Santa Maria and Foxen Canyon), you get a wide range of varieties that grow well here, so when it comes to the Santa Barbara Vintners events, there is something for everyone.  We have done a highlight reel of our favorite stops in this amazing area.  Of course that list is growing, but check out So you are heading to Santa Barbara and want to know where to taste wine.

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This years Celebration of Harvest, kicks off with their signature event “Taste of Santa Barbara Wine Country“.  This event will be held at the Fess Parker Resort, right across from the beach in Santa Barbara.  50 wineries will be on hand to pour their fall releases and word has it that many will have library wines available for tasting also.  And of course their will be great food from some of the best restaurants and vendors in wine country.

Many of the greats will be there, Alma Rosa, Au Bon Climat, Qupe and some of our favorites, Beckmen, Casa Dumetz, Clos Pepe, Jamie Slone, Presqu’ile, Riverbench, Zaca Mesa. And don’t miss stopping by The Central Coast Group Project if you want to try something new.  Scott Sampler of CCGP has been working with extended mascerations and is producing some very interesting wines.

In addition they will have Harvest Experience Passports available.  The passport allows you to visit up to 12 of the participating tasting rooms over the weekend, many of which will have special experiences and tastings just for passport members.

They also have a series of Collaborative Dinners in various locations, where a restaurant or chef are paired up with several wineries for a unique dining experience.  There are 4 of these set up in various locations around the area from a Surf and Turf dinner Angel Oak at Bacara out on the shore with Fiddlehead, Zotovich, Martian, Longoria and Jaffurs wines, to a Cowboy BBQ in Los Alamos with Municipal Winemakers, Casa Dumetz, Lumen, Frequency and Bedford.  Further in there is a Farm to Fork, Vine to Glass dinner at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe with Bernat, J. Wilkes, and Refugio Ranch and then and East Meets West at the magical Ballard Inn Gathering Table with Chef Budi Kazali creating amazing dishes to pair with wines from Melville, Andrew Murray, Beckmen and Star Lane Vineyards.

Celebration of Harvest Weekend is a great opportunity to taste a variety of the amazing wines from this area and get to meet some of the winemakers.  There is so much to this amazing area you could spend weeks here and not see it all (trust me, we’ve tried).  So take the weekend and learn about this amazing wine region that is practically in LA’s backyard.  There are beautiful wines being made here and there is something for everyone.

You can find out more on the Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest site, where you can see the entire schedule for the weekend, buy tickets for the events and purchase your passport for the weekend.

And be sure to stop back here!  We look forward to sharing with you all of our adventures during the Celebration of Harvest.

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Syrah Seminar 2016 SB Vintners – Episode 3 Bien Nacido

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners 2016

Chris Hammell of Bien Nacido

Chris Hammell is the Vineyard Manager for Bien Nacido Vineyards. Bien Nacido is located in the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County. This vineyard is distinctive.   Once you have tasted a Pinot Noir from grapes made from Bien Nacido, you don’t forget it, and forever more you will be able to pick out a Pinot made from these grapes. But…during this episode we will be talking about Syrah from this renowned vineyard.

Chris Hammel

Chris Hammel

Bien Nacido is a little magical. When you drive out there, you find little to let you know that, that is where you are. If you happen to get the secret directions to one of the bi-annual BBQ’s at Au Bon Climat, you will drive out through part of the vineyard. Au Bon Climat & Qupe have their shared winery on the vineyard.

qupewineryBien Nacido is owned by the Millers, who have been growing grapes here since the 70’s. They primarily grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Syrah. But its history goes back much further. It was part of a Spanish land grant back in 1837, given to Tomas Olivera. He sold it in 1855 to Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, who was his son in law. Ontiveros raised horses, cattle, sheep, grew grains AND grapes for wine. The vineyard is 900 acres of the over 3000 acres of Ranch, and as Wendy mentions below “It is considered the most “vineyard designated” vineyard in the world”.

Chris spoke on two wines made from Bien Nacido Grapes. The first is a 2012 Bien Nacido Syrah made by their winemaker Trey Fletcher, who joined them to start the wine making side of the business in 2011. Before that, Bien Nacido was a vineyard that did not make wine, but sold their amazing fruit to some of the most distinguished wineries and winemakers in California, including; Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Adam Tolmach, Gary Farrell, Paul Lato, Sine Qua Non and Bob Lindquist of Qupe.

Episode 3 Part 1: Chris Hammel,

Vineyard Manager Bien Nacido Vineyards speaking on the Bien Nacido 2012 Syrah

Qupe 2011 Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah

Bob Lindquist has been making Syrah from Bien Nacido for 30 years. We heard him speak at last years Seminar – Zaca Mesa University. Here is the video from the segment with Bob and Jim Clendenen. http://wp.me/p2UhpO-2cQ which includes the story of how Jim got Bob fired and hired over the Kinks. Bob Lindquist is a Syrah legend in Santa Barbara.

Chris had the 2011 Qupe Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah. This was Bob’s 30th consecutive bottling of Syrah and the coolest vintage he had ever seen.

Episode 3 Part 2: Chris Hammel

Vineyard Manager Bien Nacido Vineyards speaking on Bob Lindquist and the Qupe 2011 Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

You can see more about Bien Nacido at their site http://biennacidoestate.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

The Transcript (with a little more than the video)

Wendy Thies Sell (WTS): We are now going to move to the north. The northernmost AVA in Santa Barbara County is the Santa Maria Valley home to the renowned Bien Nacido Vineyards, first planted more than 40 years ago. In 1993 and 94 Bien Nacido planted the “Z” Block which is where all Bien Nacido’s Syrah is sourced as well as Qupe’s Hillside Vineyards, Paul Lato’s Syrahs, Sine Qua Non sourced fruit there and other big names. And we are happy to have with us today acclaimed vineyard manager, Chris Hammell of Bien Nacido, where he custom farms more than 600 acres for dozens of wineries. It is considered the most “vineyard designated” vineyard in the world, meaning, Chris masterfully juggles a huge customer base (Pete Stolpman: For the next 5 minutes Chris Hammell will juggle) He has the muscles to do it, right.

Today we taste two wines made from fruit grown at Bien Nacido. We will start with the 2012 Bien Nacido Syrah made by the Estates winemaker Trey Fletcher. Chris works hand in hand with Trey. I don’t know if they actually “hold hands”. Chris, tell us about the grape growing and the winemaking philosophy at Bien Nacido.

 

Chris Hammell: Well first of all, I would like to say that it’s really nice to be up here, with you guys and with these panelist. Santa Maria is kind of a unique spot, a little on the cooler side. I applaud what these guys are doing in Ballard Canyon and although I have kind of a love hate relationship with the AVA concept and system, I kinda don’t want it there unless it’s pure and like my AVA, I say mine because they don’t let me off the farm very often, the Santa Maria Valley, you can see these strange straight lines that are like arbitrarily drawn by county divisions going up and down hills that really leave one somewhat disillusioned if you’re a purist. I’ve been a tremendous fan of the Ballard Canyon area, the people and the wines and quite particularly the Syrah coming off of there. That’s AVA done right. And I’m a huge fan of White Hawk. Also of the region where Chad is, where he and his family have Melville right down here off of the 246. So pretty sweet for me to be up here. I love these wines and I love Syrah and to see them in a line up like this is a big honor. Back in the late 2000’s Nicolas Miller part of the family who I work for, that owns Bien Nacido, he decided he wanted, for whatever reason, to do an estate project. He recruited this guy named Trey Fletcher, an up and coming younger wine maker, full of talent and vision and we converted an old dairy barn, in the middle of the vineyard to be the winery. He gets free run to do what he wants with Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay and Syrah. So this is his 2012. I don’t know how techie we should get and as Wendy said I’m the vineyard manager so I’m just basically farming these two wines and they are kind enough to let me present them. Unlike, Michael who kind of does for his project he kind of sees both sides. But I’m around enough to know, and I pay attention enough to know, kind of what these guys are up to. Trey’s philosophy would be since he doesn’t have to really pay for the grapes, he drops them to like a ton per acre. That just stays between us, okay? (to Michael filming in the back) You’re a good editor right? He drops them really low, because we think, especially in climates like Bien Nacido for example, which is sometimes, in some years, especially in 2011, pushing the limits as far as getting the variety of Syrah to a ripeness, to potential alcohol ripeness and phenolic ripeness. And so we typically see yields that are very low, either from nature or from us going in there and basically lowering the crop down to make sure that we can achieve the ripeness that in most years that the winemakers are looking for. So he’s the guy that will shoot for maybe 13%, which as Pete was mentioning, that kind of coincides with this trend that I’m seeing of a little more elegance a little more what people would call arbitrarily balance. Basically a shift from, how ripe can we go to, stylistically what really turns these winemakers on. Who are some of their fans, that they are trying to emulate throughout the world. In 2012, 13, 14 and pretty much 15, we had the luxury of basically choosing ripeness. So Trey is pretty much a Pinot & Chardonnay guy, pretty much a second shot at doing Syrah, where he is fully in control. You see a wine that is probably about 13.1, probably 30% whole cluster, probably about 30% new oak, and this is something that we’ve seen him in the last few years change to a larger format barrels for whatever reason, but these would all be in the standard burgundy 228 liter, normal barrels that we all see everywhere. This would have been in barrel for about 18 months. Pumpovers, punchdowns both and his big thing in fermentation other than managing it responsibly, has to do with tannin, especially at the end. He is going, I can’t speak to how he does it, but he’s obsessed with tannin management. Whether he gets it right, you guys can be the judge. That’s his big thing. He loves making Syrah, he considers personally, Bien Nacido to be a better Syrah vineyard than Pinot. He thinks the magic is Syrah and Chardonnay for him and for the styles that he likes to do. I’m not supposed to go on record with that either. (Michael LarnerS: that’s why they don’t let him off the ranch very often) Why did I get smaller pours than everybody else? It’s like a conspiracy theory. He’s pulling out all the stops to do what he can. He’s super inspired by Northern Rhone, Cornas which is pretty in vogue these days. His Sommelier buddies like it. I think he’s doing an awesome job and I’ve learned alot from him, both in the vineyard and in the winery. I love the wine. Santa Maria wine is super distinct. Not always so user friendly right off the bat. Especially they don’t show so much fruit, they show herbs and spice and hopefully everything else nice. I don’t know why I have two wines too.

 

WTS: We are staying with Chris here, but I wanted to mention that Bien Nacido has a tasting room in Los Olivos. Larner has a tasting room in the Los Olivos General Store, I forgot to mention that earlier. Our next wine #4, we are sticking with Chris here, because he also farms the Hillside Syrah at Bien Nacido for Qupe. The next wine is the 2011 Qupe Bien Nacido Vineyard Hillside Syrah. This vintage has special meaning for Qupe’s winemaker Bob Lindquist. 2011 was his 30th vintage and his 30th consecutive bottling of Syrah. He told me 2011 was an extremely cool vintage, one of the coolest on record and probably one of the coolest Bob had seen in 37 years of making wine on the central coast. It was a very small crop 1.3 tons an acre in Z block where this Syrah comes from. Harvest was late. Bob remembers taking his son trick or treating Halloween night and then picking this Syrah the next morning November 1st. And Chris was out there picking this Syrah that you are about to taste. (Chris: All by myself) Single handedly. Chris tell us what is it like to work with Bob and you probably, after all these years know exactly what he wants, right?

 

Chris Hammell: Yeah, more and more. First of all if I start talking so much and then Larry Schaffer starts mad doggin’ me, just give me some kind of sign, cause I can’t really see him. You guys know what I’m talking about. Bob is a true pioneer it’s interesting, Syrah is still kind of finding it’s place and is still kind of young in a sense. With Pinot and Chardonnay we had all these people, an amazing kind of group of winemakers, more or less the same age coming from the same philosophy and it was amazing. We didn’t have that as much with Syrah. You had Bob Lindquist and probably a couple others. You see on this panel, myself excluded, a second wave of pioneers. All of us look up to Bob a lot. I’m not a name dropping guy, but I went to France and we got, for some reason, invited to go see Jean-Louis Chave, who’s like the most famous Syrah guy in the whole world, by everyone’s admission pretty much. He’s a really nice guy and we’re in the cellar throwin’ it up with Jean-Louis Chave the 22nd. Honestly, he’s like the 22nd Jean-Louis. And he says, he speaks perfect English almost without any accent, “Hi Chris, thanks for coming. How’s Bob Lindquist? I love Bob Lindquist.” And then half the conversation was about Bob and not Chave and the amazing legacy that they’ve produced. He’s a legend and this is the second time, interestingly enough that I’ve been able to talk about his wines in front of a group. I spoke with him on the way down and he’s the most gracious wonderful person that one could meet. Many of you probably know him and if you don’t, seek him out today and get a chance to spend time around a real legend, who makes fantastic long lived wonderful wines. He’s never really changed his approach. It’s an honor for me. What he was telling Dayna and I on the way down was, reminding us of this strange vintage that was 2011, which despite the extremely low yields, Is Larry doing…is he..okay, (WTS: He’s good). We had to pick on November 1st because of the rain. I think it was like 22 and a half brix, and he’s kind of a low 23’s guy. There can be differences, so you taste some notes that are leaner and this and that. Interestingly enough, what Bob does and he was fine that I shared this with you, that’s kind of unusual, is he’ll take let’s say 10% right off the bat of the juice before it’s started to ferment and he’ll put it in brand new Francois Frere heavy toast barrels and make it like a rose, but that’s after cold soak so it has some extraction already. And then he’ll take all or a portion of that at first racking which is about a year later, and blend that back into the wine. It’s like a style thing, which I think is pretty cool. He’s done it all along and still does.   Also, this wine, even in a lean year like that, for whatever reason, he has about 35% full cluster, of that 90% that he did ferment on the skin. And then the whole Cuvee ended up being, because of the short crop and probably he had a lot of new barrels, who knows, about 65% new Francois Frere heavy toast. Bien Nacido’s, probably all these wines frankly, it seems most years to be able to withstand, that’s a bad word, it makes it seem like using oak is not good, but everybody talks like that for some reason. But, it can integrate and it can be pleasant. As Pete was saying, these wines can be extraordinarily interesting with age. Because we’re friends with Bob and his winery is on the vineyard where we live, we’ve been able to try countless numbers of old Qupe Syrahs and whites, frankly and they can be just extraordinary. It’s fascinating, but the best years of this wine are probably in the future. Thank you guys.

 

WTS: Thank you Chris.

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Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend 2016

Larner Vineyard

This past weekend was the time for our Annual trip to Santa Barbara for the Vintners Spring Weekend.  The weekend was filled with great food, great wine and great people.  We will start out with the overview here and then you can look forward to in depth posts on the winemakers we met and the events we attended coming up.

We started out early, the drive from Vegas is long, and arrived to the City of Santa Barbara in time for lunch.  The coastal winds were kicking up and we were probably some of the last diners of the day to be able to enjoy the outdoor patio at Moby Dick’s.  Then we took the beautiful drive up 154 through the San Marcos Pass to Los Olivos.  We did a tasting with Mae Apple at Tercero and picked up a Magnum of Larry’s Abberation for the Big Bottle Bash.  Larry was there and waxed poetic on Roussanne.  He is always fascinated to listen to.

The Big Bottle Bash

The kickoff event of the Vintners Spring Weekend was the Big Bottle Bash at Presqu’ile.  This event was sponsored by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.  Presqu’ile is a beautiful Vineyard and Winery in the Santa Maria Valley with gorgeous views, beautiful gardens and amazing hospitality.  We had been lucky enough to attend an event here on the Key to Wine Country Weekend held up on the crush pad, where 4 winemakers compared wines that they had made from the Presqu’ile vineyards.  The Big Bottle bash began with a cocktail hour on the Presqu’ile members patio. There were lots of bottles open, a fire in the fire pit, blue skies and great conversations.  We tasted through a Transcendence Grenache Rose, a Sandhi Chardonnay and a Presqu’ile Pinot Noir before Matt Murphy of Presqu’ile welcomed us and ushered us into the Tasting room for dinner.

View of the San Rafael Mountains from Presqu'ile Winery

View of the San Rafael Mountains from Presqu’ile Winery

This dinner by Chef Nick Barainca was served family style at two long tables and the magnums of wine were poured by several amazing Somms, including Rajat Parr who is also the owner of Sandhi, Dustin Wilson (from the Movie Somm) and Eric Railsback, one of the founders of Les Marchands in Santa Barbara and a founder of Lieu Dit Winery.  There were amazing wines poured.. a Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc (they focus on Loire Valley style wines), a Le Bon Climat Pinot Noir (That is from the Clendennen Family Vineyards),  a Pinot from a Vineyard near Sea Smoke that Raj Parr was pouring that might have been from Sandhi, but I am not sure, a Chateauneuf de Pape that someone had amazingly brought with them and a Dragonette wine.  All of the wines were delicious and several were really interesting for a couple of reasons that I will elaborate on.  One of the guests at our table, Eric works with the winemaker at CCGP (Central Coast Group Project).  Scott Sampler of CCGP will be someone you will hear us speak more of here, and we look forward to following his wines.  Scott is playing with masceration times.  Masceration is the process of soaking the skins, stems and seeds to extract flavor and tannins at the beginning of the winemaking process.  Extended mascerations can be anywhere from 7 to 44 days.  Scott poured a Grenache that had a 100 day masceration period and a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend) that had been 120 days in masceration.  I look forward to tasting his wines as they age and he experiments further.  Lastly we also tasted the wine we brought, Aberration from Tercero.  For this wine Larry was experimenting with how long you could leave a red wine in stainless steel.  This wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache & Mourvedre aged in stainless steel for 4 months.  This wine is fresh and bright and drinks a little like a deep rose.  It’s great slightly chilled and perfect for summer.  Dinner was dazzling and there will be more on that later.

Wine Seminar on Syrah

Saturday morning started off early with the Wine Seminar. This year the panel discussed Syrah in Santa Barbara County.  Wendy Thies Sell did a magnificent job moderating the panel of 7 winemakers, growers and owners from all over Santa Barbara.  We tasted 8 Syrahs from various areas within the Region, from cooler to warmer climates.  There were wines from SAMsARA and Crawford Family Wines in the Sta. Rita Hills, Central Coast Group Project and Tercero Syrahs from White Hawk Vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley, Bien Nacido and Qupe Syrahs from the Santa Maria Valley and Larner and Stolpman Syrahs from Ballard Canyon an AVA that identifies itself as “Syrah Territory”.  All the wines were wonderful and they were all different, some dramatically so.  Watch back for more details on this seminar and more information on the winemakers and wines.

Santa Barbara Vintners 2016 Wine Seminar on Syrah

Santa Barbara Vintners 2016 Wine Seminar on Syrah

The Grand Tasting

From the Seminar we headed straight to the Vintners Spring Weekend Grand Tasting at Riverview Park in Buellton.  This years event was set up by Wine Trails instead of alphabetically. For some trails this was great being able to taste wines from the same area made by different wine makers.  For other trails like Lompoc or Los Olivos which are not located by vineyards, you could enjoy the great diversity of wine styles in this area.  As always there was great food and music and so many winemakers to speak with.  Some highlights of our tastings included Ca’ Del Grevino, Demetria, DV8 Cellars, Ferguson Crest, Lieu Dit, Refugio Ranch Vineyards, Solminer, Toretti Family Vineyard and Transcendence.   We had been challenged at the Big Bottle Bash by Eric who we sat with to spend the Grand Tasting tasting with wineries that we had never tried before and we did this for the most part.  Check back as we delve further into some of our new discoveries.

Lunch at the 2016 Spring Grand Tasting with Santa Barbara Vintners

Lunch at the 2016 Spring Grand Tasting with Santa Barbara Vintners

Dinner out (at SY Kitchen)

After the Grand Tasting it was time to think about dinner.  Michael wanted to continue the trend of trying something new and challenged me to find someplace for dinner where we had not eaten before.  We ended up with fewer options than we expected (we’ve eaten at quite a few restaurants in the Valley).  We settled on SY Kitchen in Santa Ynez and were not disappointed.  Outside the restaurant is unassuming, but as you stroll through the gate you see cozy outdoor lounge seating all around the yard.  The entrance takes you to the bar area and from there you are ushered about the house to your seating area.  We were on the partially enclosed patio which was perfect.  We skipped appetizers to save room for dessert (Thank goodness!).  We shared the parpadelle special with scallops and asparagus paired with a Grimm’s Bluff Savignon Blanc and the Gnocchi alla Salsaccia with tomato, sausage and smoked ricotta with a 2007 Arcadian Syrah from the Santa Ynez Valley.  Both pairings were lovely and I was not familiar with either of these Wineries…so I have more research to do and you can look forward to finding out more about Arcadian and Grimm’s Bluff with me!  The pastas were delicious and not too heavy so we could dive happily into dessert!  We chose a glass each of the 2004 Vin Santo from Tuscany and the Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily. Then we asked our waiter for his help in pairing a dessert with these. He recommemded the Fresh Berry Plate with handmade coconut gelato, balsamic and hibiscus to pair with the Passito and the Home made Vanilla Panna Cotta with caramel and ladies’ kisses crunch with the Vin Santo.  So needless to say…you can expect a future post on Italian dessert wines!

Dinner at SY Kitchen with parpadelle and scallops and Gnocchi with sausage

Dinner at SY Kitchen with parpadelle and scallops and Gnocchi with sausage

Vin Santo, Passito di Pantelleria, Fresh Berry Plate and Homemade Vanilla Panna Cotta at SY Kitchen

Vin Santo, Passito di Pantelleria, Fresh Berry Plate and Homemade Vanilla Panna Cotta at SY Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Larner Fête

Sunday we attended the Larner Fête out at the Larner Vineyard.  Vintners Spring Weekend is a great time for wineries to hold events, and Sunday is perfect as everyone is looking for a great way to spend the last day of the weekend.  This event brought together 6 winemakers plus Michael Larner tasting wines made from Larner Vineyard Grapes.  These winemakers included: Larry Schaffer from Tercero, Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz, Mac Myers of McPrice Myers, Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs, Mikael Sigouin of Kaena, Scott Sampler of Central Coast Group Project and of course Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard and Winery.  We had amazing conversations with all of the winemakers and you can look forward to posts on each of them coming up.   The event was held in the barn which hopefully one day will be converted into the Larner Winery.  There was food from Autostrada who did wood fired pizzas and an array of sliders from Amaranto Catering and it was all delicious. The Ruben Lee Dalton Band played original music on a stage and a flatbed truck bed in front of the barn with picnic tables and umbrellas for relaxing between tastings.

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We wrapped up our weekend with an interview with Michael Larner which will kick off an educational series on Syrah that will be coming up.

A weekend in Santa Barbara is always amazing. This place is filled with great food, wine and people.  Big shout out to Morgen of the Santa Barbara Vintners for putting together such a great Vintners Spring Weekend.  Keep in mind though, anytime is a good time to get to Santa Barbara Wine Country.  If you want a big event, the Celebration of Harvest Weekend will be coming up in the fall.  But don’t wait, there are Multiple Wine Trails and tasting rooms to be explored, pick a weekend…or there are many tasting rooms that are even open during the week.  Trust me, you will need years to explore them all.

We obviously have quite a bit more to share about this trip, so follow us on Facebook or Twitter to catch all of our posts!

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Zaca Mesa University – Part 4 Eric Mohseni

Zaca Mesa Winery

Welcome to part 4 of our coverage of the Santa Barbara Vintners Wine Seminar from the Vintners Spring Weekend 2015. The theme of the seminar was “Zaca Mesa University” based on a wonderful article in Edible Santa Barbara from Spring of 2013 about all of the winemakers who have come through Zaca Mesa Winery. This panel featured Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Eric Mohseni the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa. The Seminar was moderated by Sommelier Christopher Sawyer.

Part 4 features Eric Mohseni.  Eric has a degree in food science from California State University.  He spent a bit of time as a wine buyer before stepping into the vineyard during harvest in 1997 at Edna Valley Vineyards in SLO Wine Country.  After a little time in New Zealand at Esk Valley Estate he returned to California and joined the Zaca Mesa team as the enologist.  He became Zaca Mesa’s winemaker in 2008.

 

 

 

 

For more conversations with winemakers and wineries visit Crushed Grape Chronicles – From Dirt to Glass

 

 

Zaca Mesa University Jim Clendenen & Bob Lindquist

Zaca Mesa Winery

Welcome to part 3 of our coverage of the Santa Barbara Vintners Wine Seminar from the Vintners Spring Weekend 2015. The theme of the seminar was “Zaca Mesa University” based on a wonderful article in Edible Santa Barbara from Spring of 2013 about all of the winemakers who have come through Zaca Mesa Winery. This panel featured Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Eric Mohseni the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa. The Seminar was moderated by Sommelier Christopher Sawyer. Part 3 features Jim Clendenen & Bob Lindquist.

Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat

Jim is the Winemaker at Au Bon Climat, the Santa Barbara winery he founded with his friend Adam Tolmach back in 1982. Both he and Adam, came through Zaca Mesa.   Jim tells us how he saved the world from another mediocre lawyer, by instead going into wine. He is quintessentially Californian with shoulder length grey hair and typically sporting a Hawaiian shirt.   His wines however show the restraint and balance of the Old World wines of Burgundy.

Bob Lindquist of Qupe

Bob Lindquist is the Winemaker at Qupe.  Qupe pronouced “kyoo-pay” is the Chumash word for “poppy”.  The Chumash Indians are the indigenous people of the Central Coast.  A man who bleeds “Dodger” blue, he is a baseball lover who became a wine enthusiast while attending UC Irvine.  He is known for his love of Rhones as well as Chardonnay.  He and Jim share a winery they built in 1989 on the famous Bien Nacido Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley.

Jim & Bob’s time at Zaca Mesa University

In this segment the comedy shines through as Jim tells us how he came to Zaca Mesa in 1978 to run the bottling line. He had more experience than any other applicants with a total of 6 hrs on the Brander bottling line bottling Fred Branders 1976 Gewurztraminer. He talks about their 1st Chard that won top honors in both Orange County and LA County with it’s accidental residual sugar and how they learned to stop that sweetness (and stop winning both top honors). We hear about the differences he found in winemaking techniques in Australia, California and France and the pluses and minuses of getting a salaried job at harvest.

Bob & Jim are friends from way back and Bob tells the very funny story of how Jim helped him get fired and hired thanks to a Kinks concert. He goes on to tell his story at Zaca Mesa after Jim left and how he opened his own winery Qupe in 1982 with the help of both Ken Brown and Marshall Reams. He also talks about making Syrah first from grapes from Gary Eberle in Paso and discovering that cool climate Syrah was the direction to go. He also brought a beautiful 10 year old Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard that we were able to taste.

 

 

 

There is more to come. Our next segment will feature Eric Mohseni the current wine maker at Zaca Mesa which will be released on June 10th.

For more conversations with winemakers and wineries visit Crushed Grape Chronicles – From Dirt to Glass

Zaca Mesa University Part 2 – Ken Brown

Zaca Mesa Winery

This is part 2 of our coverage of the Santa Barbara Vintners Wine Seminar from April of 2015.  The theme of the seminar was “Zaca Mesa University” with a panel of wine makers all of whom had come through the Zaca Mesa Winery.  Sommelier, Christopher Sawyer introduced the first of these winemakers Ken Brown.

Ken Brown or Byron Kent Brown started his career working for IBM, never dreaming that he would end up a winemaker.  He later got into real estate development with his father, who had a friend with a family vineyard in Lodi.  He got to know some people in the wine industry, fell in love with it and went back to school to become a winemaker.  When Marshall Reams decided to build a winery, he called Ken to help purchase the equipment and set the place up.  Ken became Zaca Mesa‘s first winemaker.  While there, he hired Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist who each went on to found Au Bon Climat and Qupe respectively.  After a bit as Zaca Mesa’s winemaker, Ken found he wanted to start making his own wines.  He founded Byron Winery in 1984 and built a winery where he not only made his own wines, but could also make the overflow wines for Zaca Mesa, when they ran out of room.  So basically he got his own winery, subsidized by Zaca Mesa, while still serving as their head winemaker.  Pretty good gig!  In 1990 Mondavi bought Byron.  He stayed on for 14 years before leaving to start Ken Brown Wines in 2003. They do small lot wines in an unassuming little tasting room in Buellton with a range of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  But here…let’s let Ken tell it.

The next segment featuring Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat will be released on June 3rd 2015.

For more conversations with winemakers and wineries visit Crushed Grape Chronicles – From Dirt to Glass

Zaca Mesa University, With Christopher Sawyer

Zaca Mesa Winery

The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend featured a Wine Seminar called “Zaca Mesa University”.  Zaca Mesa Winery has a long history of turning out amazing winemakers and this seminar brought 4 of them together.  Morgen McLaughlin, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Vintners introduced the seminar and then introduced our Moderator.  Christopher Sawyer is and internationally known sommelier, who is notorious for his pairings of wine with movies as well as wine with pop culture music.  Having attended UC Davis, Christopher followed the early winemakers in Santa Barbara.  He took some time to give us the history of the Santa Barbara Wine region before introducing us to the panel for the day which included: Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Eric Mohseni, the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa.

See more on From Dirt to Glass

“Zaca Mesa University” Santa Barbara Wine Seminar Spring 2015 – The Highlight Reel

During the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend this April, the Wine Seminar topic was “Zaca Mesa University”.  Inspired by a Spring 2013 article in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine, this seminar featured winemakers who have played a part in the history of Zaca Mesa and indeed the entire Santa Barbara region.

Zaca Mesa has turned out a plethora of amazing wine makers and Sommelier Christopher Sawyer led us through a discussion with 4 of the best.  Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines was the first paid winemaker at Zaca Mesa.  Ken went on to found Byron.  While at Zaca Mesa he hired both Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat) and Bob Lindquist (Qupe).  We enjoyed the stories of how each had come to Zaca Mesa; Ken coming in after helping to choose the equipment for the winery, Jim escaping a future in law to become the premiere bottling line employee in the valley and Bob getting fired from his wine shop job for going to a Kinks concert and being hired the same day by the wine shop owners father, who happened to be the owner at Zaca Mesa.  Eric Mohseni, the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa shares how being part of this legacy has influenced him.

This is the highlight reel.  We will start releasing the full seminar in segments for you to enjoy on May 20th on our From Dirt To Glass Video Page.  This will include the tasting with wine from each of these amazing winemakers.

The 2014 Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend – My highlight reel.

Sta. Rita Hills AVA Dinner

Our trip to the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend was absolutly amazing.  The weekend was filled with events to suit any wine lover, and while there was no way that we could attend everything, I’ll give you the quick run down on the amazing events we did attend. This is just the quick version; you can look forward to more detailed posts on each of our adventures as well as photos and video.

Industrial Eats in Buellton CA

Industrial Eats in Buellton CA

Our weekend began Thursday night with the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Dinner & Wine Pairing.  This event was held at the new Industrial Eats restaurant in Buellton. The dinner included hors d’oeuvres, 3 courses plus dessert, and included 10 wines. On hand to explain and discuss the wines and pairings were Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe, Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, Jeff Connick Assistant Winemaker at Dierberg Star Lane and Laura Roach, Enologist at Sanford. The evening was filled with great food, great wine, great people and great conversation.  For a brief view of our evening, check out the video here.

Friday morning we took a drive out Santa Rosa Road to explore the vineyards in this part of the Sta. Rita Hills. The drive begins just south of Buellton of the west side of the 101.  You pass Mosby where they primarily do Italian varieties and then come to Richard and Thekla Sanford’s Alma Rosa.

Alma Rosa sign

Alma Rosa in the Spring

It was picturesque with the sign and the orange poppies blooming all around.  Unfortunately the tasting room is currently closed as they do some expansion work.  But never fear they have a temporary tasting room open in Buellton on Industrial Way.  Past Alma Rosa you come to Lafond, and then finally to Sanford.

Sanford Winery

The Beautiful Sanford Tasting Room

The property here is stunning and the tasting room made of reclaimed wood from a Washington sawmill and adobe bricks made on premise is beautiful, yet understated. After a tasting here we headed back to do the vineyard hike at the Beckmen Purisima Mountain Vineyard.

Beckmen Hike at Purisma Mountain

Hiking to the top of Purisima Mountain with Steve Beckmen

The Purisima Mountain Vineyard is located in the new Ballard Canyon AVA.  This area lies along the winding Ballard Canyon road. This vineyard is not located with the Beckmen Winery, which is one canyon over, but is their larger vineyard with 125 planted acres of world class Rhone varieties.  The vineyard reaches 1250 feet at the top of Purisima Mountain and that is where we were headed.  With Steve Beckmen as our guide we walked the vineyards, learned about the soil, the grapes, the viticulture…it was fascinating.  We did make a few stops along the way, two for food and wine and one for the view (that was from the top).  Steve was an unending resource of information and it made for a spectacular day.  I will share more of the wonderful insights I gleaned from him in another post, but for now, you can enjoy some of our hike here.

Following our hike we headed back to do one more tasting in Los Olivos.

Sandhi Wines at the Watering Hole at Matteis Tavern

Sandhi Wines at the Watering Hole at Matteis Tavern

Located in The Watering Hole at the historic Matteis Tavern, is Sandhi Wines tasting room. You will find it next to the tavern, over the lawn, under the water tank and in this lovely little cottage.  Rajat Parr, Charles Banks and winemaker Sashi Moorman founded Sandhi in 2010.  They wanted to produce wines of balance and the wines here are stunning with brilliant and elegant character.  And…the fact that they are served in the exquisite Zalto glasses doesn’t hurt a bit!  Sarah was a wealth of knowledge and was kind enough to stay late to answer all of our questions.  Be aware, they will be moving into the old Epiphany tasting room around the corner soon.  While they are moving (beginning May 1st) they will be available by appointment only.  Visit their website for Sarah’s contact information to set up an appointment to taste these amazing wines.

Now what we needed was big and easy food and we found Chomp in Solvang.  This place is diner style with burgers, fries and shakes.  They do serve local wines and have some good beers on tap, but we opted for a shake to split.  The place is comfortable and modern and was bustling when we got there.  Aaron the owner found us a seat at the bar, which was perfect. The food was outstanding, the service really good.

Panorama Carhartt Grand Tasting

Panorama of the Grand Tasting at River View Park in Buellton

Saturday was the day for the Grand Tasting located at the River View Park in Buellton. The tastings were set up around multiple tents with all the wineries conveniently in alphabetical order so you could easily find the wineries you were looking for.  Interspersed among the wineries in each tent you would find a restaurant station where you could grab a bite.  They also had Artists Alley where you could find wine inspired artwork, a massage station, a silent auction tent and Alan Hancock College had a space where they had information on viticulture and they were giving out wine grape cuttings. This year you could purchase wine at the festival and at the entrance was a large tent where wines could be picked up as you left.  The event was a wonderful opportunity to try some amazing wines from this area and to speak with many of the winemakers themselves. It was a very enjoyable day spent with lots of other wine lovers!

For dinner Michael was inspired by some delicious meatballs he had at the festival and we drove to Santa Ynez to have dinner at Trattoria Grappolo.  It was busy but they found us a spot at the pizza bar.  Dinner was delicious and watching the incredible staff work together seamlessly and so fluidly to create these beautiful plates of food was truly inspirational.  If you are in the area, go…and request a seat at the pizza bar!

abc-patio-open-house

Relaxing at the Au Bon Climat & Qupe Open House

Sunday was all about Open Houses.  I believe there were 61 different winery events happening in the valley.  We headed to the twice annual Au Bon Climat and Qupe Open House, which was way north in the Santa Maria Valley at their winery which is tucked way back down some back roads. If you want to find their tasting room…Au Bon Climat is in downtown Santa Barbara and Qupe is in Los Olivos.  Cheese, crackers and olives and the lunch table filled with home cooked food and Barbeque done by Jim Clendenen himself were found in the front room by their offices.  The barrel room was dotted with tasting stations for the 8 or so labels that Jim Clendenen and Bob Linquist have between them.  There was plenty to taste and it was all available for purchase on site, at least until it sold out.  After a bit we took our glasses and some cheese and headed out to the dock area outside and sat down at a barrel to enjoy the atmosphere and the view.

But of course, there was another open house to get to and it was in Lompoc!

Clos Pepe barrel tasting

Wes Hagen pulling Chardonnay from a barrel for the Clos Pepe barrel tasting

Clos Pepe has its winemaking facility in Lompoc outside the Wine Ghetto.  We made the trek from Santa Maria for their open house and for a barrel tasting.  Wes Hagen, as always, was full of fascinating information and was pouring delicious wine.  We had the lovely Sparkling Pinot and tasted through some Chardonnays, Pinots and his Rhone blend.  Then came the barrel tastings, with Wes coming around and filling glasses and explaining each wine and where it was in its journey.  Watch for another detailed blog post and movie on this.  Really, someone should just follow Wes around recording him, he is an encyclopedia of wine knowledge and he imparts his knowledge in the most entertaining way.

Fiddlehead Winery in Lompoc

Fiddlehead Cellars in Lompoc

After the Barrel Tasting we headed to the Ghetto for some corned beef sliders.  Oh…and some amazing wine and more inspiring wine knowledge from Fiddlehead’s owner and winemaker Kathy Josephs.  Fiddlehead does Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir. She had two stations set up in the winery and got you moving back and forth between the two.  They were of course pouring 728, their Pinot from the Fiddlestix vineyard, which is at mile marker 7/28 on the Santa Rosa Road and the Doyle, which is their reserve Pinot that they do not make every year.  The wines were fantastic, we met great people there, and…yes we closed the place.  We were there to watch Kathy turn up the music and start dancing as cleanup began.

Matteis Tavern

The historic Matteis Tavern

So our tastings for the day were done, now it was time to enjoy our last dinner of the trip, so we headed to the newly renovated Matteis Tavern.  We had eaten at this historic venue a couple years ago and had a great meal.  It had since closed and then reopened in July of last year. The Tavern itself has been around since 1886 and is a historic Stagecoach stop.  Our dinner here was spectacular.  The food, service and surroundings all made for the perfect end to a day.  We will entice you with a photo here, but watch for a full blog post on this historic location.

salmon-and-corn

Red Trout and Creme Corn Brûlée

 

 

Presquille Vineyard

Presqu’ile Vineyard Tasting Room

 

Persquille view

The View from Presqu’ile

Our last day was just a partial day and we had a couple places we wanted to get to.  We began with a drive north headed to Presqu’ile North in the Santa Maria Valley. I often speak of beautiful properties, but…you know when you go to a parade of homes and get to the most beautiful house…well Presqu’ile is the winery equivalent.  “Presqu’ile” means “almost an island” in French and was the name of the Murphy Family property in Mississippi that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  The family looked for a place to rebuild their family gathering spot and came upon this property in Santa Maria.

 

The wines are unique and delightful and the place…well, let the pictures speak.

Our last tasting in Santa Barbara was at the tiny Larner Tasting room in Los Olivos.  They are located in the Los Olivos General Store (you will see the old gas pump out front).

Larner Tasting Room

Larner Tasting Room in Los Olivos

The Larner Vineyards are in the new Ballard Canyon AVA and Michael Larner was the person who got the ball in motion to create the AVA.  We spoke with Michael at the Grand Tasting and did some tasting there, but wanted to see the tasting room and pick up some wines to take home.  Their entire selection is exceptional and the people are genuine and wonderful. This is their inaugural year of Larner Wines  being produced, they grow Rhone varieties: Viognier, Grenache, Mouvedre & Syrah as well as Malvasia Bianca. We will post our full discussion with Michael Larner in another post shortly.

With our tasting done, it was time to have some lunch before the drive home.  We had spoken earlier about trying the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café.  (photo of the restaurant) As Michael said, the patio is always full and that must be a good sign! Emily from Larner had recommended the Beets and Burrata appetizer and the Mykonos Pizza (with pesto, oven dried tomato, tapenade, feta, cucumber & four cheeses).  This 12” pizza was more than enough for the two of us.  The menu here is local, delicious and a little unexpected.  This is definitely a place that we will return to.

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe

So…that was our weekend and it doesn’t even begin to cover all the events that were happening with the Vintners Spring Weekend!  This area is producing astoundingly good wines and the fact that they are so laid back and you have so many opportunities to speak with winemakers makes it a truly exceptional place to visit if you are a wine lover.  Clear your calendars for October 10-13 and head up for the Celebration of Harvest Weekend!  Or visit anytime!  You can find information on the entire Santa Barbara region at the Santa Barbara Vintners website.

Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County’s 1st AVA

Early morning fog in Foxen Canyon

Santa Maria Valley is the northernmost appellation in Santa Barbara County.  The average temperature here is 64 degrees.  The area is bounded on the north by the San Rafael Mountains and on the south by the Solomon Hills.  They get early bud break here and then a long ripening season with an average of 125 days from bloom to harvest.  The maritime fog keeps things cool here from sunset until about 10 am.  This AVA boasts Nielson Vineyard, the oldest commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County that was planted in 1964.

The View from Zaca Mesa when the morning fog clears

The View from Zaca Mesa when the morning fog clears

The Santa Maria AVA was the 3rd established AVA in the United States. We think of this Santa Barbara region as being so new.  But truly AVA’s are new.  The Santa Maria Valley AVA was established in September of 1981.  To give a little perspective here, the first US AVA was established in June of 1980.  (And crazily enough that 1st AVA was in Augusta, Missouri!)  If you are like me, you won’t be able to read any further until you know where the 2nd US AVA hailed from…so….I did the research and it is the Napa Valley AVA which was established in February of 1981, just a scant 7 months  (or actually 6 and a quarter months) before the Santa Maria Valley AVA.  Are you still curious…you can find this info at The Wine Institute (http://www.iwineinstitute.com/avabydate.asp).  Feel free to search for AVA establishment dates to your hearts content.

There has been a massive replanting of the Santa Maria vineyards in recent years to varieties that are more suited to the climate and soil.  You will find lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here due to the climate, but you will find many vineyards expanding into cool climate Syrah as well as other Rhone varieties.

The Santa Maria AVA encompasses some incredible vineyards like Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills, Julia’s Vineyard and Foxen Estate Vineyard.  As to Wineries… here you will find Cambria, Kenneth Volk, Riverbench and Tres Hermanas.  Fine wineries such at Alta Maria, Au Bon Climat, Bien Nacido, Byron, Qupe, Solomon Hills and others feature wines from Santa Maria.

To enjoy this area take a look at the Santa Maria Valley & Los Alamos Wine Trail that is listed on the Santa Barbara Vintners site  http://www.sbcountywines.com/tasting-routes.html#smv

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Windmill on Saarloos & Son’s Windmill Ranch Vineyard

To fully experience this area I suggest that you start at the Saarloos and Sons Windmill Ranch Vineyard.  (Update…okay I made an assumption, because of the windmill, but clearly if you read the sign on the windmill, you will see that this is actually the El Camino Real Vineyard)  You can’t miss the landmark windmill if you are driving on the 101.  This is just their vineyard, you will have to head back into Los Olivos to do a tasting with them.  From here take Zaca Station Road out into the vineyards.  First on your drive you will pass Firestone (yes from the tire company).  They have a vineyard, winery and a brewing company.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Further ahead is Fess Parker (yes, Daniel Boone from the TV series)  Their winery is out here, but they also have a tasting room and Inn in downtown Los Olivos.  A little further on is Zaca Mesa.

The Patio at Zaca Mesa

The Patio at Zaca Mesa

This place really got things going out here.  Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Bob Linquist of Qupe both started out working here.  The property is lovely especially if you get there early and can watch the marine layer roll through from Vandenberg AFB, and then stay long enough to enjoy the views that it was hiding once it burns off.  The wines….I love their Rhones.  And on weekends they often have lunch available on the patio.  This place is really welcoming and….they have great trees.

 

Foxen  7600 - the Pinot House

Foxen 7600 – the Pinot House

A little further on you will come to Foxen.  Now you can go into the Pinot House at 7600.  It’s shiny and pretty and nice.  But I prefer stopping a little past there at “The Shack” .  This is their original tasting room and it is rustic and fabulous.  You look out the door onto the hills as you are tasting and often the girls in the tasting room will point out the resident mountain lion who hunts on the ridge.  The Shack pours their Bordeaux & Cal-Ital-style wines.  at 7600 you will find Pinots, Chardonnays and Rhone Blends.

Riverbench's tasting room a 1920's Craftsman style house

Riverbench’s tasting room a 1920’s Craftsman style house

Continue north and you will come to the cluster of River Bench, Cambria and Kenneth Volk.  I will give a shout out here to Kenneth Volk.  I have not been to this tasting room, but did taste at the tasting room with Lone Madrone in Paso Robles.

Kenneth Volk's old Paso tasting room

Kenneth Volk’s old Paso tasting room

He is another wine legend.  He was the winemaker at Wild Horse and now has his own winery where he gets to play.  He does Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Maria and Bordeaux varieties from Paso Robles and then… he does Heirloom Wines.  This are rare varieties like Malvasia, Trousseau, Negrette, Touriga Nacional, Blaufrankish, Verdelho and Albarino.  This is a great place to go and explore varieties you may not have tried before.

Closer to Santa Maria you will find Cottonwood and Presqu’ile.  I have tasted at the old Presqu’ile tasting room in Los Olivos and look forward to an opportunity to see their beautiful winery!

Presqu'ile old Los Olivos tasting room

Presqu’ile old Los Olivos tasting room

And I know that I have skipped a few in here.  What can I say, I have more exploring to do myself.  This is a beautiful drive.  Start early and revel in the fog!

If you are heading up for the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend April 10-13 you can stop by Zaca Mesa on Saturday the 12th for a Hike with your Dog & Picnic with their winemaker!  In addition Chef John will be offering BBQ Steak Sandwiches all day, so if you are hunger before or after the Grand Tasting…. Also on Saturday night Foxen will hold their Spring Dinner at the Alisal Guest Ranch and Cottonwood Canyon will have a Cook Your Own event.  They have the venue the music and the wine, you just bring something to grill and a side to share!

Early morning fog in Foxen Canyon

Early morning fog in Foxen Canyon

On Sunday Au Bon Climat & Qupe will have their Semi-Annual Spring Open House with a myriad of wines from  Au Bon Climat, Clendenen Family Wines, Qupe, Verdad, Ici La-Bas….and more and a luncheon prepared by Jim Clendenen.  Now how can you pass that up!  Of course you will need to squeeze this in around the Farm-to-Table Picnic and Concert with Jamestown Revival at the Fess Parker Winery.  So much to do….so little time.

Head to Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend for all the details!

Qupe, Verdad, Ethan & Bob Lindquist

Qupe Verdad Ethan Menu

We left ABC and hurried back to the car (it was a bit of a hike!) and headed on to Los Olivos to try to get to Qupe before the tasting room closed.  We had driven from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos before taking the 101, but this time Google routed me on 154 past Lake Cachuma.  It was a beautiful drive and saved us time!

We pulled into Los Olivos and Parked at the end of the street.  Saarloos & Sons was closed for the day, but were obviously busy with an event on the back patio!  We passed them and headed to Qupe apologizing for arriving so late!  The tasting room here is cozy and welcoming. There are 3 logos on the windows: Qupe is Bob Lindquist’s label; Verdad belongs to his wife and Ethan to his son.

Qupe Verdad Ethan Tasting Room

Qupe Verdad Ethan Tasting Room

Qupe (pronounced Kyoo-pay) is the Chumash Indian word for the California poppy.  The Chumash Indians are native to the Central coast and Bob wanted to honor these people.  Bob Lindquist moved to Southern California with his family in 1964 when he was just 11.  He got into the wine industry in the mid 70’s starting with a harvest at Fortino Winery.  From there he went to San Martin Winery to work in the tasting room and worked his way up to assistant manager.  He ran the San Martin tasting room in Ventura County and started frequenting the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley.   Here he felt his calling.  The story goes, that he worked in a wine shop in Los Olivos for the son of the co-owner of Zaca Mesa.  From there he met Jim Clendenen who was the assistant winemaker at Zaca Mesa at the time.  Here’s where rock-n-roll steps in…Bob got tickets to see the Kinks and got fired from the wine shop for attending the show (I’m assuming he skipped work for it). Jim Clendenen hooked Bob up with a job as Zaca Mesa’s first tour guide.  Without many tourists to guide, Bob spent most of his time in the cellar learning from Jim how to make wine.  In 1983 he left Zaca Mesa to work full time on his own label Qupe.  Bob & Jim share a winemaking facility to this day out at Bien Nacido.  Verdad is the label Bob partnered with his wife, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist to specialize in Spanish varieties. Verdad makes a Grenache based Rose, as well as Albarino and Tempranillo.  Total production is about 2000 cases.  Ethan is the small label of one of his older sons (Ethan!).  This label is small and produces Grenache, Sangiovese, Grenache Blanc and Syrah.

 

Qupe Wine Glass

Qupe Wine Glass

So on to the tasting!

 

  • Verdad 2011 Grenache Rose Sawyer Lindquist.   This wine was harvested in two lots.  Lot one was then de-stemmed and sat overnight to absorb color.  Lot 2 was whole cluster pressed.  This was stainless steel fermented with a long cool fermentation using native yeasts.  You get ripe strawberry and rose on the nose and then watermelon and strawberry on the palate with a little herbal quality. Really nice, and we took a bottle of this with us!

 

  • Verdad 2011 Albarino Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in the Edna Valley Acid, minerality. Done in stainless and whole cluster pressed.  Only 100 cases produced.  So different from everything else we had tasted that day.  This was the first stainless white of the day.

 

  • 2009 Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Reserve – Block 11  This wine is aged 18 months in French oak with 60% of that in new Francois Frères barrels. This wine is clean on the palate. While you get lots of oak on the nose, it is not over oaked and still has a bright acidity. This is a really nice Chard.  This wine is grown on a steep north-facing hillside, which softens the sun exposure.

 

  • 2008 Ethan Grenache, Edna Valley.  This wine would pair perfectly with pork.  It is a lighter red so good for warm weather drinking but with enough intensity of flavor to stand up to pulled or roasted pork.

 

  • 2009 Qupe Syrah Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. This is a spicy peppery cool climate Syrah. It is complex and well balanced with a depth of pepper on the nose.

 

This tiny little tasting room has some gems to taste and…if I get a hankerin’ for a Qupe wine…he has a high distribution Chardonnay that I can get right down the street at Fresh & Easy!  To bad they don’t carry that amazing Verdad Grenache Rose!

ABC and a stroll up State Street

Au Bon Climat

So…we had lunch out on Stearns Wharf and enjoy the view and then do a tasting at the ever so kitschy Municipal Winemakers and now we decide to head to Au Bon Climat or ABC as they call it here.

Jim Clendenen is well known in the wine world.  He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in Pre-Law in 1976 and the world should be very grateful that he found another path.  A “junior year abroad” trip to France had him falling in love with wine.   He was the Assistant Winemaker at Zaca Mesa for 3 seasons beginning in 1978.  (We will get back to Zaca Mesa later!)  Mr. Clendenen has been at the forefront of putting Santa Barbara County on the map as a wine region.  His restrained manner of making wines has given him plenty of ups and downs with reviews as tastes changed, but he has persisted and continues to make beautiful balanced wines that age well.  He looks like a bit of a hippy with his shoulder length hair, beard and typically a Hawaiian style shirt.  He founded ABC in 1982.

Au Bon ClimatTo get there from “The Funk Zone” I figured we would walk State Street.  I was a little nervous about having to get to the other side of the freeway, but there is a gorgeous underpass with bougainvillea to get you there past the Reagan Ranch Center.  State Street is a lovely walk with great shops, restaurants, Café’s with sidewalk seating and beautiful older buildings.  It was a great walk but we were not prepared for it to be as long as it was!  We found the 2nd Starbucks (the one on your right, not your left as the pourer at Municipal directed) and turned left on De la Guerra St.  A right on Anacapa put us in front of Au Bon Climate and Margerum.  With only time for one tasting room, we went into Au Bon Climat and stepped up to the tasting bar.  The tasting room is lovely with two tasting bars and a table with chairs, which when we walked it was strewn with AVA and vineyard maps (got to love that!). We tasted through the regular menu that is far more than Au Bon Climat wines.  On this day it included 3 other labels: ICI/ La-Bas, Clendenen Family Vineyards and Il Podere Dell’ Olivos.

Au Bon Climat Bar

Au Bon Climat Bar

The Tastings:

  • 2011 Clendenen Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon Blanc was grown at Mesa Verde in the Santa Ynez valley.   After whole cluster fermentation it settled in 500 liter Hungarian oak with racked lees to add a bright clean finish.  A really lovely Sav Blanc.
  • 2009 Au Bon Climat Hildegard white table wine. This wine is 50% Pinot Beurot (a burgundian clone of Pinot Gris), 30% Pinot Blanc grown at Bien Nacido and 20% Aligote.   It was predominantly fermented in new Francois Frères barrels with malolactic fermentation.
  • 2010 Au Bon Climat XXX anniversary Chardonnay. They believe that the structured winemaking style behind this wine should make this age until their 50th anniversary.  The blend is 44% Chardonnay from Le Bon Climat & 56% from the Bien Nacido K block.  It is aged 18 months in new Francois Frères barrels and then is bottled with no filtration.
  • 2008 Au Bon Climat Los Alamos Pinot Noir.  These vines were planted in 1972 and with warmer days and cooler nights the grapes are able to reach incredible concentration and balance.
  • 2009 ICI La-Bas Pinot Noir is grown in the Anderson Valley in the Elke Vineyard in northern California near Mendocino.  This is aged in 75% Francois Frères new oak barrels.
  • 2005 Clendenen Family Vineyards Syrah/Viognier.  Grown in the Clendenen organic ranch near Los Alamos.  This low alcohol wine is co-fermented.
  • 2005 Il Podere Dell’ Olivos Teroldego.  This is an extremely rare world-class wine grape that makes a wine that is rich and darkly colored.  The grape originated in the grape-growing region of Rotaliano located in northeastern Italy.  2005 vintage is blue black in color dense and well extracted with blackberry and plum notes.  It has a full inky texture complimented by silky finesse.

All of the wines were wonderful.  Each balanced and with it’s own character.  Our pourer was happy to give us details on the wines as we tasted. He also gave us his card for a 2 for 1 tasting at Qupe where we were dashing off to next.  Jim Clendenen and Qupe’s Bob Lindquist are old friends both coming out of Zaca Mesa (we had a great Zaca Mesa Chardonnay when we ate at The Poppy Den) and both celebrating 30 years in winemaking this year.  Realizing we were running short on time, we made the trek back in cut time!  I look forward to coming back to Santa Barbara and spending a few days so we have time to stroll from tasting room to tasting room enjoying the sites.