Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wining in Solvang on a perfect Spring weekend...

It all started Saturday morning in Burbank.  JD and I were taking a short cut up to Victory, after breakfasting at the Coral Cafe, and turned on to Jeffries.  I think it was Jeffries.  In the middle of the street was a critter.  At first I thought it was a chicken, but as I edged the car closer, we realized it was a ring-necked pheasant.  You read that right.  It was high-stepping gingerly; its tail was bedraggled and looked...not right.  The bird seemed to be taking a stately walk across the street, but slowly changed its mind and circled back.  Slowly.  Very slowly.

JD and I were howling with laughter; a woman and her 2 dogs stood across the street, transfixed with the vision of this odd bird, seemingly unaware of the extremely large vehicle edging up on it.  I was about to tell JD to get out of the car and shoo the wayward fowl, and it suddenly moved over to the curb.  As far as I know, ring-necked pheasants are not native to Burbank, so it was either someone's pet or it was off course.  I hope it didn't end up as someone's dinner!

Still laughing, we made our way slowly past the bird, fueled the car, and hit the road to Buttonwood Winery just outside of Solvang for the semi-annual Crawfish Boil.  Traffic was fairly heavy for a Saturday morning - we literally came to a complete stop around 15 miles south of Santa Barbara - but we had given ourselves plenty of time and got to the winery around 11:45 a.m.

The Crawfish Boil is a unique wine country event in the vineyard by the pond - or Buttonwood Beach, as they called it.  A true Louisiana-style crawfish boil complete with all the trimmings, live Zydeco music, and Buttonwood's award winning estate grown wines.  Oh my!  The day could not have been more perfect - sunny, clear, cool breeze.  I would have taken more pictures but my hands hands were filled with steamed, spicy crawfish - took 2 days to get all the sauce out of my cuticles!  Winemaker Karen Steinwachs and crew were pouring lots and lots of delicious wines:

2009 Buttonwood Sauvignon Blanc "Zingy" (Gold Medal) $18.00
Gold-green hue with beautiful clarity.  Gorgeous aromatics in the nose – lemon-lime, citrus blossom, and hints of guava. On the palate is zesty with a crisp acidity balancing lush flavors of kiwi, grapefruit and just-ripe stone fruit.  More tropical than grassy, with a clean and refreshing finish. 

2008 Buttonwood Syrah Rose' $16.00
This wine has the spicy aromatics of the Syrah varietal, lovely dark pink color with a big cherry blossom nose.  In the mouth notes of raspberry, watermelon and a hint of pomegranate. Crisp and refreshing finish.  I have to admit, when I first tasted this rose several months ago, I wasn't that thrilled with it, but a few months in the bottle have made a big difference.  It was lovely with the Cajun seasonings on the crawfish!

2006 Hawk Red $14.00
Labeled with an image from the brush of artist and Buttonwood partner Seyburn Zorthian, Hawk Red is named for one of the "natural partners" that populate the Buttonwood Farm Vineyard. This is an every day red table that pairs well with just about anything!

2007 Buttonwood Merlot (Gold Medal) $22.00
This is one intense Merlot, and as with all Buttonwood reds will continue to evolve and improve with cellaring.  Dark garnet color, plum and cedar aromas with black cherry and red fruit.  Cocoa flavors and texture are prominent on the palate, along with dried blueberry and black cherry, tobacco leaf and hints of cassis, thyme and sage.  The dusty tannins linger on the finish.

So much fun!  Met a lovely young couple who are elementary school teachers in Pasadena.  We laughed and danced to the Zydeco band.  At 4 p.m., the crew briskly broke down the tents and cleaned up, while we made our way - very carefully - down the hill back to the tasting room.  Tried the new release of the Grenache Blanc - refreshing and tangy; bought a couple of bottles of the 2007 Cabernet Franc - one of our favorites, and another Gold Medal winner, said adieu to our new friends, and headed into Solvang to Tastes of the Valleys to recover.

Owner Ash Mehta wasn't there - he was busy at the new wine bar/store in Pismo Beach - but his able crew took good care of us.  We sat and sipped glasses of Margerum M5 and 2007 Cimarone 'Le Clos Secret' (winemaker Doug Margerum, also).  We chatted with a couple of women whom we had seen at Buttonwood - they were seriously into wine as well, so it was a lively conversation.  Then singer/guitarist Ray Fortune set up his gear and launched into an eclectic series of songs - some classic covers, some current - all delivered with his personal and distinctive touch.  

We stayed and listened to Ray's tunes until almost 8, then headed over to Buellton, checked into the elegant Motel 6 - clean and comfortable, although I did leave a note about the possibility of adding fabric softener to the towels, watched TV for a short time and fell into a deep sleep.

Slept late and headed back to Solvang for breakfast at The Mermaid.  We had planned on Paula's Pancake House, but by the time we got there, around 10:30, the line was out the door.  Feasted on freshly made, fluffy aebleskiver (pancake balls with powdered sugar and jam), eggs, lots of coffee, and made our plan for the day.

Started off across the street at a new tasting room for Bruno D'Alfonso and Cris Curran's joint venture called D'Alfonso-Curran Wines.   Cris and Bruno have been together for a long time, making their respective wines and their joint wines.  Baristo Ron poured the following:

2008 Di Bruno Pinot Grigio, Sanford & Benedict vineyard, stainless steel fermentation, no malolactic fermentation.  Not much in the nose, but lovely tropical fruit in the mouth.  Actually tasted like wine, not water, the way most PG's taste to me! $22

2008 Curran Grenache Blanc, Tierra Alta vineyard, stainless steel ferment, no malo.  Yum!  Pineappley and tropical. $22

2009 Badge Blue Steel Chardonnay, Sierra Madre vineyard, stainless, no malo.  Big fruit, soft, spicy.  Really liked this!  $22  Bought 1 bottle.

2006 Badge Pinot Noir, Vineyard blend of Rancho Las Hermanas & Rancho La Vina, 22 months in oak.  WOW.  Earth and tobacco nose, spicy finish, and everything right in between.  Did I mention I liked this a LOT?  $40  Bought 1 bottle.

2006 Curran Tempranillo, Tierra Alta vineyard, 30% new French oak, 38 months in barrel.  Very earthly, serious tannins, cocoa-chocolate finish.  Lovely.  $28

2005 Di Bruno Sangiovese, Stolpman vineyards, 92% Sangiovese/8% Nebbiolo,26 months in barrel, 40% new French oak.  Not so much.  $25

2005 Curran Sangiovese, Santa Ynez Valley - Bigger, spicier, higher acid.  Yum.  $28

During our tasting at D'Alfonso-Curran, a group of happy travelers came in.  We were all chatting about the amazing tasting and crawfish boil we had been at the day before.  Except that they had been at Sanford and we were at Buttonwood.  It was pretty funny, especially because we were all sure we had seen each other at the respective parties!

Found our way to Santa Rosa Road, west of the 101, and stopped at Mosby, a winery to which we had been recommended by an acquaintance.  The genial gent behind the bar, Greg, had his patter down pat, and wasn't pouring the wines we wanted to taste.  Honestly, not really impressed with these wines, although we did like the sparkling Stelline di Moscato, an orange Muscat in the style of Prosecco.  The nose smelled like the air along Route 126 on the way to Fillmore when the orange trees are in bloom.  Nice bright acidity.  Bought a bottle.  Tasted a few other wines that kind of made us regret that we had stopped in, but we did get him to open a bottle of the 2005 Teroldego, a German varietal mainly grown in Italy.  The nose was full of anise and incense, with ripe fruit in the mouth and a soft finish with a bit of oak on the end.  Bought a bottle and fled.

Headed further out on Santa Rosa Road to Alma Rosa, the most recent project of the legendary Richard Sanford and his wife Thekla.  We were enthusiastically welcomed by Nancy in the tasting room - she had just been down in LA for one of LearnAboutWine's events at the Grove, and she was thrilled to discover our relationship with Ian.  She comped our tasting, and moved us over to the Members' table to taste the really good stuff - and we were grateful!

This post has gotten way longer than I planned, so I'm going to end this now, and discuss Alma Rosa and Cold Heaven and other stuff tomorrow.


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