Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wining in Ventura County...

Debra B and I were supposed to attend the Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Fest on January 26th, but the week's inclement weather forced the event planners to postpone until April 20th. As we already had the day available, we chose to go west to Ventura, to introduce Debra to Four Brix Winery. We spent a delightful time chatting with Karen, Chris (I think that was her name, d'oh!), winemaker Gary, and several happy tasters. Highlights included:

2011 Smitten - 100% Viognier. I first tasted Smitten on a hot day in Thousand Oaks a couple of years ago, and I am still impressed with its minerality and crisp acidity. The floral nose has overtones of stone fruit, and the long finish tastes of tart apples. I would drink this with cold crab or shrimp cocktail, or just sip it on a hot day.

2009 Temptress - Blend: 44% Tempranillo/29% Mourvedre/16% Grenache/ 11% Graciano. I love this wine. With a clear, medium ruby color, the nose has nicely integrated elements of earth and minerality. The tannins have softened since I first tasted this vintage last year, and there is still plenty of time for this wine to develop. Tangy cherries in the mouth with a finish full of baking spices - cinnamon, nutmeg - make me want to drink a lot of it!

2010 Temptress - A slightly different blend - no Graciano this time - provides another delicious experience. This vintage needs to integrate a bit more; I want to taste it again after it's been in the bottle another 6 months to a year. I think this may turn out to be even better than the 2009.

2010 Rhondezvous - Blend: 47% Grenache/25% Syrah/15% Mourvedre/13% Counoise. Gary loves to blend wine, and he has a real knack for it. This deep ruby wine opens up with tobacco and black cherries in the nose, followed by tasty cherries, raspberries and vanilla in the mouth. There's a hint of baking spice on the finish. Firm, velvety tannins will allow aging for another few years.

2010 Zeductive (Unreleased at time of tasting, although I think it's available now.) - Blend: 89% Zinfandel/11% Petite Sirah. My notes are simple and incomplete; they just read "OMG." I think that says it all. Zeductive has been a favorite of mine since I first tasted it. This is a big, earthy wine full of spice and fruit.

2010 Scosso - Blend: 64% Sangiovese/26% Cabernet Sauvignon/10% Merlot. This is Gary's Super-Tuscan-style blend. When I think about this wine, it's the velvety, creamy texture I remember. Dark fruit, silky tannins. Easy to drink by itself or paired with something meaty.

Debra and I got a special treat as well. Gary pulled out a barrel sample of a probably one-time blend of 2010 Charbono/Counoise. Charbono is also known as Bonarda and used as a blending grape in Argentina and France. JD and I had tasted it unblended in barrel at least a year ago, and we were anxious to know what Gary was going to do with it. It's worth the wait. Opaque and full-bodied, with a nose of earth, tobacco and dark fruit, it's a party on the palate. Big, firm tannins, chocolate and black cherry. Long finish. YUM. It will only be available to Brixheads, the winery's club members, and as I am a member, I told them to save at least a half case for the Goddess!

We headed south to Oxnard to a relatively new winery, called Magnavino Cellars. Magnavino is the brainchild of Barbara Wagner and her husband, whose name I did not write down and is not referenced anywhere on the website. As he is the winemaker, I hope they'll mention his name! This couple, who started making wine in their living room (the story about the barrel behind the couch was pretty funny), have a beautiful, Tuscan-style tasting room in an industrial park in Oxnard. They have a large portfolio of wines, all the fruit being sourced from Lodi. Here are the highlights:

2010 Sangiovese - Clear, light red in color. Nice minerality in the nose blended with raspberry, ripe strawberry, cedar, and both white and black pepper. Good acid to fruit balance made this wine very drinkable. $29

2010 Old Vines Zinfandel - While still very young, the big peppery finish made me happy. $29

2010 Magnatude - This is a big blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. A little hot, but the big, big, big fruit helps balance the alcohol. It's still pretty young, but could pair nicely with pasta and a rich meat sauce. $38

2010 Petite Sirah - There is nothing petite about this wine! Big fruit and big tannins create a chewy texture. Debra tasted briar patch and blackberry. I liked the texture. This should stay on its side for a few more years. I hope they have enough to last! $36

Proprietor Barbara took really good care of us, and treated us to a few things not on the day's list. I look forward to seeing how their wines develop.

The Browns of Cantara
Debra and I headed further south to Camarillo, taking a chance that Chris and Mike Brown of Cantara Cellars would still be around at almost 5 p.m. Not to worry! It was bottling day at the winery - in yet another industrial park - so the tasting room was full of tired, but happy volunteers, wine club members and itinerant tasters like ourselves. Debra is a member there, and I've been a big fan for a long time. The highlights of a diverse tasting - and by this time, I was taking fairly cryptic notes, so sorry if they're not complete:

2009 Grenache - Cherry, raspberry, strawberry with a side of tobacco and chocolate. I believe the technical term is "Yum." $26

2009 Tempranillo - A blend of fruit from family property in Lodi and Amador counties is rich with bright fruit and a need for simple food. $27

2009 Intrepid - Blend: 68% Syrah/21% Cabernet Sauvignon/11% Cabernet Franc. All Lodi fruit. Big, dark fruit, sweet vanilla. Just a lovely wine. $32

2009 Petite Syrah - Raspberry nose, dusty tannins, peppery finish. Ooh. $36

2010 Quattro - Just bottled that day - not yet released! Mourvedre/Grenache/Zinfandel/Petite Sirah. In barrel for 28 months. All I can say is: I can hardly wait for it to be released. Wow. $32

We reluctantly left the exhausted and slightly delirious Browns, and headed back to the San Fernando Valley, where we met up with our personal winemaker, Shawn Shai Halahmy, at the Tam O'Shanter for dinner. After all the big reds we tasted, I was in the mood for something big, so I went for the filet mignon, as did Debra. Shawn brought a bottle of 2001 Beckman Mourvedre, which was - like so many of the 2001 vintage - stunning. We followed that up with a 2007 Husch Cabernet Sauvignon from their La Ribiere Vineyard in Mendocino (from my cellar). Altogether a most pleasant and delicious day. It took me all day Sunday to recuperate!


Eve said...

Hi Goddess, thanks for all the tasting notes - making me thirsty today! I checked on Facebook (my source for all you know) and Barbara Wagner's husband is Robert.

Goddess of Wine said...

Thanks, Eve! I thought it might be Robert, but then I thought I was thinking of the actor Robert Wagner, and then I just figured someone would tell me!! These senior moments are a drag.

Four Brix Winery said...

Our Robert Wagner is much better looking than Robert Wagner and his wine making skills are not even a match!

Goddess thank you for the nice report and can not wait to have you out to the BrixHouse again very soon. Tell the Mr. "hello" and hope to see the Actor also.

Gary Stewart