Monday, April 21, 2014

Wining with the Santa Barbara County Vintners...

The Goddess and JD got to attend the SANTA BARBARA VINTNERS SPRING WEEKEND that took place from April 10 - 13, 2014. We were only there on Saturday, the 12th, but many happy wine lovers were able to attend wine maker lunches and dinners, winery and tasting room open houses, vineyard walks, a golf tournament, a Farm-to-Table picnic and concert event, and the annual Vintners Festival Grand Tasting where over 100 member wineries gathered to present and sell their wines.  

The new location, at Buellton's River View Park, was delightful, and the weather cooperated brilliantly, with a cool, cloudy morning clearing to perfect blue skies and temperatures in the 70's. This event is HUGE. Besides the overwhelming number of wineries and their excellent wines, local restaurants provided delectable offerings of special foods, snacks and confections. Throw in an art show, a sensory demonstration from Allan Hancock College and the Relevé drone flying over the event taking pictures - there was something for everyone!

Some highlights for me were peripherally wine-related. We spent a lot of time chatting up winemaker friends and acquaintances, which shortened the amount of time we could actually taste, but was well worth it. Local wine aficionados and photographers Bob Dickey and Tenley Fohl were busy taking pictures, but we got a chance to visit with them and their spouses for a bit of quality time.

A special treat for us was getting to visit with Darryl and Keeley, the representatives from Allan Hancock College and their Agribusiness program. For a small donation, we were able to take home a couple of Pinot Noir vines, which are now happily ensconced in our backyard! Darryl and Keeley will be heading up to Oregon to make wine - and beer - and I hope they'll keep my card and keep in touch.

As occasionally happens at very large wine events, I got a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of wines to choose from, and opted to spend some time tasting the new releases of winemakers with whom I've very familiar:

We started off with some Clos Pepe Estate 2011 Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine from Wes Hagen. The perfect way to start the day! Made in partnership with Norm Yost of Flying Goat Winery in Lompoc, the grapes are Clos Pepe fruit, and Norm makes the bubbles. Lovely. After tasting through Wes's wonderful lineup, we took a few steps north to the next table to find...

...the lovely Cara and Liz (I think that was her name) pouring Cold Heaven Cellars wines. JD and I have long thought that Morgan Clendenen set the standard for Viognier and her 2012 Le Bon Climat and 2011 Sanford & Benedict offerings are stellar. We are also big fans of her Pinot Noirs - 2011 Mutchmore and 2010 Nevertell - and her Syrah works for us in a big way.

We ran over to see Larry Shaffer of Tercero who was pouring his delightful Rhone varietals, including his shortly-to-be-bottled Mourvedre Rosé. Ooh. We got to taste his fresh homemade bread as well - a little chewy, but great flavor.

We checked out the wines at Baehner-Fournier. JD and I really enjoyed these high-elevation wines, especially the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from the Vogelzang Vineyard and the 2011 "V3" Bordeaux Blend from their estate vines.

We hit up Huber Cellars specifically for their 2011 Dornfelder, a little-known, little-grown grape from Germany that has found some acreage in the Sta Rita Hills and Lodi. Huber's is opaque and jammy, with great fruit balanced by silky tannins.

We stopped to see Nan at Martian Ranch & Vineyards, a long-time favorite. Her 2013 "Down to Earth" Rosé of Syrah is the perfect summer wine, and the 2012 "Uforic" Albarino is delightful!

A quick stop at Tantara Wines gave us a chance to taste Ariki Hill's 2012 Pinots with the 2012 Dierberg Vineyard Pinot standing tall above the others.

We had limited time as we were off to Los Olivos to visit our friend, Jim Mann, who was pouring library wines at the Alta Maria tasting room. Favorites included the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc with its crisp grassiness, the earthy and spicy 2010 Native 9 Pinot Noir, and the elegant 2008 Alta Maria Pinot Noir.

We jumped in the car and went a bit further north to the sleepy town of Los Alamos - fast becoming a very hip place to hang out. Our goal: the Union Hotel and The Wine Saloon featuring local wines. We were there specifically to taste GoGi Pinot Noir, made by Ampelos winemaker Peter Work and his good buddy, actor Kurt Russell. Kurt wasn't there...sigh...but the hardworking bartenders, Jamie and Cobie (sp?) took good care of us. The wine was delicious and was a fine complement to our huge, bacony cheeseburgers.

It was getting late, and we headed back to Burbank feeling that there just wasn't enough time.

Here's the list of SBVCA wineries that you should try:

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