Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wining in the Santa Rita Hills...sort of...

Shortly after attending the extremely hot and hard to navigate Santa Barbara County Vintners Festival in Los Olivos, we had the opportunity to sample several of the wines we had missed by showing up for the Santa Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance event at the Wine House in Los Angeles.

JD and I are big fans of the Santa Rita Hills. Cool climates and sea influences help create lean and elegant wines. SRH is a relatively small appellation of approximately 100 square miles. Intersected by the Santa Ynez River, the cool climate appellation is located between the towns of Buellton and Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, California. The Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance includes both vineyards located within the geographical boundaries of the appellation, and those who craft wines from grapes grown there.

Besides sharing tastes with good friends Lucien Fick, Shawn Shai Halahmy, Marya Glur, Allison Levine, Jared Hooper, and more, here are the highlights of the day:

Alma Rosa - LOVE Richard Sanford's wines, especially the Pinot Noir from his La Encantada vineyard.

Ampelos - Peter Work creates gorgeous Pinots in his biodynamic vineyard.

Cargasacchi - Well, what can I say about Peter's wines that I haven't already said? Great fruit, meticulous winemaking and the coldest vineyard in the appellation. We're big fans - and not just of his wines.

Carr Vineyards and Winery - Their 2009 Cabernet Franc - an unlikely candidate for SRH - is full-bodied and gorgeous. I wanted more!

Clos Pepe Vineyard and Winery - Wes Hagen describes his 2010 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir as 'slutty' as opposed to the 2009, which was 'philosophical.' He's right; the vintages are polar opposites and both very drinkable.

Cold Heaven Cellars - Our favorite Viognier. Ever. Winemaker Morgan Clendenen kicks butt and takes names. Oh, and her wines are pretty good, too.

Dragonette - I especially liked the 2010 'Fiddlestix' Pinot Noir winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis poured. Grower Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Cellars produces some killer fruit in her Fiddlestix vineyard.

Flying Goat Cellars - Owner/winemaker Norm Yost poured his beautiful Pinots, but my favorite FG wines are his bubblies; at this event he poured a sparkling 2009 Solomon Hills Pinot Noir rosé. Delish!

Liquid Farm Wines - A very new winery owned by newlyweds Nikki and Jeff Nelson with winemaking expertise from Brandon Sparks-Gillis. Truly unmanipulated wines, little or no oak, allowed to develop naturally. I like this wines a lot, and expect to see great things from this team!

Seagrape Wine Company - The brainchild of Karen Steinwachs of Buttonwood Farm Winery and her husband, Dave Robinson of Vintegrated Solutions, who created these wines out of their love of islands, especially tropical ones. I really like the 2009 "Jump Up" Pinot Noir - On the nose, cherry, spice and cinnamon aromas. On the palate red berries, pomegranate and more tropical fruit, deliver a plush and silky texture. Spice notes of pepper and vanilla bean complete the long finish.

Transcendence - Another relatively new winery, owned and operated by couple Kenneth “Joey” and Sara Gummere. Kenneth (Joey?) worked with Bryan Babcock, at Babcock Winery & Vineyards where he developed an appreciation for cool-climate wines. He founded his own winery, Kenneth-Crawford, in partnership with fellow winemaker Mark Horvath, and worked at Santa Barbara Winery and Lafond Winery & Vineyards. Now he and Sara make small production Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah and donate a significant amount to non-profit organizations dedicated to helping relief efforts in Japan and community development in Tanzania.

Zotovich Cellars - We've met Ryan and Brittany Zotovich at several events, and are in awe of how this young couple and Ryan's uncle Steve Zotovich have created an amazing vineyard that supplies not only their own small production, artisan wines, but many other winemakers in the SRH area. It was especially interesting to taste wines side-by-side that were made by different winemakers but with the same grapes. Good stuff!

There was more - all delicious and inspiring, but that's all for today. Now I'm finishing up my research for my wine class on Saturday, May 12th at Fab's Corner Cucina in Sherman Oaks. It's the Old World versus the New! Hope you can join us!


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