Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wining by proxy with the STARS of Santa Barbara...

STARS of Santa Barbara
The Goddess of Wine can't always report on events, so First Acolyte, JD, steps up to taste his way through and report to you. This edition of Ian Blackburn’s LearnAboutWine/WineLA Santa Barbara STARS event again supported the T.J. Martell Foundation and this time was presented by RBC Wealth Management. These events offer a nice sampling of wineries of a region and include small and/or new wineries.

The Goddess of Wine was helping pour for one of these small excellent wineries (Shai Cellars) for both the trade and consumer portions and could not get out to taste too much. I attended the evening consumer portion. It is impossible to taste everything and then do any justice to all the wines, so I mainly concentrated on wineries new to STARS. And some friends' wines as well (wink, wink).

Shai Cellars - Owner and winemaker Shawn Shai Halahmy has sourced his grapes from the Santa Ynez Valley with the majority from Ballard Canyon. Rich wines with fine fruit but well balanced and not “fruity”. I’ve had these wines starting with barrel samples of his first vintage of 2008. Shawn has a real feel for making delicious wine with his very talented consultant, Mikael Sigouin of Kaena Wine Company, who was also pouring at this event.
  • Adome Ballard Canyon 2010 - 65% Syrah/35% Grenache
  • Adome SYV 2009 - 65% Syrah/35% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Syrah Tierra Alta SYV 2010 - 100% Syrah
  • Grenache SYV 2009 - 85% Grenache/15% Syrah - Smoky!

Lindley Wines - Owner and winemaker Jake Lindley is also an assistant at Clos Pepe. Have previously tasted Jake’s Viognier: Duvarita Vineyard, Santa Barbara County 2013. I find this a more muted approach to Viognier, but a tasty choice.

Conarium -
  • Chardonnay, Sonoma sourced. Oakier than I like, but not heavily so, and nicely balanced.
  • Chardonnay, Clos Pepe Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 2011. Stainless steel made and quite crisp.
  • Madeline's Cuvée, Santa Maria County 2012. A tasty Pinot Noir blend of vineyards with earth and leather notes.

Dolin -
  • Rose of Pinot Noir, Central Coast 2013. Strawberry and orange. Would be quite fine to sit and sip on a warm day.
  • Pinot Noir, Solomon Hills Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley 2012. Muted cherry cola and berry.
  • Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2012. Leather, barn, tobacco.
  • Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley 2012. Smoke, earth, anise.
Cebada -
  • Pinot Noir, Santa Ynez Valley 2011. Initial “pineyness”.
  • Pinot Noir, Santa Ynez Valley 2012. Both Pinots have sea notes.
  • Chardonnay, Santa Ynez Valley 2012. Crisp stainless steel made.
Kita - The winery and the Camp 4 vineyards are owned by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Tata Gomez, the general manager and winemaker is the first Native American winemaker.
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Star Lane Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara 2012. Serious new world “cat pee”/cut grass nose, nice tropical taste.
  • Grenache Blanc, Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley 2011. Petrol nose. Rounded mouth feel, pear and stone fruit.
  • Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley 2012. White pepper with the red berry taste.
  • Syrah, Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley 2011. More substance. I was getting some bitter notes with the dark fruit.

Imagine - Ross Rankin, winemaker, goes for longer aging and uses an assortment of French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. He led off, however, with a French Colombard, a grape formerly with much production in California. Floral, smooth and slightly thick texture. A reminder of other times.
  • Barbera, 2013. Another newer project, a lighter approach.
  • Winged Syrah, Paradise Mountain, Sta. Rita Hills 2007. Full fruit and spicy.
  • Melange Two, 2007 a delicious blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet and Mouvedre, aged in oak between 1 and 6 years. Layered, lingering finish.

Bellissimo Cellars -
  • Chardonnay-Arroyo Seco-Monterey County 2013. Stainless steel, good acid and fruit.
  • Pinot Noir-La Encantada Vineyard-Santa Rita Hills 2013.
Both had very bright fruit flavor.

Westerly - Based in Happy Canyon on the east side of Santa Ynez.
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley 2013. “Cat pee”/mown grass nose with bright tropical fruit taste.
  • Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2012. I did not smell much from this but it tasted fine.
  • Cote Blonde Syrah, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara 2012. Smoky nose. I found it a bit tannic on the finish but could probably last a while. Needs some aeration to drink now.
  • Fletcher’s Red “Proprietary Blend”, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara 2010. A Bordeaux type blend with nice fruit.
  • Fletcher’s White “Proprietary Blend” of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. I didn’t smell too much from it but it had a bright taste from this blend.

Barbieri - Master Sommelier Paolo Barbieri, owner and winemaker with over 30 years in the restaurant business.
  • Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County 2009. Rustic mushroom, forest floor nose.
  • Syrah, Rodney’s Vineyard, Santa Barbara County 2009. Smoke nose, rich spice taste.
  • Anonymvs Syrah-Viognier Blend, Santa Barbara County 2010. Floral, Piney nose. Softer yet bright taste. Just 5% Viognier.
  • Aureus 2012 Syrah 75%/Grenache 25% blend of Paso Robles fruit. Initially light taste with spiciness coming in late and on the finish. All wines aged in used oak.

Riverbench - A short break with a known wine with a taste of one of Clarissa Nagy’s delightful Riverbench Pinots.
  • Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley 2012

Tercero - Did not taste any of Larry Shaffer's very familiar and enjoyable wines but did get a piece of his home made chocolate espresso bread! Yum!

Brave & Maiden - New winery.
  • Union, Santa Ynez Valley. Their first wine is a bright flavored blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
  • Merlot from one barrel. Classic cocoa with smokiness.
  • Syrah, also from just one barrel. Dark fruit, smoky leather and earth, spiciness. All wines 2011 vintage.
Kaena - A quick taste through the three Grenaches that were being poured.
  • Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley 2012
  • Grenache, Tierra Alta, Santa Ynez Valley 2012. Very mellow.
  • Grenache, Larner Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley 2012. A hotter version, which I often find with fruit from this vineyard.
  • (Note from the GoW - Mikael generously poured his delightful white wines with the dinner we shared at Silk Thai on Santa Monica Blvd. Perfect with spicy Thai food!)

Buttonwood Farm
  • Cabernet Franc, Santa Ynez Valley 2011. A good illustration of the difference a vintage can make. The 2011 did not have the usual earthy pencil shaving that Karen Steinwachs so often achieves with her Cab Franc. This had a lighter fruit taste and feel. Quite good but also quite different.

Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance
  • Kessler-Haak - Managed to taste their Sparkling, a fine refreshing palate cleanser with some fine yeastiness.
  • LaMontagne Winery - Kimberly Smith. Did not have any of Kimberly’s wine that evening, but have sampled her Pinot Noir and others at her tasting room in Lompoc. Good stuff and an apt pupil of Clos Pepe’s Wes Hagen.
  • Rozak Wines - Pinot Noir Rio Vista Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 2009, a hotter Pinot; Estate Syrah, Sta. Rita Hills, musty mushroom goodness.

Several delightful discoveries that I would like to taste with more leisure and a few visits with familiar friends.

So thanks again to JD for his notes, and congratulations to Ian Blackburn, WineLA, LearnAboutWine, T.J. Martell, and all the great wineries - those we tasted and those we missed. Cheers!

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