Real Men Cook, SYV's beloved benefit for Arts Outreach, returns Oct. 21

 

Arts Outreach photo/Some of the chefs from a previous year's event. Longtime participant Pete Fohl, second from left in front row, will be honored at this year's event.

Arts Outreach photo/Some of the chefs from a previous year's event. Longtime participant Pete Fohl, second from left in front row, will be honored at this year's event.

 

Real Men Cook, the annual dinner showcasing culinary talents by more than 50 amateur male chefs, returns to Buellton’s Flag is Up Farms Saturday, Oct. 21, for its celebration of food, wine and fun.

The October event is a fundraiser for Arts Outreach of the Santa Ynez Valley, the nonprofit community arts organization founded in 1980 as an educational program that brings together artists and students for teaching and performances.

Real Men Cook unites chefs, local winemakers and brewers, live music and an auction in what has become the valley’s party of the year.

The participating chefs will demonstrate their culinary skills to the crowd in the form of small bites. Many chefs return year after year, delighting the crowd with dishes such as Southern Fried alligator, BBQ Chicken Strips, Black Bean and Chorizo Stuffed Chiles and Killer Brownies.

Among the various food categories are hot and cold appetizers, entrees, salads, breads and desserts.

Arts Outreach, according to its executive director Sandie Mullin, focuses on “bringing art to life and life to art.” Program activities include elementary school classroom workships and ongoing art curriculum led by artists in residence, summertime arts and drama programs; after school art; semi-monthly Elder Arts entertainment; and the annual Applause Young Artists program.

This year’s program will be dedicated to Pete Fohl, a longtime Real Men Cook participant and resident of Solvang. Fohl passed away after a short illness in July.

Arts Outreach serves more than 3,000 students, as well as Santa Barbara County residents of all ages.

This year’s event will take place from 6 to 10 p.m.

For more information, call (805) 688-9533, email info@artsoutreach.com, or visit http://artsoutreach.com/

 

 

The (debut) Winemaker Series: James Sparks, Kings Carey

Sparks at Liquid Farm's Lompoc winery slash tasting room, where he also pours Kings Carey by appointment.

Sparks at Liquid Farm's Lompoc winery slash tasting room, where he also pours Kings Carey by appointment.

Winemaker James Sparks, one of 10 children raised in a Mormon household in Idaho, radiates kindness and humor, making him very easy to like.

His Kings Carey wines — two grenaches and a rosé — display a similar grace and spirit and are luminescent on the palate.

I first met Sparks in Los Olivos when we worked next door to one another in Los Olivos — he at Dragonette Cellars’ tasting room, and I at Tercero Wines.

After a fashion, Sparks shifted from sales to the cellar, and it was during harvest 2013 that he became winemaker for Jeff and Nikki Nelson’s Liquid Farm, which at the time shared space with Dragonette in Buellton.

Since Liquid Farm is predominately chardonnay (only recently did it release two pinot noirs), Sparks knew the focus of his own label would need to be different, and he chose grenache.

“My focus is a single varietal, small production and wine that is expressive of a particular vineyard,” he said.

 

Grenache has rocketed to prominence from the “G” in GSM blends to a standout red reknowned for its essence of fresh strawberry and watermelon on the palate and food-friendly structure.

Sparks noted that his preference is grenache that is “both light and heavier” on the finish, as well as “a combination of both.”

The Kings Carey 2016 grenache rosé was sourced from Brick Barn vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. It is an all-season pink, perfect for pairing or sipping alone.

The Kings Carey 2016 grenache rosé was sourced from Brick Barn vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. It is an all-season pink, perfect for pairing or sipping alone.

He and his wife, wine and food publicist Anna Ferguson-Sparks, christened Kings Carey in honor of their hometowns: Carey, Idaho, for Sparks, and Kings Point, New York, for Sparks-Ferguson.

The first Kings Carey’s vintage was that of 2014, but the couple held off releasing both it and the 2015 until last spring so that Sparks could focus on Liquid Farm production and the relocation of that label from Buellton to Lompoc.

Both vintages spent about 16 months in barrel, Sparks said, and while the 2015 is very light, the 2014 is bigger, a “more typical” grenache. The grapes for both vintages hail from John Sebastiano Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills.

The grenaches retail for $29 each, and the rosé for $20, Sparks said. “I wanted to make wine that I could afford to drink myself,” he quipped.

Kings Carey’s case production is small and will remain so, since it’s only Sparks at the helm and Liquid Farm is still his day job.

The total number of cases of his 2016 Kings Carey Rosé was well under 100, he said. Therein lies the fine line small producers walk; a first vintage must be small enough to sell out yet large enough to fund the business and grow the name.

In order to make their label stand out, he and Sparks-Ferguson enlisted Hawk Krall, a Philadelphia-based illustrator and artist well respected for his food illustration. The artist’s work has been showcased in street murals, in clients’ homes and businesses, on posters and menus, and on packaging, according to the Kings Carey website.

During the harvest just past, Sparks broadened his scope to include Semillon grapes, which he brought in from Happy Canyon’s Vogelzang Vineyard. That wine will be released in 2018.

Sparks and Sparks-Ferguson reside in Solvang with their daughter, Bea, 2.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

 

Central Coast winemaking pioneer Ken Volk retires and lists winery for sale

  After four decades of winegrowing on the Central Coast, industry legend Ken Volk has announced his retirement and put his winery and brand up for sale, according to a news release Monday in Wine Business

The listing price, according to real estate Broker Jenny Heinzen, is $3.7 million. More details and photos are available at http://www.jennyheinzen.com/winery-buyer-registration

Kenneth Volk Vineyards is located in the original Byron Winery on Tepusquet Road in the Santa Maria Valley AVA. Founded by Dale Hampton, John Donovan and partner Ken Brown, the property and brand were acquired by Robert Mondavi in 1990.

The landmark, 25,000-plus case winery and tasting room are located at the same site, 5230 Tepusquet Rd.

Volk, most notably the founder of Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards in Templeton, purchased the Tepusquet Road property 12 years ago after he sold the Wild Horse property and brand to Peak Wines International (a subsidiary of Jim Beam Brands Worldwide Inc).

Long dedicated to the Central Coast wine growing region, Volk has been instrumental in putting the region on the world’s viticulture map, and bringing international awareness to the unique grape growing climates hidden within Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Benito Counties.

Volk has an extensive legacy in the Central Coast wine world, having been the first president of the Paso Robles Grape Growers Association in 1982. He also served as chairman of the board of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance from 1997 to 2001.

Ken-Volk-Overview.jpg

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A wine and viticulture education advocate, Volk also helped fund the pilot winery at his alma mater, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and served as the Chairman of the Industry Advisory Council for 10 years.

He has trained and mentored countless successful winemakers and industry professionals over the past four decades.

Of his retirement, Volk said: “It’s really two-fold. After suffering a stroke three years ago, I continue to face some on-going challenges with my health that prevent me from going to the winery on a daily basis.

“Additionally, like many of my colleagues who started family-owned wineries, my children have their own successful careers outside of this industry. I look forward to seeing a buyer take the brand to the next level.”

In addition to the winery and tasting room, the Kenneth Volk Vineyards property includes native gardens, a tranquil creek, event areas, a commercial kitchen and extensive office space. More than four acres of adjacent fallow land would be ideal for pinot noir and chardonnay.

Volk attributes the success of his flagship wine grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir, to the coastal maritime climate of the Santa Maria Valley, the resulting longer hang times, and the region’s well-draining soils.

Solvang's Wandering Dog Wine Bar celebrating 10-year anniversary

Solvang’s Wandering Dog Wine Bar, one of the region’s first to focus on wines from the Central Coast and around the world, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this month with various promotions and events. Charles "CT" Williams and his wife, Jody, co-own Wandering Dog with his parents, Susan and Jack Williams. CT and his parents, residents of the Santa Ynez Valley since 1988, are longtime champions of the regions’ two main businesses — wine and tourism.

They established the bar to support and showcase winemakers with limited production and labels who could not afford their own tasting room. The "Dog's" location was chosen to fill a void in what then was the quiet "west end" of Solvang, they  said.

Wandering Dog Wine Bar has made a name for itself by carrying under-the-radar labels, and by specializing in boutique wines. As Santa Barbara Wine Country expanded and evolved, so has Wandering Dog’s business: Today the bar offers international wine imports, domestic wines from areas other than Santa Barbara, craft beers from all over the world, as well as the Williams’ private label wine program – one that started with only four labels, and now boasts a line-up of 12-14 wines at any given time.

Starting this month and continuing through 2017, Wandering Dog will offer $10 by-the-glass wine specials, each month featuring a different wine. The first month’s special will be Wandering Dog’s proprietary 2014 "Leila" Pinot Noir, the first wine that Wandering Dog ever produced under its private label program.

Some of the wines produced by the owners of Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang.

Some of the wines produced by the owners of Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang.

The first vintage of the "Leila" Pinot Noir was 2005, crafted for Wandering Dog by winemaker Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars, who remains the winemaker for the label.

This Saturday, April 8, Wandering Dog will host its official anniversary party at Solvang’s Hans Christian Andersen Park (633 Chalk Hill Road). The family-friendly barbecue will include children’s games and a kids' menu, as well as food, wine and beer for the "bigger kids." Reservations are required, and tickets tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite, at www.eventbrite.com/e/wandering-dog-wine-bar-10-year-anniversary-party-tickets-32546874578The cost is $10 per person and $5 for kids ages 2 to 10.

The event begins at 1 p.m. and will last until 4 p.m.

Starting in 2016, bar patrons were able to enjoy o-owners Jody and CT Williams’s newest venture, "Broken Clock Vinegar Works," a line of drinking vinegars, available at the bar as a tasting or as individual-purchase shrub “cocktails.”

The story I wrote for Noozhawk.com about Broken Clock is available here

Daily offerings also include a dozen wine flights ranging from local favorites to sparkling and sweet wines, to reserve flights featuring wines that retail for more than $100 per bottle. Beer fans may partake in Wandering Dog’s offering of craft brew bottles. The bar also features gourmet cheese and charcuterie platters available in a variety of sizes, along with local olives and fine chocolates.

Knowing how the bar’s knowledgeable staff encourages guests to try new wines, I learned years ago to tell CT only to "surprise me" when he took my order. Through his expertise, I sampled sauvignon blanc from Oregon, Italian Barolo and many a terrific syrah.

The longtime "Blind Tasting" from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday challenges patrons to match up regions, varietals, alcohol percentages, price points and vintages of four featured red wines.

Another regular feature is the bar's Wine-by-the-Glass loyalty card program (buy 10 glasses; get one free) and often, wine classes. Wandering Dog also arranges wine travel tours open to its dedicated wine club members, as well as to the general public.

New to Wandering Dog is the Monday "Game Night" from 4 to 7 p.m., during which guests may relax with $5 specials on a select white wine, select red wine, select "shrubtail"  and select beer, while they entertain themselves with games like Yahtzee, Backgammon, Chinese Checkers, Dominos and more.

CT Williams recalled that, in 2007, when the Williams’ family opened Wandering Dog, "Solvang had numerous empty storefronts, and the food and wine scene was not nearly as thriving as it is today. But we felt that our wine bar model could be just what was missing, and we bravely opened in the hopes that we might spur more business in our corner of the (Santa Ynez) Valley."

His wife, Jody, director of events and marketing, continued: "We love this location. The majority of our business is tourists, and this end of town has a heavy concentration of hotels. Guests looking for something to do in the evenings need only walk a few steps to Wandering Dog. Even from our early days, we’ve been open later than a good portion of Solvang businesses, which has also helped to build our local following and our fan base from within the wine industry."

Wandering Dog Wine Bar is located at 1539-C Mission Drive (next to Paula’s Pancake House).

Its hours are from 1 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; from 1 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (805) 686-9126. Web: https://www.wanderingdogwinebar.com

Women winemakers, chefs to celebrate International Women’s Day with dinner

Tenley Fohl Photography/ Karen Steinwachs, general manager and winemaker at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyards and winemaker/owner of Seagrape Wine Co., is organizing the March 8 event at K'Syrah Catering in Solvang. On Wednesday, March 8, more than a dozen of Santa Barbara County’s women winemakers will gather around tables in solidarity and camaraderie to celebrate International Women’s Day with wine, cuisine and good company.

The evening runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at K’Syrah Catering & Events’ new venue, 478 4th Place in downtown Solvang.

Tickets, at $75 each, are all-inclusive and available via https://womenwinemakersdinner.eventbrite.com

Only 75 tickets will be sold, which guarantees attendees and intimate evening with winemakers and chefs.

The evening will benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County.

The dozen-plus female winemakers will be joined by some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s most inventive female chefs, who are creating a five-to-seven course meal to pair with their colleagues’ wines.

Among the wineries participating as of today are Buttonwood, Cambria, Casa Dumetz, Cebada, Dreamcote, Fiddlehead, Harrison-Clark, Kitá, La Montagne, Lepiane, Lumen, Nagy, Rideau, Rusack, Sanford, Story of Soil and William James Cellars. Additional wineries are expected to join up in coming weeks.

Creating the menu will be Chef Pink of Bacon & Brine, Chef Brooke of the Union Hotel, Cheese monger Janelle McAtamney and Baker Amy Dixon of The Baker’s Table.

While the national percentage of female winemakers is about 10 percent, Santa Barbara has a much higher rate of women winemakers — nearly double the national average.

Despite its reputation as a glamorous and romantic industry, winemaking is hard, dirty work.

A typical day during harvest requires rising before the sun, hauling wine hoses and wrangling barrels in the cellar, all the while utilizing sensory skills to craft balanced and elegant wines.

At day’s end, winemakers swap boots and jeans for business attire and hit the road to sell their wares across the nation Many women winemakers accomplish all of this while raising families and staying active within their communities.

“International Women’s Day has traditionally focused on labor and work conditions,” said participating winemaker Karen Steinwachs, general manager/winemaker at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, and the owner/winemaker of Seagrape Wine Company.

She anticipates that the March 8 dinner will be “a kinder and gentler protest” against the current administration.

The theme for the 2017 International Women’s Day is “Be Bold for Change,” according to the website.

“During these turbulent political times, we believe people can come together if we simply sit down at a table with wine and a meal,” said Kathy Joseph, owner and winemaker at Fiddlehead Cellars. “

The beneficiary, the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County, a giving circle whereby individuals combine money and/or time so that they can have a bigger impact on the causes most important to them – more so than they would by donating individually.

Since its inception in 2007, the organization has given an average $104,000 back to the community every year, according to its website.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1911.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Lompoc's Lepiane Wines honors owner Alison Thomson's Italian heritage

Alison Thomson with her wines at JCR Winery in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.
Alison Thomson with her wines at JCR Winery in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

Following in the footsteps of her great grandfather, an Italian immigrant, Alison Breazeale Thomson produces small lot wines using locally grown Italian grape varietals.

Her label, Lepiane, (“Lay-Pee-on-ay”), translates to “the plain” in Italian, Thomson said.

Her winery honors her great grandfather, Luigi A. Lepiane, a native of Piane Crati in Calabria, Italy, who brought his family to California in search of a better life.

He put down roots in California’s Central Valley town of Hollister, where he founded a grocery and, in 1935, a winery, L.A. Lepiane, Thomson notes on her website. During his years as a vintner, Luigi Lepiane produced as many as 1,000 cases of wine each year, Thomson said.

After his death, Thomson’s relatives found blueprints for the construction of both grocery and winery, as well as letterhead for the winery, she said.

Thomson studied biology and Italian at UCSB, and spent a semester abroad in Siena, Italy, where “my love for Italian food and wines turned into a healthy obsession,” she notes on her website, https://lepianewines.com

After graduating from UCSB, Thomson worked at Sunstone Winery, and up in Napa at a tasting room.

From 2004 to 2007, she attended UC Davis to pursue a master’s degree in viticulture. During her studies, Thomson interned for a top winery in Barolo, Italy, further deepening her love of all things Italian.

In the ensuing years, back on the West Coast, Thomson married George, and in 2008 was hired as assistant winemaker at Palmina Wines in Lompoc, where she remained until 2011.

Thomson and her husband are parents to Julia and Mick.

Later in 2011, Thomson migrated to SAMsARA Wines for an assistant winemaking position, and honed her winemaking skills with owner/winemaker Chad Melville.

Italians endeavor to marry food and wine and conversation. It’s obvious speaking with Thomson that the years she’s spent focused on Italian varietals have influenced her winemaking style.

Lepiane-Bottles-11.2016.jpg

In 2013, using Barbera grapes purchased from Palmina owner Steve Clifton, Thomson launched Lepiane Wines. Today, she produces small amounts of the Italian grape varietals Barbera and Nebbiolo, as well as grenache.

“Barbera is a great grape because of its acidity and versatility,” she noted.

She would like to pursue bottling an Italian white wine — with either Fiano or Greco grapes — as well, Thomson said.

“Santa Barbara County is great for growing these Italian varietals,” she added.

Her Barbera grapes hail from Walker Vineyard, located on Alamo Pintado Road across from Honea Vineyard, Thomson said. The grenache she sources from Black Oak Vineyard, and Nebbiolo from Sisquoc Vineyard.

Thomson’s 2013 Nebbiolo was bottled just last August; she plans to release it early this year. I found this wine to be an intriguing mix of rose and floral perfume notes, yet also very masculine on the palate.

With total production of less than 300 cases annually, Thomson can easily be considered the smallest of the small labels in Santa Barbara County.

She utilizes some whole cluster fermentation, neutral oak and only native yeasts in her production, she said.

Her wine barrels share the Lompoc Ghetto winery facility of Jalama Cañon Ranch Vineyard, where Thomson is also the vineyard manager and winemaker.

In addition, she oversees another vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, and winemaking for a client in Montecito.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

Several of Santa Barbara County's pioneering winemakers to participate in panel at Museum of Natural History

Six of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers will be panelists this Sunday afternoon during the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s final wine event of 2016. “In the Beginning: The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country,” will feature winemakers Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat); Fred Brander (Brander Vineyards); Ken Brown (Ken Brown Wines); Bob Lindquist (Qupe); Lane Tanner (Lumen Wines) and Rick Longoria (Longoria Wines)

The moderator will be Antonio Gardella, a longtime Santa Barbara resident who has devoted much of his life to selling wine and educating the public about the joys of the vine.

Following the hour-long Q&A session will be socializing and tastings from 10 local wineries, as well as food from six vendors. Guests will have the opportunity to mingle with participating winemakers.

Clendenen: Robert Parker named Clendenen to his short list of “Best Wineries in the World” in 1989 and 1990, and in 1991, the latter was selected by Oz Clark as one of 50 creators of the world's “Modern Classic Wines." In the years since, multiple other awards have followed, and Clendenen continues to produce ABC, as well as several smaller labels, from the production facility he shares with Lindquist on Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria. Clendenen’s tasting room is in Santa Barbara.

Brander: While he is well documented as producing the best sauvignon blanc in California, Brander puts as much effort into small lots of several red Bordeaux grape varietals, among them cabernet sauvignon and merlot. He recently celebrated the 40th harvest at his estate vineyard/winery/tasting room in the new Los Olivos District — Santa Barbara County’s newest American Viticultural Area — and yes, he was a driving force behind getting recognition for that appellation.

Brown: This vintner was among the first to recognize Santa Barbara County’s potential as a powerhouse for pinot noir and chardonnay, especially in the cooler Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills’ AVAs. That was in the mid- to late-1970s. Brown and Lindquist were also the first to plant and produce, respectively, the syrah grape, in this county (at Zaca Mesa). Brown’s tasting room is in Buellton.

Lindquist: This winemaker has been producing award-winning Rhone grape varietal wines on the Central Coast since the early 1980s, among them grenache, viognier, roussanne, marsanne and, of course, syrah. Lindquist and Brown earned reputations for being the earliest winemakers to believe that syrah would become one of this county’s most widely planted varietals. A longtime Los Angeles Dodgers’ fan, Lindquist bottled a chardonnay and a syrah for the team and the public, releasing them to accolades and national press early this year.

Tanner: Along with Clendenen, Brown and many others, Tanner believes that the Santa Maria Valley is one of the hottest cool-climate spots for pinot noir and chardonnay wines — those that make the world sit up and pay attention. Tanner’s first vintage was in 1981, as an enologist for Firestone. Later winemaking gigs included Zaca Mesa and the Hitching Post, and in 1989, she founded her own Lane Tanner Wines label. Tanner’s latest project is Lumen Wines, a label she co-owns with Will Henry, owner of Pico in Los Alamos with his wife, Kali Kopley.

Longoria: “From the very beginning of my career,” Longoria says, “I felt that the Santa Barbara wine region had the potential to produce world-class wines, and it’s been very gratifying to see that belief realized over the more than 30 years I’ve been here. It’s also been very rewarding to have had the good fortune over the years to have some of my wines contribute to the acclaim of our wine region.” Longoria’s winery and tasting room are located in Lompoc.

Details on Sunday: Event takes place from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Fleischmann Auditorium at the Mission Creek campus of the museum, located at 2559 Puesta del Sol in Santa Barbara.

Tickets, limited to 100, are $75 for museum members and $100 for non-members, and remain available at www.sbnature.org/tickets

For more information, contact Meridith Moore, (805) 682-4711, Ext. 112, or mmoore@sbnature2.org

About the museum: Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History reconnects more than 100,000 people each year to nature both indoors and out. The Museum has 10 indoor exhibit halls that focus on regional natural history, including astronomy, birds, insects, geology, mammals, marine life, paleontology, plant life and the Chumash Indians.

The museum is also home to the only full-dome planetarium on the Central Coast, a research library, and the John & Peggy Maximus Art Gallery.

The Museum’s outdoor exhibit experiences include a nature trail, the Chumash Sukinanik’oy Garden, The Museum Backyard & Nature Club House, the Butterfly Pavilion — and a real 74-foot Blue Whale skeleton, which is visible from the road and turns quite a few heads.

The Museum’s outdoor nature experience at its Sea Center located on the historic Stearns Wharf. This facility provides the nearly 100,000 people who visit it annually a window to ocean life in the Santa Barbara Channel via interactive exhibits and close-up, hands-on encounters with sea creatures.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Venerable Central Coast Wine Classic grows into Santa Barbara County for 31st year

  WineClassicLogo-2016-date-hiOne of the Central Coast’s most enduring wine events and a major fundraiser for several nonprofits in two counties will this year expand into Santa Barbara County when it opens Wednesday, Aug. 10.

The Central Coast Wine Classic, now in its 31st year, comprises 18 events over the course of five days. Among those events are barrel tastings, live and silent auctions, symposiums, dinners, lunches and special tours and wine tastings.

One of most popular events is the Thursday dinner at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. That event is $1,250 per person.

The Wine Classic opens Aug. 10 with a barrel tasting of an array of California wineries from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Greengate Ranch & Vineyard in the Edna Valley, and culminates with a sold-out VIP Champagne Louis Roederer & Black Caviar Brunch in Santa Barbara at Stella Mare’s.

The dinner at San Simeon' Hearst Castle is one of the most popular CCWC events

As of last week, at least seven of the 19 events had already sold out, including the final brunch, all of the Friday evening dinners and the Edna Valley tour, also on Friday, said a CCWC organizer.

Archie McLaren is the founder of chairman of CCWC, and relocated almost two years ago to downtown Santa Barbara after residing in San Luis Obispo County for decades.

His employees say he holds the history of the CCWC in his head.

“I’m trying to be an extension of Archie’s brain” when it comes to organizing the multiday event, said Beverly Aho, one of McLaren’s employees since 2006 and a resident of Avila Beach.

Her colleague Robin Bort, who resides in Reno, calls McLaren “such a pleasure to work with. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, and is very kind and generous.”

Aho and Bord both volunteered for CCWC (Bort for 20 years and Aho for 10) before McLaren hired them to assist him with event organization and production. While they’ve been colleagues for more than a decade and work closely via e-mail and phone, the two women have “never met” in person, Aho chuckled.

Bort, her husband and a group of others teamed to found the annual Live Oak Festival that takes place in June at Live Oak Camp along the Santa Ynez River, she said. The Live Oak Festival continues to benefit KCBX to this day.

Bort is a graphic designer who just completed her 31st version of the annual catalog that showcases the live auction items available during the event.

There are 52 lots in the current catalog, viewable here at http://www.centralcoastwineclassic.org/live-auction.php

The lots are “a mix of lifestyle items and wine and are very unique,” Bort told me.

The Wine Classic caters to guests “from all over the world” who help fund Central Coast nonprofits with their auction purchases, Aho said.

She and McLaren personally speak to every potential guest interested in event attendance, she said, adding that organizers strive to offer “personalized assistance” to help guests decide which event is best suited to their tastes.

The centralcoastwineclassic.org website clearly states: “We do not offer online registration. You are more than a computerized payment to us. You are a valued guest!”

Guests will be transported to, from and between events via a fleet of buses, Aho said. (“Our bus schedule is crazy!”)

To reach Aho for tickets or additional information, call her at (805) 235-8130, or inquire via e-mail at sylphie333@yahoo.com.

While in its early days the CCWC was a fundraiser solely for KCBX-Central Coast Public Radio, more recently it has boosted the coffers of multiple nonprofit organizations in both counties.

Since 2004 when the Central Coast Wine Classic Foundation was created, CCWC has raised a whopping $2.5 million for 125 organizations that focus on studio arts, performing arts and healing arts, according to a news release.

Among the beneficiaries for 2016 are the Hearst Preservation and the Friends of Hearst Castle Foundation, the Léni Fé Bland Performing Arts Fund and the Boys & Girls Club of Northern San Luis Obispo.

Among the highlights of the 2014 live auction lots: 60 bottles of fine French red Burgundy that sold for $35,000; a 2014 harvest dinner for 24 people that was presented by Au Bon Climat and the Buellton Hitching Post restaurant, $24,000; a wine and culinary tour of French wine country for two people, $20,000; a dinner with McLaren and baseball legend Tim McCarver and a dozen bottles of rare wine, all the 1984 vintage, for $20,000; and a gourmet food & wine cruise for two from Singapore to Hong Kong for $15,000, according to publicist Maureen McFadden, handling media for McLaren for the fist time this year.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Bacon & Barrels' opening night dinner showcased local fare, bacon, Biddle Ranch

More, please? Best.appetizer.ever, this was candied bacon "cracker" with feta, herbs and grapefruit Bacon. Love it … or not. Actually, I am not acquainted with anyone who doesn’t eat good bacon like the end of the world is near.

I even have a friend who married a vegetarian and eliminated all meat from her diet. But here and there, she still indulges in bacon, because it’s the one thing she cannot live without.

To be clear, I don’t consume much bacon at home, but it’s a staple when I dine out.

And so I dined well at the VIP (“Very Important Pig”) dinner last Friday that kicked off the Bacon & Barrels celebration, held this year for the first time in San Luis Obispo County.

That evening took place at Biddle Ranch Vineyard, located on the road of the same name, just off Highway 227/Edna Valley Road.

Ryan Deovlet (of Deovlet Wines, and also of Refugio Ranch Wines) has been the winemaker at Biddle Ranch since the 2014 vintage. Chef Maegen Loring crafted the meal. She’s the owner of Maegen Loring Catering and a longtime favorite on the Central Coast for her knack pairing area wines with fresh, local fare.

The Biddle Ranch winery’s tasting room is surrounded by ample outdoor space that Bacon & Barrels’ staff put to good use that evening. The walled-in side yard, deck and courtyard protected us from the afternoon breezes as we commenced with appetizers and wines.

B&B Menu 7.15.16

First up was the Biddle Ranch 2015 Rosé, a delicate but flavorful blend of 60 percent sangiovese and 40 percent syrah. Soon making the rounds were paper cones full of popcorn dusted with chicharrones dust, a finger-licking delight when paired with the rosé.

Next in line came my favorite for the evening: Candied bacon “cracker” with whipped feta cheese, grapefruit and herbs. By this time, some of us had estate chardonnay in our glasses, which also married with this delightful bite of rich herbs plus savory bacon. Pure deliciousness.

The first course, steamed clams with butterbeans, pancetta, orange aioli and oregano showcased the freshest clams soaked with essence of orange and bacon sauce. The accompanying wine was the Biddle Ranch 2014 pinot grigio.

Then came second: Flatbread topped with chevre, prosciutto-wrapped beets and pickled greens, and paired with pinot noir.

The evening’s entrée was served with a 2014 syrah and featured bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with basil mashers and plum-blackberry salad. About those mashers? Yes, they were green, and I had three helpings …

… which meant I had zero room left for dessert: Bourbon-bacon pecan pie with orange caramel.

Other happy diners outside in the evening sun at Biddle Ranch

I appreciated Loring’s effort to keep the dinner “family style,” which for me translates to smaller servings all around. When meals are plated, one often ends up with too much food, which means we often overeat, and/or food gets wasted. Kudos all around to Loring and Holly Holliday, owner of Create Promotions, organizer of Bacon & Barrels.

 

 

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

 

 

 

San Luis Obispo County’s wine industry to honor leaders at California Mid-State Fair

  The wine industry in San Luis Obispo County comes together every year to recognize members of the region’s wine and viticulture community, and this year, awards will be presented Friday, June 22.

Wolff

Peck

Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards will be given to Jean-Pierre Wolff, Wolff Vineyards, Industry Person of the Year; Steve Peck, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Winemaker of the Year; and Bob Thomas, Mesa Vineyard Management, Winegrape Grower of the Year.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance — in partnership with the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association, the Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area, the Vineyard Team and past award recipients — worked together to identify the 2016 honorees.

His or her peers voted on each nominee for respective leadership and accomplishments across the county, recognized as the state’s third largest wine region.

“Each year the wine community looks forward to the Mid-State Fair as a time we can join our fellow agriculturalists in recognizing our leaders, innovators and visionaries,” said Jennifer Porter, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

“We are excited to honor these three men whose passion for San Luis Obispo County wine and quest for quality in the vineyard and winery is to be celebrated.”

The San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards event takes place at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 22, within the Mission Square at the Mid-State Fair.

The event is free (with paid admission to the Mid-State Fair) and the public is encouraged to attend.

Visit www.midstatefair.com for more information.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance represents wineries, growers and businesses in Paso Robles Wine Country, which comprises more than 40,000 vineyard acres and 200 wineries. For more information, visit www.pasowine.com

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Popular Bacon & Barrels makes San Luis Obispo debut this weekend, July 15-17

Bottle Branding photos/Would you like bacon with your drink? Bacon & Barrels celebrates four years of bacon-inspired food and barrel-aged libations with its San Luis Obispo County debut this weekend, July 15 to 17.

Holly Holliday, founding queen of Bacon & Barrels and owner of San Luis Obispo’s Create Promotions, parent organizer of this event and BubblyFest, relocated the popular event north from its early locations at Saarloos & Sons’ field in Los Olivos in 2013 and 2014, and last year, at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard outside of Solvang.

In 2014, just one year after launching Bacon & Barrels in Los Olivos, Holliday added a sister event every May since, in San Diego.

Bottle Branding photos/ Like creative food made with bacon? Bacon & Barrels is your new heaven

While general admission tickets remain available for this Saturday’s event at Madonna Inn Meadows, the coveted VIP (all-weekend access) tickets just sold out.

In the case of Bacon & Barrels, VIP stands for “Very Important Pig,” and guests who partake in that status take it Very Seriously.

VIP attendees will enjoy all three sections of Bacon & Barrels: Friday evening’s kick-off dinner at Biddle Ranch Vineyard House; early admission (noon) to Saturday afternoon’s festival at Madonna Inn Meadows with exclusive access to the lounge; and finally, the Buffet & Bloody’s Sunday Brunch at Sidecar, 1127 Broad St., also in San Luis Obispo.

The tickets that are still available (get yours today, as they will not last) include early-admission (noon to 5 p.m.) for the festival Saturday ($80); general admission (1 to 5 p.m.) ($60); and both categories of the designated non-drinker tickets ($30), for early and regular entry to the Saturday event.

All Saturday tickets include parking, a glass, live music, live chef and mixology demonstrations, and all food samples — while supplies last. You won’t leave hungry.

Those who pay to sample the libations get all of the above — plus everything alcoholic.

About those live demonstrations: Chefs from the hottest restaurants will prepare and proffer small plates starring the most creative forms of (what else) — bacon and pork belly. To pair with the nibbles will be drinks from brewers, winemakers and mixologists, who will offer bacon-inspired and bacon-based libations. You really cannot go wrong here, folks.

The Spazmatics will provide live music Saturday.

For more details on the entire weekend, visit http://www.baconandbarrels.com/schedule-slo/

Holliday notes that Bacon & Barrels is proud to support the Create Community Foundation, which provides grants and assistance to organization that serve at-risk youth. In addition, the festival makes it an annual goat to divert 95 percent of its trash from landfills via cutlery, napkins and cups that are biodegradable and compostible.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Larner Fête to feature food, music and seven wines from iconic Ballard Canyon vineyard

Winemaker Michael Larner and his family will open their private Ballard Canyon Road estate vineyard from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24, for the 2016 return of Larner Fête. Providing the food will be Autostrada Wood Fired Pizza and Amaranto Catering, and musical entertainment will be by the Ruben Lee Dalton Band.

Tickets are $60 and available via www.larnerwine.com

The 2016 Larner Fete will feature seven wineries that source Larner Vineyard grapes. Pouring their wines will be Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz Wines; Scott Sampler of the Central Coast Group Project; Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs Wine Cellars; Mikael Sigouin of Kaena Wine; Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery; McPrice “Mac” Myers of McPrice Myers Wines; and Larry Schaffer of tercero wines.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Viticulture & Enology Program at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.

Since it was planted in 1999, the Larner Vineyard has provided grapes to winemakers across the Central Coast and beyond. Most of the wineries that purchased fruit as early as 2001, when the vines were first mature, remain clients of Larner Vineyard today.

More than two dozen winemakers produce wines sourced from the syrah, grenache, mourvedre and viognier grapes grown on the 34-acre estate vineyard.

Larner Fête attendees will be shuttled to the vineyard property from pick-up locations in Solvang and Buellton. Location details will be e-mailed to guests with confirmation of ticket purchase.

For more information, e-mail Emily Shirley Dixon, Emily@larnerwine.com

 

 

 

Winter Restaurant Week bringing dining specials to Lompoc Valley Feb. 21-27

Restaurants in the Lompoc Valley will showcase their food and drinks during the inaugural Winter Restaurant Week, Sunday, Feb. 21, through Saturday, Feb. 27. The Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau (LVCC&VB), the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance (SRHWA) and Shop Lompoc, Shop Small (SLSS) teamed to sponsor the seven-day celebration of culinary creativity in junction with the city’s restaurant and winery owners.

For $20.16, plus tax and tip, Winter Restaurant Week will allow dining patrons an opportunity to choose from a prix-fixe meal, a two-for-one dining option or a special event. Some eateries may also offer wine or beer pairings for an additional charge. Some will offer lunch and dinner, but others only one or the other.

We want people to come out to eat and enjoy themselves at a historically slow time for the restaurant industry,” said Ken Ostini, president/CEO of the LVCC&VB.

“Lompoc has some really unique restaurants with a wide variety of cuisines. We would love for out of town folks to come try us out and taste what Lompoc has to offer.

“There will also be opportunities to win a $25 gift certificate, as each participating restaurant will be awarding one at the end of the week to a lucky diner,” Ostini said.

For more information, contact the LVCC&VB at (805) 736-4567, Ext. 223, or email chelsea@lompoc.com

View the menus from restaurants at http://www.lompoc.com/restaurant-week.html

Restaurants confirmed to participate include:

Alfie’s Fish & Chips

Bread Board Deli

Central Coast Specialty Foods

D’Vine Wine Bar and Bistro

Floriano’s

Herb Home

Jalama Beach Café

La Botte Italian Restaurant

Mi Amore Pizza & Pasta

Nikka Fish Enterprise

Pizza Garden

PJ’s Deli

QQ Aloha BBQ

Scratch Kitchen

Sissy’s Uptown Café

Tom’s

Village Burgers

Village Coffee Stop Cafe

Wild West Pizza & Grill

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Two Garagiste Festival winemakers share what makes Mourvèdre marvelous

  In anticipation of this weekend’s Garagiste Festival in Solvang, I decided to get some details about Mourvèdre, star of the show during Saturday morning’s seminar, “Digging Deep into Mourvèdre.”

I e-mailed questions to two of the three participating winemakers: Larry Schaffer, owner/winemaker of Tercero Wines, and Eric Mohseni, director of winemaking and vineyard operations at Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards.

Bob Tillman, owner/winemaker with his wife, Lynn, of Alta Colina Wine, will be the third participating winemaker during the seminar.

Mourvèdre, also known as mataró or monastrell, is grown widely around the world. Among its favored growing regions are the Rhône and Provence regions of France; in Spain; in Australia’s New South Wales and South Australia, and, closer to home, in Washington and across California.

In Santa Barbara County, the highest concentration of mourvèdre plantings can be found in the greater Santa Ynez Valley, specifically in the Ballard Canyon and Happy Canyon sub-AVAs, where temperatures top 90 degrees during the late summer and into fall.

That’s ideal weather for mourvèdre, which needs warmth and lots of hang time for optimal maturation.

Those attending Saturday’s “Digging Deep into Mourvèdre” seminar can look forward to an array of our region’s mourvèdre wines, according the organizers of the Garagiste Festival.

I asked Schaffer and Mohseni several questions about this up-and-coming grape varietal, long a favorite of mine:

Question: “I know Eric’s mourvèdre is estate-grown, but Larry, where do you source yours?”

Schaffer: “I get mourvèdre now from a plethora of different vineyards, depending upon what is available each specific vintage. The “constants” for me for my red wine are Camp 4 and Larner (since 2010), and Vogelzang Vineyard for my Mourvèdre rosé (since 2013).

“In 2013, I also got mourvèdre for red wine from Thompson and El Camino Real vineyards, and in 2014, from Zaca Mesa. My hope in 2016 is to receive mourvèdre from Larner, Camp 4, Zaca and perhaps one more site for red and Vogelzang for rosé.”

Mohseni: “We have had mourvèdre at Zaca for some time … the vines were grafted over in 1991, 1993 and 1999. We did a new, high-density planting of mourvèdre in 2008.”

Question: Give me a bit of background about the grape … Where does it thrive, and in what countries is it most heavily planted?

Schaffer: “Mourvèdre is native to Spain, where it is known as Monastrell and is second only to Grenache (or Garnacha) in terms of importance for red varieties. It hails from the Spanish town of Murviedro, near Valencia, and was most likely brought into France to the Provence region during the Middle Ages.

“It was a dominant variety in this region until Phylloxera hit the region and others in France in the late 1800s.

“It turns out that the variety proved much more difficult to graft to post-phylloxera rootstocks than other Rhone varieties, and therefore it was not as heavily planted in CdP, for instance, compared with Grenache. It’s also why the variety did and continues to do well in sandy soils, like Bandol (and Larner and Vogelzang).

“When mourvèdre was brought into this country, cuttings came from the area around Barcelona, where the grape was known as Mataro. In fact, to this day, on the California Grape Crush report, the variety is still called Mataro here in California.

Mohseni: “Larry nailed the background of mourvèdre!”

Question: Tell me your thoughts on working with the mourvèdre grape.

Schaffer: “Mourvèdre is both similar and dissimilar to other Rhone varieties that I work with. Like Grenache, it is very late ripening, making it a “pins and needles” variety in some vintages.

“But unlike any other red variety that I work with, the berries are not very turgid at all, and once cold soak begins, the skins begin to give way, making the cap more “mushy” than other varieties. Sounds strange, but it's true. Because of this, the skins tend to stick to each other, and scents of volatile acidity at the beginning of fermentation, whether or not the grapes are innoculated, seem commonplace, but blow off once fermentation kicks in big time.

“It likes heat during fermentation, but too much heat can lead to reductive qualities, which can stick with the variety for a long time.”

Mohseni: “It can be a little of an enigma … It is a late ripener, but in some vintages it is the first to come out of dormancy and push. It has a nice growing season, but about a month before harvesting it can desiccate and have excessive "dimpling.” Not sure why … we watch closely and water accordingly, but regardless of water, it will still desiccate.

Since the grape has very thick skins, mourvèdre can weather the storms, so I don't worry about it in tough wet vintages (not like we have had many of those). Usually as grapes ripen, the “meat” softens up.

“Mourvèdre tends to be “snotty,” or “pulpy” as I call it. Also, most vintages, I don’t see the seeds darken even at higher brix, so you can't follow conventional physiological ripeness parameters.” 

Question: Grenache used to be a blending wine, and now look at it! Does the future hold the same for Mourvèdre? If not, why?

Schaffer: “Though it is “rare” to find mourvèdre bottled on its own in this country, it is common to see it done so in Spain. Here in the United States, one of the reasons it has not historically been bottled on its own is because it is challenging to “fully ripen,” and therefore ends up showing its meaty, earthy, funky qualities, ones that do not lend themselves to mass appeal.

“The challenge, therefore, is to find sites where it will ripen to the extent I am looking for and still retain the properties the variety is known for.

Mohseni: “I love blending with mourvèdre! It always helps the ZGris (from Zaca Mesa) and I love our ZCuvee when it is mourvèdre based. I lean to more savory and rustic notes, and mourvèdre is a perfect vehicle for that. It is not as bold and rustic as (mourvèdres from) Bandol.. California mourvèdre has more fruit.

Question: What are some of your favorite mourvèdres?

Schaffer: “That’s a good question. I like what Hardy Wallace is doing with his Dirty and Rowdy label, but his is a very different take on the variety — much lighter hand during fermentation, not a lot of extraction, more “delicate,” if that makes sense.

“I really enjoy the mourvèdres that Zaca puts out year in and year out; I've been a fan of Cris Cherry at Villa Creek, especially his last few vintages. I used to enjoy the Cline Old Vine mourvèdres, but have not had one in awhile. And Ken Volk certainly has made some great ones for a long long time. Oh, and a nod to Bandol in general.

Mohseni: “Cline, Tercero, Curtis, Tablas Creek and Bandol!”

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

 

Garagiste Festival 'Southern Exposure' returns to Solvang Feb. 13 & 14

  The Garagiste Festival, founded in Paso Robles in 2011 to introduce small-production, cutting edge winemakers to the public, returns to Solvang’s Veterans’ Memorial Hall Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 13 and 14, with two days of grand tastings, as well as signature tasting seminars on mourvedre and — to honor Valentine's Day on Sunday — sparkling wines from the Central Coast.

“We are proud to continue our mission of bringing the best new garagiste winemakers to our audience and, just as importantly, bringing the story behind the wines straight from the winemakers themselves,” said Doug Minnick, Garagiste Festival co-founder.

The founders focus their efforts on winemakers who produce fewer than 1,500 cases of wine per year.

Featured will be ‘garagiste’ winemakers from the Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles, Napa and other regions. Proceeds benefit the Garagiste Festival Scholarship Fund at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department.

Garagiste (or “garage-east”) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot winemakers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules.”

Today the descriptor is a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world.

New this year is a drawing for two VIP tickets for Sunday, ($95) and a room on Valentine’s Day night at the Landsby, Solvang’s new luxury hotel. To participate, visit http://on.fb.me/1ZHwbpa

Tickets are available at http://garagistefestival.com

Early-access tickets for either day are $75 and provide entry at 1 p.m. General admission tickets to either day’s Grand Tastings are $55 each; the tastings run from 2 to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

For general information, visit http://www.garagistefestival.com

The Saturday (mourvedre) and Sunday (bubbles) tasting seminars will be moderated by Stewart McLennan, Garagiste Festival co-founder and radio host.

Saturday’s seminar, led by winemaker Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, will explore a variety of interpretations of an underdog grape beloved by many winemakers on the Central Coast. Other participants will be Bob Tillman of Alta Colina Wines, and Eric Moshseni of Zaca Mesa Vineyards. The three will explore the different styles of the Rhone grape varietal, and discuss why it’s one of the world’s most widely planted.

Sunday’s seminar, sponsored by BubblyFest, will focus on sparkling wines, aka ‘bubbles,’ and will feature three winemakers: Halcyon Wines’ Tyler Elwell; Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak Vineyards; and Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars.

Each seminar will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets to either seminar are only available as part of the VIP All-day Ticket, which includes a box lunch and early access (1 p.m.) to the grand tasting. VIP tickets are limited.

Winemakers already scheduled to pour include: Archium Cellars, Ascension Cellars, Baehner Fournier Vineyards, Bevela Wines, Brophy Clark Cellars, Carucci Wines, The Central Coast Group Project, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Clos des Amis, Coda Wines, Cordon Wines, Dascomb Cellars, El Lugar Wines, Graef Wines, Halcyon Wines, Iter Wine, Kessler Haak Vineyard, La Montagne Winery, Larner Vineyard, Levo Wines, Mallea Wines, MCV Wines, Millesime Cellars, C. Nagy Wines, Pace Family Wines, Press Gang Cellars, Rhythm Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Scott Cellars, Seagrape Wines, small + tall wines, Stirm Wines, STANGER/JP3, Tercero Wines, Travieso Winery, Trojak-Knier Winery, Weatherborne, West of Temprance and Workman Ayer.

Garagiste Festival Sponsors are Tonnellerie St. Martin, Glenn Burdette and Farm Credit West; hotel sponsors are VisitSYV.com and the Hamlet Inn.

 

"Winemaker as Chef" Aaron Watty displays duel talents in kitchen, cellar

"Winemaker as Chef" Aaron Watty displays duel talents in kitchen, cellar

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  I’ll be honest: I’ve enjoyed multiple winemaker dinners this year, and each one was first-rate. But the most recent meal was made extra special by the fact that the winemaker, Aaron Watty of Big Tar Wines, was also the chef.

On Dec. 7, at the cozy Montecito Events Center (a former restaurant), Watty and his adorable mother, Kathleen Watty (aka “Momma Watty”), and guests enjoyed a multicourse “Winemaker as Chef” dinner and appetizers paired with Watty’s wines.

Watty, a native of San Luis Obispo, has a curriculum vitae that impressed me back when we first met in 2007 at Allan Hancock College in a enology class.

Growing up, Watty resided in Tahoe and Paris, and graduated from UCSB. While still a student, Watty worked in the fashion business in New York City, Milan and Paris. And then came many years in the restaurant industry, first in New York City and Miami, and then on the West Coast, in Truckee.

Upon his return to Santa Barbara County, Watty began waiting tables at Santa Barbara’s famed bouchon in 2006. To this day, he still works several shifts a week — that is, when he’s not making wine for himself or another producer.

Also in 2006, Watty began at Sunstone, where he worked in sales until 2008. Then he worked a year as wine director at the Wine Cask, and with Doug Margerum, making wine for Margerum Wine Co., for two vintages. Following came harvest and cellar stints with a custom crush, Sans Liege and Longoria Wines.

12.7.15 BT Char

Watty launched Big Tar in 2012 with an emphasis on bordeauxs from the Happy Canyon AVA: A Three Creek (3C) Vineyards sangiovese, sauvignon blanc from McGinley Vineyard and cabernet sauvignon from Happy Canyon, and pinot noirs from both Rio Vista and La Encantada vineyards.

I tasted through his wines a year ago this month at a private tasting for small producers, and I was eager to see how they’d matured and developed in one year.

I know several winemakers whose talents in the kitchen match their skills in the cellar, and Watty is on that short list.

Sardines on toast paired with a Big Tar sauvignon blanc

On Dec. 7, dinner guests gathered to sample appetizers: Bouqerones with peppers and olives, smoked sardines with cumin crema, olive, pepper and salami. Paired with these delights were Watty’s 2012 Three Creek Sangiovese and 2014 McGinley Sauvignon.

When guests seated themselves for dinner, Watty and his wait staff poured another sauvignon blanc, this one another 2014 from McGinley Vineyard, aged in neutral oak and bottled just three weeks prior to our dinner. It was paired with local black cod.

Watty purchased all of the meal’s vegetables from the Saturday Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market. From the arugula beurre blanc and white beans served with the cod, to the wild mushroom encrusted Alaskan Arctic Char, served on a bed of spinach, all the vegetables were first rate.

Chef turned winemaker turned fashion industry employee turned entrepreneur, Aaron Watty

The char was delightful with the 2012 Big Tar La Encantada Pinot Noir, with the wine able to stand up against the spice of the mushroom crust.

The third course was three plates, and paired with three red wines: Roasted pork loin with prunes and potato gratin, paired with 2012 Happy Canyon cabernet sauvignon; char grilled leg of lamb with lentils francaise and carrots, paired with 2012 Cuvee Jean Murphy (named for Watty’s late grandmother); and to finish, Basque sheep cheese with membrillo and honey with black pepper, paired with the 2012 Rio Vista pinot noir.

Our table agreed that the lamb with lentils and the cuvee scored for best pairing, hands down.

Watty’s 2012 cuvee is 70 percent sangiovese from Three Creek, and 30 percent Star Lane Vineyard cabernet sauvignon, and very limited, as he produced just one barrel, or approximately 28 cases.

For more information on Big Tar Wines, e-mail Watty, aaron@bigtar.com, or visit http://www.bigtar.com

Precision Ag Consulting, Wine Communications Group finalize deal for Central Coast's WiVi Industry Conference

  The owners of Paso Robles’ Precision Ag Consulting, who co-founded the WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference and Tradeshow, announced Tuesday that they have finalized a buyout with The Wine Communication Group, owner of Wine Business Monthly, for the annual March event.

The two companies founded WiVi in 2012 in an effort to create a regional wine industry conference and tradeshow on the California Central Coast, and it has grown into the largest industry event south of San Francisco. Lowell and Becky Zelinski own Precision Ag, a viticulture consulting company.

The partnership between the two companies was formed in an effort to expand the Zelinski's former viticulture production conference into an industry-wide event, according to a news release.

The fourth-annual WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference and Tradeshow will be March 15 and 16, 2016, at the Paso Robles Event Center.

“This buyout is the fulfillment of a plan we put in place with Becky and Lowell over three years ago,” said Eric Jorgensen, president of Wine Business Monthly. “We are thrilled with the success of WiVi. Becky and Lowell have done a remarkable job and we thank them for their efforts.”

Becky Zelinski noted that it was always the intent of both companies that Wine Business Monthly would ultimately buy the show.

“We are pleased with the success of WiVi and excited that our collaboration with Wine Business Monthly allowed us to achieve our goal of creating a premiere educational forum for the Central Coast wine industry. We have always considered Wine Business Monthly our industry’s premiere trade publication and knew that teaming up with them would be a win-win situation. We know that WiVi is in good hands with Wine Business Monthly at the helm. We will continue to work with them to grow and promote the show and plan to remain advocates for WiVi because we think it is a great resource for our industry,” Zelinski said.

The transaction is expected to close in November and terms were not disclosed, according to the news release.

Wine Communications Group Inc. is an information and services provider for the global wine industry. As publishers of www.winebusiness.com, the leading website for the trade, and two of the industry's leading print publications, Wine Business Monthly and Wines & Vines, they are dedicated to meeting the wine industry's needs for information, analysis, resources and tools.

The Zelinski’s Precision Ag Consulting is an agricultural consulting company that specializes in vineyard management, viticulture production consulting, soil fertility and irrigation management, and ag waiver compliance on the California Central Coast.

The company is owned by Lowell Zelinski, who has doctorate degree in soil-plant-water relations from the University of California, Davis, and more than 35 years of experience in agriculture. Becky Zelinski manages the business. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and more than 25 years of experience in business administration, marketing, public relations and event management.

As a two-day conference, WiVi includes educational seminars with a regional focus on viticulture, winemaking and DTC/winery marketing addressed by today’s top industry leaders, as well as a one-day tradeshow featuring nearly 200 exhibits showcasing new products and innovative tools.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Dreamcote Wine Co. releases hard cider by the growler, plans cider expansion

Dreamcote Wine Co. releases hard cider by the growler, plans cider expansion

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  Winemakers Anna Clifford and Brittany Zotovich always have something new up their collective sleeves.

The two, the minds behind Dreamcote Wine Co., this year produced small batches of hard apple cider, which will be formally released this Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Dreamcote Fall Wine Release party, along with a new grenache, sausages and small-batch mustards and yes, guests wearing lederhosen.

In North America, “cider” is unfiltered apple juice. Beverages such as Dreamcote’s are known as hard cider, as they are fermented. While alcohol levels vary, they're usually below 10 percent. Dreamcote's is at 7 percent.

I caught up with the ever-affable Zotovich earlier this week in Buellton at Terravant Wine Company, where she is senior director of sales/winery services.

Dreamcote's cider is available at select eateries and via the Los Olivos tasting room and can be purchased by the bottle or growler

For several months, Dreamcote's 100-percent apple cider has been available by the bottle, but only recently have Clifford and Zotovich also made it obtainable via 2-liter growlers, poured straight from the keg.

The Dreamcote cider can be found at Scratch Kitchen in Lompoc and Industrial Eats in Buellton, as well as at a couple of Los Angeles accounts, where sales “are cranking,” Zotovich said.

She and Clifford are enthusiastic about experimenting with “cider trials” when they produce another batch in the next few months, and, Zotovich added ,“we hope to evolve into a line of seasonal and fruit ciders,” such as one made with apricots.

She discovered new inspiration by attending the Cider Summit in Portland last June. The Northwest Cider Association sponsors the two-day event in the food/wine/craft beer/spirits-savvy city. Zotovich returned home full of ideas and with a bright tank (vessel for secondary fermentation of beer or cider) in the back of her truck.

While Portland is a metropolis, it showcases an entrepreneurial spirit reminiscent of a smaller town, and encourages hand-crafted goods of all types. The earnest and enterprising Zotovich took note.

“I want to bring Portland down here as much as possible!”

Dreamcote's Fall Wine Release Party will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Los Olivos, 2933 San Marcos Ave. (down the street from the corner of San Marcos and Alamo Pintado avenues).

 

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Deborah Hall of Gypsy Canyon Winery initiates Indiegogo campaign to rescue Thailand's abused dogs and cats

Deborah Hall of Gypsy Canyon Winery initiates Indiegogo campaign to rescue Thailand's abused dogs and cats

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  Facebook is full of sad stories about humanity and homeless animals, so when Deborah Hall of Gypsy Canyon Wines first read about Thailand-based Soi Dog’s plea for funds to help it rehome abused dogs and cats, she was skeptical.

At first, “I didn’t trust the legitimacy of the organization,” she said.

But Hall spent time researching the nonprofit organization, headquartered in Phuket, and was so moved by its efforts to save animals destined for the meat industry that she and friend traveled to Phuket for two weeks last year to lend a hand and learn more.

While in Thailand, “we toured the worst shelter in the world — in Bangkok,” Hall explained. Dogs and cats were packed like sardines into cages that hung from the ceiling, their feces and urine covering the floor in a fetid mess that one needed heavy boots to navigate.

And so was hatched Hall’s own effort to save Thailand’s animals, one dog or cat at a time.

“I named it ‘Ground Boots’ because we needed boots to walk in the filth,” she recalled. Her inspiration: “You put on a pair of boots and get to work. And make a difference.”

Ground Boots’ mission statement is clear: “Drink great wine, change the world.”

Working with Soi Dog in Phuket last year, Hall encountered a young male dog that had been rescued from the streets. He had suffered broken bones nearly too numerous to count, including his left hip, both legs and his pelvis. His right rear leg, shattered beyond repair, had to be amputated at the hip.

Hall rescued Ting from Thailand last year. Despite having three legs, Ting is cheerful and happy to have found his forever home with Hall

Hall named him Ting, and when she returned to her Sta. Rita Hills home, so did Ting.

To call Ting her daily inspiration would be underestimating Hall, for she exudes passion and a calm, fearless determination to help. “I wanted to do something from home,” and to make a difference, “you always start in your own backyard,” Hall told me.

In her backyard, Ting has blossomed into a outgoing pooch and plays with Hall's three other dogs, two of which sat on either side of me on Hall's couch during our interview.

Throughout this month, Hall and Ground Boots have a campaign via the “food” link on https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/drink-great-wine-change-the-world#/story

In 17 days, 60 people have helped raise more than $10,000, according to the web page this morning. The goal is $25,000.

The featured wine is a 2012 Santa Barbara County pinot noir bottled by Hall specifically for Ground Boots. Its label features whimsical artwork of a dog and cat, entitled “Jack along with Cookie and Judy,” donated to the effort by artist Donald Roller Wilson, Hall said.

Wilson’s offer of the use of his art was a lesson for Hall in the graciousness of humankind, she recounted: “You don’t know unless you ask.” And asking Wilson “was a shot in the dark.”

The purchase of one bottle of Ground Boots' pinot noir will fund spaying or neutering and vaccinations for three dogs or cats

Hall will donate 100 percent of the profits beyond her costs, which include the wine itself, the printing of the labels, the bottles and corks, she said.

The funds from the sale of one bottle ($70) will fund a spay/neuter session, vaccinations and medicine for three dogs or cats rescued by Soi Dog.

One case of wine will pay for an undercover effort by Soi Dog to bust and arrest those who traffic dogs for the meat industry, Hall said.

The purchase of five cases will make an ever bigger dent: “That money will sponsor a week-long effort by Soi Dog to hold a spay/neuter clinic within a village, and cover the costs of two veterinarians, two nurses and two dogcatchers,” Hall explained, adding that such clinics are typically held within a temple.

She plans to return to Phuket and Bangkok this fall to give Soi Dog the funds from her campaign, and to once again lend a hand in the shelters.

Hall is well aware that her Ground Boots is not the greater wine industry’s first attempt at raising funds for nonprofits, but pointed out that most others don’t donate 100 percent of their above-cost profits, only a portion.

As founder, proprietor and winemaker for Gypsy Canyon Winery, Hall keeps production for that label below 500 cases annually. Her estate vineyards comprise nine acres; total acreage of her property is 130.

After buying the remote Gypsy Canyon site in 1994, Hall and her husband, William, and their two young children relocated from Los Angeles to the property in 1997. William long had dreamt of planting a small vineyard on their property, Hall recalled.

A healthy cluster on one of the ancient Mission grape vines on Hall's Gypsy Canyon property. In the left foreground is the trunk of a nearby vine; many have grown parallel to the ground over time

After buying the property, but before moving to it fulltime, the family discovered a three-acre hillside vineyard buried beneath an overgrowth of sagebrush on the southern edge of their property.

In 1996, the Halls, still commuting back and forth between their home in Los Angeles and the property, began to restore the vines.

In 1997, Bill succumbed to multiple myeloma, but Hall continued to pursue her husband’s dream of a small vineyard, and in 1999, she and her children planted pinot noir in a flat site below the vineyard of ancient historic vines.

After initially believing the hillside vines to be zinfandel, Hall had them DNA tested, and discovered that the head-trained vines, which today are nearly 130 years, old grow Mission grapes — the oldest grapes in Santa Barbara County.

She named the hillside of gnarled vines Marcelina’s vineyard to honor the first woman winegrower in Santa Barbara County, Dona Marcelina Felix Dominguez. In researching the history of her vineyard, Hall learned of the pioneering female grower, and of the Mission padres and their attempts at making wine from Mission grapes, as well.

In the early years following the first harvests of both the new pinot noir and Mission vineyards, Hall said she sold all of the fruit to other area winemakers. But more than 10 years ago, decided to follow her heart and funnel her passion for the canyon land into the label she named Gypsy Canyon.

In addition to using the Mission and pinot noir grapes, Hall makes chardonnay sourced from Bien Nacido and Brewer-Clifton vineyards, she said.

From the Mission grapes, Hall produces about 50 cases of Ancient Vine Angelica ($150 per bottle) that she ages in barrel for five years. She bottles the beautiful, amber-hued dessert wine in hand-blown, half bottles adorned with a hand-made paper label, and seals them with beeswax harvested from the bees on her ranch.

Copyright by Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Ron Hill of Orcutt-based a-non-ah-mus wines only thinks he's anonymous

Ron Hill of Orcutt-based a-non-ah-mus wines only thinks he's anonymous

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Although he is currently in the thick of harvest with most of the Central Coast’s other winemakers, Ron Hill took time early in August to taste me through his new releases. Hill is the owner and winemaker of a-non-ah-mus Wines, based in Orcutt at C2 Cellars. I last wrote about Hill prior to the March 2014 Southern Exposure Garagiste Festival.

Photo by Jane Kennedy Adams/Ron Hill at a private tasting earlier this summer.

After he increased the a-non-ah-mus case production from about 340 cases in 2013 to 500 in 2014, Hill now is content to “stay small.” That way, he can keep overhead and labor low (or non-existent, if he utilizes the help of friends), and enjoy total quality control over his wines from vine to bottle.

That said, Hill has plans to open his first tasting room, in hip Los Alamos, by year's end.

In August, we sat out on Hill’s back patio with his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Jack and Lily.

His newest releases include a 2014 viognier, 2014 grenache blanc, 2014 rosé of syrah and a 2013 pinot noir. Still available are older vintages of syrah and grenache; visit http://www.anonahmus.com

If you’ve met Hill, I’m sure you’ll agree that his personality — humble and serious with a side of playful — means that he’s a lot of fun to interview.

Which means that I’ve won the lottery, story-wise, as Hill last week agreed to let me “shadow” him for the next year, harvest to harvest.

I hope these series of stories will be as fun for you, gentle reader, as they are for me to turn out. My goal is to share a glimpse into the true life of a smaller-production winemaker, mud, sweat, tears and all.

But back to those new vintages:

Bottled in June, the 2014 a-non-ah-mus Viognier, sourced from Curtis Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, is elegant and displays vanilla and rose on the palate. Hill aged this wine in all stainless steel and allowed it to go through partial malolactic fermentation. It’s a beauty. Only 44 cases produced.

The 2014 a-non-ah-mus Grenache Blanc is a beauty of a wine, and pairs smashingly with cheese.

If his new viognier numbers just 44 cases, Hill’s 2014 a-non-ah-mus Grenache Blanc production is only slighter higher, at just 48 cases, also roughly two barrels’ worth. So I have five words for you: “Get. It. Before. It’s. Gone.”

I’m a fan of stellar Grenache Blanc, having cut my teeth on Kris Curran’s trail-blazing version of this Rhone grape varietal many years back. I think Hill’s 2014 comes closest to the distinction that Curran’s still showcases, vintage after vintage.

Hill is pleased at this, his first attempt. “I’m very happy with this style of grenache blanc,” he said.

The vineyard from which Hill sourced this wine is a small one across from Larner Vineyard in the Ballard Canyon AVA. Rancho Boa Vista grows only grenache, syrah and grenache blanc, Hill noted.

This wine displays one of the longest and prettiest finishes I’ve encountered in quite some time. When Hill offered me half a bottle to take home after our tasting, this wine was my choice.

Hill, who notes on his website how, years ago, he was “taken under the wing of a group of winemaking cicerones” when he lived in San Jose, relocated to the Central Coast to focus on wine and landed an internship at Babcock Winery in 2001.

He stayed there 10 years, he wrote, having “gained the knowledge that in the craft of winemaking, there is always more to learn.”

Hill founded his own label in 2007, and utilized Babcock’s equipment and space to produce his wines there through the 2010 vintage, he said.

The third wine we sampled is Hill’s 2014 Rosé of Syrah, of which there are 41 cases. I’ve enjoyed several vintages of this rosé, having first tried it at a Garagiste Festival, and am just as enamored with this new vintage.

To me, rosés are more than “summer” wines: They represent everything that’s wonderful about life — time with friends enjoying cheese and crackers before a great meal. Because of their natural higher acidities, Rosés also pair well with rich meals, such as those we eat at Thanksgiving.

Last in our lineup was Hills’s 2013 a-non-ah-mus Pinot Noir. It stands out for many reasons, not the least of which is the label: It’s white (all other a-non-ah-mus wines sport a black label), and there’s a twist on the name — it’s “Anonymous.” By a-non-ah-mus.

On his website, Hill writes: “Grapes sourced from a vineyard that must remain anonymous are in our first release of our white label.”

Hill was offered leftover pinot noir grapes from a prominent vineyard. How could he say no? He said yes, and produced this gorgeous pinot noir. My notes: “Fruity, lighter, sexy and pretty.”

The wine is clone 667, and Hill fermented it utilizing 15 percent whole clusters and aged in for 20 months in 25-percent new French oak barrels.

He made 76 cases of this pinot noir, and sells it for $29 per bottle.

So there you have it: Four new releases from Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus wines. How long can Hill remain anonymous?

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com