Viewing entries in
Winemaking

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

12-07-15-bt-entree-2.jpg

  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

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

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

dreamcote-cider-6-30-15.jpg

  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

ting-ground-boots.jpg

  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

rh-2015.jpg

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

'Bubblyfest by the Sea' returning with parties, dinner, seminars and glamour

'Bubblyfest by the Sea' returning with parties, dinner, seminars and glamour

uo4a8369-lr-bubblyfest-jeremy-ball.jpg

  Following sold-out inaugural events at Pismo’s Beach’s 2014 Bubblyfest by the Sea and the Pop-Up BubblyFest in San Francisco last April, organizers are gearing up for a sell-out year two from Oct. 2 through 4 in the seaside town of Pismo Beach. "Bubblyfest by the Sea is an upscale, educational, dedicated sparkling wine and Champagne event, with a touch of humor thrown in,” said Holly Holliday, event producer.

Jeremy Ball/Bottle Branding The debut Bubblyfest by the Sea last year. This year's event returns to the ocean front setting at SeaCrest in Pismo Beach

Bubblyfest will return to the ocean front SeaCrest Hotel, located at 2241 Price St.

Ticket sales opened in February, and while VIP tickets were snapped up within a week, a few remain available for the Grand Tasting Saturday, as well as Friday’s excursion, dinner, seminars and cocktail party, Holliday told me today.

Visit http://www.bubblyfest.com/schedule-of-events/ for details on each event from Friday through Saturday.

All bubbly, all the time. Organizers expect the weekend event to be another sell-out.

New this year is the Sparkling Wine “Excursionar,” a chauffeured field trip to Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, a local specialist in sparkling wines. Attendees will enjoy an extremely rare tour of the famed production facility, and will taste through and learn about the nuances of all seven of Laetitia’s sparklers with winemaker Dave Hickey in the vineyard during the winery’s harvest activities.

David Glancy, Friday’s seminar facilitator, is the founder and chief education officer of the San Francisco Wine School, and one of just 12 people in the world to pass both the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Master Exam (MS) and the Society of Wine Educators’ Certified Wine Educator exam (CWE).

The San Francisco Wine School offers professional wine studies, among them the French Wine Scholar (FWS), Society of Wine Educators’ programs (SWE) and the California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS).

Glancy also heads SFsommelier Consulting and sits on the editorial advisory board of Sommelier Journal.

Glancy will "lead" participants to the Champagne region for an educational tasting on the history of Champagne and the new age of California Sparkling wines, Holliday said.

The winemaking panelists are Clarissa Nagy of Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, Tyler Elwell of Halcyon Wines and Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars. They will discuss vintages, growing conditions, terroir and winemaking styles between the “Old Guard” and “New Guard,” Holliday said.

More information:

Web and tickets: www.bubblyfest.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bubblyfest Twitter: https://twitter.com/bubblyfest

 

Wine & Fire 2015 highlights Sta. Rita Hills' chardonnay, pinot noir and grilled meat

Wine & Fire 2015 highlights Sta. Rita Hills' chardonnay, pinot noir and grilled meat

wf-2014-photo-1.jpg

Wine & Fire, the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers’ Alliance annual event, returns to the AVA this weekend, Aug. 14-17, with a barn party Friday evening, a namesake “fire” barbecue seminar Saturday morning and the grand tasting at La Purisima Mission late that afternoon. More than 40 of the SRHWGA vineyard or winemaking members will participate in the three main events, and most will also offer open houses and special tastings throughout the weekend.

The AVA comprises 30,720 acres, with 2,700 acres planted between 59 vineyards. Most common are pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, but 18 other cool-climate varietals also thrive. Visit http://www.staritahills.com/appellation/ for a map of the appellation.

Kimberly Spies Photography/ Guests at the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party relish the gorgeous view of the Sta. Rita Hills from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard historic barn

Wine & Fire 2015 opens Friday evening with the Barn Party, held for the third year in a row at the old Sanford & Benedict barn, standing on a hillside in the historic vineyard on Santa Rosa Road. The venue offers a breathtaking view of some of the most celebrated vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

Friday’s event will feature large format and library wines from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, as well as fire-grilled pizzas from Bello Forno, and music by the Caverns.

Putting the “fire” back in Wine & Fire is the debut Saturday morning of the “BBQ Blast” seminar, also at the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard barn.

That event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Joe Padilla of Terravant Wine Company is the master of ceremonies, said Barbara Satterfield, executive director of the SRHWGA. With the weekend’s renewed focus on grilling, four of the region’s hottest barbecue chefs will share with seminar participants their hot tips on four different wood-fire cooking techniques. The four are Steve Clifton, Rodrigo Gimenez, Frank Ostini and Matt Toll. Following the “fire” presentation, “wine” will be added to the mixture as select SRHWGA members team up with the four chefs to pair their wines with the barbecue for seminar guests.

The four teams:

Steve’s Rogue Vineyard Team: This team will be led by Clifton, the area’s local expert on everything Italian (via Palmina Wines), as well as world-class pinot noir and chardonnay (via Brewer-Clifton Wines), will “rock the art of wood-fired flat breads” with the use of his pizza oven, Satterfield noted. Pairings: Selected wineries.

Clos Pepe Vineyard Team: Born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina, Rodrigo Gimenez grew up enjoying fire-roasted meats. The Argentine barbecue technique was cultivated over hundreds of years by that nation’s gauchos. Pairings: Clos Pepe Vineyard wines produced by Ken Brown, Clos Pepe and Liquid Farm. Gabe Saglie, noted TravelZoo editor and writer and one of my wine-scribe compadres, will round out the team.

Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Team: Frank Ostini, owner and chef at the Hitching Post II Restaurant, specializes in open-pit red oak barbecue, a Central Coast classic style that is gaining attention nationwide. Ostini, co-owner with Gray Hartley of Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post wines, travels the country representing our local food and wine mecca when he’s not making wine or fantastic barbecue. Pairing: Wines from Stanford & Benedict Vineyard, led by winemaker Steve Fennell of Sanford Winery; Shawn Burgert, Wandering Wino blogger and radio host; and the wines from Hitching Post Wines.

Zotovich Vineyard Team: Matt Toll of Tollhouse BBQ focuses on the long, slow cook with his own dry rub spices and a big rig smoker. Timing is everything when it comes to smoking, Toll believes, and he’ll share with guests the trade secrets of the closed smoker, Satterfield said. Pairing: Zotovich Vineyard wines from Zotovich Cellars, and Transcendence Wines

Cargasacchi Vineyard Team: Cargasacchi Vineyard will feature Cargasacchi, Loring Wine Company and Siduri Wines to accompany winemaker Peter Cargasacchi’s barbecue sliders.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard Team: Representing this team will be Kessler-Haak and LaMontagne and its grilling team, headed by LaMontagne’s Theron Smith, who plans to serve up tasty treats. Joining this team will be Michael Horn from CRN Radio. Pairing: Kessler-Haak Vineyard wines produced by Kessler-Haak and LaMontagne wineries.

Kimberly Spies Photography/ Wines poured during the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party. This year's Friday event will feature large format and library wines

The band The Luck will provide music following the education seminar and during the tasting portion of the event.

One of my favorite spots, the beautiful and peaceful La Purisima Mission, will once again host Saturday evening’s grand tasting, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Join more than 40 winemaking members of the SHRWGA, sizzling local chefs and farmers for an evening of chilling and grilling

Avant, Babe Farms, Campbell Farms, Central Coast Specialty Foods, Homegrown Cowboy, The Hitching Post II, Los Amigos BBQ, RGC Argentine BBQ, Tollhouse BBQ, Scratch Kitchen and the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers will offer an amazing selection of local food favorites.

Providing live music will be father-daughter duo Country Heart.

Many SRHWGA members will also offer open houses and specials throughout the weekend. See http://www.staritahills.com/wine-fire for complete details on ticket sales, participating wineries, restaurants and food vendors, a list of open houses and more.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Lompoc's Scratch Kitchen debuts winemaker dinners with Kessler-Haak Wines

Lompoc's Scratch Kitchen debuts winemaker dinners with Kessler-Haak Wines

sk-tasmanian-trout-7-1915.jpg

Augusto Caudillo and winemakers Dan and Ellen Kessler-Haak collaborated July 19 for the first-ever winemaking dinner at the Lompoc eatery Caudillo co-owns, Scratch Kitchen. Scratch Kitchen started service in early May, just three months ago. The chefs and co-owners, Augusto Caudillo and Gonzalo Pacheco, opened their doors to a lot of anticipation in this town — one that’s primarily working class and woefully light on quality food that isn’t Mexican or Thai.

Lompoc residents, starved for the innovative slash healthy cuisine easily found in other nearby cities, descended upon Scratch en masse, especially during lunchtime and for Sunday brunch.

For years, Caudillo, a 2006 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas, and chef Gonzalo Pacheco, his business partner and brother-in-law, had tossed around the idea of opening their own restaurant.

Caudillo is the youngest of eight children, and was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and raised on the Central Coast, according to www.scratch-kitchen.com He has worked at various restaurants around the country, including Lucky’s in Montecito, and as a personal chef.

Pacheco, born and raised in Mexico, moved to Santa Barbara in 1991, where he was introduced to the local restaurant industry. He graduated from the Hotel, Restaurant and Culinary Program at Santa Barbara City College in 1997, and worked in restaurants as varied as the Wine Cask, Fess Parker’s Grand Hotel in Los Olivos, and, like Caudillo, at Lucky’s.

* * *

On Sunday, July 19, arriving patrons were handed flutes of Kessler-Haak’s sparkling wine and pointed to a buffet of fresh fruits, crackers, breads and cheeses.

“I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d pick for a first-time winemaking dinner than Dan and Ellen of Kessler-Haak,” Caudillo said.

Once guests were seated, Caudillo, coordinating an eight-person wait and bar staff, put plates down in front of the 20-plus guests simultaneously, an impressive feat, and our meal began.

All of the courses and wines were well timed and the plates full of color and the food artfully arranged.

Pickled beets, watermelon and more comprised "Sottaceto," paired with chardonnay

Leading off was “Sottaceto,” meaning “pickled” in Italian, a plate featuring medallions of fried goat cheese, beets, chives, cucumbers and watermelon radishes paired with Kessler-Haak’s 2013 Estate Chardonnay.

Next up was a strawberry confit and herb salad served with the Kessler-Haak 2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir. The salad featured Iberico cheese, which balanced the bright-fruit acidity of the wine.

Roasted Tasmanian trout with pancetta and basil paired perfectly with Kessler-Haak's 2011 estate pinot noir

My favorite pairing was the choice by the chefs/winemakers to pair roasted Tasmanian trout, served ratatouille style with pancetta and basil, with the KH 2011 Estate Pinot Noir. The fish was perfect in flavor and texture, and the pancetta brought an elegant level of smoke to the table — but did not overpower the wine.

The fourth course featured a pistachio-crusted lamb loin served with a delicious cauliflower au jus with a smidge of mint jelly. Accompanying this was the 2013 KH Lafond Vineyard Syrah.

Lamb loin with cauliflower, mint and lamb jus

True story: I scraped clean my plate; I’ve never tasted better flavors of cauliflower.

Our meal ended with a dessert trio: A cheesecake bite, homemade Snickers-style chocolate bar, suitably melted in the heat of the night, and a tiny cheese board canapé. Accompanying these small-but-mighty-rich desserts was the Kessler Haak 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon.

Three small but mighty desserts were paired with Kessler-Haak's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard

Scratch Kitchen is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., also Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday dinner, 5 to 9 p.m.

Details: 610 North H Street, Lompoc, 809.0829

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

PROTOCOL Wine Studio illuminates both the business and passion of wine

Imagine a place where one can not only taste and buy wine, but also study and learn about wine, meet winemakers and delve into the soul of the California, U.S. and global wine industry. Such a business does exist: PROTOCOL wine studio, located in a San Diego business park.

Eric Guy and Tina Morey, the brains and passion behind PROTOCOL in San Diego

Calling itself “True Wine Culture,” PROTOCOL is the brainchild of business partners Eric Guy and Tina Morey, and operates as a parent company to four endeavors: #Winestudio Project, WineStudio, Wine Intel and Le Metro Wine.

First, Le Metro Wine: Its owners call this “the world’s most cutting edge wine club,” which is led by a team of wine professionals, writers and artists.

Each of the six-bottle wine collections focuses on a theme.

Along with Guy and Morey is Aaron Epstein, who is described on the website as a “writer, dreamer, wine geek and stay-at-home dad.” After “studying, selling and writing about wine since before he could legally drink it” and traveling around the globe to work in nearly every facet of the wine industry, Epstein in 2012 moved to San Diego, and teamed with Guy and Morey to create Le Metro, where his role is “curator.”

He continues to write, contributing to Edible San Diego and Riviera San Diego, and writes his own blog, winedad.com, full of his adventures as a stay-at-home dad.

Epstein was recognized in Imbibe’s 2015 “Imbibe 75,” a list honoring “People, Places and Flavors that will shape the way you drink in 2015.”

Epstein’s big news, which I stumbled across visiting his blog, is that he, his wife and their son are moving to Shenzhen, China, at month’s end. “Big changes this way come; thanks to Wifey’s consulting gig, we’re preparing to embark on a yearlong family adventure,” he wrote. Alas, he will bid farewell to Le Metro Wine.

But before he does, enter “Rosé on Midsummer’s Eve”, coming to San Diego’ Westgate Hotel from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20, promoted by PROTOCOL and hosted by Le Metro Wine.

The goal: Sipping rosé wines from around the world, and watching the sun set on one of the longest days of the year from San Diego’s most glamorous outdoor patio, The Westgate Hotel’s Riviera Fountain Terrace. A selection of Provençal-style charcuterie – cheeses, meat board, garden-fresh vegetables and potato bar — will be available for nibbling, while San Diego’s funk and soul 14-piece band “Bump N Brass” will entertain guests all night — wear your dancing shoes!

Tickets are $55 for Le Metro subscribers, and $75 per person (through June 12) and then $89 the week of the event.

The backstory:

I met Guy and Morey in late summer 2013 when I accompanied two Santa Barbara County winemakers down to PROTOCOL Wine Studio to attend a winetasting featuring a handful of small producers. The space itself resembles an artists’ studio slash gallery slash classroom, with a small office off the far end. No glamour; pure utility and function.

Like many I’ve profiled in the wine industry, both Guy and Morey segued into wine education and retail from other careers. I’ll let them tell their stories …

Eric Guy: “Mine was a path with no heart. After 12 years in the banking and investment industry, I was well on my way to achieving everything I desired. And yet as I entered the decade of my 30s, I was completely miserable.

“So I stepped out of the relative comfort of white-collar existence and dared to ask the question, “What if I gave up everything in the pursuit of something meaningful?  And more importantly, what could that be?

“Not long after I sensed a life change was due, I found myself on a trip to San Francisco and onward through wine country.”

During this journey, Guy noted, he caught the flu, and …

“Through two nights of alternating between shivering and sweating, the spirit of the vines enveloped me. As I walked from the Eagle & Rose Inn, my refuge from this strange affliction, a seed was planted in my mind. It was a simple and casual thought, not the life-altering gong one might expect from an idea that would change my life. The thought was simply, “I wonder what working in the wine business would be like?”

I’ve spent the last decade of my life pursuing that question by unrolling my passion for wine and all that lies beneath it from culture, to history from science to socializing. Since entering the wine business I’ve worked as a retail floor grunt, wine buyer, retail manager, wine storage coordinator and Sommelier. The adventure has been worth every minute.  For me this is a business with heart, one that enables me to cultivate a life that I truly love.

Guy leads the West Coast workings of PROTOCOL wine.

Tina Morey:

“Wine was always at the family dinner table, especially the extended family. Even when I left home after college, wine was on someone else’s table and although I drank it and wonderful times were had, there was yet to be that wine “epiphany” everyone describes. So I went about my life: technical writer, pastry chef, caterer, wedding cake company chef and owner.

“It was a last-minute reservation at The Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington, that did it for me. We sat at a communal table, spoke and laughed with folks from all over the country, listened to a classical guitarist.

“The highlight for me was the professionalism and ease that each and every staff member elicited. I wanted that confidence, that knowledge, that sense of complete trust of each member’s ability at any given time during the evening. The wine was part of the entire experience, but it fit so seamlessly it never stood out, but floated from course to course — a tightly choreographed play where guest was center stage.

“That was 2005, so just two years later I sold the cake business and enrolled into the first Court of Master Sommeliers Education Program in the United States.

“Now a Certified Sommelier, I’m on the long and winding path toward Master of Wine. And that’s when I met Guy, who was a fellow employee at a local wine retail shop where I was hired as “lowly floor employee.”

There I had the opportunity to connect labels with actual winemakers and experience my first communal tasting glass experience with the other shop employees. During my time in the business, I’ve met the craziest and most sincere people I’ve ever known and I’m lucky to have called them colleagues and friends.

Today, Morey spends most days nurturing PROTOCOL’s East Coast clientele.

Both Guy and Morey are down to earth but full of knowledge and experiences about every aspect of wine, a fact that makes them a joy to be around. “Taste it, share it, live it!” is how they view their lives in wine, and I’d call that a most appropriate motto for the wine life.

Wine Intel. Sounds intriguing, yes? Think of it as intelligent solutions to wine management, especially the financial aspects of collections, and answers to questions ranging from transportation to liquidation and more. In addition, Wine Intel offers sommelier skills, for events and overall education, as well as wine consulting, retail services development and wine-list creation.

Finally, #WineStudio: This is PROTOCOL’s online Twitter-based program to “engage palates and brains.” It’s a combination of instruction and tasting, with a focus on producers, grape varietals, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching — and how this affects wine imbibers, say Guy and Morey.

Earlier this year, Morey graciously included me during a month-long focus on select bloggers, asking each of us to share how we came to write about wine and winemaking. Those of you Tweeters know that the Twitter-sphere is rapid-fire quick and demands concise language (skills I was forced to relearn during the evening I participated in #WineStudio).

I bemoan the fact that a lengthy drive separates me from PROTOCOL's home base, but someday, I will return for a dose of wine education, or a special tasting.

Information and contact details:

Here's more about PROTOCOL, straight from the heart of Morey and Guy:

PROTOCOL wine studio: Five Years On - A Start-up just Starting

http://protocolwinestudio.com

Eric Guy GUY@protocolwine.com

Tina Morey tina.morey@protocolwine.com

Location: 4186 Sorrento Valley Blvd., Suite H, San Diego CA 92121

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Stagecoach Wine Tours Inc. awarded TripAdvisor's "Certificate of Excellence" for five consecutive years of great reviews

Stagecoach Wine Tours Inc. awarded TripAdvisor's "Certificate of Excellence" for five consecutive years of great reviews

babcock-vineyard-2011-e1432155860206.jpg

Babcock web vineyard 2011 Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours Inc., where yours truly is a proud tour host, today announced that it has been recognized as a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame winner. The Certificate of Excellence award celebrates excellence in hospitality and is given only to establishments that consistently achieve great traveler reviews on TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP), the world's largest travel site, has inducted Stagecoach Wine tours into its "Hall of Fame," which honors businesses that have earned a Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years, the organization noted in a news release.

Winners include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a superior customer experience.

Being awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence five years in a row and inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’ is a true source of pride for the entire team at Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours Inc., and we’d like to thank all of our past guests who took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor,” said Eric John Reynolds, co-owner with Tyler Tomblin of Stagecoach.

The company has been based in the Santa Ynez Valley since opening for business in 2001.

“There is no greater seal of approval than being recognized by one’s customers. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on customer reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote of confidence to our business and our continued commitment to excellence," Reynolds said.

Marc Charron, president of TripAdvisor for Business, echoed Reynolds’ comments.

"Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years is a remarkable feat. TripAdvisor is pleased to induct five-time award winners into the ‘Hall of Fame.’ By putting a spotlight on businesses that are focused on consistently delivering great service to customers, TripAdvisor not only helps drive an improvement to hospitality standards around the world, it also gives businesses both large and small the ability to shine and stand out from the competition.”

When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that takes into account the quality, quantity and immediacy of reviews and opinions submitted by travelers on TripAdvisor during a 12-month period, as well as business’s tenure and ranking on the Popularity Index on the site. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

TripAdvisor enables travelers to plan and book the perfect trip, using trusted advice from travelers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with seamless links to booking tools that check hundreds of websites to find the best hotel prices. TripAdvisor also includes TripAdvisor for Business, a dedicated division that provides the tourism industry access to millions of monthly TripAdvisor visitors.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Paso Robles Wine Festival: Four May days celebrating Paso Robles' wine country

Paso Robles Wine Festival: Four May days celebrating Paso Robles' wine country

cropped-dscn1821.jpg

Coming in a few weeks is the 33rd annual Paso Robles Wine Festival, a four day-event showcasing wine country — and one that attendees will find educational and full of wine, food and music. What organizers call the “quintessential Paso experience” will culminate Saturday, May 16, in the tree-shaded Paso Robles City Park, located downtown and surrounded by tasting rooms and restaurants.

The long weekend kicks off Thursday evening with winemaker dinners, followed on Friday evening by the RESERVE event, which features culinary bites from local chefs along with an auction that will benefit various San Luis Obispo County nonprofit organizations.

Note: Tickets to Friday’s RESERVE event and Saturday’s Grand Tasting are sold separately, and, like all tickets, available via www.pasowine.com As of this morning, tickets remain available for all three ticketed events.

Saturday opens with an educational winemaker seminar featuring five panelists discussing five grape varietals/wines: Grenache Blanc, panelist Steve Martell, winemaker at Sextant; Chardonnay, panelist Rich Hartenberger, winemaker/owner, Midnight; Tres Violet, panelist Jason Joyce, winemaker, Calcareous Vineyard; Reserve Zinfandel, panelist Chris Rougeot, winemaker, Opolo Vineyards; and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, panelist Matthew Glunz, winemaker, Glunz Family Winery & Cellars

Seating is limited, and organizers expect the seminar to sell out.

Saturday afternoon’s Grand Tasting will showcase current vintages from more than 60 wineries. New this year is the chance for guests to purchase a picnic lunch from one of five food purveyors. They are Cass Café, Gusto on the Go Bistro, Red Scooter Deli, The Pairing Knife and Thomas Hill Organics. Each lunch comes with a Paso Robles Wine Country reusable lunch bag.

Each lunch is $10, and must be purchased in advance. Only 200 lunches will be available. For menu choices, and to purchase, visit http://www.pasowine.com/events/wine-festival-tickets.php

More details about the festival’s three ticketed events:

Friday, May 15 — RESERVE:

This outdoor tasting will feature winemakers pouring two wines within the categories of “Reserve,” “Library,” “White/Rosé” or “Futures.”

Saturday, May 16 — Winemaker Seminar: 

Each of the winemaking panelists will share and discuss one wine indicative of the Paso Robles region.

Saturday, May 16 — Grand Tasting

Beginning at noon, this event offers wineries arranged by varietal “zones” featuring Rhône-style, Bordeaux-style, Italian varieties, Burgundian-style, Zinfandel and “Other Wild Wines.” Pop-up seminars sponsored by the Paso Robles CAB Collective, the Rhone Rangers and ZAP will take place in the park’s bucolic gazebo.

For more details on the Grand Tasting, including a list of participating wineries, visit http://www.pasowine.com/events/wine-festival-wineries.php

 

 

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure in Solvang March 27-29: Best of the smallest

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure in Solvang March 27-29: Best of the smallest

syv-gf-2015.jpg

  SYV GF 2015The weekend described as “wildly exuberant and fun” by the Los Angeles Times returns to Solvang at the end of March with wine from cutting-edge micro-production wineries, a new winemaking symposium, winemaker mixer and Big Red “Shoot Out.”

Tickets for the weekend’s events, held at the Veterans Memorial Hall, remain available, but are very limited and Garagiste Festivals always sell out. For the full Southern Exposure schedule, seminar details, participating hotels and to buy tickets, visit http://garagistefestival.com

Proceeds from the weekend will once again benefit the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Wine and Viticulture program.

New this year are two new events kicking off Southern Exposure on Friday, March 27:

  •  Happy Yeast Make Better Wine: This educational (but fun) winemaker symposium features Cal Poly professor and winemaker Matt Brain of Baker and Brain. Time: 5 to 6:30 p.m.
  •  No Repeats: Rare & Reserve Winemaker Mixer: Winemakers will bring out the best of their best for attendees, including Club Only, Library and Pre-Release bottles, and compete in the “Big Red Shootout,” a friendly competition in which they blind-taste each other’s wines and vote for the best red in the room. Time: 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Come Saturday and Sunday morning will be Garagiste’s signature tasting seminars, which will be moderated by Stewart McLennan, radio host and co-founder of the Garagiste Festival with Doug Minnick.

On Saturday, March 28, will be “The Diversity of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA: It's Not All Pinot & Chardonnay,” featuring Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak, Chad Melville from SamSARA Wine Co. and Peter Work from Ampelos Cellars.

On Sunday, March 29, comes “The Elephant in the Bottle: The Great California Alcohol Debate,” with panelists Norm Yost from Flying Goat Cellars, Keith Saarloos from Saarloos & Sons and Stillman Brown from Zeppelin Winery.

“We could not be happier to be back in Solvang for the third year in a row with yet another extraordinary slate of 60 talented and innovative micro-production winemakers from Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara, over 20 of whom are pouring at the festival for the first time,” said co-founder Minnick.

“More and more winemakers are telling us that The Garagiste Festivals are the only wine events they participate in because they are so full of passionate, knowledgeable (but decidedly un-snobby) fans of these very special handcrafted wines."

Aaron Watty's label is Big Tar Wines, and this year's Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will be his first.

One of those winemakers is Aaron Watty, whose small label is Big Tar Wine Company. I met Watty in 2007 in classes at Allan Hancock College, when he worked in the tasting room of a Santa Ynez Valley winery.

This festival will be Watty’s first foray into Garagiste, and he’s excited to introduce the public to his wines, which include cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, sangiovese and pinot noir.

He has spent the last six harvests working with fruit from Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, and calls that AVA “the perfect place to grow Bordeaux varietals. I am making this my focus, because its what I know and love.”

At a private tasting in December, where I tried his wines for the first time, Watty told me that his production is between 400 and 500 cases. His first vintage was 200 cases, in 2012.

Watty made only one barrel of his 2012 pinot noir, and it’s a blend of three vineyards: Rio Vista, Sebastiano and La Encantada.

“I think the Garagiste Festival is a great event for small winemakers who do not have an outlet to show their wines,” he told me in a recent e-mail.

“The amount of people and press that the group provides let the small wineries get together and ‘show off.’ There are not many opportunities to pour like this.” Like most of the winemaking participants at Garagiste, Watty doesn't have a tasting room.

He does have an extensive background in restaurants, including at Gotham Bar and Grill and Picholine in New York City, and Moody’s Bistro in Truckee, which he opened and managed. He continues to keep a foot in the restaurant business, he said, working a few shifts per week at bouchon in Santa Barbara.

Watty worked with Rick Longoria in Lompoc during the last harvest, learning more about pinot noir and chardonnay, he said.

Participating Saturday in the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure are: Apical Cellars, Archium Cellars, Baehner Fournier, Bellissimo Cellars, Bradley Family Winery, Brophy Clark, Carivintas Winery, Carucci Wines, Clos Des Amis, Cordon Wines, Cotiere, Crawford Family Wines, Dascomb Cellars, Ferguson Crest, Kessler-Haak Vineyards, LaMontagne Winery, Larner Vineyards, Levo Wines, No Limit Wines, Pence Ranch, Press Gang Cellars, Roark Wine Co., SamSara Wine Co., Scott Cellars, Seagrape Cellars, Section Wines, Solminer Wines, Turiya Wines and Weatherborne.

Winemakers on Sunday include Alta Colina Vineyards, Ascension Cellars, Barbieri Wines, Big Tar Wines, Central Coast Group Project, Center of Effort Wines, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Conarium Wines, Dilecta Wines, Dreamcote Wine Co., Falcone Family Vineyards, Graef Wines, Imagine Wines, J. Brix Wines, J. Ludlow Vineyard, Mattina Fiore, MCV Wines, Mount Dorado Winery, Old Creek Ranch Winery, Pace Family Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, STANGER Vineyards, Tercero Wines, Tierra y Vino, Vines on the Marycrest, Vino Vargas, Wandering Dog Wines, Workman Ayer and Zeppelin Winery.

Launched in Paso Robles in 2011, the non-profit Garagiste Festivals were the first to shine a light on the American garagiste winemakers, commercial artisan winemakers who handcraft less than 1,500 cases a year and pay close, hands-on attention to every wine they make.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for centralcoastwinepress.com