Once upon a time, I worked full-time as news editor at a local daily newspaper. Every night, I beat deadline, and made sure those working around me did as well. Today, my sole limits on time are random days of my own choosing, but for the life of me, watching them drift slowly past is often all the effort I can muster.

Which means there's forever a jumble of words cluttering my mind.

To my credit, a large freelance writing gig consumed most of my word smithing time until quite recently. Beyond that, I have absolutely no excuse.

But if the world pops tonight, at least I've got this done.

Today, nearly three months after the fifth meeting of the Central Coast Wine Press Tasting Panel, I've collected my pile of words into working order.

* * *

On a very warm evening in late September, panel members regrouped at the Lompoc home of members Jeremy and Michelle Ball to taste sauvignon blanc.

Followers of my wine tales know that this white Bordeaux grape is without fail one of my favorite varietals, and I do recall being very excited about what wines awaited us.

As a refresher, we are: Michelle and Jeremy Ball, Bottle Branding; Katie Baillargeon and Marcel Rivera-Baillargeon, UCSB creative writing professor and online marketing specialist, respectively; Anne and Jason Burns, software entrepreneurs; Mark Cargasacchi, winemaker/owner, Jalama Wines and Joseph Blair Wines; myself and author Laura Sanchez, chronicler of wine and food for various local and national publications. Joining us this evening was Ashley Costa, Lompoc City Council member and tasting room manager at Loring Wine Company.

Michelle Ball is but one of a handful of friends who can prepare and present food like nobody's business. We enjoyed varieties of fine cheeses, breads, fruit and creamy homemade spreads designed to pair with the wines. And fried chicken. Just because Michelle is Michelle.

The Balls had bagged seven wines, but divulged that they hailed from Sancerre, Chile, Marlborough, Mendocino County, the Santa Ynez Valley, Monterey County and the Edna Valley.

I love the essence of "cat pee" that's often strongest in some of Marlborough's finest sauvignon blancs. That characteristic is strongest in cool-climate terroir, i.e., Marlborough versus the Santa Ynez Valley.

And we were off.

Wine One: "Not my favorite (said two tasters); falls flat mid-palate; easy drinking fruit, sort of between the $8 and $10 or $12 range; not enough 'there, there': a good value wine; a hot day wine; would make a nice Sangria; something to serve to my friends who don't drink a lot of wine; elegant, balanced but with a bite; Monterey? Mendocino?"

Wine Two: "Chilean? Has riper pear; warmer and more tropical; colder climate, which tends toward 'cat pee,' versus hotter climate, which tends toward 'tropical'; slight banana, especially on the palate; like the core of a pineapple — not quite ripe, and not quite sour; not complex enough, unilateral; one trick pony; roller coaster of a palate ride; I say Chilean, or this county's?"

Wine Three: "Cuts the fat of the food well; nice balance of 'pee'; barrel flavor; more spice; Edna Valley?; local, California for sure; Edna Valley; nice; definitely not Santa Ynez Valley."

Wine Four: "Just on the nose (alone), this is Marlborough; wow!; New Zealand; unabashedly New Zealand; guava; a grassy classic; good vegetal; Marlborough!; yummy."

Wine Five: "Is this corked?; pineapple; Santa Ynez Valley?; Chilean?; this is my number two favorite, so far; tarragon; grapefruit pith; citrus; more of a 'tongue biter'; has pyrazines, like licking the inside of a jalapeño pepper; mmmm, balanced."

Wine Six: "I'm sooo done with sauvignon blanc!; I think this is Monterey, 2009 or 2010; pine tree and tangy cat pee; not a lot of depth."

Wine Seven: "Blue fruit; like snozberries; Happy Canyon vegetal; pink grapefruit; not much more than grapefruit, really; one trick pony; a hot tub sauvignon blanc; is this a Brander?"

The wines:

Wine One: 2011 Veramonte, "La Gloria," Chile; $11

Wine Two: 2010 Patianna Estate, Ukiah, Mendocino County, organic; $17

Wine Three: 2011 Gainey, Santa Ynez Valley; $14, but sold out

Wine Four: 2011 Villa Maria Winery, Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand; $12-$15

Wine Five: 2010 Tangent Wines, Paragon Vineyards, Edna Valley; $13

Wine Six: 2011 Pascal Jolivet, Appellation Sancerre Controle; average $21

Wine Seven: 2011 Wrath, Ex Anima ("From the Soul"), Monterey County. $15-$20, but sold out

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