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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

 

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.

 

Steeped in history, Zaca Mesa celebrating 42 years as Rhone powerhouse

Steeped in history, Zaca Mesa celebrating 42 years as Rhone powerhouse

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  Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard, one of Santa Barbara County’s oldest vineyards, ranks high in local winemaking lexicon, and this year will celebrate its 42nd anniversary.

It is the vineyard that experimented with various grape varietals to test vineyard suitability, the training facility for some of the area’s most successful winemakers and the first vineyard in the county to plant syrah.

Winemaker Eric Mohseni and Brittney Burrows, Zaca Mesa’s public relations/communications and social media specialist, recently spent a morning tasting me through current releases and leading a tour of the facility.

Los Angeles native Mohseni, who graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a food science degree and chemisty minor, started his extensive wine career in retail as a wine buyer at Wine Country in Long Beach.

In 1997, Mohseni took a harvest job at Enda Valley Vineyards, and got bit by the proverbial wine bug. In 1999, he traveled to Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, for a second harvest, this one at Esk Valley. He credits his time there with honing his love for sauvignon blanc. His own wine label, Osseus, comprises 300 cases of that varietal.

In 2001, Mosheni joined Zaca Mesa as enologist, working his way up to assistant winemaker, associate winemaker and, in 2008, to winemaker.

Today Mohseni’s associate winemaker is Kristin Bryden, and the duo team to produce Zaca Mesa’s current annual production of approximately 35,000 cases of wine.

* * *

The Foxen Canyon Road ranch that houses the vineyard, winery and tasting room is approximately 750 acres, said Mohseni, and is planted to 178 acres — 86 of which are syrah.

Six friends invested in the original property in 1972, and began planting the vineyard in 1973.

Today, just two of the original six remain owners: Brothers Lou and John Cushman, Mosheni said. Ruben Camacho has managed the vineyards for 37 years, Burrows said.

Since few other vineyards existed when Zaca was first planted, the owners experimented by planting many grape varietals to determine which would thrive. The original vineyard included cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, riesling, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, grenache, chardonnay and syrah.

After two decades of research into the best varietal-by-vineyard match, Zaca Mesa now focuses on the Rhône varieties of syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, viognier and roussanne because they flourish, block by block

“Now, we’re all planted to Rhônes, but for chardonnay,” Mohseni said; that chardonnay now is under contract to another buyer, and the 2013 Zaca Mesa chardonnay is the last vintage bottled from estate chardonnay.

Zaca Mesa's Homage Collection of wines includes this sauvignon blanc from McGinley Vineyard in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.

The 2013 vintage includes five whites and eight reds, both estate and the “Homage Collection” bottling, Mohseni said. The Homage line comprises wine from fruit sourced from other vineyards in 2013: Sauvignon blanc (McGinley Vineyard); pinot blanc and pinot noir (Bien Nacido); and cabernet sauvignon (Vogelzang). The whites are available for tasting and purchase; and the reds will be released in coming months.

The Zaca Mesa winery, visible from the road, was built in 1978 — the same year that vineyard crews planted syrah, making the site the first in Santa Barbara County vineyard to put that varietal into the ground.

The rest, one could say, is history.

Ken Brown was Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker, and among the others who worked at Zaca Mesa are Adam Tolmach (Ojai Vineyard), Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat), Daniel Gehrs (Daniel Gehrs Wines) and Bob Lindquist (Qupe).

Using cuttings provided by Gary Eberle, another syrah pioneer, Brown planted syrah in the section of the vineyard known today as Black Bear Block — named for the black bear (or bears) frequenting that area over the years, Mohseni explained —and Lindquist produced Zaca Mesa’s first syrah from that block in 1995.

Because of the syrah grape’s history at Zaca Mesa, and the fact that Santa Barbara County’s cool-climate syrah remains so highly regarded, Mohseni invited the region’s top syrah producers to a clone-based syrah “bull session” Jan. 15 at Zaca Mesa. Read all about it here

I tasted through 10 wines with Mohseni. In order:

2012 Viognier: All neutral oak makes this a lovely mix of melon and minerality. Mohseni utilizes two picks of estate viognier, one at 20 to 21 brix and the second between 22 and 23, and blends the two.

2012 Grenache Blanc: This estate wine comes from the 3-acre block along the road leading to the winery, and shows nice acidity.

2011 Z Blanc: Honey and light spice. This blend of 78 percent roussanne, 17 grenache blanc and 5 viognier showcases the varietals; “these three will always be the base of this wine,” Mohseni said.

2010 Roussanne: Complex, lovely and rounded after barrel aging. Mohseni, like some other winemakers, fondly describes roussanne as “the red wine drinkers’ white wine,” one that “really opens up in the bottle.”

2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Homage Collection): Light and classic.

2010 Z Cuvee: True story: This particular blend is what introduced me to Zaca Mesa more than 16 years ago. This vintage is 54 percent grenache, 34 mourvedre, 6 syrah and 6 cinsault. This cuvee’s varietal ratio varies by vintage, based on the “best and most available” varietals, Mohseni noted. He’s a fan of blends that bring out the best in each varietal.

2012 Grenache: Light and bright with essence of plums. From the Tablas Creek clone — a “workhorse” — this contains about 12 percent viognier, Mohseni said.

2012 Mourvedre: Packed with pepper and smoke, this is another winning expression of this classic Rhone grape. Growing it takes patience, as it’s “slow to ripen.” Zaca farms 15 acres each of grenache and mourvedre, Mohseni said.

2010 Syrah: Big mesquite smoke, and, no doubt, a big seller. This wine represented 10,000 or 12,000 cases of Zaca Mesa’s total that vintage, he noted.

2011 Chapel G Block Syrah: Pure elegance, and Mosheni recommends cellaring until 2023.

Visit zacamesa.com Tasting daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 6905 Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos. (805) 688-9339.

 

 

Third annual WiVi will cater to industry professionals during two-day conference next week in Paso Robles

Third annual WiVi will cater to industry professionals during two-day conference next week in Paso Robles

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Organizers of WiVi plan a “session for every wine profession” at next week’s industry conference and tradeshow in Paso Robles. The WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference and Tradeshow on March 17 and 18 will offer 20 sessions to educate and entertain anyone involved or employed in the business of wine, organizers say.

WiVi will hold several industry sessions during the Tuesday, March 17, portion of its two-day conference next week

Now in its third year, WiVi has grown into California’s largest industry networking opportunity south of San Francisco, with social events like the WiVi Launch Party, an exhibitor-sponsored luncheon, and the grand finale industry tasting and reception, Celebrating the Artisan Winemaker, hosted by The Garagiste Festival.

Tickets for the two-day event remain available online at www.WiViCentralCoast.com. Questions: info@wivicentralcoast.com or (888) 974-WIVI (9484).

unnamedScheduled for the Paso Robles Event Center, the conference includes educational seminars Tuesday and Wednesday, with a regional focus on viticulture, winemaking and DTC/winery marketing that will be led by today’s top industry leaders, organizers said.

Wednesday will also bring a one-day trade show packed with more tha 170 companies showcasing new products and innovative tools.

WiVi Central Coast is hosted by “Wine Business Monthly,” the magazine/website that provides resources for the wine industry, as well as Precision Ag Consulting, a regional viticulture-consulting business.

A full schedule of Tuesday's sessions can be found at http://www.wivicentralcoast.com/program/agenda

Among the sessions scheduled are:

  • “Manage and Control Trunk Diseases,” presented by Douglas Gubler, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis. Gubler will offer preventative and cultural methods to minimize the spread of trunk diseases such as bot canker and eutpya.
  • “A Snapshot of Regional Harvest Chemistry: Seven Years of Wine and Grape Quality Analysis,” presented by Brenda Baker, chemist and owner of Baker Wine and Grape Analysis.
  • “Measuring the ROI of Social Media” presented by Steven Cuellar, Ph.D., of Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics. Cuellar will use data and case studies collected from some of the wine industry’s most successful campaigns to assess social media’s effect on the bottom line.
  • “Salary Survey: How Do You Measure Up?” is a presentation by Steve Treder, senior vice president, and Donna Bowman of Western Management Group, in which salary information specifically for the Central Coast wine industry will be extracted from the Wine Business Monthly’s annual salary survey, removing some of the mystery for both employees and employers on the Central Coast.
  • “Top 10 Tips for Success for Better Tasting Room Sales” presented by WISE (Wine Industry Sales Education) Academy Chairman Lesley Berglund, is based on the WISE Academy Tasting Room Best Practices Seminar, including relevant lessons for local tasting rooms taken from Berglund’s secret shopping program and the Wine Business Monthly Tasting Room Survey.
  • During his “2014 Year-in-Review & Update on Recent Changes in Ground Water Rights,” Lowell Zelinski of Precision Ag Consulting will look back at the 2014 winegrape-growing year. Chris Scheuring, legal counsel for the California Farm Bureau Federation, will discuss the monumental changes to come with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (aka Pavley-Dickenson).
  • “The Effect of Water Availability on Property Value,” to be presented by JoAnn Wall, appraiser, founder & CEO of Central Coast Ag Appraisers, will explore the influence that water availability has on property values.

On Wednesday, March 18, the WiVi Trade Show will feature more than 170 exhibitors with products and solutions for the modern winemaker, grape grower, or member of winery management, including companies whose innovations were voted as the “coolest new products” by Wine Business Monthly. 

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for centralcoastwinepress.com

July's Wine Calendar: The Garagiste Festival: "Urban Exposure" in L.A.

July's Wine Calendar: The Garagiste Festival: "Urban Exposure" in L.A.

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  2014LAArtLogoSaturday, July 12, is your chance to meet and taste wines from more than 40 artisan winemakers who live in greater Los Angeles and will participate in The Garagiste Festival’s first foray into this city. (See list of participants, below)

What’s a Garagiste? (gar-uh-zhe-stuh) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to slight renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world.

Founded in Paso Robles in 2011, the Garagiste Festival: Urban Exposure debuts at Union Station and will benefit Mending Kids International and the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program.

My first Garagiste Festival was the organizers’ premiere event, held in November 2011 outside Paso Robles inside a show barn at Windfall Ranch. Calling the venue a “barn” doesn’t do it justice, for Windfall Farms is a 724-acre equestrian facility, and the barn was brick with glass and copper steeples. Winemakers set up tables inside the stalls, most of which were bigger than my living room.

In 2013, two years after their Paso Robles launch, co-founders Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick, along with event director Lisa Dinsmore and publicist Melanie Webber, expanded Garagiste to Solvang with “Southern Exposure.”

You can read one of my previous stories about the crew here: https://ccwinepress.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/second-annual-solvang-garagiste-festival-southern-exposure-march-28-30/

Same idea, in different locales: The Paso Robles, Solvang and now Los Angeles Garagiste Festivals focus on tiny (and often, undiscovered) artisan winemakers who produce as few as a couple hundred cases each year.

Many of the Los Angeles-based winemakers participating in “Urban Exposure” still work day jobs, but like their colleagues in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, follow their passion for wine.

According to Webb, among the Garagistes are the team who work together in film production and have received raves for their winemaking; a couple whose wine is rooted in their Indian heritage and inspired by the 64 arts of KamaSutra; an Orange County mortgage broker; a winemaker inspired by his grandfather, who made wine in his Ontario basement; and a brewer and lab manager at Golden Road Brewing.

And my favorite: The Culver City sound engineer who secretly planted his first vines at Culver City’s MaryCrest Manor (a nursing home managed by Carmelite nuns), and had to answer to the police for his efforts.

After all, one doesn’t have to own a vineyard, winery, cellar or tasting room to make good wine.

Details, participants and ticket information is available at http://www.garagistefestival.com/

The event takes place from 2 to 5 p.m. at Union Station. Wood & Vine will provide cheese and charcuterie.

Among the winemakers already scheduled to pour are: Alma Fria Winery, Alma Sol Winery, Alta Colina Vineyards, Archium Cellars, Ascension Cellars, Autonom, Blue Cape Cellars, Bon Niche Cellars, Bratcher Winery, Carucci Wines, Center of Effort, Cholame Vineyards, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Cutruzzola Vineyards, De Su Propia Cosecha, Dilecta Wines, Dubost Ranch, DV8 Cellars, Graef Wines, Kessler-Haak Vineyards, La Fenetre Wines, Levo Wines, Luminesce, LXV Wines, Marin’s Vineyard, MCV Wines, Montemar Wines, Native9, ONX Wines, Pulchella Winery, Rendarrio Wines, Seven Angels Cellars, Shai Cellars, Singer Cellars, Soaring Hawk Vineyards, The Farm Winery, Turiya Wines, Two Shepherds Winery, Vinemark Cellars, Vines on the Marycrest, Vino V Wines, Weatherborne and Workman/Ayer.

 

 

 

 

 

Return of the wine-blog monster

Return of the wine-blog monster

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Why, hello! It's been too long. Wine blogging is more fun, but hey: My day job pays the bills. But I'm stitching together several new ideas for this blog, so stay tuned in the weeks leading up to the Wine Bloggers' Conference in Buellton, July 10 through 13.

Laurie, Publisher and Princess, Centralcoastwinepress.com

Thursday's Bottle: The sky's the Limit

How could I resist that headline? 2010 No Limits Syrah, "The Nuts," Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley

I was warned by one of the owners of this label that it is a "big" wine, and to let it breathe over several days. So I did: And . . . it's a big wine.

I opened it and tried it on a Friday, skipped it on Saturday, and then had the remainder of the bottle Sunday.

My notes, first day: "A 'forever' finish with monster tannins. Begs for rich and creamy pasta, stew or soup. Or dark chocolate."

By Sunday: "Shows more fruit by today and the white pepper typical to syrah … and, the Edna Valley is cool, after all. It's a bowl of dark spice. But still a bit one dimensional — I would like to see more layers, and a hint of fruit. Just a smidge of blackberry on finish."

After I drained the bottle, I continued to dwell on the dark notes of this No Limits' "The Nuts." (Think: Vegas, baby). Yes, I couldn't discern more than the slightest hint of blackberry, the characteristic I so love in a good syrah.

And then it came to me: The Nuts is the Dark Knight, the darkest of the nights of winter. It's a wine that sets one to brooding — never a bad thing in moderation, I dare say.

14.4 alcohol. Retail: $75. Ethan Lindquist is the winemaker of No Limits, and his cohorts are Cliff Korn and Lee Tomkow, both of whom handle marketing.

No tasting room; online sales and by-appointment tastings at www.nolimitwine.com