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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


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 Questions: 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

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. 

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The CCWP Wine Week: WiVi Central returns to Paso in March; Cal Poly receives $20,000 check from Garagiste Festival

The CCWP Wine Week: WiVi Central returns to Paso in March; Cal Poly receives $20,000 check from Garagiste Festival


  WiVi Central Coast two-day conference for growers, winemakers

The WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference & Tradeshow's third annual event returns to the Paso Robles Event Center Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17 and 18, and organizers hope to draw winemakers, grape growers and hospitality managers to network and explore resources available on the Central Coast and beyond.

The conference includes education seminars on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and a Wednesday tradeshow that will feature more than 150 companies showcasing new products and tools.

Hosting WiVi Central are Wine Business Monthly, the wine industry leader in product information and resources, and Precision Ag Consulting, a regional viticulture consulting business.

“The Central Coast is still a young wine region but growing rapidly. Education and access to resources is important to its continued growth and success,’’ said Becky Zelinski, WiVi director.

“As the region grows, so does the importance of a conference like WiVi, which is the only one of its kind here. In just two days, anyone in the wine industry can learn from our panels of experts, network with peers, and connect with suppliers at the WiVi tradeshow. It really is a one-stop shop for the entire Central Coast industry,’’ she said.

Among the seminars scheduled both days are “The Year 2014 in Review and Update on Recent Changes on Ground Water Rights;” “The Effect of Water Availability on Property Values;” “Improving Wine Grape Quality Through the Use of Phenolics Measurements in Winemaking;” “Measuring the ROI of Social Media;” and “Top 10 Success Tips for Tasting Room Sales.”

The conference will include two social events: A launch party on Tuesday evening and an exhibitor-sponsored lunch Wednesday.

Registration for WiVi is open to the public and tickets can be purchased online. Early registration discounts and special discounted prices for wine industry association members are available through Feb. 28, as are free tradeshow passes for association members.

Information and tickets:; email:, and phone: (888) 974-WIVI (9484).

Garagiste Wine Festival presents $20,000 donation to Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program

The Garagiste Festival presented a check for $20,000 to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture department from proceeds raised at its three Garagiste Festivals in 2014.

It also announced that the Cal Poly program will continue to be a beneficiary of the festivals in 2015, including the upcoming “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure,” scheduled for March 27-29 at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Solvang.

Receiving the $20,000 check were Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department Lecturer Shohreh S. Niku, second left, and Interim Department Chairperson Marianne McGarry Wolf, second right. Garagiste co-founders Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick are far left, and far right, respectively.

The check was presented in the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture lab in San Luis Obispo, where students are benefitting from spectrophotometers purchased using funds donated by the Garagiste Festivals in 2013.

“In addition to throwing a spotlight on small-lot, innovative artisan winemakers, a huge part of our mission is to further the education of future winemakers. It was very exciting today to see the results of our efforts at work at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture,’’ said Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick.

“We have many alums of the program among the exceptional winemakers pouring at our festivals and could not be more proud to be part of helping shape the future of our industry, starting with its next generation of winemakers.’’

Launched in Paso Robles in 2011, the 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. The only festivals in the United States dedicated to these innovative, hard-to-find winemakers, the events have helped thousands of consumers discover the remarkable wines of hundreds of garagistes.

“We appreciate the Garagiste Festival’s continued support of our program and its contribution to the vitality of our area, which is rapidly evolving into one of the most important wine regions in the world. We believe our program embraces the entrepreneurial spirit of the garagiste winemaker by integrating enology with viticulture and wine business. Our program reflects the evolution our wine region and the funds donated by the festival over the past three years, as well as the attention it has brought to our program, have truly made a difference,” Wolf said.

“This year’s donation will go a long way to helping extend the footprint of our students in the wine industry. Thank you Garagiste Festival, and thank you to the hundreds of garagiste winemakers and sponsors who help make this festival possible.”

The Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program includes nearly 300 undergraduate majors, making Cal Poly among the largest Wine and Viticulture programs in the country. The program uniquely integrates three fundamental components of the modern wine industry, with a curriculum emphasizing the inherent connectivity between wine grape growing in the vineyard, wine making in the winery, and wine selling in the marketplace through a unique “learn-by-doing” approach. The program is currently developing a Center for Wine and Viticulture that will include new state-of-the-art teaching facilities.

The upcoming Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will feature 60 artisan winemakers from throughout Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast pouring throughout two days, as well as wine tasting seminars and the popular Winemaker Mixer, which includes the Festival’s signature “winemaker shootout” —where winemakers blind taste each others wines to pick the best red.

For tickets and to be alerted to breaking news about Southern Exposure and other Garagiste events, sign up for The Dirt at or follow us on Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or Facebook. For more information on The Garagiste Festivals, go to

Silicon Valley Bank predicts “breakout year” for U.S. wine biz

Silicon Valley Bank, a leading provider of commercial banking services to the innovation sector and the wine industry, releases its annual State of the Wine Industry report Jan. 21.

“We are seeing real strength in the U.S. economy going into 2015, which will increase demand for wine,” said Rob McMillan, founder of SVB’s Wine Division and author of the report.

“Declining oil prices are transferring wealth to oil-consuming countries, the employment picture is improving, the U.S. dollar is strengthening and interest rates will move at a measured pace. As long as the industrialized world economies can hold their own, the middle-income consumer will see improved prospects. We’ll be toasting to that.”

“We are especially positive on the year ahead,” McMillan said. “We expect the fine wine business will experience accelerating growth, achieving 14 to 18 percent sales growth in 2015. At the same time, the cellars are full with several consecutive years of very good vintages.”

Based on a survey of nearly 600 West Coast wineries, in-house expertise and ongoing research, SVB’s annual report covers trends and addresses current issues facing the American wine industry.

Key findings and predictions:

  • Supply: We expect to see the third consecutive harvest of heavy yield and great quality across most appellations.
  • Sales Growth: After finishing the year at the top end of our predicted sales growth of 6 to 10 percent in 2014, we are predicting a breakout year of growth in the fine wine category in the 14 to 18 percent range in 2015.
  • Pricing: While the large supply of wines in the cellars should normally indicate continued depressed pricing, we believe 2015 will be a year of both volume and price increases in the fine wine segment, driven by an improving economy and higher demand.
  • Demand: Wines priced below $7 a bottle performed poorly both on and off premise in 2014. This poor performance is likely to continue in 2015.
  • Planting: Grape planting is shifting regionally. Oregon and Washington are showing strong growth in planting on a percentage basis and we expect that this will continue for the foreseeable future given favorable quality and price dynamics relative to the fine wine growing regions in California.

SVB’s wine division specializes in commercial banking for premium wineries and vineyards and the industries that support them. SVB has the largest team of commercial bankers dedicated to the wine industry of any bank nationwide. Founded in 1994, SVB’s Wine Division has offices in Napa and Sonoma counties and serves clients in the fine wine producing regions of California, Oregon and Washington.

Palmina Winery names John Busby as general manager

Palmina Winery, which produces a range of wines crafted from Italian varietals grown in Santa Barbara County, has named John Busby as its new general manager.

Busby, previously an executive in the asset management industry, has been manager of direct-to-consumer sales at Palmina for the past two years.

"I am extremely enthused at the prospect of taking on this new role at Palmina," Busby said. "As the winery celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015, I look forward to continuing to work closely with Steve and Chrystal to firmly position Palmina as a sustainable Santa Barbara County brand for the next 20 years and beyond."

Steve Clifton, winemaker and owner, produced the first Palmina wines in the basement of his home in 1995. Formerly assistant winemaker at Rancho Sisquoc and manager of The Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, Steve was joined at Palmina by his wife, Chrystal, in 2000. The Cliftons are also partners in Brewer-Clifton, a Sta. Rita Hills producer of pinot noir and chardonnay.

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With harvest but a memory, Dreamcôte winemakers focus on spring releases

With harvest but a memory, Dreamcôte winemakers focus on spring releases


  Zotovich pulls a sample of fermenting grenache that will soon be bottled as the 2014 Dreamcôte Wine Co. rose

On Oct. 24, when I sampled it, straight out of a bin and still fermenting, the 2014 Dreamcôte Wine Co. grenache rosé juice already radiated passion-fruit freshness packed into a bright magenta hue.

Winemaker Brittany Tanquary Zotovich, co-owner with Anna Clifford of the Buellton-based label, voiced satisfaction with the young wine, calling it “spring like and floral.”

The two produced it saignée style, removing — or “bleeding” — some of the juice from the must of the grenache grapes after a bout of skin contact.

Grenache from a Santa Ynez Valley vineyard

Earlier in October, I joined Clifford and Zotovich for a second harvest round, this time for grenache — destined to become this very rosé.

My first harvest ride-a-long visit had been to McGinley Vineyard for my first story about the two

This Oct. 10 grenache pick would be their first from this small site, located on Baseline Avenue just east of Ballard.

The vineyard’s owners had approached managers at Terravant Wine Company, where Clifford works as a winemaker and Zotovich as director of sales/winery accounts, for consulting help.

Zotovich, foreground, and Clifford, pick grenache from a vineyard near Ballard on the morning of Oct. 10.

“Brit and I worked with the owners this year to get the vineyard where we want it,” Clifford said.

That work included performing two green drops, a crop thinning maneuver used to weed out unripe (green) berries as cluster ripening progresses.

In October, the McGinley Vineyard syrah grapes that I observed the two harvesting on Aug. 29 were about one-third of their way to becoming Dreamcôte’s 2014 Carbonic Syrah and the juice was displaying “pretty beautiful acid,” Zotovich said.

Carbonic maceration occurs when whole (not crushed) berry clusters are fermented in a sealed vessel that’s been filled with carbon dioxide. Lacking oxygen, the whole grapes start intracellular fermentation, producing alcohol.

Clifford and Zotovich founded Dreamcôte in 2012. On the website is what I believe to be the perfect description of their company: “A secret society of flavor crazed, dynamic and tenacious individuals that give this project life.”

After many months of research and tasting, Clifford and Zotovich this year made the leap into cider production. Hard ciders are gaining popularity with wine and beer consumers, especially those who favor something “a little bubbly” now and then.

My introduction to ciders came courtesy of these two. On an August evening, with a meal of bread, cheese and fresh salads prepared by Zotovich, we shared various ciders from a couple of local producers.

I was intrigued: Both the “fizz factor” and the ABV are low (usually less than 8 percent), but there’s nothing timid about a well-made cider.

Under Dreamcote, the two will produce two ciders: “one dry, and one off dry,” said Zotovich.

* * *

On Nov. 11, while the bulk of the cider was fermenting away in a 300-gallon tank back at Terravant, Clifford and Zotovich had me meet them at Lompoc’s Zotovich Cellars.

There, they had divided several gallons of cider into “yeast trials” in roughly a dozen sample jars, topped with loosened lids to prevent explosion — just in case a sample jar suffered excessive carbonation. Each jar contained a different yeast.

Unscrewing lids and sniffing the jars’ contents, Clifford and Zotovich described aromas that ranged from “apple cider to flat allspice, from yeast to lemon to beef broth, and from chicken all the way to sweet and vinegar.” It was a start.

Their goal, for optimal cider: “We want as little ‘fizzy’ as possible,” Zotovich explained. The finished cider will be bottled unfined and unfiltered, since “people ‘get’ that a cloudy appearance" is a hallmark of ciders.

Both Dreamcôte’s 2014 Carbonic Syrah from McGinley Vineyard and the 2014 Grenache Rosé are targeted for release on Feb. 21, Zotovich told me this week.

The cider release date is “more fluid,” with hand bottling scheduled for sometime in March, and a picnic targeted for later that month or early in April, depending on weather conditions.

Brit Zotovich, left, and Anna Clifford discuss Dreamcôte Wine Co. with two writers at a private tasting in December.

Late last year, Clifford and Zotovich released two 2013 vintages: Dreamcôte’s 2013 “Birdfish” Malvasia Bianca and the 2013 “Goat Without a Rope” red blend.

The two poured those wines and others at a private tasting Dec. 16 in Lompoc that was geared toward small producers.

Of the bright and lively Malvasia Bianca, sourced from Lucas & Lewellen Vineyard, Zotovich said: “People are going crazy for it at the tasting room.”

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for




The Top 22 Wines I tasted during 2014

The Top 22 Wines I tasted during 2014


Let me be the first to acknowledge that yes, I need to venture further afield, because all of these wines hail from Santa Barbara County grapes — not that there's anything wrong with that fact — and yes, I'm posting this list late, as it's already 2015. Oh well.

My disclaimer: I have personally tasted all of these wines, either by the taste, glass or bottle. Naturally, I sampled other wines throughout the year, but only the following made my cut for this list.

Taking good notes does pay, for I can share where and (sometimes) even when I came to taste these particular beauties. Comments appear where I remembered to jot them down … but in many cases, I was too enamored of the wine to do more than just sip.

In no particular order:

Discovered this at BubblyFest, and have since enjoyed it several times

Mosby Wines Stelline di Cortese: (“Little Stars of Cortese”), California (estate) sparkling, NV (BubblyFest, October)

2013 Dreamcote Wines Malvasia Bianca: Lively. And, as the label states: “Life’s short; Drink what you like.” (Private tasting, December)

2012 Cholame Vineyard “Summer Shade,” Grenache Blanc: La Presa Vineyard. Crisp and complex.(Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure, March 2014). Cholame Vineyard features longtime local winemaker/vineyard manager Andy Ibarra as winemaker.

2012 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc: Vogelzang Vineyard. Straw colored, and more viscous, less brisk. (bottle purchase)

2010 Clos Pepe Barrel Select Chardonnay: (bottle purchase)

This wine strengthens my vow to consume more Italian varietals.

2010 Ethan Wines Nebbiolo: Stolpman Vineyards (bottle purchase)

2011 Sillix Wines Syrah:  (first tasted at Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure, March 2014), (bottle purchase)

2013 Lindley Wines Chardonnay: estate (private tasting, December)

2102 Carucci Wines Viognier, White Hawk Vineyard: (Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure, March 2014)

True confession: I've had a lot of this wine over the years. A LOT. And it never loses its allure.

2010 Jalama Wines “El Capitan:” (Blend of syrah, mourvedre and cabernet sauvignon) (bottle purchase)

2013 Alta Maria Wines Carbonic Pinot Noir: whole cluster, 100 percent carbonic maceration, bottled four months after harvest (tasting room)

As you can see, I couldn't choose just one pink wine. Here are my three dead-heat favorites: Hitching Post, Dragonette Cellars and Andrew Murray Vineyards.

2013 Hitching Post Rosé; 2013 Dragonette Cellars Rosé (Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara); and 2013 Andrew Murray Vineyards, Esperance Rosé. (Bottle purchase, all three; the HP is pinot noir and the other two are Rhone blends)

2010 Samsara Wine Grenache: Spectacular. (bottle purchase)

2009 A-non-ah-mus Grenache: D’Vine Wine Bar, by the glass

2009 Stolpman Vineyards L’Avion: Roussanne, (bottle purchase)

2012 Stolpman Vineyards Estate Grown Syrah: (Wine Bloggers’ Conference seminar: “Syrah Terrority, Ballard Canyon,” July; and again during Celebration of Harvest seminar, October)

2011 Brave and Maiden “Union:” Blend of syrah, merlot and cabernet franc. Beautifully dusty. (Wandering Dog Wine Bar, by the glass)

2010 No Limit Wine “The Nutz” Syrah: (private tasting, December)

2012 Big Tar Wines Cabernet Sauvignon: Winemaker Aaron Watty’s goal is food-friendly wines, and he nails it with this silky beauty. (private tasting, December)

While I tasted all four of these Rack and Riddle bubblies, the Blanc de Noirs gets my top vote

Rack and Riddle North Coast Blanc de Blancs: (100 percent chardonnay, NV) (BubblyFest, October)

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"Thursday's Bottle" reunites for session of festive sparkling wines

"Thursday's Bottle" reunites for session of festive sparkling wines


Welcome back to the second “Thursday’s Bottle,” an occasional adventure in blind tastings and wine reviews. The Thursday's Bottle series debuted in October of last year when the “panel” tasted three grenaches. Read that story here

As I noted with the grenache review, we’re a small group of food and wine geeks as serious as serious can be. We taste, talk and take notes. At the end of the evening, I double check that I can decipher all the notes, and then turn everyone’s thoughts into a story.

On Dec. 20, five of us gathered once again, this time to taste three sparkling wines. Before we tasted, I, as host, divulged only that one bottle was from Santa Barbara County and two were “Europe.”

The players: Katie Baillargeon and Marcel Rivera-Baillargeon, UCSB creative writing professor and online marketing specialist, respectively; Angela Soleno, winemaker/owner, Turiya Wines; Jeremy Smith, course director at Marshallia Ranch Golf Course, and myself.

Bottle One: “Smells light, with subtle fruit; fruity mid-palate; nice acid; not chardonnay; maybe the local one; creamy; opaque; acidic; green; light bubbles; lack of fruit on the first taste; light green on the second taste; light green apple on the nose; limestone; medium bubbles; heavy bubbles on mouth feel; not French; unbalanced; not the local bottle; light on the aromatics; sweet on mid-palate; hard to get anything on the nose; ocean, salty, saline; apricot and bread/yeast; mouth fizzles out; kind of disappointing; steely green limes.”

Bottle Two: “More carbonic than bottle one; meaty, color-rich; bigger; more substance on own; honey, fruity, hay; cotton candy, vanilla; smells like a love story; soft and lovely, gentle; we’re getting married and serving this at the reception; muted smell; like more than bottle one, and reminds me of rosé wine; like aftertaste/finish; smooth; fruit-forward; local; berry on the nose; balanced and sweet; honey; more residual sugar; France or mainland; nicely balanced; hay.”

Bottle Three: “Apple-y; nice and fruity; acidic, but like a middle range between bottles one and two; light bubbles, my favorite of three; Alsace; lighter color; long finish; this is local; the most balanced of the three; sweet but acidic finish; light nose; green apple taste; smells like California; fruity and sweet; makes me want to put it in my mouth; lemon zest; it’s great, but not amazing.”

The wines:

Bottle One: Mosby Wines Stelline di Cortese, estate, NV, $20. (Stelline di Cortese translates to “Little Stars of Cortese”).

Bottle Two: Heitlinger 2009 Blanc de Noirs, Germany, $33 (Distributed by Wine Wise, the Vienna Wine Co.)

Bottle Three: Karanika NV Xinomavro Brut Cuvée Spéciale, Greece, $33 (Also distributed by Wine Wise).

I discovered both the Karanika and Heitlinger during a tasting Dec. 10 at the Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant. The focus that evening was on sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines, and you can read the story I wrote for here

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Writer Laura Sanchez appointed marketing manager of Thornhill Companies

Writer Laura Sanchez appointed marketing manager of Thornhill Companies


The Thornhill Companies, a Santa Barbara-based company owned by the Miller family, has appointed Laura Sanchez as marketing manager, the company announced today. Laura SanchezAmong the Thornhill Companies' holdings are Bien Nacido Vineyards, Solomon Hills Vineyards, French Camp Vineyards, the Bien Nacido Estate Program, Central Coast Wine Services, J. Wilkes and Turn Key Wines.

In her new role, Sanchez will assume marketing strategies and initiatives across all Thornhill Companies brands, and will work at the Thornhill offices in downtown Santa Barbara.

Sanchez, who grew up on her family’s California avocado ranch, graduated from Cate School, studied Spanish literature at Middlebury College and was first introduced to wine while working as a sous chef on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Her first editorial position was at the Center for Peace and Conflict Research in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is passionate about wine and food and has worked in the publishing industry since 2003 as a writer and editor of both print and online media.

She is the former managing editor of Destination Wine Country Magazine and has covered the Central Coast wine scene for a variety of trade and consumer publications, most recently Edible Santa Barbara.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press

Introduce yourselves to the best of the smallest producers at Garagiste this weekend

2014Pasologo This coming weekend’s Garagiste Festival has added to third seminar to Saturday morning’s lineup.

Access to these seminars are available only via the premium all-day ticket, which also includes a box lunch, early access to the grand tasting and entry into the Rockin’ After Party.

Update! While some tickets for Saturday remain available as of this (Monday) evening, both Thursday and Friday are sell outs, said Melanie Webber, Garagiste Festival publicist.

The seminars and the grand tasting have relocated to larger digs inside the Ponderosa Pavilion at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds.

Organizers urge attendees to park on Riverside Avenue across from the Fairgrounds’ entrance, enter the grounds via the gate and follow signs to the festival check-in.

The actual address is 2198 Riverside Ave.

The new seminar is entitled “Paso Subdivided into 11 New Viticultural Areas” (or, "East! West! North! South! — What does it all mean?")

It starts at 11:45 a.m. and features Steve Lohr, chairman and CEO of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and one of many winemakers behind the just-approved addition of 11 new subs AVAs within the larger Paso Robles region. Lohr will discuss winemakers’ research into the climate and soil diversity, and what the new AVAs mean for consumers.

Seminar One starts at 11 a.m., and is “Taste Like a Pro,” with Matt Kettmann, Central Coast wine reviewer for Wine Enthusiast and senior editor at the Santa Barbara Independent, who will lead participants through the process of tasting-to-score and detail how he tackles sampling wines at big tastings.

The third seminar starts at 12:15 p.m, and features three winemakers who left other careers for the wine industry. “Making a Dream Come True: My Second Career as a Vineyard Owner & Winemaker” will include Bob Tillman (Alta Colina Vineyards), Carl Bowker (Caliza Winery) and Victor Abascal (Vines on the Marycrest).

Saturday’s Garagiste Festival Grand Tasting will be my fourth as a wine writer. I participated in the debut event in November 2011, and in both of the Solvang “Southern Exposure” events to date.

I have nothing but praise for the “garagistes” behind the festivals: Stewart McLennan and Douglas Minnick, as well as Lisa Dinsmore and Webber, who carry out the endless behind-the-scenes tasks and publicity, respectively.

At the end of the day, these folks and others on Team Garagiste easily meet their goal: Introducing wine aficionados to Central Coast and California so-called garagistes — the winemakers who produce between 50 and 1,500 cases each year. Most of those pouring have case production of less than 500 cases.

In addition, most participants lack a tasting room, and likely are sharing cellar space with a larger producer. Many still have their “day” jobs: teacher, firefighter or assistant to another winemaker.

During every Garagiste tasting, I discover new producers.

During the 2011 inaugural Paso Robles event, my standouts were wines from Nicora, Ground Effect, Alta Colina and Rangeland.

Last year, during the first “Southern Exposure” festival in Solvang, I first tasted C. Nagy, La Fenetre, Pence Ranch and Roark Wine Co.

And when “Southern Exposure” returned to Solvang this past March, I came away with four new “labels to watch": Sillix Wines, Carucci Wines, Seagrape and Cholame.

Blake Sillix makes 400 cases each year, and his first vintage was 2010. Eric Carucci produces 500 and his first was 2009.

Andres “Andy” Ibarra, former winemaker at Rideau Vineyards and the vineyard manager at the storied La Presa Vineyard in Solvang, makes 800 cases for Cholame Vineyard, which was first produced in 2010.

Karen Steinwachs, since 2007 the winemaker at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Winery, started Seagrape that same year. Case production: 500.

Information and tickets:




State's 2014 wine grape production forecast to be 3.9 million tons

State's 2014 wine grape production forecast to be 3.9 million tons


SAN FRANCISCO — California vintners and growers across the state are grateful to have finished another successful harvest, despite the state's severe drought and the earthquake that rocked south Napa in late August, just as crush was starting. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Pacific Regional Crop Production Report of August 2014, California's winegrape production this year is forecast at 3.9 million tons, down 8 percent from 2013's record high crop.

The 2014 harvest is the third largest on record, according to a news release issued today from the California Wine Institute.

A mild winter and spring led to very early bud break — reported as January in some locations — although the overall length of the growing season mirrored that of past years, the organization reported.

Moderate temperatures allowed for even ripening and one of the earliest harvests on record: July for sparkling wines and mid-October for the later-ripening grape varietals.

"The 2014 vintage was by far the earliest start of any harvest I can recall," said Adam Mettler, director of winemaking for Michael David Winery in Lodi.

"Early concerns about adequate storage quickly faded as our vineyards continued to check in at 20-25 percent down in volume from the previous two years," he said.

Winemakers have described 2014 as another year with high-caliber fruit.

"Quality is outstanding," said Chrissy Wittmann, winemaker at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards in Paso Robles. "There are small berries with good tannin and color release on the reds, and flavorful fruit with bright aromatics on the whites.

Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute, said his organization is "keenly aware" of the state's ongoing drought and its effects on the state's entire agricultural community, including the wine industry. "We are doing our part as vintners and growers to mitigate water usage through a variety of sustainable practices."

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press


Fourth-annual Garagiste Festival returning to "home base" in Paso Robles Nov. 6-9

  More than 70 artisan “garagiste” winemakers will pour their wines at the only festival devoted to the smallest-of-the-small producers — many of whom produce just one or two barrels.

California’s Garagiste Festivals debuted in Paso Robles in November 2011, and two years later expanded to Solvang via “Southern Exposure,” held in late March at the Veterans Memorial Hall. This year a third Garagiste festival, “Urban Exposure,” debuted in Los Angeles on July 12 at Union Station.

2014PasologoFor the return of the flagship event in November, more than 70 artistan winemakers will pour their wines. Of those, more than 50 hail from the Paso Robles area, and 90 percent of those pouring do not have tasting rooms.

Despite its growth and prominence among aficionados of fine wine, founders of the Garagiste Festival stay true to their roots and continue to direct a share of proceeds to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program in San Luis Obispo to support future winemakers.

Garagiste (“garage-east”) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate small-lot wine producers who often produced wine in their garages. Today the term is used to describe those who produce some the best wine in the world — just in small lots. The annual Garagiste Festivals limit participation to winemakers who make less than 1,200 cases per year.

For the upcoming Paso Robles event, which has relocated this year to the Ponderosa Pavilion at the Fairgrounds, organizers have added new events; click here

Returning from previous years are “Shiners, Samples and Secrets,” where winemakers share barrel samples and other rarities; the “Opening Round,” which spotlights garagistes from Northern California; two wine tasting seminars; and the festival’s signature “Rockin’ After Party. All events will take place in Paso Robles or at the historic Carlton Hotel in Atascadero.

After their successful foray into Los Angeles, the co-founders and organizers of Garagiste Festival are eager to come home, so to speak, to Paso Robles.

“This has been a banner year for Garagiste Festival — a greatly expanded and sold-out Solvang event, and our premiere festival in Los Angeles (also sold out), and now a new and more central venue for our Paso festival, with four days of our most popular events returning,” said Doug Minnick, co-founder of the Garagiste Festival with Stewart McLennan.

“And while we are offering wine lovers even more opportunities to taste these fantastic wines, we continue to keep our attendee to winemaker ratio low because we believe that one-on-one interaction is the best way to make new wine discoveries … and it is what our attendees expect."

Sign up for The Dirt at, or follow Garagiste on Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or via Facebook, where organizers offer profiles of participating winemakers in the weeks leading up to the festivals.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for


Harvest Tales: Winemaking partners turn dreams into business with Dreamcôte Wine Co.

Clifford, left, and Zotovich follow crew members from Coastal Vineyard Care Associates to their rows at McGinley Vineyard Winemaking partners Anna Clifford and Brittany Tanquary Zotovich started harvest 2014 in thick early morning fog one week ago, Aug. 29, at McGinley Vineyard.

This site, in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, is the grape source for their label, Dreamcôte Wine Co., and its 2014 Syrah, which Clifford and Zotovich will make utilizing carbonic maceration, commonly known as the Beaujolais style.

In 2013, their second vintage of Dreamcôte, the women sourced pinot noir from Duvarita Vineyard outside Lompoc and crafted a light, fruity wine meant to drink sooner, not later. Fermented in a stainless steel tank, that wine is “gulp-able now (not next year),” according to the label’s tasting notes. And that’s exactly the duo’s plan again this vintage, but with the McGinley syrah.

* * *

Clifford and Zotovich founded Dreamcôte in 2012. On its website, they call their company “a secret society of flavor crazed, dynamic and tenacious individuals that give this project life. We live simply, but well. (We have) trailer parties with friends, vineyard movie nights, irrigation pond floating sessions, great food, lots of wine.”

After spending one dinner and a morning both at McGinley and in the Terravant Wine Company cellar with these bright, determined and fun-loving women, I’d say the web description is apt.

Cowboy boots are perfect picking attire. Just ask Brittany Zotovich.

The two met at Terravant, where both work fulltime: Clifford as a winemaker and Zotovich as director of sales: winery accounts.

Curious about the inner workings of Terravant, I ask her for more details.

In an e-mail, Zotovich replied: “Terravant connects customers with grapes, grape crush services, bulk wines, wine finishing and bottling services, small-lot bottled wines, customized wine program sourcing, custom grape-to-bottle and bulk-to-bottle programs, as well as all-inclusive, tailored private labels.

Zotovich, who radiates passion for wine and life in general, also really likes her job.

“I’m absolutely in love with what I do. I get paid to solve wine problems. Sometimes, the problem is a shortage of wine in a tasting room. I might be helping a sommelier put together a house wine program for her restaurant, or putting a grape farmer with excess syrah in touch with an alternating proprietor in need of syrah, or aiding a winery needing to meet a wine club deadline with a cold stability and bottling of their reserve chardonnay.”

Zotovich was born in Santa Clara, and raised in Grass Valley. In 2007, she earned a degree in Agricultural Business: International Management, with a minor in wine and viticulture, from Cal Poly. She started working at Kelsey See Canyon under Harold Osborne, and for Salisbury Vineyards, when she was just 19.

In 2010, Zotovich joined the winery owned by the family of the man she would later marry. There, at Zotovich Cellars, she helped open its Lompoc Ghetto tasting room, and launched the wine club and sales program.

In July 2011, Brittany Tanquary married Ryan Zotovich, also a Cal Poly graduate and the Zotovich Cellars’ winemaker. With his family, he also oversees Zotovich Family Vineyard, located in the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills. The vineyard is a source of viognier, chardonnay, syrah and pinot noir for the Zotovich label and many others.

Clifford, a native of Thousand Oaks, recalled being just 13 when she decided to become a winemaker. She credits a movie, “French Kiss,” the quirky comedy-romance starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline that was filmed in and around vineyards in France. However, “for me, it wasn’t about the romance, but the wine and vineyards,” she said.

With her family, the young Clifford visited Santa Barbara County and some of its earliest wineries and vineyards, such as Gainey Vineyard and Fess Parker Winery. “I always wanted to end up here.”

Fast forward to 2002, when Clifford graduated from UC Davis with a degree in viticulture and enology. Her winemaking career includes a stint as assistant winemaker for Buena Vista Winery, three harvests in New Zealand and one at Beringer Vineyards. In April 2012, she started at Terravant, and today, with two others, shares winemaking responsibilities for the entire facility.

* * *

At Dreamcôte, the theme is fruit-forward wines to enjoy now versus later. Over dinner, Zotovich likened the duo’s production focus to that of wines adapted for “on the table, not in the cellar.”

In other words — fruit forward and fun, ideal to “drink with friends, at a barbecue,” she said.

Part of Dreamcôte’s “drink me now” presentation is Clifford and Zotovich’s use of whimsical labels that prompt smiles. Take the 2012 Santa Barbara County Rosé: The label features a stack of rabbits — many, many rabbits. It’s a tongue-in-cheek ode to Zotovich, who raises them.

Rabbits — many rabbits — grace the label of the Dreamcôte Rosé

The grape varietals the two prefer to work with are “both mainstream and unique,” Clifford said. “We want wines that will engage people — and at a price point that won’t scare them.”

In addition to rosé and pinot noir, Dreamcôte’s current releases are a 2012 Riesling, Camp 4 Vineyards; 2012 Chenin Blanc, Johnson Vineyard, Clarksburg; a 2012 Zinfandel, from Launchland Home Ranch Vineyard, Lodi; and a 2012 late harvest white wine.

With a case production close to 380 cases, Clifford and Zotovich opened a tasting room on San Marcos Avenue in Los Olivos in February of this year. The site, Clifford said, “is something to be proud of.”

* * *

Back at McGinley Aug. 29, the harvest crew wasted no time snipping grapes from vines and dumping them by the bucket into picking bins atop a trailer. Both Clifford and Zotovich jumped in, bracing themselves against a bin to sort, separating the clusters from grape leaves or dried shoot tendrils and the occasional earwig or tiny spider.

Zotovich, left, and Clifford, sort through syrah clusters at McGinley Vineyard

Less than an hour later, the crew had filled three picking bins full of syrah grapes from Block 5L, which weighed in at 3,084 pounds.

Clifford, Zotovich and I trailed the Coastal Vineyard Care Associates’ flatbed truck to Terravant, where the grapes would be unloaded and the two could begin processing.

Guiding grape clusters from a bin into the opening of a tank requires timing, finesse and a sense of humor

Once a forklift and driver, dry ice, shovels, equipment and a pair of extra hands were at the ready, Clifford and Zotovich directed the dumping of whole clusters straight from the bins into the tank for a 14-day cold soak. Mixed in with the grapes were layers of dry ice, added via buckets.

Zotovich dumps dry ice into the tank of syrah

Carbonic maceration occurs when whole (not crushed) berry clusters are fermented in a sealed vessel that’s been filled with carbon dioxide. Lacking oxygen, the whole grapes start intracellular fermentation, producing alcohol.

A wine produced via carbonic maceration finishes lighter in color, lower in tannins and higher in “fruitiness.”

“After 14 days, we’ll press off the juice and put it back into the tank until it’s dry,” Zotovich said. “Then, depending how it tastes, we may bottle it right then.”

With syrah in the tank, she and Clifford are looking ahead to their next pick, likely from Zaca Mesa or Camp 4 vineyards.

A perfect fit: That's how 3,084 pounds of grapes fits into a tank








Copyright Central Coast Wine Press

New at CCWP: The Business of Wine

Editor's Note: Welcome to what I hope will be a weekly posting of events, news about the Central Coast wine industry and the people behind the wine. “BUBBLYFEST by the Sea” nation’s first sparkling wine festival

The resurgence of sparkling wine consumption has inspired the nation’s first and only dedicated sparkling wine festival.

BubblyFest by the Sea will take place in the scenic, seaside town of Pismo Beach Oct. 24 to 26, highlighting more than 40 domestic and international producers of “bubbly” in a weekend-long festival.

The festival kicks off from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday with a Gatsby-themed Cocktail Mixer at the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa. Gatsby-themed attire is encouraged. Unique Champagne cocktails will be paired with gourmet appetizers, the sounds of jazz band The Tipsy Gypsies, and stunning cliff-side views of the Pacific Ocean (Cost: $60 per person).

The BUBBLYFEST Grand Tasting will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel, where guests sample pours from more than 40 local, domestic and international producers of Champagne and sparkling wine.

Also featured will be gourmet samplings of artisan cheeses, chocolates, oysters, bread and other bites, as well as sparkling cocktail concoctions and musical entertainment. (Cost: $65 per person).

Finally, on Sunday, BUBBLYFEST will return to Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa for a Sunday Funday Champagne brunch from 10 a.m. to noon.

Staged on the ocean-side patio of the resort’s Lido Restaurant, the event will feature a three-course gourmet brunch prepared by Chef Jacob Moss, paired with bottomless Champagne. The Dan Curio of Moonshiner Collective will provide live music to complete the light-and-fun ambiance (Cost: $45 per person).

For more information and tickets, visit

Wine Spectator honors Orcutt’s Far Western Tavern with 2014 Award of Excellence

The Far Western Tavern in Old Town Orcutt has earned the prestigious "2014 Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator magazine, an honor reserved for select restaurants with exemplary wine lists.

The complete results will be published in the Aug. 31 annual restaurant issue of the Wine Spectator.

“We are thrilled to bring the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence to the Santa Maria Valley,” said Benjamin Chanler-Laurin, general manager and sommelier of the Far Western Tavern.

The Far Western Tavern was determined to take its wine list to the next level, with active input and support from restaurant co-owners, he explained.

“Some of the family members are vintners and wine collectors themselves,” he said. “They understood the significance of creating a standout wine list.”

“We really started to emphasize chardonnay, pinot noir and Rhône varietals — wines that excel in the Santa Maria Valley and across the Central Coast,” he said.

“At the same time, we wanted to offer examples of these same varietals from regions such as Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, to provide context and offer our local winemakers some international flavors to enjoy. And most important, we wanted to offer a diverse selection of affordable wines that paired well with our menu, including cabernet sauvignon and other varietals.”

(Editor’s note: Bien Nacido Vineyard held its 40th Anniversary Winemaker Dinner May 29 at Far Western, and the Miller Family graciously included me. I found the meal and wines paired with the five courses to be exquisite, in particular, the oak grilled Scottish salmon with hazelnut risotto and pan seared duck breast with grilled fennel and braised beets. The first and second courses each included three wines, and the others at least one. Besides, seated at my table were local winemaking legends Bob Lindquist, Jim Clendenen, James Ontiveros, Joshua Clapper and Trey Fletcher, making the evening one for the books). 

2014 grape crop predicted to be slightly less than that of 2013

California’s wine type grape production is forecast at 3.9 million tons for 2014, down 8 percent from 2013, according to a report issued Aug. 13 by the California Agricultural Statistics Service.

However, 3.9 million tons is still a sizable crop, and if estimates hold true, 2014 will be California's third-largest ever wine-grape crop to date.

The raisin crop is expected to be 1.95 million tons, down 13 percent from 2014, and table grape production is forecast at 1.20 million tons, down 2 percent.

The forecast is in line with Allied Grapegrowers’ earlier estimate of 3.8 to 4.0 million tons of wine grapes in 2014, though Allied president Nat Dibuduo said he thinks the state’s forecast for Thomson grapes may be high — with the Thompson crop down by as much as 20 or even 25 percent.

Send submissions for “The Business of Wine” to, or

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press


Wine and Fire to set Sta. Rita Hills ablaze August 15-17 with tastings, grilled foods

Pinot noir grappes growing in the Sta. Rita Hills The always popular Wine and Fire returns to the Sta. Rita Hills Friday through Sunday, Aug. 15, 16 and 17, with a Paulee-style celebration of wine and food Friday at the historic Sanford Barn, high above the historic Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, as well as a seminar, grand tasting Saturday evening at La Purisima Mission and special tastings and events hosted by members of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance.

The seminar is already sold out, but some tickets remain available for both Friday’s barn dinner and the grand tasting, Barbara Satterfield, SRHWGA executive director, said Thursday.

Friday’s attendees are welcome to bring a bottle of favorite wine to share on the collective wine table, or enjoy the library, large format and sparkling choices from participating member winemakers.

Mark Cargasacchi of Jalama Wines will pour his 2011 “Carg” Pinot Noir, and the 2011 Chardonnay from Quasi Santo Vineyard, produced under his second label, Joseph Blair, both Friday and Saturday.

New West Catering will prepare fire-grilled pizzas for Friday’s event.

Saturday morning’s seminar, “The Dirty Truth,” is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fiddlestix Vineyard on Santa Rosa Road.

The two-hour seminar will be led by Josh Raynolds of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, and will feature Santa Barbara County’s viticulturist extraordinaire, Jeff Newton of Coastal Vineyard Care Associates. Newton, who with his team manages hundreds of acres of vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County, will discuss various farming practices for vineyards, among them sustainable, organic and biodynamic.

“In theory, participants will be able to “taste” the different farming practices,” said winemaker Jake Lindley, one of the panelists and the winemaker and co-owner with his wife, Frankie, of Lindley Wines.

Panelists include Greg Brewer, Brewer-Clifton; Wes Hagen, Clos Pepe; Joey Gummere, Transcendence; Kathy Joseph, Fiddlehead Cellars; Dan Kessler, Kessler-Haak; Aaron Walker, Pali Wine Co.; Lindley; and Mark Horvath, Crawford Family Wines.

This will be Lindley’s second year pouring wine at Wine and Fire; last year’s event was one of the first times he and Frankie showed their wines during a public tasting.

“Last year, I poured my first vintage ever — my baby, the 2011 pinot noir — and people were saying, ‘this wine is so good’,” Lindley told me Thursday.

“This year, the people who found us last year are pinging us ahead of time to ask what we’ll be pouring at this year’s Wine and Fire.”

The Lindleys are down to less than five cases of the 2011 pinot noir, and “I hope to sell through that during Wine and Fire,” he noted.

In addition to the 2011, Lindley plans to pour his 2012 pinot noir, also from La Lomita Vineyard, as well as the 2012 Viognier.

During the seminar, winemakers and sommeliers will team to lead participants through a blind tasting of various Sta. Rita Hills wines.

Lunch will be catered by Buellton’s Hitching Post II restaurant.

Saturday evening’s Grand Tasting will once again be held at the rustic La Purisima Mission near Lompoc. More than 40 wineries and winemakers will pour alongside local chefs, whose grilling skills are the “fire” in Wine and Fire.

Chefs and restaurants include Avant, Babe Farms, Campbell Farms, Central Coast Specialty Foods, Homegrown Cowboy, J & D Stone Oven Pizza, The Hitching Post II, Los Amigos BBQ, Succulent Cafe and Sweet Creations.

The SRHWGA is comprised of 52 winemakers or growers who produce wine from grapes grown in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.

For more information, ticket sales and special events scheduled throughout the weekend, visit, call Satterfield at (805) 570-0741, or e-mail

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press

Of pork, wine, a summer evening and good friends

Of pork, wine, a summer evening and good friends


  I’m late to the table with my tale of the Friday Field Dinner from Bacon & Barrels at Saaloos & Sons July 18.

Local chefs Jeff Olsson of Buellton’s Industrial Eats and Jake O. Francis, pig farmer at Valley Piggery, combined their culinary talents to craft a meal I’ll not soon forgot. I can still taste the fried trotters (feet, if you — like me — are new to pig parts) and the crispy pig head.

Yes, it was finger licking good, that pig and the all the fixings.

The wines with the meal came from the hosting family, Saarloos & Sons. The event began with rosé, followed by sauvignon blanc, and then several red wines.

Here’s most of the menu (I left before dessert):

Charcuterie course: Prosciutto, country Ham, coppa, country pâté and cracklins with apricot mostarda, olives, cornichons, Momofuku pickles, fresh radishes, savory walnuts and baguette, lavash and breadsticks

Second course: Crispy pig head and fried trotters with aïoli and arugula salad, and pork-stuffed pork shanks with Finley Farms’ seasonal roasted vegetables

Third course: Roasted pork loin, sweet-tea brined, peach-rosemary glaze, Andouille sausage links with pretzel bread, mustard and beer-braised candy onions

Yes, one can see why Rundown on LA named Bacon & Barrels “The Coachella of Bacon,” and The Huffington Post “One of the Top 5 Festivals in California.”

This Saarloos & Sons’ weekend event was the second for Los Olivos; Holly Holliday, queen bee behind organizer/owner Create Promotions of San Luis Obispo, worked her magic and debuted another B&B in San Diego last May.

Thanks to my day job, I missed both Saturday and Sunday’s version of more bacon and more wine, beer and spirits, but nearly everyone else I know attended some part of both weekend days, and came away smiling.

Saturday included more than 75 food and libation booths staffed by chefs who packed their most imaginative and freshest bacon recipes to pair with artisan and craft barrel beverages such as bourbon, wine, beer and scotch, according to Create.

Eureka Santa Barbara, Ascendant Spirits Distillery and Sidecar of San Luis Obispo featured live mixology demonstrations.

Said Holliday: “I’m thrilled to once again host on the field and put out so many culinary and libation artists who all brought amazing offerings to the table, literally. It only further proves my claim that we have some of the best artists in the country right here in wine country.”

Sunday, VIP guests enjoyed the Bacon, Bellini, Bloodies Brunch, also at Saarloos & Sons Field. Chef Louise of Louise’s Kitchen Table prepared Sunday’s brunch.

About Create: Founded in 2011, the company features a team of event specialists dedicated to events that are community supported and community focused. Besides Bacon and Barrels San Diego and Los Olivos, events include Buellton Brew Fest, Winter Wonder SLO, and BubblyFest. Visit, or call (805) 709-2221.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press


CCWP on Winemaking: Meet Kyle Knapp of Press Gang Cellars in Lompoc

CCWP on Winemaking: Meet Kyle Knapp of Press Gang Cellars in Lompoc


Kyle Knapp at Beckmen Vineyards, where he works as assistant winemaker to Mikael Siguoin This is another in my ongoing series about our region’s smallest winemakers. They may not yet have tasting rooms, and their case production is easily less than 1,000 cases. But hunt them down, either via phone, email or web: You can thank me later.

Lompoc native and avid surfer Kyle Knapp was working as a butcher in the meat department of Los Olivos Grocery when the winemaking bug first bit.

“I worked with high-end meats and cheeses, and (the chance to produce) quality wine seemed like a natural progression,” he recalled.

Knapp’s first harvest was in 2005, at nearby Beckmen Vineyards. Like others who thrive on the arduous but rewarding experience, Knapp was hooked. Immediately following that harvest, he traveled to Australia for his second round, and enjoyed some surfing there when he was finished.

His first vintage under his label, Press Gang Cellars, was in 2007, but then he took a break. “I skipped 2008 and 2009 to travel,” Knapp, now 33, recalled. “At the time, I was keeping my priorities straight, I thought.”

Despite having wines from 2007, Knapp calls 2010 his “coming out” — the year when he put travel aside and began to focus on making wine. In January 2011, he began working alongside winemaker Mikael Sigouin as assistant winemaker at Beckmen.

Knapp says he chose the name “Press Gang,” from a song by the Murder City Devils, because “music inspires me in most things I do.”

The song is about the press gangs of the British Navy in the 18th and early 19th centuries — sailors would round up young men, sometimes from bars, and force them to work on navy ships, he said. Impressment, or the press gang, refers to the act of taking men by force and without notice.

“I like the play on words: We press grapes to get wine,” Knapp said.

Since the inception of Press Gang Cellars, Knapp has focused his efforts on syrah, grenache and roussane, but in 2013 also produced some tempranillo and sangiovese, he said.

Knapp sources fruit primarily from the Santa Ynez Valley and Ballard Canyon, and tends to pick “when flavor is optimal.” His methodology includes a cold soak and letting native yeast kick start the fermentation process.

“I like doing some whole cluster, like 25 percent,” he added. His wines undergo extended barrel age, “around 25 to 28 months.”

His current rosé, named for his wife, Savanna Rhea, combines partial oak and stainless steel, and enjoyed a two-day cold soak before being pressed into a bottle of Press Gang Cellars.

Press Gang Cellars has grown to about 300 cases; Knapp says his goal is a maximum of 2,000 per year.

I met Knapp through mutual friends several years back, but only tried his wines during the 2013 Garagiste: Southern Exposure tasting in Solvang. With Savanna at his side, Knapp poured his syrah, Grenache and rosé to acclaim.

Knapp told me he enjoys participating in the Garagiste events, which highlight uber tiny producers, but realizes he needs a tasting room for increased follow through with consumers. Such a site — as well as a wine club — is in the works within the next year, definitely in Lompoc, he said.

Knapp resides in Lompoc with Savanna and their son Milo, who is 9 months old.

Information: (805) 291-3141 or


Get your bacon on at Saarloos & Sons's Field in Los Olivos July 17-20

Bacon & Barrels, named by the Huffington Post as “One of the Top Five Festivals in California,” returns with a Saturday festival and meals to Saarloos & Sons Field in Los Olivos. Organizers predict that tickets for the event will once again sell out, so get on it!

Bottle Branding Photo Succulent Braised Bacon

Bring a big appetite for the yumminess of All Things Bacon, for you will not be disappointed. The second annual festival will once again showcase local chefs’ bacon recipes, and highlight the best artisan barrel-based beverages: bourbon, beer, scotch and wine.

The food industry’s best, including Gusto owner/chef and Iron Chef America alum Vic Casanova, will offer live preparation of bacon-infused small plates and bacon-and-barrel drinks.

Ticket prices include all food and drink tastings, and range in price from General Admission; $60 advance, $70 at door; Designated Driver: $30 advance, $40 at door; Early Bird (noon) General Admission: $80 advance, $90 at door; and the V.I.P. Weekend Pass (limited!) for $325, which includes Friday evening dinner, early entrance at noon Saturday with access to lounge’s special tastings and Sunday’s brunch.

The Friday dinner, Saturday festival and Sunday brunch will all take place at Saarloos & Sons Field, 2971 Grand Ave., Los Olivos.

Bacon & Barrels debuted in Los Olivos in June 2013, and this year added a second location in May – San Diego. That event also garnered Holly Holliday's Create Promotions more well-deserved fame — and another sell-out.

Friday: The weekend kicks off with an all-bacon dinner in the field to be prepared by Chef Jake O. Francis, pig farmer and farm-to-table master. The four-course dinner is viewable here

Saturday: General public admission begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 19.

Sunday: The VIP experience continues with the “Bacon, Bellini and Bloodies Brunch, also in the field.

Bacon & Barrels Los Olivos will donate a percentage of ticket sales to support The Los Olivos School Foundation and the Los Olivos Business Organization. Bacon & Barrels will also incorporate its proprietary Environmental Event process, with a goal of 95 percent of all event trash to be diverted from the landfill.

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

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


  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:

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

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.






Roll Out The Barrels in San Luis Obispo

Guests sip wine and savor food during Roll Out The Barrels' opening event June 19 at Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo. This popular annual event kicked off Thursday evening and lasts through tomorrow (Sunday, June 22). I attended for the first time this year, and now I see why the event usually sells out: The four days bring local wines and fresh-to-your-palate small bites from the county's finest eateries.

My "I don't live near San Luis Obispo" will no longer suffice as an excuse to not have tried these restaurants. I need to make time to take the drive north and spend time eating. Take a look at the participants:

I sampled tiny plates from the new Comfort Market, Creekside Brewing, the Kitchen at Niner Wine Estates, Luna Red and Mother's Tavern. Everything was sublime.

The wines I sipped were the current chardonnay release from Cal Poly's Wine & Viticulture Program; Niner Wine Estates sauvignon blanc; Clesi Wines' malvasia bianca; Talley Vineyards' cabernet sauvignon (my token red wine, an ode to the afternoon heat); the verdelho from Filipponi Ranch Cellars; and pinot gris from Sinor-LaVallee.

Two Weeks in Wine: June 15 — 30

Friday-Sunday, June 20-22 Key to Wine Country: Santa Barbara Vintners has taken the former “Vintners Visa” passport add-on from its festivals (Vintners and Celebration of Harvest) and created a stand-alone event, “Key to Wine Country.” Enjoy special dinners, vineyard hikes, library and vertical tastings, open houses and more. Tickets are limited. For tickets and details on participating wineries, visit Thursday-Sunday, June 19-22 — SLO Wine Country's 'Roll Out the Barrels: The 24th annual weekend event opens with Thursday's "Barrels in the Plaza" food and wine event at Mission San Luis Obispo and continues Friday with winemaker dinners and a passport tasting on both Saturday and Sunday. New this year is Barrel Sample Sunday, during which guests can taste upcoming releases at member wineries. For tickets and more information, visit

Saturday, June 28 — Red, White & Blue: The 16th annual Red, White & Blues Festival returns to Buttonwood Farm & Winery and this year features headliner Coco Montoya, a former member of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Opening for Montoya will be Santa Barbara's own Stiff Pickle Orchestra. Longoria Wines and Buttonwood Farm & Winery, along with the Santa Barbara Blues Society, sponsor the event. Tickets are $40 general and $35 for club members of either Buttonwood or Longoria, or members of the Blues Society. Guests are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch and chairs and purchase wine from either of the sponsoring wineries. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Arts Outreach. Call 805.688.3032 for tickets


Favorite, new-to-me producers from March 29 Garagiste Festival

Tickets to Saturday's Southern Exposure: Garagiste Festival sold out several weeks before the March 29 tasting At Southern Exposure: Garagiste Festival, I tasted wines poured on Saturday, March 29.

For the most part, I focused on the producers whose wines I had never tried.

Here are some new-to-me winemakers, more or less in the order in which I sipped their wines:

2012 Cholame Vineyard “Summer Shade,” Grenache Blanc, La Presa Vineyard

Cholame Vineyard features longtime local winemaker/vineyard manager Andy Ibarra at the helm.

I met Ibarra during harvest 2006, back when he was making wine for Rideau. Ibarra has managed La Presa Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley for years, supervising the care and feeding of grapes sourced by many other producers. Now, with this label, he’s using fruit from both La Presa and other sites.

The Cholame Vineyard Grenache blanc is crisp and complex.

Graef Wines 2011 Viognier, Solano County

Andrew Graef, who founded his label in 2011, poured from a corner table, and to any tasters who accidentally passed him by, well, you missed out.

Using Google, I discovered that Graef Wines is a client of Hollywood & Wine, which on its website notes: “Andrew Graef has lived many lives …. but has dedicated the past decade to studying enology, making wine for others and finally, launching his own label, Graef Wines.” No website.

Graef’s viognier is very pretty, with only a hint of pear and lots of sweet apple.

Seagrape Wine Co.’s 2012 Chardonnay, Zotovich Vineyards

I often mutter that chardonnays just aren’t my thing, and then I taste one that perfectly suits me. Karen Steinwach’s Seagrape Chardonnay, from Zotovich Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, was aged in stainless steel and just packs that Meyer lemon punch I so adore.

Vinemark Cellars’ 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Primitivo

I sampled three of Mark Wasserman’s wines Friday evening at the Cecco Ristorante pizza and wine pairing party that launched Garagiste. And I found him again Saturday to try two of them once again.

Good pinot noir and the hot east side of Paso Robles are an oxymoron, but Wasserman has pulled off a delicate pinot noir that might as well come from grapes grown in the Santa Maria Valley, or Sta. Rita Hills.

He does make a Reserve Pinot Noir with fruit from Santa Lucia Highlands, but I honed in on the Paso Robles’ version because I couldn’t believe how tasty it was.

Wasserman told me during Friday’s event that he’s bottled wines in his garage, literally, for about 10 years, but has of late stepped up his game with Vinemark Cellars, which he founded in 2012.

His Primitivo was a classic one, full of spice and dark fruit, especially pomegranate.

Right before I left the tasting, a friend pointed me toward two more tiny producers, Sillix (winemaker Blake Sillix) and Carucci Wines (winemaker Eric Carucci).

My favorites, from each, were the 2011 Sillix Grenache, Camp 4 Vineyard, which was chock full of dusty chocolate, and the 2010 Carucci Syrah, Thompson Vineyard (one of my favorite vineyard sites).

The young Blake Sillix, who works for Justin Willet at Tyler, doesn’t yet have a website, but if you Google Sillix, you’ll see just what he’s been up to, and why you might want to track down this fellow to try his wines.

More information about Carucci is available via I believe that the husband and wife team still work day jobs. I lifted this quote from the Carucci website because it’s ideal Garagiste speak:

“Everything we know about wine, we have learned from asking endless questions of the winemakers we respect and through experimentation in the winery.”

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press