Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tasting Event: Stars of Santa Barbara

Stars of Santa Barbara

Ian Blackburn's wineshow company, Learn About Wine, produced another wonderful and well-attended tasting event at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.  On February 3rd, 2010 the spotlight fell on around 40 notable Santa Barbara County wine producers as Stars of Santa Barbara had its seventh annual affair.

I have great fondness for wines from California's Central Coast, in particular from Santa Barbara County, so I anticipated this event like a kid does Christmas.  I was not disappointed.  The wineries represented hailed from the Santa Barbara area, from the city's Urban Wine Trail northward as far as the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

If you have done much traveling on the backroads of the Santa Ynez Valley and the Santa Rita Hills, a number of the following names will be familiar.  This is a short list of what I think are highlights of the event.

Buttonwood presented a couple of wines I found to be curious.  Their Cabernet Franc seemed positively bright, unusual in a variety which is noted for its darkness and density.  The Syrah Rose shocked me.  Blind, I would have sworn it was Sauvignon Blanc.  That profile came through rather prominently in the taste, too.  Winemaker Karen Steinwachs told me I wasn't the first person to tell her that.  She offered an explanation that "the Syrah grows next to the Sauvignon Blanc."  I wondered if maybe they had been harvested on a windy day.

Coquelicot poured a blend called "Monamour" which has a pencil-point graphite aspect that's very appealing.  I love their Sangiovese, wonderfully dense and dark with a very full mouthfeel.

Fontes and Phillips offered a number of wines which, unfortunately, were kept a little too cold.  This kept the aromas and tastes rather hidden, and was most problematic in the whites.  The rose "Panky" was affected as well, and that was a shame.  I know it to be an exceptionally good wine.  Their Pinot Noir, "La Encantada," had lovely cherry notes.

Foxen had a number of wines to pour, but I only tried the 7200 "Volpino," a Sangiovese/Merlot blend.  It was spicy, bright and fruity, a complete joy.

Jonata winemaker Matt Dees has crafted some wines that deserve attention.  I tried these first at the tasting, but they were so good I wished I had saved them for last.  A Cabernet Franc with stunning density, a Cabernet Sauvignon with the grace of a ballet dancer and the heft of a sumo wrestler, a luscious Syrah and Todos, a great kitchen-sink blend that brings the best of about 7 different grapes to the table and makes a feast of them.

Lucas & Lewellen brought a Chenin Blanc with a great, nutty nose and a Petite Sirah that smelled almost like a chocolate bar.

Qupe shared a table with AuBon Climat, so there was a fairly large crowd around them most of the time.  I did get in close enough to sample the Marsanne/Roussanne blend, which opened with a citrusy tartness and finished smooth and almost creamy.  The "Bien Nacido Hillside Estate" Roussanne smelled nutty and beautifully pungent.  It, too, finished quite nicely.

Tantara poured a Chardonnay with a full mouthfeel and a strong wood profile and a Piont Noir with a flinty nose.

Proceeds of a silent auction benefitted the TJ Martell Foundation and Cancer Research at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.