Wednesday, September 29, 2010

UNEXPECTED GRAPES FROM UNEXPECTED PLACES: VENTURA COUNTY


Mike Brown, Jim Galicia

When the great wine regions of California are enumerated, Ventura is often missing from the list.  It may be because they grow more strawberries than grapes in Ventura County.  They actually grow more strawberries than anything else in Ventura County.  But wine grapes don't even make the top ten.  Raspberries, celery, lemons, tomatoes, peppers, avocados and cabbage beat out grapes.  Even plants grown for nurseries and cut flowers are in the top ten.  But that doesn't mean nobody cares about wine in Ventura County.  Far from it.

The name of the event was "Unexpected Grapes From Unexpected Places," seemingly tailor made for an area which, for many, flies below the radar as a wine region.

There are only a handful of vineyards in Ventura County, so the winemakers have to source much - if not all - of their fruit from elsewhere in the state.  The passion for winemaking is not diminished, however.  They will put their wines up against any others.  Gary Stewart of Four Brix Winery says "It's not all Sonoma and Napa - other regions have good grapes, too."  Good winemakers as well.

Stewart, John Whitman of Old Creek Ranch Winery, Mike Brown of Cantara Cellars (left in image) and Jim Galicia of Rosenthal Malibu Estate (right in image) poured their wines for me, all at one table.   The wasn't even a hint of friendly rivalry.  They were all there working for team Ventura.

Here are my notes on what the guys poured for me:

Cantara Cellars Zinfandel 2008 - Lodi fruit - lightly tinted - lovely nose with cherry and spearmint notes

Cantara Cellars Tempranillo 2008 - rich and full, smokey fruit

Old Creek Ranch Loureiro 2009 - Santa Ynez Valley fruit - 12%abv - beautiful nose of peach, pear and citrus - tart taste of grapefruit, zesty

Old Creek Ranch Carignane 2008 - minty note under a big, bright cherry and blueberry palate

Old Creek Ranch Sangiovese 2008 - Sangio/Primitivo blend - SBC fruit, White Hawk Vineyard - big cherries with a long finish

Four Brix Scosso 2008 - super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cab Sauvignon and Merlot - beautiful floral nose - cherry on the palate is rich

Four Brix Temptress 2009 - Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel - will be released in Nov 2010 - dark and bright fruit both at once - complex

Rosenthal Surfrider Red Wine 2005 - fruit from Malibu Newton Canyon - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot - big nose of red fruit, tastes smokey, cherry, earthy

Tomorrow: Stuck in Lodi again - and loving it.