Sunday, April 3, 2011


Gary Stewart, Four Brix Winery

A great bunch of Ventura wine people showed off a great bunch of wine in Thousand Oaks recently.  Four Brix Winery invited some media representatives to their tasting room in The Wineyard on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.  I was fortunate to be included in the group who tasted some of Four Brix offerings.

Gary Stewart (pictured) hosted, while Lora Simonsgaard helped me taste through a flight of really exceptional wines.  Four Brix is located in Ventura County, and they source their grapes from a variety of great California regions - Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles, Monterey and Sonoma among them.  Their wines are predominately blends - they do a fantastic job getting the mixtures right for incredible bouquets and delightful flavors.

Many of their wines use grapes from a specific area, even though the labels denote a rather generic "California" designation.  I suggested to them that they use more specific designations for a little more "label pizzazz," but they were way ahead of me.  The next vintages of several of their blends will feature designations of "Central Coast" and "Paso Robles" on the labels.

The Wines

Smitten 2009 - The only white on the table for this event is a Viognier/Marsanne blend.  The '10 vintage won't have as much Marsanne, only 5%, I'm told.  The '09 shows the Viognier well, with a lovely, floral nose and a little white pepper.  The nose is so full and the mouthfeel so creamy, I assumed some oak is involved.  Not so, though - it's a stainless steel white.

Roseo 2010 - This is a barrel sample, as the wine is scheduled for a May 14th release.  It's Grenache-based and some Zinfandel is used in the mix.  It's unusual, but it works.  A big strawberry nose meets great acidity and fruity flavors on the palate.  It's definitely a wonderful rose for food.  The crew at Four Brix is shooting for a price point under $15.

Temptress 2008 - A five grape blend of Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, this one is juicy and spicy on the nose with a dash of cinnamon showing.  Big, red fruit flavors are joined by good minerality and acidity and plenty of spicy notes.  I'd love a piece of smoked sausage with this wine.  The '09 vintage will be labeled Central Coast.

Rhondevous 2008 - Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Counoise make up this vintage, while the '09 will feature Grenache in the lead position.  The nose is fragrant and lovely and the taste is spicy blackberries.  It's all San Luis Obispo County fruit despite the "California" label.  Look for a Paso Robles designation on the label for the '09 vintage.

Scosso 2008 - Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot make up this beauty with a smokey, bright cherry nose and deep, rich flavors of spicy dark berries.  The name comes from the Italian horse race called the Palio di Siena, which is held in the town square.  It's a rough race in which horses sometimes finish without their jockeys, a condition known as "scosso."  You'd be well advised to stay in the saddle for this ride, though.  The Sangiovese is sourced from McGourty Vineyard on Paso Robles' west side.

Petite Sirah 2008 - Fruit from Sonoma County's Gold Hawk Vineyard brings the Russian River Valley to Ventura County.  A 100% varietal wine, the nose is dark and spicy with an iodine note while the palate is fruity and tannic.  The 2010 vintage will feature Charbono in a blend, from Calistoga's Frediani Vineyard.

One of the Four Brix wine wizards, Gary Stewart, told me about going to the vineyard to harvest the Charbono grapes.  Due to a quarantine caused by the European grape moth, Stewart was not allowed to bring the grapes to the crush facility.  He had to "field press" the grapes right there in the vineyard, leaving the leaves and stems behind!  No doubt, that extra effort will be appreciated when the vintage is ready.

All the wines at this tasting were paired with Vosges Haut Chocolate from TIFA Foods, an Agoura Hills venture.  Mike Ashamalla was on hand to describe each morsel.  The chocolate with notes of Indian curry and coconut paired with Smitten, while a disc made from Fiji beans went with the Roseo.  Temptress paired well with an Indonesian chocolate with earthy, mushroom flavors and one with spicy Ancho chipotle and cinnamon elements scored with Rhondevous.  Scosso was a hit with a Madagascar chocolate with a dark, smokey edge.  TIFA is working with Four Brix Winery on a project to create chocolates especially for their wines.

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