Friday, February 1, 2013

STARS Of Santa Barbara 2013 Wine Tasting Event

Santa Barbara wine country came to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills as another Learn About Wine event wowed the crowd.  The tenth annual STARS of Santa Barbara wine tasting event was held January 23, 2013 and the wines on display were, on the whole, awesome.  Wines of unique character and terroir elicited much talk from attendees as they made the circuit of tasting tables.  Plenty of winemakers were on hand to soak up a little much-deserved admiration.  Several of the winemakers brought their wines to the VIP luncheon which preceded the event.

I don't know if the balmy weather that had set upon Los Angeles this winter day was the cause, but two of my favorite wines at the event were whites.  There was plenty to like that stained my glass red, too.  I have highlighted the wines which particularly impressed me.  Here's what I tasted:

Buttonwood Winery
I commented to winemaker Karen Steinwachs that I have been liking the Buttonwood wines much more than I did six or seven years ago.  She told me that she came on board at Buttonwood in 2007, and thanked me for the compliment.
Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - All steel fermentation, with a splash of Semillon to smooth it out.   A nice grassy nose.  The grapes sprout from vines which were grafted onto Cabernet Franc rootstock.
Rosé 2012 - Syrah, with expectedly good acidity, big fruit and deep pink hue.
Merlot 2009 - Smoky cherry nose, nice acidity.

This Santa Maria Valley winery poured representatives of each of their four estate vineyards.
Chardonnay 2011 - Katherine’s Vineyard; 15 months in oak.  Yes, it’s oaky, but it’s nice.
Pinot Noir 2010 - Julia’s Vineyard; smoky, black tea.
Pinot Noir 2007 - Bench Break Vineyard;  earth, raspberry and cherry, in that order.
*2010 Syrah - Tepusquet Vineyard;  notes of coffee and mocha are a real delight.  A fave.

Belgian-born winemaker Etienne Terlinden is a Central Coast veteran, who is also the winemaker for Summerlin Winery.
Zinfandel 2011 - An outsider at this event, as the fruit comes from Paso Robles' French Camp Vineyard.  A little Petite Sirah thrown into the mix, and chocolate cherries lace the nose.  Great structure.
Syrah 2010 - White Hawk Vineyard;  Peppery dark fruit, lots of earth.

The husband/wife team of Bruno D’Alfonso and Kris Curran do what they like - Italian and Spanish varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
DiBruno Sangiovese 2007 - Stolpman Vineyard fruit from the Santa Ynez Valley.  Great tannic structure, huge cherry flavor with spicy notes.
Curran Syrah 2009 - Los Alamos Valley grapes make a peppery blackberry taste with great grip.

Epiphany Cellars
GM Tim Snider (above) says the company was formed as an outlet for Eli Parker’s more artisanal winemaking desires, the Fess Parker label concentrates on Rhône varieties.
Gypsy 2009 - Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise and Cinsault inhabit this southern Rhone blend. 22 months in oak with a very spicy nose and a spicy cherry palate.

Flying Goat Cellars
Norm Yost (right) has thirty-plus vintages under his belt, working mainly with cool-climate vineyards.  His love of vineyard designated Pinot Noir and sparkling wine led him to launch Flying Goat in 2000.  His wines have become quite popular in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.
Goat Bubbles Rosé NV - A pink sparkling Pinot Noir - very dry - with fruit and toast enough to please.  Grapes from Solomon Hills Vineyard.
Pinot Noir 2009 - Garey Ranch Vineyard. Wonderful earth in this Santa Maria Valley wine.
Pinot Noir 2009 - Rio Vista Vineyard.  This Sta. Rita Hills “Cacau’s Cuvée” features clone 2A.  Raspberry and earth are dominant.
Pinot Noir 2008 - Rio Vista Vineyard.  This Dijon clone Pinot is dark and delicious.

Grassini Family Vineyards
This family’s Italian heritage is the inspiration behind their Happy Canyon estate vineyard at the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Bordeaux varieties.
Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - Mostly steel with some neutral oak.  Great acid, beautiful nutty edge.
*Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2009 - barrel aged, with a gorgeous earthiness and oak spice. One of my favorite wines of the event.
Articondo 2010 - BDX blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  Aromatic nose of red flowers and lovely, bright cherry fruit flavors.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 - A touch of Merlot is included here.  There’s a nice graphite edge to the really bright fruit.

Hilliard Bruce Vineyards
Strictly estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this small Sta. Rita Hills producer.
Rosé 2011 - Pinot Noir grapes fashioned into a beautiful, dry wine that comes in under the 12% mark.
Chardonnay 2010 -  Sixteen months of oak plays elegantly.  Great acidity and a smoky edge to the citrus notes.
Sun Pinot Noir 2010 - Sweet fruit and black tea.
Moon Pinot Noir 2010 - A big Pinot, with cola, tea and structure.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars
Craig Jaffurs sources fruit from the top vineyards in the county.
Grenache Blanc 2011 - Thompson Vineyard.  70% stainless steel fermentation.  Beautiful peach and apple.
Viognier 2011 - A huge floral nose on this fruity wine, and a good zip from acidity.  Bien Nacido and Volgelzang Vineyards.
Grenache 2009 - Thompson and Larner Vineyards.  Partially whole-cluster pressed, giving a green aspect to the.beautiful cherry flavor.
Syrah 2010 - A blend of six vineyards. Great black pepper notes.
*Petite Sirah 2010 - Thompson Vineyard.  Great savory quality, especially in the nose.  A favorite.

Koehler Winery
Located along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, their estate vines average 40 years of age.
Quartetto 2010 - Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc and Viognier.  Touch of oak on the nose; Grenache Blanc shines on the palate.
*Pinot Noir 2010 - Rio Vista Vineyard.  Chocolate rose petals. A fave.
Magia Nara 2009 - Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in a light Tuscan-style blend. Red fruit loaded.

La Fenêtre Wines
Owner/winemaker Joshua Klapper (left) jumped from restaurant service to winemaking in 2005.  He sources fruit from the top locales in the Central Coast.
À Côté Chardonnay 2011 - Bien Nacido Vineyard.  Eleven months in French oak, and it is done very nicely. Full mouth, minerality, tropical fruit.
La Fenètre Chardonnay 2009 - Bien Nacido Vineyard. A little butter on top of the lovely fruit.
À Côté Pinot Noir 2011 - Just released, a Central Coast blend. Tea and cola on the nose, sour cherry and raspberry on the palate, with brilliant acidity.
 - Bien Nacido Vineyard. Dark Santa Maria Valley minerality.
*La Fenêtre Pinot Noir 2010 - Presqu’ile Vineyard.  Lovely violet nose.  The fruit is so ripe that 40% whole cluster pressing doesn’t dampen the bright flavors.  One of my favorite wines at the event.
Syrah 2009 - Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard.  Grapes from San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley.  Brilliant acidity is the big note here, lean and mean for a Syrah.

Lafond Winery and Vineyard
Pierre Lafond started Santa Barbara County’s first post-Prohibition winery in 1962 (Santa Barbara Winery) and Lafond came along in the ‘90s.
Chardonnay 2011 - Sta. Rita Hills; slight smoke, nice fruit.
Pinot Noir 2010 - Sta. Rita Hills; light mouthfeel, tea.
Syrah 2010 - Sta. Rita Hills; nice fruit, medium mouth.
Sangiovese 2009 - A Santa Ynez Valley bottling under the Santa Barbara Winery label, this one sports cherry galore.

Refugio Ranch
The Gleason family’s Santa Ynez Valley spread has a 26-acre vineyard on it.
*Ineseño 2010 - 60% Roussanne, 40% Viognier, this estate wine is aged on the lees for 15 months in 20% new French oak.  It has a big, beautiful mix of savory and floral notes.  One of my favorites of the event.
Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - 20% Semillon gives a creamy mouthfeel to this grassy and fresh wine, which is fermented in cement.
Tiradora Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - A 100% varietal wine, it’s fresh and fruity with a hint of oak.

Riverbench Vineyard and Winery
Other winemakers have been using the Riverbench Santa Maria Valley grapes since 1973.  The vineyard owners started their own label in 2006.  Winemaker Clarissa Nagy (right) has been on board for less than two years.
Pinot Noir 2010 - Lovely floral, great acidity.
Chardonnay 2011 Bedrock - Beautiful fruit, light touch of oak.

Rob Murray’s Murmur Vineyard, in the super-cool southwestern corner of the Santa Maria Valley, is yielding some very impressive estate wines from winemaker Robert Henson and grower Andrew Nelson (left.)
Pinot Noir 2010 - Smoky and dark.
*Syrah 2010 - Big, dark, bold.  A fave.

More great wines from Etienne Terlinden (see Cordon above) which are mostly vineyard specific.
Viognier 2012 - Quite a floral nose on this Santa Ynez Valley wine, with flavors of peaches and apples.
Chardonnay 2011 - A clean and fresh Santa Barbara County wine with a savory edge to the palate.
Chardonnay 2011 - From Marmon Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. Light oak with a savory edge.
Syrah 2010 - Paradise Road Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Great grip, plums.

Winemaker Bill Cates gets great fruit to work with.  No wonder he works wonders.
*Chardonnay 2009 - A favorite.  Bien Nacido Vineyard;  smoky fruit, delightful, 14 months in oak.
Pinot Noir 2009 - Solomon Hills Vineyard;  smoke and cherry.
Pinot Noir 2009 - Bien Nacido Vineyard;  old vines; raspberry, cranberry and tea.
Pinot Noir 2009 - Rio Vista Vineyard; earthy, ripe fruit, some pez candy
Syrah 2009 - Bien Nacido Vineyard; big and dark; beautiful chocolate-dipped fruit flavors.

Tercero Wines
Larry Schaffer loves the Rhone varieties and gets amazing results from them.
Rosé 2012 - I always look forward to the Tercero rosés each year.  A pink Mourvèdre - “one of the few in California,” says Schaffer - it’s not afraid to show some funk on the nose.  Five months in oak leaves the red fruit coming through nicely, carried along by a bracing acidity.
*Grenache 2009 - Larner Vineyard; one of my faves at the event.  75% whole-cluster press, but still a really intense nose, big red fruit and dynamite acidity.
Syrah 2009 - Larner Vineyard; not released yet, but when it’s time, it will have spent 40 months in neutral oak;  extra dark and concentrated.
Syrah 2009 - Thompson Vineyard;  Schaffer calls this one, “The most backward wine I make.”  He says that with a smile.  100% whole-cluster pressed, aged in neutral oak for ”only” 30 months.  Another smile.  A big, powerful wine.

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