Friday, February 7, 2014

Wine Event: STARS Of Santa Barbara

The Peninsula hotel Beverly Hills was once again the site of a wine event I eagerly await each January.  The 2014 edition of STARS of Santa Barbara presented a great cross section of wine from Santa Barbara County, with plenty of examples showing what makes the SBC a great wine region.

Put on by Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine, the ballroom was so full of tasting tables they had to make room on the outdoor veranda for more.  Outdoors in January?  It's one of the perks of living in Southern California.  Our close proximity to Santa Barbara is also a perk, arguably an even better one than the weather.

The best of Santa Barbara County was poured, and here are my favorites from the event.

Riverbench Mesa Pinot Noir 2010 $45 - From the Mesa block of their estate vineyard, the earthy influence of the clay soils on the 41-year-old vines shows strongly.  50% new French oak for one year.  Winemaker Clarissa Nagy (right) is understandably proud of this one.

Zaca Mesa Roussanne 2009 $25 - Nice minerals, spice and tangerine.

Clos Pepe Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2011 $24 - Wes Hagen is known for his Pinot Noir, but this Chardonnay shows he has a lighter side.  90% new French oak, melon on the nose, great savory palate.

Larner Grenache 2009 $40 - Cherry spice, tobacco and great acidity are the stars of this Mike Larner (left) creation.

Kenneth Volk Albariño 2012 $24 - Santa Maria Valley grapes, floral counterpoint to the savory palate and a great acidity level.quite the food-friendly wine.

Shai Cellars Grenache 2009 $24 - Topping a lovely array of reds, this varietal wine shows some amazing dark smoke characteristics.

La Fenêtre Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir  2011 $30 - A great expression of Santa Maria Valley Pinot.  Winemaker Joshua Klapper (right, with his distributor) told me a dyed-in-the-wool Burgundy fellow bought four cases of it.

Foxen Cuvée Jeanne Marie 2011 $44 - Grenache/Mourvèdre blend that shows terrific acidity, nice tannic structure and beautiful fruit.

Sunstone Estate Cabernet Franc 2010 $40 - Great spice notes augment wonderful acidity and fruit.

Buttonwood Sauvignon Blanc Signature Blend 2012 $15 - This steel-fermented wine is grassy, yes, but softened by seven percent Semillon fermented in oak.  Winemaker Karen Steinwachs (left) loves how the Semillon tempers this one.

Curran Santa Ynez Valley Tempranillo 2008 $28 - Lovely, savory fruit and great acidity.  I do keep writing that, do I not?

The Hilt by Jonata $40 - Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, so dark I would have guessed Santa Maria.  Nice funky edge.

Gypsy Canyon Ancient Vine Angelica $150 (375ml) - Boutique producer Deborah Hall (right) told me about this dessert wine over lunch once, and this was my first chance to try it.  100% Mission grapes from a small collection of 131-year-old vines.  She claims it's the only Mission vineyard left in California, and the oldest vineyard in Santa Barbara County.  At 9% residual sugar and 18% abv, it's a heady quaff of raisins, caramel and brown sugar.

Refugio Ranch Barbareno 2010 $42 - This blend of Syrah and Petite Syrah has dark fruit and a hint of funk.  The PS shows up nicely.

Tercero Roussanne 2012 $25 - 100% Camp Four Roussanne, it's Larry Schaffer's (left) savory, nutty wine with razor sharp acidity.

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