Showing posts with label Buellton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buellton. Show all posts

Friday, July 17, 2015

SBC Tasting Room: Mosby Wines

We made a trip out of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County wine country recently. My wife and I, along with our good and dear friend Guido love this two-hour trip. The stop in Camarillo to have a bagel and coffee is mandatory and the Trader Joe’s on Milpas provides our picnic lunch. Usually it’s a loaf of bread, some cheese, avocados and olives. This short series describes some of the wines we sampled in the various tasting rooms we visited.

Mosby Wines

Bill Mosby is an eccentric, at least if you believe the blurb on the website. His eccentricity is also apparent when you look at his vineyards, full of grapes better known in Italy. If you are looking for an intro to Italian grapes in Santa Barbara County, head to Buellton and check out Mosby's wines.

The Mosby Artist Series of wines are decorated by beautiful visuals, provided by renowned artist Robert Scherer of Appiano, Italy. In the tasting room, I was told that Mosby and Scherer met by chance, seated at the same restaurant table with a big language barrier. The found communication in food and wine, which led to Scherer doing the label art.

2012 Cortese $18
A nice, earthy nose is presented by this Gavi grape. Crisp and delicious, with a great lemon flavor and a zing of acidity.

2012 Passerina $18
From Marche, this grape's California expression has big minerals and earth, with a very gentle acidity. Peach and apricot flavors join earthy notes for a delightful palate.  A great sipper.

2013 Pinot Grigio $18
This one has the same earthy note on nose as the Passerina. I found the palate a little boring, but decent acidity lifts it.

2013 Rosato di Cannonau $18
Steel fermentation gives this Grenache - Cannonau in Italy - a crisp acidity. A dash Mourvèdre beefs it up nicely. Cherries and oranges on the nose leads to a beautiful palate showing a great cherry flavor.

2009 Dolcetto  $28
The big, cherry nose has a high note of sweetness to it. The acidity refreshes, while the big tannic structure provides a great backdrop for a pairing with a bolognese sauce. Cherry and raspberry flavors leave a lingering tartness.

2008 Sangiovese $30
The nose shows cherry aromas a little bigger and a little darker than the Dolcetto.  Huge cherry flavors on the palate are sweetened by the oak spice.

2008 La Seduzione Lagrein $30
A nose of cherry and raspberry make this northern Italian grape show its Cali terroir. The palate has a giant cherry and black cherry expression. Great tannins make me feel it would be fantastic with a beef stew.

2008 Sagrantino $32
The nose shows alcohol first, then cherry and blackberry. In the mouth, it is the vibrant acidity and firm tannins that grab my attention. Floral notes lay upon black cherry and raspberry flavors on the palate.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Are You Ready For Some Chardonnay?

The variety that wine has to offer appeals to me so much that I often find myself passing up the standard stash of grape varieties in favor of more exotic treats.  It's not that Cab, Pinot and Chardonnay are boring - not by a long shot - but the thrill of getting off the beaten path sways me time and time again.  That's why I like a good reason to get back on the road more traveled every so often.

Those who cry "anything but Chardonnay" may be exploring new things - and that's good - but they are also unfairly turning their backs on a grape variety which has a lot to say.

Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery has their first annual Celebration of Chardonnay coming up on Saturday, June 9, 2012.  California's favorite white grape will also be celebrated at the upcoming Chardonnay Symposium at the end of June in the Santa Maria Valley.  I was in the right place at the right time on a visit to the Sta. Rita Hills, stopping in at Foley's tasting room west of Buellton to sample a variety of their Chardonnay offerings.  The ranch lingo used in naming their vineyards is Bill Foley’s tip of the Stetson to his cattleman days.

2010 Chardonnay, Steel
The Rancho Santa Rosa vineyard gives the fruit for this one, and it is kept in its purest state, without the influence of wood.  Tropical citrus and pineapple meet a lively spiciness and a zesty acidity.

2009 Chardonnay, Rancho Santa Rosa
The golden tint tips off the presence of oak, but Dave, who poured the samples for me, hit the barrel stave on the head when he said, “It’s doesn’t spend a lot of time in oak, so it’s creamy rather than buttery.”  The oak isn’t overdone in any of these Chardonnays.  Here, the pineapple and minerals come through beautifully.

2009 Chardonnay, JA Ranch
Aged in 35% new, French toasted oak, this is what California Chardonnay should always be about.  A smoky nose introduces a gorgeous palate of apricot tinged with caramel.

2009 Chardonnay, T-Anchor
A touch of smokiness on the nose doesn’t obscure the rocks and citrus aromas.  There’s a bit more oak on the palate here, too, with a huge fruit expression to offer.

2009 Chardonnay, Bar Lazy S Ranch
The minerality is the star here, but there a strong supporting cast of varied fruit flavors.  Toasty oak spice and zippy acidity complete the big mouthfeel.

2009 Chardonnay, Two Sisters
From the Rancho Las Hermanos vineyard, This is Foley’s top of the line Chardonnay.  With 20 months in all new French oak, I would expect a disturbingly wooden touch to this one, which is not the case.  50% malolactic fermentation increases the creaminess.  It’s smoky, creamy and rich, but clean tasting, not buttery.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Mosby Sagrantino Santa Barbara County 2006

Bill Mosby specializes in growing and making wine from Italian grape varieties at Mosby Winery and Vineyard in the Central Coast town of Buellton, California.  Since 1998, when he left his dental practice to follow his passion for wine, he has produced some award-winning wines using grapes like Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio and Dolcetto.

His Sagrantino Santa Barbara County 2006 comes from the Mosby estate’s “Vigna della Casa Vecchia” (vineyard of the old house) which, according to the Mosby website, has "clay loam and shale soils supporting approximately 18 acres of Italian varietals."

The wine's label explains that Sagrantino is “idigenous to the Umbrian region of Italy, particularly around the hilltop town of Montefalco,” and is usually deep red in color and fairly tannic.  His Sagrantino has an alcohol content of 13.9% abv.

Sure enough, the color of this wine is deep ruby red with just a little light getting through.  There is a lot of fruit on the nose and a lot of alcohol, too.  Upon opening, the palate is hot with alcohol and shows flavors of black cherry and plum.  Clove spice also shows. 

On the second night, this wine is still smokin' hot.  The alcohol on the nose blows off fairly quickly leaving darker plummy aromas.  Tannins are still very pronounced, but they begin to mellow after some time.   It's really starting to be enjoyable now. 

The third night's nose is beautiful - full of fruit and earth, without the smell of the alcohol   It's amazing.  The tannins have smoothed out nicely and the flavor- still dark, plummy and spicy - is the dominant feature.  This wine needs a lot of air in which to open up.  I recommend a lengthy decanting, after which it should be a thing of beauty. 

It is, however, a beauty with a mole.  Even on the third night there was a faint scent of paint present at times.  The aroma would come and go, and it was not present to a disagreeable level.  Overall, this wine is extremely enjoyable, provided it has had ample breathing time. 

The label is a beautiful work of art done by Robert Scherer of Appiano, Italy.  Mosby commissions Scherer to do labels for Artist Series of wines.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Queen Of Hearts Pinot Noir

The label and name on this Santa Barbara County red wine were unfamiliar to me when I picked it up at Whole Foods, but I couldn’t help but notice the Queen Of Hearts winery address was given as Buellton, CA.  Buellton is sort of a “gateway to wine country” town located just off the 101 freeway between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.
Turns out, it’s a Lucas and Lewellen Vinyards brand.  Winemaker Megan McGrath promises a nose of blackberry, black cherry and cola, with flavors of plum, strawberry and spice.

This Pinot Noir is a medium ruby color which I can see right through.  On the nose, raspberry and strawberry lead the way.  There’s an awful lot of heat noticeable in the aromas, even a half hour after pouring.  On the palate the fruit is as bright and perky as it can be, in fact it’s delicious.  An alcohol burn, unfortunately, spoils it.

It finally settles down after an hour.  Again, the taste is so bright and fruity, it’s hard to find fault.  But as juicy and fruity as it is, there is a decided lack of minerals.  An earthy layer would really add another dimension to the wine’s taste.

To compound things, the wine seems overoaked and fakey.  Fighting through the alcohol haze on the nose are a boatload of spicy aromas.  The spice and alcohol mix for a medicinal smell. 

In fairness, after two hours, this wine is much more approachable.  Two hours, however, is a long time to wait for a glass of wine to become drinkable.  Even on the second night it was open, the wait was over an hour before it was pleasurable to drink.  And it still seemed somewhat overoaked.

All this would be unremarkable in a wine that cost $5.  Queen Of Hearts sells for $15 - not a lot for Pinot Noir.  Still, I couldn't help but wish more had been delivered.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Alma Rosa Chardonnay 2008

The Now And Zin household is undergoing a bit of a "wine clearance," with some neglected bottles getting their propers of late.  Besides, Mrs. Now And Zin - sometimes known as Denise - is always suspicious of exactly why we need another bottle of wine when the rack is already laden with them.  My hope is that thinning out the crowd may just provide the opposite reaction: "Mr. Now And Zin, you're almost out of wine!"  I feel a wine shopping trip impending.

But back to the clearance.  Here's one of those half-bottles I purchased in the event we were suddenly in need of a picnic-basket-sized wine.  We haven't needed that convenience since then, so let's unscrew the top on an Alma Rosa.

The Alma Rosa website tells the story that it was owner and winemaker Richard Sanford who discovered that the Sta. Rita Hills were good for growing grapes, due to the traverse mountain range that pulls in the cooling ocean influence from the west.  It tells further that it was Sanford who planted grapes in the region when it was unheard of to do so.  This was in 1970, a Pinot Noir vineyard.  A sale of the original winery put him in business a little to the southwest of Buellton.

Sanford's wines generally are very well constructed with wonderful acidity, and this Chardonnay is no exception.

It sits golden in the glass, giving floral and tropical aromas to the nose.  The palate detects a bit of oak but actually, more minerality is present than those big buttery notes one might expect in a California Chardonnay.

The wine is crisp and clean, bone dry,  with just a hint of oak and a trace of candy-like fruit presence.  Winemaker Sanford says his Chardonnay has a lot in common with French Chablis, and I can taste the resemblance.  It retails at the winery for $19 per bottle.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tasting Room: Alma Rosa, Buellton

Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards was founded in 1970 by Richard and Thekla Sanford.  Not only were they on board early in recognizing the Santa Rita Hills as a good place to grow grapes, they also were among the first to plant Pinot Noir there.  Alma Rosa is described on their website as "an enterprise dedicated to creating high quality wines and setting a benchmark for organic farming, sustainable agriculture methods, and environment-friendly commerce."  Oh, and their wines rock.

My visit occured on a day when there was considerable celebration at all the area wineries, and Alma Rosa was no exception. Going through the small tasting room to a back area where a band played something that sounded like the Grateful Dead's version of reggae, I settled into what seemed to be Hippie Heaven. Taking a cue from the warm and sunny afternoon weather, I decided to sample some white wines.

Santa Rita Hills Pinot Blanc 2007 - There's just a bit of oak on this wine.  A lemony, creamy pepper taste springs forth from a very lively and fresh, green nose.

La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2007 - A fresh nose is found here, too.  There's a little less oak influence.  With a very creamy mouthfeel, it's a pleasure to drink.

Santa Barbara County Pinot Gris 2008 - The fresh noses were out in force today.  A pear flavor dominates, but a bit of a tropical play figures in, too.  It's steel fermented and aged six months in French oak.

Pinot Gris La Encantada Vineyard 2007 - Apricot and tangerine flavor the wine after a floral nose.  Lots of minerals produce a crisp and clean palate.

Chardonnay El Jabali Vineyard 2006 - A woody nose greets you, but it's not overdone. Tropical flavors and pears rule the palate.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tasting Room: Lafond Winery and Vineyards, Buellton

Lafond Winery is in the beautiful vineyard land near Buellton, west of Highway 101 on Santa Rosa Road.  The Santa Rita Hills are lovely and they contain vineyards which produce some very special fruit.  

Pierre Lafond has been utilizing some of this special fruit since he started Santa Barbara Winery in 1962.  That was the first winery in Santa Barbara County since prohibition.  In 1971 Pierre planted Lafond Vineyard, then expanded his vineyard acreage in 1996.  The Santa Rita Hills winery began construction two years later and it opened to visitors in 2001.  

Award-winning winemaker Bruce McGuire came to Santa Barbara Winery in the early '80s and also oversees the wines of Lafond Winery.  McGuire helped pioneer Pinot Noir and Syrah in Santa Barbara County.  His talent shows in every bottle.

The grounds of the winery are gorgeous and hospitable.  Everywhere you look the scenery is great, but there is one spot that really pops the cork.  Just to the right of the tasting room you can look across the vineyard to the hills on the other side.  The serenity in that spot is almost overwhelming.  It makes a great backdrop for snapshots, too.

The interior of the tasting room is fairly businesslike, with little of that wine country decor many wineries like to toss around.  The staff is quite friendly and very helpful, even when tending to a number of guests, as they were when I visited.  Even though there was a full house at the tasting bar, I received plenty of attention and had all my questions answered.  That may sound like business as usual, but I hate to think about how many times I've had a question in a tasting room and been told "I don't know."   Not here.

It was a very pleasant experience at Lafond, and the wines also had a bit to do with that.  Here is what I tasted:

Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2007 - A blend of grapes from several vineyards, this wine is clean and crisp.  It's fruity with minerals.  Refreshing enough, certainly, for the porch this summer, but the nice acidity will have it pairing well with food, too.

Lafond Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 - All estate-grown, this Chard has twice as much time in oak as the SRH.  It's quite smooth, and the effect of the wood quite noticeable.

Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2007 - All 8 Pinot Noir clones grown here contribute.  The wine is noted for earth, spice and lavender.

Lafond Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 - Four clones are in this one; it's bright and spicy with slight raspberry/cherry tones.

Lafond Vineyard Syrah Grenache - 60 Syrah and 40% Grenache, the nose is full of cherry and spice.  Earth, blackberry and cedar mark the palate.

Santa Rita Hills Syrah - 2008 - 58% of the fruit in this wine comes from the Lafond Vineyard.  It's a complex nose with hints of bell pepper.  There is big fruit in this one, but it's still rather young.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tasting Room Notes: Sort This Out Cellars

Sort This Out Cellars is a wine producer based in the Santa Ynez Valley of California's Central Coast. They obtain grapes from all over the Golden State, however, and put forth a lineup of wines that are actually produced at the nearby Terravant Wine Company.

With an annual production of 1500 cases, Sort This Out Cellars is definitely boutique. And with so much competition on the wine horizon, the vintner lives by an inventive marketing plan that almost puts the actual wine - which is pretty good - in a backseat.

When you visit the website, or certainly when you step into the tasting room, it's Vegas, Baby in a more or less relentless fashion. From the labels on the bottles to the graphics and ad copy to the music playing over the sound system - Sort This Out offers up a full line of Rat Pack-era Vegas kitsch.

The wines have names like "Viva Las Vegas," "Ante Up" and "Suited." The "Suited" labels are fashioned after "gentlemen's playing cards" of the '40s and '50s, but look to me more like those lusciously-drawn Vargas-style beauties from Playboy magazine. In the tasting room, the concept is helped along by a soundtrack of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy interspersed with enough Sammy, Frank and Dean to make you think you need to roll some dice now.

The "Suited" line also features a special Holiday Merlot 2006. It's 100% Merlot and the card promises black cherry and strawberry flavors with earthy, spicy notes. They recommend their mulled wine mixture to use with it, if you like that sort of thing. It's a visually engaging label with a 1960s-Playboy-cartoon-style snow bunny gracing it.

Here are my thoughts from the tasting:

There were seven wines on the "Tasting Card," and an eighth was thrown in at a customer's request.

"Viva Las Vegas Pinot Grigio 2006 ($15) - Tart and nutty, with lemon peel and pineapple. Very crisp.

"Suited" Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($17) - Grassy nose with a very tropical taste. Notes of mango, pineapple.

"Suited" Sangiovese Rosato 2007 ($15) - 100% Sanjo. Stainless steel. Lovely cherry and strawberry notes. Dry.

"Suited" Merlot 2006 ($20) - 100% Merlot. Earth and smoke. Easy to drink. Comes in Holiday label, too.

"Ante Up" Rollers Reserve Syrah 2005 ($24) - 100% Syrah from Santa Barbara County. Bit of barnyard on the nose. Quite earthy. Finishes well.

VinoNostra "This Wine of Ours" Red Wine 2006 ($36) - The blend is a secret. Only 100 cases made. Smooth with coffee notes.

Film Noir Pinot Noir 2007 ($50) - 100 cases. Cherry and vanilla on the nose with an intriguing flavor of coconut and toasted vanilla.

All in all, if you need a gift for a wine drinker who can't get to Vegas enough, you can't go wrong at Sort This Out Cellars. But don't be too quick to pigeonhole them as simple novelty. The wines are good, and worth checking out on their own merit.

Sort This Out Cellars had their tasting room in Buellton since 2008,which is where I visited them.  They have since moved to a brand new location, in Solvang.

Disclaimer: My tasting experience was provided at no charge for the purpose of review.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mosby Roc Michel

The Bottle: The tall-shouldered Bordeaux bottle features a front label with several hints. "Rhone Varietal Blend," "Monterey County Red Table Wine," "Fremir Vineyards." It's a Mosby, without the usual art show, though. Too bad. The Mosby label is generally as beautiful as the wine behind it. This wine clocks in with an abv of 13.5%. The back label promises flavors of black cherry, cola and cinnamon. It does not say so on the label, but my tasting room notes mentioned a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre. It goes for $22 at the winery.

The Nose: It's lush in here. A bit of alcohol and the faint trace of the oak, but what really comes forward is the cherry that back label told us about. I don't get the cinnamon, but there is some sort of sweetness creeping through, like a candy I can't quite name. Faint traces of, oddly enough, Super Bubble bubble gum.

The Taste: That cinnamon is there on the palate, right up front. A good deal of heat, too, upon opening. But it's a fruit explosion in my mouth, tons of cherry cola. This wine really finishes pretty well, too. The nice ruby color is see-through, but not too light. The mouthfeel is full and yummy. This will be nice with a pepper steak or a pork chop. This makes me want to schedule a trip to Buellton. I'm going to want some more of this.

The second night it was open, the wine began to show some interesting aspects that were not apparent to me upon opening the bottle. It began to display a more vegetal side on the nose and palate, something akin to a bell pepper. This occurrence sort of dialed the sweetness back a notch and replaced it with a darker, more insidious character. It's still a very good wine. It seems to get more complex the longer it is open.