Showing posts with label Evan Goldstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evan Goldstein. Show all posts

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Steve Clifton (right)

Santa Barbara County is one wine country within an easy drive of Southern California, so it's not unexpected for me to find great wine originating from there. I've certainly tasted enough of it. Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein counts SBC as a "once removed" wine region, meaning just slightly less well known than Napa and Sonoma, the "big two" of California wine AVAs.

At the recent Grand Tasting event, "Unexpected Grapes From Unexpected Places," their table was definitely one I had circled on my program.  Palmina winemaker Steve Clifton (on the right in the picture) was pouring when I stopped by, and he patiently went through eleven Santa Barbara County wines for me despite the crowds which kept him pretty busy the whole time I was there.

The Santa Barbara County AVA is one region that is getting a lot of recognition beyond the Central Coast, with good reason.  The five distinct winegrowing areas of the county - Santa Maria Valley, Los Alamos Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, and Happy Canyon - make up an extremely diverse wine region.  The ocean breezes sweep eastward through the transverse valleys and bring a rather cool growing climate far inland.

Clifton's Palmina Wines specializes in Cal-Italia - Italian grape varieties grown and produced in the Golden State - but his wines weren't the only ones on the table utilizing what Evan Goldstein calls "quirky grapes."

Here are my notes on the wines from the Santa Barbara County table:

Palmina Tocai Friulano 2009 - lovely floral nose with grapefruit and zest on the palate - Santa Ynez Valley, Honea Vineyard

Palmina Malvasia Bianca 2009 - very floral nose and taste - tastes like flowers - Santa Ynez Valley, Larner Vineyard

Silver Viognier 2007 - nuts and citrus with great acidity - 13% Grenache Blanc

Buttonwood Sauvignon Blanc 2009 - citrus nose and palate, nice acidity - lemon zest on finish - blended with SĂ©millon - winery has a new winemaker

Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner 2009 - melon, pear and peaches with some residual sugar - don't know of another winery producing Sylvaner in California

Palmina Nebbiolo 2006 - floral nose with a taste of very bright cherry and raspberry - spices

Mosby Sagrantino 2006 - big, dark nose, reminds me of Mourvèdre - smooth and fruity - Bill Mosby imported the cuttings from Italy - first vintage

Hitching Post Merlot 2007 - dry, with big blackberry and cherry flavors - winemaking team of Hartley and Ostini

Bridlewood Zinfandel 2007 - Santa Ynez Valley grapes, estate grown - herbal notes and a minty aspect - full and rich

Ampelos Syrah 2006 - spicy and fruity - Sta. Rita Hills fruit

Star Lane "Astral" Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - extremely full and very dry, with black plum and pencil lead flavors

Tomorrow we'll visit the San Luis Obispo table.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Setup for a blind wine tasting event

California Wine Month was celebrated in Westwood this week with an extraordinary presentation called "Unexpected Grapes From Unexpected Places."  There will be more on this blog over the next few days about some of the more unexpected grapes and places in California.  Today, the seminar hosted by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein is our subject matter.

Goldstein hosts videos and stages seminars like this one for Full Circle Wine Solutions.  He is not only a Master Sommelier, but also a master at this format.  The wine guru runs his show with the expertise and flair of an infomercial host.  Utilizing a big screen PowerPoint presentation as a visual accompaniment to his energetic stage presence, Goldstein keeps his audience attentive and involved in the information he's shooting out at breakneck speed.

The seminar was held in a semi-dark room - Goldstein referred to it as mood lighting - with six long tables set for eight people per row.  At each setting was an array of twelve wine glasses, each about half full of wine.  This was for the blind tasting portion of the program, which I'll reluctantly address later.  (I didn't fare too well in the friendly competition.)

First, Goldstein breezed through a wealth of information about California's wine industry and the grapes grown for it, some of which may surprise you.
Wine consumption in the US has been increasing for sixteen consecutive years, even during our current economic downturn.  Goldstein said at the present rate, the US is expected to pass France as the world's largest wine consumer by 2014.

48 of California's 58 counties produce wine and only 10% of that wine comes from the two most well known areas, Napa Valley and Sonoma County.  "That means the other 90%," Goldstein quipped, "comes from somewhere else."

The purpose of the seminar - and the Grand Tasting event - was to shed some light on those "somewhere elses" and on the huge quantity of different grape varietals grown in the Golden State.  He took a moment to point out that there are 4,600 grape growers and 2,972 bonded wineries in California - most of them family-owned enterprises.

After getting the facts and figures out of the way, Goldstein got started on what was really on everyone's mind - the wines in front of us.

The object of the blind tasting was to use our senses of sight, smell and taste along with our "vast knowledge of wine" to determine the grape varietal and location of origin for each of the samples provided.  It sounded so easy!  But Goldstein wasn't throwing any softball pitches.

When the sipping was over, he revealed that Napa was represented by a Riesling and a Sangiovese, not a Cab or Chardonnay.  The Russian River Valley entry was not a Pinot Noir, but a Pinot Gris.  One Pinot Noir came from Mendocino and another from Monterey County.  A Paso Robles Vermentino was thrown in while the Syrah hailed from the Santa Cruz Mountains.  There was a Cabernet Sauvigon to be identified, but it was a product of Livermore.

Goldstein's purpose in mixing it up the way he did was to show just how varied the wines of California can be.  There's a lot more out there than just Cabernet and Chardonnay, and the grapes of one area don't always taste like the same grapes from a different area.  The seminar illustrated those points perfectly.  At the end of the presentation, he had everyone stand up, then asked for those who got six or fewer of the twelve wines correct to sit down.  Suffice it to say, I sat down, along with about half the crowd.  I did see one excellent taster still standing at the end, indicating that he correctly identified eleven or twelve of the wines.  My hat's off to him, and to Goldstein for the challenging test.  I hope the next time I have the opportunity, I'll make a better showing!

Tomorrow we'll taste a few Santa Barbara County wines.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Unexpedted Grapes From Unexpected Places

In celebration of California Wine Month 2010, the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers presented a Grand Tasting at the Hotel Palomar in Westwood, California on September 22, 2010. 

The tasting event was augmented by seminars from Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein.   The seminars had Goldstein briefly running through some information about California's wine industry and the grapes grown for it.  The bulk of the hour-long presentation was a blind tasting, in which I participated.

In the coming days, I'll detail the seminar and share my tasting notes of the wines I tasted from a few of the regions represented.

The Grand Tasting was organized by region, with different tables representing the different wine-producing areas of California.  Thirteen distinct growing areas were spotlighted and about 130 wines were represented in all.  The wines that were poured emphasized many less familiar grapes, and some of the more familiar ones from areas other than the "Big Two" of Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

As you may expect from the event's name - Unexpected Grapes From Unexpected Places - the idea was to show the diversity of grape varieties grown in California and the depth of offerings available from some of the lesser-known regions.  The organizers of the event hit it out of the park on both counts.  A slew of wines made from unheralded grapes were poured, and the crowds around the tables for places like Lodi, Ventura and Livermore were as big as the ones around the Napa and Sonoma posts.

I sampled a number of wines from Lodi, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura County.  I'll detail those tastings in the next few days here on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.

If you'd like to do some online exploring yourself, visit Discover California Wines and California Vineyards.