Showing posts with label Glendale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Glendale. Show all posts

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Tasting Event

California's Santa Barbara County offers some tremendous wines, many of which come from the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.  The area lies between the small towns of Buellton and Lompoc, and is cooled by winds from the Pacific Ocean which blow along the Santa Ynez River.

The winegrowers of this region gathered recently at Palate Food + Wine in Glendale, California to pour some of their best.  The public packed the house on Sunday April 3, 2011.  I attended the trade tasting event the following day.

The Sta. Rita Hills region is home to big names like Longoria, Sea Smoke, D'Alfonso-Curran, Cargasacchi and Foley, as well as rising stars like Zotovich, Weber and Flying Goat.  I sampled the wines of ten Sta. Rita Hills producers at this event.

The Winemakers

Peter Cargasacchi planted the Cargasacchi and Jalama vineyards in the late 1990s.  His Italian and winemaking heritage are points of pride, as are his wines.  Peter was manning his own table and poured some exceptional wines for me.  His '09 Jamala Vineyard Pinot Noir is rich and dense, while the '07 Pinot Noir shows nice minerals and spices with a good acidity.  The Cargasacchi Pinot Grigio Dessert Wine is succulent.  Peter explained that he gambled on good weather and left the grapes on the vines an extra ten days for additional ripening, harvesting them at 40 brix.

Wes Hagen advises you lay down his Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noirs for four or five years to get maximum expression from them, but nobody will fault you if you can't wait that long.  Wes and his wines always draw a big crowd at every event where I've seen him pouring.  His Pinots show great minerality with hints of chocolate peeking from behind the fruit.  As a treat, Wes was pouring his Clos Pepe '01 Estate Pinot Noir in addition to more recent releases.

Morgan Clendenen's Cold Heaven Cellars poured several Viogniers, as she's best known for her work with that variety.  Her Le Bon Climat Viognier shows off a lush mouthfeel and an abundance of honeysuckle aromas with plenty of minerals on the palate.  Cold Heaven's '09 Viognier from the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard has a great citrus zest profile, while the Santa Ynez Valley Viognier is produced using a Viognier clone that was once thought to be Roussanne.  One taste will show you why that mistaken identity came about.  Her gentle Pinot Noir, "Nevertell," is grown in a Sta. Rita Hills vineyard - which one?  She'll never tell.

Kris Curran and Bruno D'Alfonso, of D'Alfonso-Curran Wines, have many fans, myself included.  D'Alfonso's history with Edna Valley Vineyards and Sanford Winery and Curran's with Sanford, Cambria, Koehler, Sea Smoke and Foley form a pedigree that would be difficult - if not impossible - to match.  The D'Alfonso-Curran 2008 Chardonnay from White Hills Vineyard was one of the hits of the event.  Big, buttery and smokey in the tradition of California Chardonnay, this wine also has a zippy acidity.  A trio of '06 Pinot Noirs on this label hail from different vineyards but show a high level of winemaking skill.  On the Badge label, the '06 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir is loaded with minerality and great acidity.  The latter quality is a hallmark of the duo's wines.

Norm Yost's Flying Goat Cellars poured a couple of winners.  The '09 Goat Bubbles is a rosé of Pinot Noir sparkling wine, light and airy with tons of summery flavors.  Flying Goat's Pinot Noir Rancho Santa Rosa Sta. Rita Hills is rustic and earthy.

Norman Huber is not only a winegrower, but a woodworker, too.  His handiwork is on display aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, as he headed up the restoration of the grand lady of the sea.  His custom-built bars grace the tasting rooms of fellow SRH winemakers Longoria Wines and Fiddlehead Cellars.  Huber's '08 Chardonnay is steely with plenty of bracing acidity and tropical flavors.  The '08 Huber Pinot Noir has a beautiful bouquet and feels lovely on the palate.  It's a pity they ran out of his Dornfelder.  He devotes a portion of his vineyard to that grape as a tribute to his German upbringing.

Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Winery poured his 2010 Rosé of Pinot Noir made from the grapes of the estate vineyard.  It's lush, and you'll want more.  Kessler-Haak specializes in the main grapes of the Sta. Rita Hills, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  They also do a fine Syrah with Turner Vineyard fruit.  It's bold and spicy.

Rick Longoria started making his own wine in 1982 and opened Longoria Wine in '98, the first winery to locate in what would come to be affectionately known as the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Longoria sources his wine from choice locations in Santa Barbara County, including the Sta. Rita Hills.  His '07 Tempranillo was one of my favorites at this event.  The grapes come from the Clover Creek Vineyard and the wine is edgy with a great mineral presence on both the nose and palate.

Pali Wine Company scored with their '08 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir, sporting cinnamon, raspberries and strawberries.  Pali's '08 "Huntington" Pinot Noir has 60% Sta. Rita Hills fruit, 35% Santa Maria Valley grapes and 5% sourced elsewhere in Santa Barbara County.  It's nice and earthy.

Weber Wine Company sources fruit from the Sta. Rita Hills as well as Paso Robles, Sonoma Coast and Dundee Hills in Oregon.  Their '09 "Mishelle" Pinot Noir is from Babcock Vineyard.  Earthy notes dominate the nose while the palate is a bit tart, yet smooth as silk.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Rosso Wine Shop

I stopped in to see Jeff Zimmitti at Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale, California recently to check out the expansion of his store.  Zimmitti said, “The process began in mid-2010 and went through the summer.  We got the final tweaks done in October.”

The next-door space was previously occupied by a maternity shop.  When they decided their business had grown to the point that they needed more room - a fitting metaphor - they moved up the street and created room for the Rosso expansion.

Zimmitti said the extra space allows for more inventory.  “We now have a selection of German and Austrian wines.  I sort of limited myself to Italy, France, Spain and California up to now.  We also were able to add a little additional bar space and we have room for stacking cases now.  Oh, and a place for dinner.”

He nods into the new space, in the direction of a huge, rustic dinner table.  “That’s for wine dinners,” he said, “so we can have winemakers and importers bring in their wines to pair with food in a relaxed and comfortable setting.”  Those situations were a little crowded before, when extra tables and chairs had to be squeezed in between the wine racks and the tasting bar.  “You can also rent the room,” he adds, “for a private event or a birthday party, something like that.”

The new space is adorned with a number of interesting maps on the walls, depicting different countries and their wine regions, something I’ve long thought would be a natural choice for a place selling wine from around the world.  “I’m a map guy,” Zimmitti confessed, “and I’m a graphic designer, and I have access to a large format printer.  It all fell into place.”

There isn’t a kitchen, so the Rosso wine events involving food have to be catered from off site.  Zimmitti noted that “one importer did find a way to make a paella in the back for his Spanish wines.”

City permits were the hardest part of the expansion process.  “All the forms and applications we had to wade through when we opened, we had to basically do it all over again.  The end result was worth it, though.”

As we talked, I enjoyed the weekend tasting along with a few other early arrivers.

Zaumau Priorat Blanco 2008
This Spanish Grenache Blanc is made from the fruit of old vines, and has the grizzled qualities expected.  The pale yellow wine undergoes steel fermentation.  The nose is loaded with minerals and the fresh taste puts wet rocks, bell pepper herbal notes and citrus on display.  The finish is lengthy.

Nebout Saint-Pourcain Rouge 2009
From rocky vineyards in France’s Loire Valley, this red is 80% Gamay and 20% Pinot Noir.  Medium brick red with a grapey nose - a fabulously grapey nose.  There is a strong floral scent as well, and flavors of bright cherry.  Very smooth tannins make this mellow wine very friendly.  Based on the brightness and clarity of the fruit, I would guess there is no oak used in making this wine.

Collosorbo Sant' Antimo 2007
This Tuscan red blend is a dark purple in the glass with a nose of blackberry with spices and an oaky presence.  Dark fruit and smoke on the palate are abetted by a  big mineral effect.  Good grip.  White pepper lasts into long finish.  A blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot seems an odd mix for Tuscany.  The wine is aged in small 225 liter barriques.  It may interest you to know that the estate, Tenuta di Collosorbo, is headed by three women - owner Giovanna Ciacci, winemaker Laura Sutera Sardo and enologist/marketing manager Lucia Sutera Sardo.

Rosso Wine Shop’s weekly tastings - Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. - cost $10 for the flight.  The conversation is free.  Zimmitti loves to start pouring early and doesn't mind running overtime.  Wine by glass and bottled beer are also available at the bar.