Showing posts with label Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Fiddling Around In Santa Barbara County

One of Santa Barbara County's treasures is Fiddlehead Cellars, which I like to think of as the little winery that could. Kathy Joseph owns the place - an industrial-style facility, the kind that's easy to find in Lompoc. She also makes the wine, pulling Santa Ynez Valley grapes from wonderful sites in the cool Sta. Rita Hills and the warmer Happy Canyon region.

It's a family affair for Joseph, with Mom and Dad given honorifics on the labels and sister Jody providing the artwork for the bottles.

The 2017 Grüner Veltliner Estate is the third vintage of a truly wonderful wine. The fruit of this typically Austrian grape variety was taken from the Fiddlestix Vineyard, which Joseph planted back in the ‘90s and later sold. The wine was fermented in a combination of French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. Alcohol sits at 13% abv and it retails for $32.

The pale yellow wine smells beautifully savory, with a flowery nose which is joined by a big whiff of white pepper and earth notes. The palate carries the earthiness to a ridiculous extreme - and be glad of that. There is a sense of apricot, lemon curd and peppers on the palate. The acidity is just right and a blanket of salinity runs through the sip and into the lengthy palate. If you are searching for a white wine to put on your holiday table, this one would be a great fit.

The 2015 Bebble Grüner Veltliner Sta. Rita Hills comes from the Fiddlestix Vineyard as well. Joseph describes Bebble as her premier, reserve release of Grüner Veltliner. She writes that the wine was named to honor her "ever-elegant mother, Babette, whose name around the house adorns this bottle." The bottle also features her sister's artwork. 

"Following an atypically warm winter that gave way to an early March budbreak, dry and consistent temperatures allowed for an even growing season. Acids remained vibrant due to the cool maritime-influenced temperatures native to our area." Alcohol checks in at 13.5% abv and the wine sells for $42.

This is also a pale wine, with a nose that is minerality personified. There is wet sidewalk, seashore, apricot, white pepper and lanolin in the aroma package. The palate brings all those savory notes in the form of flavors, with a big dollop of salinity. The acidity is fresh and the finish is long. White wine lovers will love this savory Grüner from the Sta. Rita Hills.

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - I Want Your Blood!

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  It seems we are still safer at home.

As we do every so often with the Trailers From Hell gang, we take a look at vampires.  It's right that someone should, since they can't do it themselves.  Have you ever seen a vampire in a mirror?  Well, there ya go.  Besides, a fang dripping blood is a great way to introduce a red wine pairing.

One of the films with which we are pairing wine this week is the first Iranian vampire western - I'll let that sink in for a moment.  The 2014 classic A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was made by an Iranian-American woman and shot in the Kern County town of Taft, California.  Taft has a history all its own, which includes a string of previous names including Moron and Siding Number Two.  The town has also provided the backdrop for other films, like Five Easy Pieces, Thelma and Louise and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.  There were no vampires in those films, though.

Comparisons to Spaghetti Westerns and vampire classics like Nosferatu come easily.  The Girl With No Name wears a chador, basically a Persian cape.  She's a bit of a loner - you get that way when you kill anyone who comes home with you.  She takes no shit from anybody but does not chomp down on a cigar stub, a la Eastwood.  She skateboards.  She has a soft spot for a certain Middle Eastern lug.  She's the vampire with a heart of gold.  What will she drink?  Besides blood?

The lady will have a Shiraz, of course.  Syrah, if you like, but the city of Shiraz may have been the center of Iranian winemaking when there still was such a thing.  Booze was made illegal in Iran in 1979, so their Prohibition has lasted a lot longer than ours did.  Australia's Mollydooker makes a Shiraz called The Boxer, which is also the base wine for their Miss Molly Sparkling Shiraz, if you want some bubbles with your blood.

In 1997's Habit, parallels are drawn between the lives of vampires and drug addicts.  You could laugh it off by calling it The Girl Can't Help It, or She's Gotta Have It, or So I'm Dating a Vampire.  Hot sex isn't so much fun when it's paired with a blood donation.  Speaking of pairing...

The Habit wine company is run by Jeff Fischer out of Santa Barbara County.  He drains the blood from grapes grown in the Santa Ynez Valley and Happy Canyon.  We'll excuse him for the insensitivity of calling his wine club The Fix.  Like the gal in the movie, he just can't help himself.

And now, it's Hammer Time!  1970's Taste the Blood of Dracula was Hammer Films' fifth Drac flick and the fourth to star Christopher Lee as the count himself.  Mixed into the swirling broth of blood-sucking, death and reanimation is some good, old-fashioned revenge animus.  If you could pick on whose bad side to land, it should not be Dracula's.

Pairing a wine with Dracula is fairly simple.  Look to the east, where daylight breaks and drives vampires back into their coffins.  Eastern Europe, specifically Romania and Moldova, has a grape for the ghastly.  Feteasca Neagra is a red grape which Transylvania Wine - you read that right - turns into a blood-red sip branded as Castellum Dracula, unoaked of course.  They also offer spirits along the same lines.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Happy Canyon Cabernet: Dascomb Cellars

Dascomb Cellars Patriarch Don Dascomb bought the estate vineyard in 1974, starting a family business which sold their fruit to other winemakers. By the end of the 1990s, many Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in Santa Barbara County had been ripped out in favor of varieties that have proven quite successful for growers in the SBC - Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Dascomb felt that Cab's time in the county was not over. He maintained his planting of the King of Grapes in what is now the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County AVA - a place where Cabernet Sauvignon thrives due to the conditions which are considerably warmer than the land to the west, which is closer to the marine influence.

According to the Dascomb website, winemaker Dave Dascomb - the younger generation - believes that he is simply building upon what nature has produced. "Mother Nature determines if a particular vintage will be good or not," he is quoted. "My responsibility is to make it exceptional!" The blurb continues that, "Exceptional wine is achieved through established farming practices, patience at harvest, old-world cellar practices and a passion for the art of winemaking!"

The grapes for this wine came from East Valley Vineyard, planted by the Dascomb family forty years ago, making it one of the oldest vineyards in the region. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and it retails for $34. Considering the price point, it over-performs. I received a sample for the purpose of this article.

This Happy Canyon Cab certainly made me happy. Inky black in the glass, I like it already. Ripe nose of dark berries and graphite, you bet. Mouth full of blackberries and currants, yep. Amazing tannic structure, you had me at inky black. And, you get that fabulous acidity thrown in at no extra cost.

I paired mine with tri-tip straight from my grill, and it fit like it was on special order. I imagine it will serve equally well with a ribeye or a bacon-wrapped pork loin. Oh, sorry, I drifted off into my barbecue fantasy place for a second. Pair it with any meat dish that’s not really spicy and you’ll have a good time.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Martellotto La Bomba Cabernet Sauvignon

There is a warm spot in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley known as Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County. It is in the east end of the transverse valley, kept mainly cool by Pacific breezes that blow in and across the land between mountains. The winds do not produce a big cooling effect this far east, though, like they do in the Sta. Rita Hills to the west. Over there, it's Pinot Noir country. In Happy Canyon, Bordeaux grapes rule.

Martellotto Wines is an importer, but they also find some pretty terrific grapes in the warm spot of Santa Barbara County. The website explains that "Greg Martellotto’s family has been making wine for generations, and his grandfather brought traditional winemaking practices to the U.S. when he immigrated to Ellis Island in 1909 A vineyard-first philosophy focuses efforts on farming (including biodynamic and sustainable agriculture) with gentle handling in the winery and minimal intervention. Martellotto wines are allocated, vineyard designated wines that are our pleasure to share."

A sample of the Martellotto La Bomba Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 was shared with me as a sample for review.  The red is 25% Merlot, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon. Previous vintages came from Paso Robles, but the '13 hails from the SBC. 200 cases were made.

The wine has a deep ruby color, very dark, with a nose sporting blackberry, clove, vanilla and light cedar notes. The palate shows more blackberry and oak spice with a smattering of cassis and a nice acidity. There are great tannins and a good grip, the better for pairing with any kind of meat you like.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cimarone Cabernet Franc Refreshes The Grape Rut

There are - as the t-shirts and bumper stickers say - so many grapes and so little time.  For this reason, I always try to avoid getting stuck in a grape rut - having the same variety over and over again.  How some people can routinely drink the same grape all the time is beyond me.  “Have you no curiosity, sir?”

Me, I tend to have a lot of Syrah and Zinfandel among the reds and a fair number of Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs among the whites.  But I’m always ready for a change of pace.  Cabernet Franc is one grape that sometimes gets short shrift for a while.  That is not as it should be.  In fact, if I were to become a one-grape type of person, Cabernet Franc would have a great shot at becoming that grape.

Cabernet Franc is one of the more beautiful red wine grapes - imho, anyway - and I got the opportunity to sample one that was produced right in my own Southern California backyard.  The Cimarone Cabernet Franc is from the AVA named Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County.  That’s very specific, to be sure, and quite a mouthful as well.  It’s located in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, where the maritime influence is somewhat diluted by warm, sunny skies.  Happy Canyon is Santa Barbara County’s locale for the grapes of Bordeaux.

Cimarone winemaker Andrew Murray didn't get a whole lot of 2012 Cabernet Franc grapes from Three Creek Vineyard with which to work.  The warm-climate plot has always rewarded Cimarone with plenty of great Bordeaux varieties.  Even when the count may be less than spectacular, the quality is still top-notch.

the '12 vintage is Cimarone's third with the lovely Cabernet Franc grape.  The wine is aged over 27 months in French oak barrels.  80% of that wood is neutral oak.  Alcohol hits 13.8% abv and the bottle retails for $30.

Medium ruby, this wine has an absolutely fabulous nose - dense, with an almost grapey black cherry aspect leading the way. There is a bit of sage, a bit of black pepper and a bit of bell pepper, but the fruit aroma is simply lush.  Its flavors are a little more complex, with blackberry jam and cassis carrying along pepper, nutmeg, allspice and anise.  The wine is fantastic for sipping, but also deserving of a spot at the dinner table.  The tannins and acidity are both at a level that make this Cabernet Franc an inviting wine to pair with food, which is as it should be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cimarone Gran Premio Sangiovese 2012

courtesy NileGuide
Guido and Tina invited us to a Hindu vespers service, and we went with them.  The sanctuary  (left) is probably the quietest place in Los Angeles, and I was quietly happy to chalk up another event on the list of things I've done while living in L.A. which probably would not have occurred had I been elsewhere.  The list includes chainsaw juggling, performance art featuring stories told by trombones, an eight-hour stage play and a man playing piano upside down while drinking beer.  And that's just the stuff I planned to attend.

There are countless unplanned events - seeing crazy radio head guy outside of rock’n’roll Denny’s, watching parking lot standoffs, buying earthquake T-shirts sold on street corners hours after the temblor, driving home during a martial law curfew, and seeing a possum chased by a professional baseball player in the middle of a game.  These are the sort of events that make people shake their heads and say, "Only in L.A."

Back at the sanctuary during the quiet meditation time, Guido leaned over to me and whispered, "Christopher Isherwood said the nuns here all look like axe murderers."  My wife leaned over from the other side and whispered, "Don't fart."  Years of radio experience allowed me to keep a straight face through all the heckling.  That nun did look a little severe, though.

Afterward, at their place, we had homemade lentil soup and cracked open Cimarone's 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese.  It was served Italian style, in large shot glasses - which is very cool and continental but not good for swirling and sniffing.  We did our best anyway.

The estate grown grapes are from Three Creek Vineyard in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA.  Winemaker Andrew Murray created a lush and ripe wine that hits 14.5% abv on the alcohol meter.  Neutral French oak barrels were used for the aging process, which took place over 16 months.  Only 98 cases of this CalItalia wine were made.

Gran Premio's nose is dominated by black cherry and rich oak spice.  Even in the limited swirling space the aromas couldn't help but escape.  Flavor-wise, the fruit is a little more cherry than black cherry, while the effect of the oak is pronounced but not overplayed.  Clove notes grace the ripe, ripe, ripe fruit and spices add a nice angle that will be greatly appreciated during the holidays.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Cimarone Cilla's Blend Red Wine

We should all have retirement projects like Cimarone Wines and Three Creek Vineyard.  Roger and Priscilla Higgins opted for grape crushers instead of rocking chairs for their golden years.  Oh, they have rocking chairs, too - for photo ops.

Three Creek Vineyard is in the happily named AVA called Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County, located in the warm east end of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Both the vineyard and the winery facility were sold a couple of years ago, but Mr. and Mrs. Higgins kept the right to use the fruit in their Cimarone and 3CV wines.  The wines are now produced by renowned winemaker Andrew Murray at his Los Olivos winery.

Murray’s Twitter handle used to be “gotrhones” but he has since broadened his scope with the more inclusive name of @AMVwine.

The Cimarone website gives big props to their vineyard management company, Coastal Vineyard Care, led by Jeff Newton.  They have farmed the vineyard since 2005, using sustainable farming practices while targeting low yields and high quality.  The vineyard is now planted to Bordeaux varieties, with some Syrah and Sangiovese thrown in for good measure.

The 2012 Cilla's Blend - named for Priscilla, because the wine's elegance rivaled hers - is made from five grape varieties taken from Three Creek Vineyard's Happy Canyon slopes.  It's 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Syrah, 12% Cabernet Franc, 12% Mabec and 1% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol hits 13.9% abv, and aging took place over ten months in mostly neutral French oak.

Medium-dark ruby red, this wine shows its Bordeaux background as well as its Santa Barbara terroir.  Smelling of red berries and black cherries, there is an element of spice on the nose that has me thinking of potpourri.  On the palate, red currant leads the way with traces of oak spice bringing up the rear.  The inclusion of Syrah in the mix really gives the Bordeaux feel a new twist, with a jammy and peppery slant.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Cimarone Wines' 3CV Bank 2012 Red Blend

Cimarone Wines and Three Creek Vineyard were the 2001 “retirement project” of Roger and Priscilla Higgins.  Those who know how difficult it is to grow grapes and make great wine may pause here for a little chortling and snickering.  If there’s a rocking chair on the premises, it’s just for photo opportunities.

The vineyard is in the recently named AVA called Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County, located in the warm east end of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Both the vineyard and the winery facility were sold in 2012, but Mr. and Mrs. Higgins kept the right to use the fruit in their Cimarone and 3CV wines.  The wines are now produced by renowned winemaker Andrew Murray at his Los Olivos winery.

Murray’s Twitter handle used to be “@gotrhones” but he has since broadened his scope with the more official sounding name of @AMVwine.

The 3CV Bank 2012 is basically a blend of Bordeaux grapes which are giving a buddy from the Rhône a ride to the Valley.  It’s a party, and all grapes are invited - 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot, 12% Merlot and 6% Syrah is the varietal makeup.  The wine retails for $20 and has an alcohol content of 14.3% abv.

Bank opens the tiller with a great, dark fruit nose that is rich and dark.  Cassis and hints of leather, pepper and anise create the olfactory fireworks, while the palate is also extremely dark and fruity.  More savory notes peek through here - spices and tobacco notably - but the blackberry and currant fruit flavors are fully in charge.  The wine has a great mouthfeel, with enough tannins to tame a bite of steak, but not enough to pick your teeth with afterward.

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