Showing posts with label Solvang. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Solvang. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2018

Garagiste Wine Festival: Southern Exposure

Here's a date to put on your calendar:  May 12, 2018.  That’s the next Garagiste Festival, a Northern Exposure event set for Sonoma.  I mention this because I recently attended the Garagiste Southern Exposure wine show, in Solvang, and I heartily recommend that you support them when they are near you.

The Garagiste Festival began in Paso Robles, an effort to spotlight some of the many small-production winemakers in that region.  The festival's name comes from the French word that describes small, maverick wine producers operating in garages instead of chateaux.  Most of the producers who pour at the Garagiste events have no "winery" - they buy grapes directly from choice vineyards and turn them into wine in low-overhead locations.  Most make fewer than a thousand cases per year.

Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick are co-founders of the Garagiste Festival, Lisa Dinsmore is the Event Director and Melanie Webber handles the public relations.  They once again rented out VFW Hall Post #7139 on a beautiful February day that cooled off a Southern California winter heat wave.  It was fitting to see the office of the Santa Barbara County Agriculture Commissioner right next door.  Forty-two low-production winemakers spilled more than 200 hand-crafted wines for the eager tasters, of which I was one.

Here are my notes from just a few of the wonderful wineries represented at the show:

Buscador Winery - Santa Barbara
2016 Chenin Blanc, Jurassic Vineyard - Winemaker Matt Kowalczyk got caramel on the nose (!) with neutral oak notes and a crisp mouthfeel.  $25

Byron Blatty Wines - Los Angeles
Mark and Jenny Blatty own the 750-case producer.  Their 2015 Agenda Syrah/Tannat is a blend from Malibu vineyards.   Dark and juicy!  $58

Cloak and Dagger Wines - Paso Robles
2014 The Defector Zinfandel Reserve - Huge peppery red fruit, still young.  50 cases.  $49

Diablo Paso Wines - Paso Robles
Enrique Torres makes a beautiful 2017 Guanabana Albarino, Paragon Vineyard.  25% new oak gives a great caramel-coated apple nose, with green apples on the palate.  1st vintage.  $30

Dusty Nabor Wines - Paso Robles
Dusty, the winemaker, makes a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Frankel Vineyard which is classic Paso Cab, Eastside chalk.  $65

Hoi Polloi Wines - California
Event co-founder Doug Minnick helped make this wine, a 2016 Grenache Rosé, Colburn Vineyard - picked early specifically for rosé. Wow! Cherry candy.  $30
The 2015 Illicit Pinot Noir, Santa Maria, comes from an unnamed but outstanding vineyard.  It's an excellent Pinot that's more Burgundy than California.  $52

March Wines - Santa Cruz Mountains
2016 Dry Riesling, Redwing Vineyard - petrol showing, 1st vintrage. GREAT!  $25

Marin's Vineyard - Monterey
Winemaker Marin Wolgamott produces the 2016 Estate Viognier - AWESOME floral nose, great palate. $20.  The 2015 Rancher's Daughter Malbec/Merlot is a really drinkable low-tannin BDX blend. $25

Metrick Wines - California
2016 Chardonnay Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria - awesome.  Steel for 8 months on the lees. $36

TW Fermentation Co. - Paso Robles
James Schreiner makes chalky, dusty BDX varieties.  The 2013 Straight Cab is superb, all Paso, more character than Napa.  $64

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Santa Ynez Valley Wine: Gainey Vineyard

Dan Gainey runs the wine business that was started by his father, grown grapes on land first farmed by his grandfather.  The Gainey Vineyard operation is located at their Home Ranch Vineyard in the eastern part of the Santa Ynez Valley.  They also farm the Evans Ranch and Rancho Esperanza vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.

The Gainey land is farmed sustainably, using cover crops, compost, natural soil conditioning while eschewing pesticides and herbicides to protect their workers and the ground water.  Gainey winemaker Jeff Lebard and director of winemaking John Falcone together have four decades of experience in Napa Valley and the Central Coast.

Looking around the tasting room, it’s pretty and well stocked with wine and other related items. My wife commented on the great restroom, "literally nicest I've seen," she said. They say you can tell everything about a restaurant by the way the restroom looks. Maybe it holds true for tasting rooms, too. One of the more intriguing purchase options I noticed was the Zinfandel garlic salsa. It smells great. There’s plenty of garlic in there.

Once in the cave tasting room, we got down to the good stuff. Eric the pourer told me they are in the process of replacing the vineyards on the estate property. The Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling vines are being replanted.

The Wines

2014 Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc  $19 - About a 30/70 split on steel and barrel fermentation, with seven month of French oak aging. Alcohol is at 14.1% abv. The flavors are clean and fruity and the grapefruit note is soft while the mouth is full.

2013 Limited Selection Chardonnay $38 - This wine uses fruit from Rancho Esperanza and Evan’s Ranch Vineyard, the Santa Ynez winery’s Sta. Rita Hills property. It is nearly fully barrel fermented - only 2% in steel - and aged in French oak for nine months, 25% of which is new oak.  Alcohol hits 14.1% abv, and full malolactic and sur lie fermentation offer this wine a full and creamy feel in the mouth. It’s a big, fat chardonnay with lots of oak. coconut and tropical flavors.

2013 Limited Selection Pinot Noir  $55 - for wine club members only. It is 100% Pinot Noir from the Home Ranch Vineyard. Aged 17 months in 27% new French oak, the alcohol is a lofty 14.1% abv.  Pepper comes across very strongly on the nose, with a palate that is full of rich raspberry and cherry, not too tart. Very fruity, but the tea notes show well and the acidity is very fine.

2013 Limited Selection Syrah  $32 - 72% Home Ranch fruit and 28% Evan's Ranch. 14.1% abv with 16 months in 45% new oak (54% French, 23% American & 23% Hungarian.)  The nose on this one shows the funk for which the Rhône variety is known, stridently.  The palate is full of dark fruit in a savory mineral setting.

2012 Patrick’s Vineyard Selection $60 - 86 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 % Petit Verdot and 2 % Merlot, aged 22 months in 66% New French oak. At 14.5% abv, it’s a powerhouse. The wine is  named for the owner’s son, no doubt destined to take over the winery at some point.  Muted nose, sweet/tart red fruit.

2014 Limited Selection Riesling $15 - This wine sees no oak. It comes in at a moderate 13% abv and is off-dry, with less than 1% residual sugar. The grapes were taken in an early harvest from the Home Ranch vineyard.  The nose shows a nice petrol note while a slightly sweet sensation comes on the palate. The acidity is good, but not overpowering. It’s a great sipper, and would hit it off nicely with a salad.

After the wine tasting, we crossed Highway 246 for a stop at the Vineyard House for lunch, in the cute and rustic downtown area of Santa Ynez. It had come highly recommended by a friend, so we had to try. They have a great outdoor seating area, but plenty of room indoors if the weather’s not nice. My chicken and brie sandwich was fabulous. The venison chile verde was a little soupier than I had hoped it would be, but the tomato soup is delicious, even if it was served a little less than piping hot.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure Wine Event

It was a perfect mid-February, Southern California Saturday for a trip out of Los Angeles.  We enjoyed sunny, warm weather as we headed north on the 101 Freeway toward Santa Barbara wine country.  We didn’t have to do much work - our car knows the way very well.  We were bound for the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure, amidst the windmills and wine bars of Solvang.

The Garagiste Festival began in Paso Robles, an effort to spotlight some of the many small-production winemakers in that region.  The festival’s name comes from the French word that describes small, maverick wine producers operating in garages instead of chateaux.  Most of the producers who pour at the Garagiste events have no “winery” - they buy grapes directly from choice vineyards and turn them into wine in unheralded, low-overhead locations.

Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick are co-founders of the Garagiste Festival, Lisa Dinsmore is the Event Director and Melanie Webber handles the public relations.  Billing their new festival as “the first and only event dedicated to celebrating and promoting the artisan winemakers of the Santa Ynez Valley,” the team has set their sights on further expansion.  They envision Garagiste events held all year long in various parts of California.  I can’t wait to hear where the next new entry will be.  They should all be as well-received as the first two.

The winemakers and wine tasters aren’t the only ones to benefit from the California Garagistes.  In January, Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture program got a check for $10,000 from the Garagiste Festival’s Paso Robles event, and the Southern Exposure version promises more to help pave the way for future winemakers.

The Artisans and Their Wines

Winemaker Ron Hill’s (right) 2009 Babcock Vineyard Pinot Noir ($44) shows black tea and cola notes, while his 2009 Grenache ($30) and 2009 Syrah ($35), both from Alisos Vineyard, are dark, funky and loaded with acidity.  His new Syrah rosé (barrel sample) has a nose exploding with candy and flowers.  It’s due for release in March or April.

Altman Winery
Winemaker Andres Ibarra crafted a 2008 Chardonnay ($16) with gorgeous, smoky fruit from La Presa Vineyard and acidity to burn.

Paul Wilkins makes wine for Alta Maria Vineyards and Native9, but he can’t get enough of it.  Autonom is his solo project, focusing on very limited-release Rhone varieties.  His 2009 “Law of Return” Grenache ($44) sports a 5% splash of Syrah and shows cherry and a hint of funk on the nose.  Nielson Vineyard fruit is lovely.  The 2009 Rhone Cuvée ($32) allows the Laetitia Vineyard Syrah to drive, with 30% Grenache riding shotgun.  Earth and bacon await.

C. Nagy
When Riverbench winemaker Clarissa Nagy (left) has some alone time with winemaker husband Jonathan, they make more wine.  The 2011 Bien Nacido Pinot Blanc ($25) is a pure joy, the 2010 Garey Ranch Pinot Noir ($48) is huge and dark and the 2010 White Hawk Vineyard Syrah ($30) shows some Southern Rhone funk.  Look for the 2012 Viognier in May, with tangy White Hawk fruit.

Center Of Effort
Named for a sailing term describing the most efficient point on a sail, COE gets winemaking direction for its Burgundian wines from Mike Sinor when he’s not busy at Ancient Peaks.  The 2010 Pinot Noir ($40) is extremely aromatic and bold on the palate.

Cordon Wines
Winemaker Etienne Terlinden (also of Summerland) says of his 2011 French Camp Zinfandel ($23), “I do this Italian style, picking the grapes earlier for a higher acidity level.”  It shows spice and vanilla on the nose and a slight bramble on the palate.  His 2010 White Hawk Syrah ($26) gives a lovely herbal scent with very dark blackberry flavor.

La Fenêtre
Winemaker Joshua Klapper (right, pouring in lower left) always seems to have the busiest table at every wine event where I see him.  I took the photo from the stage above him, in case I couldn’t get any closer.  Happily, I did squeeze my way through for a taste of his 2010 Bien Nacido Chardonnay ($39).  Eighteen months in French oak - 20% of which is new - imparts a butterscotch essence to the already smoky fruit.

Soft-spoken winemaker Kevin Law is not exactly a “born promoter,” preferring to let his wines speak for themselves.  A pair of Pinot Noir - 2011 Arroyo Grande ($28) and 2010 Presqu'ile Vineyard ($44) - are impressive for dark aromas and fruit.  Smoky on the former, fruity on the latter.  His 2010 Santa Barbara Syrah ($26) is dark as well, with a beautiful layer of acidity.

James Ontiveros worked hard to reclaim a portion of the land that came to his family as a Mexican land grant nine generations ago.  It’s mainly a cattle ranch now, but he has his dream of an eight-acre vineyard.  His 2009 Pinot Noir ($64) is very dark and laced with smoke.  The 2010 Pinot ($64) seems better integrated.

Refugio Ranch
Ryan Deovlet makes the wine for the Gleason family, and the 2010 “Tiradora” Sauvignon Blanc ($28) shines with just a hint of grass and great acidity.  The 2009 Barbareno ($42) is two-thirds Syrah, one-third Petite Sirah - extremely aromatic and loaded with blackberry.

Roark Wine Co.
If there’s anything to be said for being different, you can say it about Ryan Roark (left).  He makes Chenin Blanc, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  Oh, and something called Pinot Noir.  I love the savory edge on his 2012 Chenin Blanc (barrel sample) but his 2011 Malbec ($28) is all perfume and spice - lovely.  Roark told me his 2011 Cabernet Franc ($28) had no sulfur added to it.  When I asked if he was making a “natural wine,” he shot me a look that said he’d rather not open that 750ml bottle of worms.  He left it at, “I didn’t put anything in that wine.”  It is kinda dirty, kinda rustic, kinda spicy and kinda delicious.

Ryan Cochrane Wines
I like a guy who hits you with his clones while pouring the Pinot Noir.  Ryan Chachrane’s 2011 Pinot Noir sports clones 113, 116 and 667 from Fiddlestix Vineyard.  There's mocha on the nose and black tea on the palate.  Cochrane worried that the twelve barrels he made last year wouldn’t be enough even for garagiste status - but it was.

Seagrape Wine Co.
After Karen Steinwachs (right) turned around the wine program at Buttonwood Farms, they let her make a little something for herself.  Her 2011 Zotovich Vineyard Chardonnay ($25) has smoky tropical fruit defining it, while her “Jump Up” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($32) has an almost bracing acidity.  “That’s the Sta. Rita Hills,” she says.  “Natural acidity.”

Shai Cellars
Shawn Shai Halahmy poured an outstanding 2009 Grenache ($24) which has a big bouquet mixing cherry candy and coffee, with a nice tart edge on the palate.

Storm Wines
The 2011 Santa Ynez Sauvignon Blanc ($22) produced by Ernst Storm is a four-vineyard blend with lovely fruit and a slightly grassy note.  The 2012 Presqu’ile Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (barrel sample) shows a little more green.  Storm’s 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($40) carries the familiar smokiness of that area along with a floral element, while the 2010 John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50) is fruitier.

Tercero Wines
Every year about this time, Larry Schaffer is eager to share his newest rosé with me.  True to form, the 2012 barrel sample is a funkfest on the nose.  “That’s the McGinley Vineyard Mourvèdre talkin’,” says Schaffer.  Dry and delicious, it will be bottled in March.  The Tercero 2011 White Hawk Vineyard Viognier ($20) is loaded with floral aromatics and the acidity hangs in there despite the lushness of the mouthfeel.  His 2009 Larner Vineyard Syrah (barrel sample) has logged 40 months in oak and has an enormous nose to prove it.  Schaffer saw my reaction and smiled, “Yeah, I’m an aromatics kinda guy.”

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Monday, September 10, 2012

A Picnic At Rideau Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

Sometimes the best trips to wine country are spontaneous - off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment, play-it-as-it-lays explorations of the magic moments that seem to lie around every bend in the road.  Denise and I woke up recently and just decided to gather our friend Guido and head up to Santa Barbara County.  It’s not that long a drive from Los Angeles - a couple of hours - and the conversation in the car makes it seem like no time at all.

Most of my excursions to the nearby wine regions are well-planned, often to the last detail.  It’s nice every now and then to throw away the itinerary, and just do whatever comes next.  That makes it truly a getaway.

Entering Santa Barbara without any plan at all, we decided that lunch would be at a picnic table instead of a restaurant.  There was a brief stop at the Trader Joe’s just off the freeway to pick up some bread, cheese, olives and an avocado.  Then off to a Santa Ynez Valley picnic at Rideau Vineyard in Solvang.

I had been to Rideau before, and remembered how pastoral the picnic area looked when a wedding party was held there.  We had it all to ourselves.  Denise loves fresh food and cheese, and I think Guido keeps the Kalamata olive trade in business all by himself.  Throw in that beautiful avocado and a glass of wine, and everybody’s happy.

The Rideau Viognier 2010 is an unoaked beauty.  It has a really nice yellow-green tint and a bouquet of tropical fruit with some vanilla custard.  Very creamy in the mouth, yet with a nice level of acidity, the palate shows rich layers of pineapple and golden apple.  An excellent pair with the baguette and goat cheese, as well as the avocado.

For the same $36, Rideau also makes a Viognier in which just under half the wine gets five months aging in neutral oak.

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Monday, June 28, 2010


Rideau Vineyard

If you are casting about for a good old, down home food, wine and music event for the Independence Day weekend, I'd suggest you take a trip to Solvang for anannual summer BBQ .  Saturday July 3rd, 2010 is the date and the party will run from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The Rideau Vineyard tasting room is at 1562 Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang, right in the heart of the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.  Their phone number is 805.688.0717.
If you are not familiar with Rideau Vineyard , it was founded in 1997 by New Orleans native Iris Rideau.  She dedicated her vineyard to Rhone grape varieties in part because they are well suited to the terroir.  She also feels they go well with her beloved Creole cuisine.
Speaking of food, the menu for this shindig will feature BBQ chicken and ribs, red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, green salad, pecan cornbread and - a staple of any summertime get-together in the south - big, juicy watermelons.  The music will be in the jazz/blues vein from Lenny Kerley.
All this and southern hospitality, too, will cost $50, $40 for Rideau wine club members.  The price includes a wine tasting and a glass of wine of your choice.  If you are from the south and miss this kind of summer treat, it comes highly recommended.  If you are from some other geographical locale, this event will show you why people miss the south when they move away.
By the way, the Rideau wines are superb and the tasting room is as close to New Orleans decor as you are likely to find in the Central Coast.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tasting Notes: Rideau Vineyard Riesling 2007

The Bottle: The slender bottle would suggest either Mosel or Alsace, but it's clear glass. If they're breaking the rules, it must be California. Rideau is in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is the official address, although it seems to be closer to Los Olivos. This Riesling is labeled as La Presa Vineyard and cost $22 at the tasting room. The ABV is 12.1%.

The Nose: I get a nose full of flowers from this wine, a wonderful aromatic scent that I would say is honeysuckle, but might well be some other fresh and fragrant flower scent.

The Taste: It's a fairly sweet wine, as you might guess by the ABV. The flavors are honey and apricots, to my palate. Not a lot of acidity, so I didn't even try to pair it with food. I simply enjoyed it, sipping it on the deck after the wife and I came home from a hard days' labor through a half hour drive up Laurel Canyon Boulevard. It may be a sipper, but it's a good sipper. Good sippers are underrated, in my book. The price tag was a bit high for this type of wine. You could pick up a very nice Riesling easily for under $15 most anywhere. But it did serve to remind me of a very nice trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, and a very nice stop at a fun little tasting room.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mandolina Classico Toccata 2004

The Bottle: The second label from Lucas & Lewellen, Mandolina specializes in Italian varietals. This Santa Barbara County red is 45% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Freisa and 10% Merlot. It's made in Super-Tuscan style. Each component is aged 19 months in French oak before blending. The abv is 13.9%.

The Nose:
I get a fruit-driven earthiness. There are berries there of all kinds, it seems. They are accompanied by earth aromas, a leathery sense and a vague aroma of meat strikes me.

The Taste:
The Sangiovese is driving this train, obviously. It's one of my favorite varietals, but quite often I find it leaves the mouth less than full. Not this one. It's a big, juicy, meaty mouthful that is really irresistible. Very dark and earthy tones mingle with the blueberry and cherry flavors in a great way. Try it with the usual Italian fare, or just enjoy it on its own.