Showing posts with label festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festival. Show all posts

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rancho Mirage Wine And Food Fest Pix

Here are some pictures from the recent Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival.  They were taken by Marc Glassman of Glassman Photo and were supplied to me by a publicist.  She says that there were some concerns about the food samples running low during the event, which took organizers by surprise.  The organizer says he has made a note of that and the issue will be addressed at next year's event.

More than 200 handcrafted wines and cuisine from 15 of the area's top chefs were featured.  The event was put on by David Fraschetti, a full time resident of Rancho Mirage and the creator of the VinDiego Wine and Food Festival held in San Diego each April.

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, August 11, 2017

Discovering Wine At The Garagiste Festival

The Garagiste Festival is coming to Paso Robles in November, so save the date. The event features boutique wineries, small producers, with some extremely great California wine to pour for you. The festival's "Urban Exposure" was held recently in Santa Monica, and I was delighted to accept their invitation to attend.

Garagiste, in case you are wondering, is a French term (gar-uh-zhee-stuh) which originated in Bordeaux.  It described mavericky small-lot winemakers who didn't care much for following the rules.  These passionate vintners often whipped up their wine in the garage, or whatever space they had available to them.

What was once just a pejorative is now a movement.  Not that California winemakers operate under the burden of the sort of rules found in France, but these folks are considered renegades simply for daring to make their wine their way.

Nearly four dozen wineries which produce less than 1200 cases per year poured wines that people may not get a chance to taste very often.  Most of these small producers don't have tasting rooms, and their distribution is often spotty, if not non-existent. I didn't get to taste from every table, by a long shot. Here are the wines I sampled.

Ann Albert Wines - Santa Barbara winemaker Eric Johnson poured two first-vintage 2015 Chardonnays that both spoke to their origins. The one from Zotovich Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills had lemon-lime fruit aged in new French oak, $44. The one from Bien Nacido Vineyard showed the touch of earth and savory salinity I love so much from that farm, $44. He excitedly told me of the efforts of the Bien Nacido vineyard manager and crew that may have spared the vines from being damaged by a recent wildfire.

Brophy Clark Cellars - This Santa Barbara winery makes a 2014 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay with restrained alcohol and just the right touch of new French oak, $22.

Burning Bench Cellars - A Marin County boutique producer, winemaker David Mease poured a 2006 Pinot Noir from Moon Hill Vineyard that showed some lovely browning and savory tea notes. More recent vintages are big and fruity without knocking people down, $45.

Carucci Wines - Santa Barbara winemaker Eric Carucci's 2013 Viognier from the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard has a big floral nose and a savory/fruity palate, $30. His 2014 Grenache comes from a lovely warm-weather site, Murmur Vineyard, located between Santa Maria and Los Alamos, $38.

Chenoweth Wines - Sonoma producers Charlie and Amy Chenoweth concentrate on Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that are big and fruity, $65.

Cholame Vineyard - This San Miguel winery has Andres Ibarra making the 2014 Summer Shade Grenache Blanc, a standout at this event. Super salinity, super savory, huge nose and brilliant acidity, $24.

Coruce Vineyards - The Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, is not the first place one thinks of when Southern California wine regions are bandied about.  Winemaker Bob Balentine works magic with warm-climate estate grapes like Semillon and Symphony, $21, and Viognier, $25.  Big florals mark these appealing whites.

D. Volk Wines - Dana Volk was quick to point out that she's no relation to Santa Barbara County winemaker Kenneth Volk. I think her actual words were "Yeah, I wish!" On her own, she has made some wines to be proud of. Her 2016 Camp 4 Vineyard Grenache Rosé is a savory beauty, $22. Her 2015 Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir is lovely and elegant, $42. Her 2014 Syrah from Hampton Family Vineyards is a great warm-climate version of the grape, $24.

Tao Vineyards - Michael and Nikki McRory say they actually do have a few grape-growing neighbors in Agoura Hills, just over the crestline from the Malibu AVA. Winemaker B. Alan Geddes makes a 2016 Syrah Rosé that’s very good, $22; the 2015 Awakening Sangiovese that’s beefy, $26; and the amazing 2015 Mindful Merlot, that’s magic in a bottle, $38.

Theopolis Vineyards - Theodora Lee has to wake up feeling like the Maytag repairman sometimes. She's a female, African-American winemaker in the Anderson Valley, and she plays that role to the hilt. "Now, don't you walk away without tasting my Petite Sirah. That's my baby!" But, she's also proud of her 2014 Pinot Noir, unfiltered and elegant, $42, She calls her richly-colored 2014 Rosé of Petite Sirah a "summer red," and it's a great one, $24. Her 2014 Symphony makes one realize what a cool climate can do for that grape, $22.

Two Shepherds - Sonoma winemaker William Allen poured his 2014 Grenache Blanc from "down south," the Saarloos Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Graceful savory notes, $25. His 2016 Rosé of Grenache from Mendocino's Potter Valley is extremely pale and elegant, $25. The Two Shepherds 2014 Pastoral Melange Rhone Blend is an incredible North Coast mix of Mourvèdre, Carignane, Syrah and Roussanne. Unorthodox, but tasty. It’s light enough to take a chill well and would make a good BBQ wine, $24.

Vinemark Cellars - Thousand Oaks producer Mark Wasserman uses mostly eastside Paso Robles grapes for his remarkable wines. His 2016 Chardonnay is beautifully oakless, $24. Another great pink wine at this event, the Vinemark 2016 Grenache Rosé is awesome, full and earthy, $24. He does a nice Cal-Italian turn with the 2015 five-grape Buono Miscela, $35, and the light and breezy 2014 Mezzanotte of Primitivo and Syrah, $32. He says his 2014 Cab is his best ever, and it has the mark of Paso Robles all over it. $32.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Artisan Wine Of Santa Barbara County

There’s a great event coming in mid-February that showcases the small wine producers of Santa Barbara County - the Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure.  You may already know about the Garagiste Festival, held each fall in Paso Robles.  With two years under their artisan belts, the event has been hailed as a superb introduction to the boutique wineries of the Paso Robles AVA.  Now they venture south.

The inaugural Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure is set for February 16, 2013 in Solvang, CA.  Get details here and make plans to attend.

To promote the event in Los Angeles, a mini-tasting was held in January at Wood and Vine, a very nice restaurant and wine bar on Hollywood Boulevard near, naturally, Vine Street.  Several of Santa Barbara County’s small-production winemakers poured their wares at this small happening and showed why attending the main event is a must.

One of the founders of the event, Douglas Minnick, told me at this mini-affair that a lot of wine lovers from San Luis Obispo came in for the experience.  That’s a switch - wine country coming to Los Angeles for the day!

Here’s what I tasted:

Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines
Dan Kessler, Grower and Winemaker

Estate Chardonnay 2009, $29 - Eleven months in French oak feels just about right.  The wood plays beautifully in a well-balanced effort, despite a 15.1% alcohol number.  Grapes hail from the Kessler-Haak Vineyard 11 miles west of Buellton.

Dry Riesling, Lafond Vineyard 2011, $20 - These grapes come from 40 year-old vines, the first that were planted by Pierre Lafond in the early 1970s.  This wine is covered in fruity peach and minerals from nose to palate.

Estate Pinot Noir, Clone 2A 2009, $40 - The grapes for this wine come from one of the cooler areas in the Sta. Rita Hills.  Great cherry and cola aromas and flavors, and only 13.7% abv. .

tercero wines
Larry Schaffer, Winemaker

Grenache Blanc 2010,  $20 - This wine's amazing bouquet is slate-driven, while the palate shows a nutty minerality and wonderful freshness.

2011 Viognier, $20 - Grapes from White Hawk Vineyard are used here, producing a nose laden with honeysuckle and a palate bursting with pears, flowers and a touch of earth.  The acidity is quite nice, too.

Cuvée Christie 2008, $30 - The nose has an abundance of bright cherry and lavender, while cola notes mingle with the cherries on the palate.

Cuvée Loco 2008, $30 - Syrah and Grenache from Larner Vineyard combine for lovely floral aromas and flavors of cherry and raspberry, with a great acidity.

Shai Cellars
Shawn Shai Halahmy, Winemaker and Proprietor

Adome 2009, $30 - 65% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez Valley fruit from Tierra Alta Vineyard and the Jack McGinley Vineyard, respectively.  The wine spends 18 months in French oak and shows big, beautiful fruit with a touch of graphite and black pepper.

Grenache 2009, $25 - This is actually a Rhône-style blend from Estelle Vineyard that includes 15% Syrah.  It is aged for 18 months in French oak, and shows delightfully earthy cherries.

Adome 2010 - The next vintage of this brand will again feature 65% Syrah with 35% Grenache, in place of the '09's Cab.  I tasted a barrel sample that was showing brilliant fruit.  It should be even more complex when it's released later this year.

Frequency Wines
Almond Wasserman, Winemaker

Tierra Alta Syrah 2010, $26 - This brilliantly expressive wine would be worth the price just to smell it, if it didn't taste so good.  Chocolate, coffee and earth dominate the nose, while bright fruit flavors and a refreshing acidity take care of the palate.

Central Coast GSM 2011, $32 - Here's a CDP-inspired blend of 60% Camp 4 Grenache, 20% Colson Canyon Syrah and 20% Rancho de Cielo Mourvèdre, from Paso Robles' west side.  Earthy cherry aromas lead to black cherry flavors draped in minerality.

Camp 4 Grenache 2011, $38 - A nose of floral cherry and a palate of cherry and raspberry highlight this wine, made from grapes grown in one of the Santa Ynez Valley's most desired locations.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival

The first annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival, which was scheduled for January 26, 2013, has been postponed until April 20, 2013. In an email release on January 25th, event host Reyes Winery sent this message:

"Last night, the Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association announced the postponement of their 1st Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival and Early Morning Vineyard Hike benefiting the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital that will now be held on Saturday, April 20, 2013."

Winemaker and event organizer Robert Reyes said, "We must put our guests’ safety first. The ground is deeply saturated from the recent storm, which is predicted to continue for the next couple of days including the day of the event. These conditions pose too great a risk for our guests and make the much anticipated Vineyard Hike next to impossible. We will look forward to seeing everyone in April. I am certain we will have some very special additions to announce in our exciting lineup of activities.”

The email continues, "The Festival will honor all tickets and exhibition fees collected for the event from exhibitors and guests. Those wishing to retain their tickets for admission into the April 20, 2013 event can do so, and all requests for refunds will be honored."

This missive about the 1st annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival may cause you to wonder, “Where is this wine festival, and how do I get there?”

In case you don’t know - don’t worry, lots of folks don’t - the Sierra Pelona Mountains are not only a scant 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles, they are home to one of California’s more recently established American Viticultural Areas.

The Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association will hold their very first wine festival on Saturday January 26, 2013.  The festivities will occur at Reyes Winery, 10262 Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce, CA.  The official hours are 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but if you feel like making a real day of it, there’s an early morning hike organized.  Winemaker Robert Reyes will lead you up to the 4,000-foot level for a hawk’s eye view of the valley and the vineyards.

Reyes is not only hosting the event, leading the hike and pouring his wines - he will also have some of his own artwork on display, along with the works of several other local artists.

Robert Reyes is making some impressive wines at his frog farm-turned-winery - read about a few I tasted at last year’s Beverly Hills Wine Festival.

The Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival provides a great reason to get out of town for awhile on a beautiful Saturday - but it also provides a great way for Los Angelenos to explore the wine that’s right in their own backyard.

Here is the reason for the postponement, taken from the Reyes Winery website.

Who will be pouring:
Agua Dulce Winery
Alonso Family Vineyards
Antelope Valley Winery
Bacelar Wines
Coruce Vineyards
Chavez Vineyards
Diosa Tequila
Donna Harris Wine Biz
High Desert Cellars
Mike Rinn Wines
Mascari Vineyard in Bouquet Canyon
Mi Rancho Tequila
Montalvo Tequila
Naked Rebel Winery
Oreana Winery
Pulchella Winery
Reyes Winery
San Antonio Winery
Steve Hemmert Vineyards
Two Hearts Vineyards
Vampire Winery
Winehouse Vineyards
88 Tequila Co.

There will also be gourmet food samples:
California Bakery
Cheers At All Corked Up
Gourmet Blends
Dove Chocolate Discoveries
Gourmet Tamale Factory
Le Chene French Cuisine
Naked Juice
Mario’s Catering
Natcheryl Organic Café
PKs Chocolates
Pinch Me Seasonings
Roman Holiday Wine Lounge
Salt Creek Grille Catering
Truffles n Toffee
The Whole Wheatery

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The Garagiste Festival

Two things close to my heart will be celebrated in Paso Robles on November 12, 2011 - small wine producers and the Central Coast of California.  The Garagiste Festival is all about the wines of artisan producers in the broad expanse of the Central Coast AVA.  The event is to be held at Windfall Farms.

Garagiste, in case you are wondering, is a French term (gar-uh-zhee-stuh) which originated in Bordeaux.  It described mavericky small-lot winemakers who didn't care much for following the rules.  These passionate vintners often whipped up their wine in the garage, or whatever space they had available to them.

What was once just a pejorative is now a movement.  Not that California winemakers operate under the burden of the sort of rules found in France, but these folks are considered renegades simply for daring to make their wine their way.

Nearly four dozen wineries which produce less than 1200 cases per year will be there to pour wines that you may not get a chance to taste very often.  Most of these small producers don't have tasting rooms, and their distribution is often spotty, if not non-existent.

Cutting-edge winemakers like Jacob Toft, Mark Cargasacchi and Sashi Moorman will be there, and some of the Central Coast's most respected vineyards - Alta Colina, Booker, Caliza, Denner, Larner and Le Bon Climat, to name a few - will be represented.

This is the inaugural event in what should quickly become one of California's favorite wine festivals.  Get in the ground floor of this event and support the artisan winemakers of the Central Coast.

The consumer tasting will run from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 12th, 2011.  Tickets to the consumer tasting are $55, $65 at the door if available.  A VIP pass which also gets you into a couple of seminars and an after-party costs $100.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit young winemakers in the Wine And Viticulture Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

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Monday, July 18, 2011


MAS Vino at Eat Real Festival

The Eat Real Festival in Culver City, California was Saturday July 16th, 2011.  Billed as an opportunity to sample "real" food and drink, the festival offered a number of food booths and a food truck rodeo of sorts.

There wasn't a lot of wine to sample, however the Beer Garden was serving plenty of craft brews as well as a couple of taps devoted to vino.

I tried MÁS Vino Blanco - 90% Saivignon Blanc and 10% Sémillon, sourced from California's North Coast region.  MÁS Vino is based in Occidental, California, and they produce wine in mini tanks fitted with built in gas chambers which push the wine out.  The tanks keep the wine fresh for about two months, and hold the equivalent of about 15 bottles of juice.  It's a fairly green delivery method for wine, producing virtually no waste since there are no bottles to throw away or recycle.

Winemaker Tami Collins did a nice job on this one.  The wine has a pale, greenish tint in the glass.  The nose was a little hard to reach, since it was sampled at an outdoor venue with plenty of food being prepared all around me.  Aromas were everywhere!  I was able to pick up a slight grassiness, but it's not very pungent.  There was a little piece of grass in my serving, though.  You've got to love festival-style.

On the palate, green apples and grapefruit lead to a lemon peel flavor on the finish.  It's a medium-bodied wine and there is a decent presence of acidity.  Although not exactly bracing, the wine is definitely refreshing, especially on a warm afternoon.

MÁS Vino also makes a Chardonnay, Merlot and a blend of Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  Their website features a distributor page to help you locate the mini tanks.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010


Pasadena Wine Festival

The Pasadena Wine Festival was held Saturday October 9, 2010 at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.  I'm sure festival planners were hoping for weather more like autumn than summer, but it was summer they got.  Temperatures in the mid 90s and only a spot of shade to be found here and there - unusual, I think, for a venue with "arbor" in its name - caused afternoon wine lovers to bake in the hot sun.

Many long tables were provided where people were expected to rest their weary feet, but they were in the middle of the treeless plain.  Anyone found sitting there during the afternoon must have simply passed out there.

Even in the heat, people seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There were a few issues that I felt could be improved on for next year's event.  Here they are:

More wineries - The huge expanse of the grounds seemed to swallow up the dozen or so booths that were arranged in an open rectangle.  With only a few wines poured at each table, there just didn't seem to be that much offered.  France was represented by 4 wines, one of them Hob Nob.

Shade - If you can't find trees at an arboretum, can you at least bring in some umbrellas?  Nighttime visitors didn't have this concern.  To be fair, most people seemed to be having a nice - if hot - day in the sun.

Cost - The base admission price of $28 seemed to afford only entry to the grounds.  After that, it was pay-per-taste or upgrade to a VIP ticket.

Parking - $13 to park at Santa Anita seems pretty high, and that's what you had to pay if you got there after the Arboretum parking was filled, which didn't take long.

Volunteers - Their work was appreciated, but forget about finding out anything about the wines that were poured.  Winery reps - or at least volunteers who knew something about the wines - would have been a much better choice.

Bottles in the sun.Hot booths - The workers seemed to able to find shade as they poured, but the bottles of wine were sitting in the direct afternoon sun for hours before I saw some attempt at shading them.

Organization - Maybe it was just a slow start, but everyone seemed to be scrambling to get things done upon opening.  An hour into the event, I finally found someone who knew where to pick up the free stemware.

Food Trucks - A lot of the food trucks everyone loves were there, but at least one was charging more than the prices posted on their own sign.  After a customer complained, the sign was quickly taken down, but the customer was charged the higher price anyway.

Waste Buckets - Sure, with people paying for every sip, there probably wasn't much call for spit buckets.  But those who upgraded to VIP, and people who wanted to do all the tasting and still be able to drive home, were left without a nice way to dispose of the taste.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


California Wine Festival Tasting

The 2010 version of the California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara once again enjoyed a gorgeous July day as the framework for the ocean side wine tasting event which tops off the three-day affair.

Many of the top wineries in California poured their wares to old friends and new disciples.  The comments I overheard as I made my rounds were positive concerning the wines people were tasting, and the faces I saw were obviously having a great day in the sunshine and salty breeze.

With a limited time available for my tasting, I had to pass on many wineries I knew and loved, in favor of finding out about other producers with which I wasn’t so familiar.  Fortunately, staying away from some familiar names in favor of learning about some new ones was a good strategy.  I did make some wonderful new friends at this event and talked to some winemakers who clearly had a lot of passion about what they do with grapes.

I’ll briefly summarize what I tasted at the California Wine Festival here.  In the coming days on this blog, there will be more in depth articles about some specific wineries which I thought were special.

Abundance Vineyards - This Lodi winery run by the Mencarini family poured some of my favorite wines of the day.  I’ll write about them in greater detail soon.  For now, know that their white blend of Symphony and Sauvignon Blanc is luscious and nearly all their reds are mouth-puckeringly bone-dry.  Their ‘08 Bacio Dolce Carignane Dessert Wine is a show-stopper.

Bodegas Paso Robles - As their name suggests, Bodegas Paso Robles produces only Spanish and Portuguese varietal wines.  Their ‘09 Dona Blanca is a Grenache Blanc/Malvasia Blanca blend.  A pretty nose from the Malvasia is abetted by a lively, nutty lemon flavor which feels like the Grenache speaking.  The 2006 Graciano is produced using fruit from California’s San Benito County.  There may be only 10 acres or so of this grape planted in the US, so it’s a real rarity.  The wine is in neutral oak for two years and has a lovely raspberry taste.  The ‘03 Iberia is a field blend featuring Tempranillo, Graciano, Tinta Cao and Touriga Nacional.  The 2009 Rosado is 100% Tempranillo and has a strawberry flavor profile with some wonderful acidity.  More on this adventurous winery will be coming soon on Now And Zin.

Bridlewood - From Santa Ynez, Bridlewood poured their Central Coast Syrah.  Smoke and cedar on the nose join with a big fruity taste.  It’s dark and spicy, with 94% Syrah, 3% Petite Sirah, 1% Viognier and 2% other grape varieties.  The Chardonnay also has a bit of Viognier in it.  It’s fermented in stainless steel and a portion of it does not undergo malolactic.  As a result, there’s a fruity nose with crisp, refreshing green apples on the palate.  The minerals and acidity are wonderful.

Cambria -  This Santa Maria producer poured a delightful ‘08 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir.  Ten minutes on the skins - snicker, if you will, but that’s not really far off the mark - leave a pale pink that's earthy and light.  The Pinot Noir for which they are known has a light strawberry taste with earthy notes.  The Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 is buttery but not out of control.  Pear and vanilla make a delightful pair on the palate.

Cass Winery - From Paso Robles’ Templeton Gap, Cass brought some interesting Rhone styles to the table.  Their 2009 Roussanne is unoaked and floral on the nose with a tart nuttiness on the palate.  The ‘09 Oasis Rosé is off-dry, with under 2% residual sugar.  It’s a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache and shows a good strawberry flavor profile.  A nice warm-weather sipper.  The Cass 2008 Grenache is a 100% varietal wine, very light in color with a bright nose which shows the effect of the year it spends in oak.  The ‘07 Syrah, again 100%, stays in new French oak almost a year and a half.  It shows a lot of smokey fruit flavors.  Their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon has a touch of Petit Verdot in it.  There’s a strong graphite edge with some pretty chewy tannins.

EOS Estate Winery - This Paso entry has a White Cabernet Sauvignon, an interesting semi-sweet offering.  Their ‘08 Zinfandel is nice and earthy, showing tons of minerals.  The 2006 Petite Syrah has a delicious nose with chocolate and port aromas and a bright taste.  They advise pairing it with pork.

Gloria Ferrer Winery - The Va de Vi Ultra Cuveé had a beautiful nutty flavor and tiny bubbles with a long finish.

Harmony Cellars - The 2008 White Riesling offers a sweet jasmine nose and some slightly less sweet tropical notes on the palate.

Island Brewing Company - After all the dry wines the day kept bringing my way, it was nice to have a refreshing taste of beer now and again.  Island Brewing had a delightful English-style porter.  Its nose of burnt nuts leads me to expect a dark taste.  Instead, this ale has a surprisingly light and refreshing palate, and slightly hoppy.  It would be great while slaving over a hot barbecue pit.

Lone Madrone - An old favorite I couldn’t pass up, Lone Madrone was the last table I visited, and I really didn’t have time to linger.  That’s unfortunate, because their wines are wonderful.  I only had time to grab a taste of their 2005 Tannat.  The grapes for this wine come from the Glen Rose Vineyard on the west side of Paso Robles.  The almost unknown grape yields here a really big and dark wine.  It’s very dry and grippy; chewy as hell. - Not a winery, obviously, but an interesting idea.  They bottle sample-sized servings from different wineries and package them in a neat little box which can be mail-ordered.  It looks like a great way for people who are not located near a winery to be able to have the tasting room experience in their own home.  They are now serving California, with more states to be added soon.  I’ll be writing more about in the near future.

Toad Hollow Vineyards - A Healdsburg winery, Toad Hollow poured the 2008 Chardonnay produced with Mendocino fruit.  This wine undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation and is 100% stainless steel, so the fruit takes center stage.  The citrus nose leads to guava and lemon peel on the palate, with a big mouthfeel.  Their ‘09 Dry Pinot Noir Rosé stays on the skins for six hours.  It’s bone dry and features 100% Pinot Noir aromas of rose petals and an earthy strawberry taste.  The 2006 Merlot is 100% Russian River Valley fruit.  It spends a year in American oak and has a huge nose to show for it, full of spicy berry aromas.  The palate shows chewy raspberry in a fruit-forward display.  Toad Hollow’s non-vintage Erik’s The Red Proprietary Red Wine comes from Paso Robles grapes, the majority of which are Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Syrah.  Red fruit and leather dominate the nose, while the taste is very earthy.  There is a nice brightness coming through on the palate, too.

Union Ale Brewing Company - One of two brewers I tried, Union’s delicious stout is full of chocolate and coffee and incredibly smooth.  Their West Coast I.P.A. is peachy on the nose with a hoppy taste and a tart lemon peel flavor on the finish.

Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards - This was the only Temecula winery I tasted.  Their Golden Jubilee White Table Wine is a blend of Colombard, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.  It has tons of minerals on the earthy nose and a sweetish taste, with a rather short finish.  Temecula Red, a blend centering on Mourvedre, wasn’t brooding at all, but showed a very bright smell and taste.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with Wilson Creek’s almond-flavored sparkling wine or their Decadencia chocolate dessert wine.  The sparkler has a huge candy-like nose and is very sweet and extremely bubbly, with a finish that simply runs away.  The Decadencia smells like cough syrup and tastes like chocolate Schnapps.

Saturday, June 19, 2010



A lot has been said recently about the wines of summer.  For many, though, summer means beer.  Lager, amber ale, India pale ale, even a nice, cold porter - hot summer days seem to beg for them.  With plenty of hot summer days on the way, there is a Ventura, CA event beer fans will want to attend.

Salute!  is a celebration of craft beer and fine foods which will occur Saturday June 19, 2010 at San Buenaventua State Beach.  VIP attendees will have the grounds to themselves from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and general admission is from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  The ticket price - $60/$135 VIP - will buy unlimited tastings of some 300 craft beers and 100 fine food purveyors.  All the proceeds will benefit Food Share of Ventura County .
Live music will accompany the festivities and experts in various fields will share their knowledge.  "Dr. Bill" Sysak of Stone Brewing Company will offer insights on the incredible beer and ale his outfit produces, while contributions are also planned from Jerret Gilden, the Ojai Beverage Company's chef, as well as Belgian beer experts John Fincioen and Claudine Von Massenhove and the director of "Beer Wars," Anat Baron.

Taste treats, music, experts and a beachside setting should make for an interesting afternoon in Ventura.  If you are there for the official kickoff between noon and 1:00 p.m., say hello to DJ Perry from local rock radio station The Octopus 95.9 FM, who is slated to help get the whole thing off to a rockin' start.