Several of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers to participate in panel at Museum of Natural History

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Six of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers will be panelists this Sunday afternoon during the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s final wine event of 2016.

“In the Beginning: The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country,” will feature winemakers Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat); Fred Brander (Brander Vineyards); Ken Brown (Ken Brown Wines); Bob Lindquist (Qupe); Lane Tanner (Lumen Wines) and Rick Longoria (Longoria Wines)

The moderator will be Antonio Gardella, a longtime Santa Barbara resident who has devoted much of his life to selling wine and educating the public about the joys of the vine.

Following the hour-long Q&A session will be socializing and tastings from 10 local wineries, as well as food from six vendors. Guests will have the opportunity to mingle with participating winemakers.

Clendenen: Robert Parker named Clendenen to his short list of “Best Wineries in the World” in 1989 and 1990, and in 1991, the latter was selected by Oz Clark as one of 50 creators of the world’s “Modern Classic Wines.” In the years since, multiple other awards have followed, and Clendenen continues to produce ABC, as well as several smaller labels, from the production facility he shares with Lindquist on Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria. Clendenen’s tasting room is in Santa Barbara.

Brander: While he is well documented as producing the best sauvignon blanc in California, Brander puts as much effort into small lots of several red Bordeaux grape varietals, among them cabernet sauvignon and merlot. He recently celebrated the 40th harvest at his estate vineyard/winery/tasting room in the new Los Olivos District — Santa Barbara County’s newest American Viticultural Area — and yes, he was a driving force behind getting recognition for that appellation.

Brown: This vintner was among the first to recognize Santa Barbara County’s potential as a powerhouse for pinot noir and chardonnay, especially in the cooler Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills’ AVAs. That was in the mid- to late-1970s. Brown and Lindquist were also the first to plant and produce, respectively, the syrah grape, in this county (at Zaca Mesa). Brown’s tasting room is in Buellton.

Lindquist: This winemaker has been producing award-winning Rhone grape varietal wines on the Central Coast since the early 1980s, among them grenache, viognier, roussanne, marsanne and, of course, syrah. Lindquist and Brown earned reputations for being the earliest winemakers to believe that syrah would become one of this county’s most widely planted varietals. A longtime Los Angeles Dodgers’ fan, Lindquist bottled a chardonnay and a syrah for the team and the public, releasing them to accolades and national press early this year.

Tanner: Along with Clendenen, Brown and many others, Tanner believes that the Santa Maria Valley is one of the hottest cool-climate spots for pinot noir and chardonnay wines — those that make the world sit up and pay attention. Tanner’s first vintage was in 1981, as an enologist for Firestone. Later winemaking gigs included Zaca Mesa and the Hitching Post, and in 1989, she founded her own Lane Tanner Wines label. Tanner’s latest project is Lumen Wines, a label she co-owns with Will Henry, owner of Pico in Los Alamos with his wife, Kali Kopley.

Longoria: “From the very beginning of my career,” Longoria says, “I felt that the Santa Barbara wine region had the potential to produce world-class wines, and it’s been very gratifying to see that belief realized over the more than 30 years I’ve been here. It’s also been very rewarding to have had the good fortune over the years to have some of my wines contribute to the acclaim of our wine region.” Longoria’s winery and tasting room are located in Lompoc.

Details on Sunday: Event takes place from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Fleischmann Auditorium at the Mission Creek campus of the museum, located at 2559 Puesta del Sol in Santa Barbara.

Tickets, limited to 100, are $75 for museum members and $100 for non-members, and remain available at www.sbnature.org/tickets

For more information, contact Meridith Moore, (805) 682-4711, Ext. 112, or mmoore@sbnature2.org

About the museum: Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History reconnects more than 100,000 people each year to nature both indoors and out. The Museum has 10 indoor exhibit halls that focus on regional natural history, including astronomy, birds, insects, geology, mammals, marine life, paleontology, plant life and the Chumash Indians.

The museum is also home to the only full-dome planetarium on the Central Coast, a research library, and the John & Peggy Maximus Art Gallery.

The Museum’s outdoor exhibit experiences include a nature trail, the Chumash Sukinanik’oy Garden, The Museum Backyard & Nature Club House, the Butterfly Pavilion — and a real 74-foot Blue Whale skeleton, which is visible from the road and turns quite a few heads.

The Museum’s outdoor nature experience at its Sea Center located on the historic Stearns Wharf. This facility provides the nearly 100,000 people who visit it annually a window to ocean life in the Santa Barbara Channel via interactive exhibits and close-up, hands-on encounters with sea creatures.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Venerable Central Coast Wine Classic grows into Santa Barbara County for 31st year

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WineClassicLogo-2016-date-hiOne of the Central Coast’s most enduring wine events and a major fundraiser for several nonprofits in two counties will this year expand into Santa Barbara County when it opens Wednesday, Aug. 10.

The Central Coast Wine Classic, now in its 31st year, comprises 18 events over the course of five days. Among those events are barrel tastings, live and silent auctions, symposiums, dinners, lunches and special tours and wine tastings.

One of most popular events is the Thursday dinner at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. That event is $1,250 per person.

The Wine Classic opens Aug. 10 with a barrel tasting of an array of California wineries from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Greengate Ranch & Vineyard in the Edna Valley, and culminates with a sold-out VIP Champagne Louis Roederer & Black Caviar Brunch in Santa Barbara at Stella Mare’s.

The dinner at San Simeon' Hearst Castle is one of the most popular CCWC events

CCWC photo/ The dinner at San Simeon’ Hearst Castle is one of the most popular CCWC events

As of last week, at least seven of the 19 events had already sold out, including the final brunch, all of the Friday evening dinners and the Edna Valley tour, also on Friday, said a CCWC organizer.

Archie McLaren is the founder of chairman of CCWC, and relocated almost two years ago to downtown Santa Barbara after residing in San Luis Obispo County for decades.

His employees say he holds the history of the CCWC in his head.

“I’m trying to be an extension of Archie’s brain” when it comes to organizing the multiday event, said Beverly Aho, one of McLaren’s employees since 2006 and a resident of Avila Beach.

Her colleague Robin Bort, who resides in Reno, calls McLaren “such a pleasure to work with. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, and is very kind and generous.”

Aho and Bord both volunteered for CCWC (Bort for 20 years and Aho for 10) before McLaren hired them to assist him with event organization and production. While they’ve been colleagues for more than a decade and work closely via e-mail and phone, the two women have “never met” in person, Aho chuckled.

Bort, her husband and a group of others teamed to found the annual Live Oak Festival that takes place in June at Live Oak Camp along the Santa Ynez River, she said. The Live Oak Festival continues to benefit KCBX to this day.

Bort is a graphic designer who just completed her 31st version of the annual catalog that showcases the live auction items available during the event.

There are 52 lots in the current catalog, viewable here at http://www.centralcoastwineclassic.org/live-auction.php

The lots are “a mix of lifestyle items and wine and are very unique,” Bort told me.

The Wine Classic caters to guests “from all over the world” who help fund Central Coast nonprofits with their auction purchases, Aho said.

She and McLaren personally speak to every potential guest interested in event attendance, she said, adding that organizers strive to offer “personalized assistance” to help guests decide which event is best suited to their tastes.

The centralcoastwineclassic.org website clearly states: “We do not offer online registration. You are more than a computerized payment to us. You are a valued guest!”

Guests will be transported to, from and between events via a fleet of buses, Aho said. (“Our bus schedule is crazy!”)

To reach Aho for tickets or additional information, call her at (805) 235-8130, or inquire via e-mail at sylphie333@yahoo.com.

While in its early days the CCWC was a fundraiser solely for KCBX-Central Coast Public Radio, more recently it has boosted the coffers of multiple nonprofit organizations in both counties.

Since 2004 when the Central Coast Wine Classic Foundation was created, CCWC has raised a whopping $2.5 million for 125 organizations that focus on studio arts, performing arts and healing arts, according to a news release.

Among the beneficiaries for 2016 are the Hearst Preservation and the Friends of Hearst Castle Foundation, the Léni Fé Bland Performing Arts Fund and the Boys & Girls Club of Northern San Luis Obispo.

Among the highlights of the 2014 live auction lots: 60 bottles of fine French red Burgundy that sold for $35,000; a 2014 harvest dinner for 24 people that was presented by Au Bon Climat and the Buellton Hitching Post restaurant, $24,000; a wine and culinary tour of French wine country for two people, $20,000; a dinner with McLaren and baseball legend Tim McCarver and a dozen bottles of rare wine, all the 1984 vintage, for $20,000; and a gourmet food & wine cruise for two from Singapore to Hong Kong for $15,000, according to publicist Maureen McFadden, handling media for McLaren for the fist time this year.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Bacon & Barrels’ opening night dinner showcased local fare, bacon, Biddle Ranch

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More, please? Best.appetizer.ever, this was candied bacon "cracker" with feta, herbs and grapefruit

More, please? Best.appetizer.ever, this was candied bacon “cracker” with feta, herbs and grapefruit

Bacon. Love it … or not. Actually, I am not acquainted with anyone who doesn’t eat good bacon like the end of the world is near.

I even have a friend who married a vegetarian and eliminated all meat from her diet. But here and there, she still indulges in bacon, because it’s the one thing she cannot live without.

To be clear, I don’t consume much bacon at home, but it’s a staple when I dine out.

And so I dined well at the VIP (“Very Important Pig”) dinner last Friday that kicked off the Bacon & Barrels celebration, held this year for the first time in San Luis Obispo County.

That evening took place at Biddle Ranch Vineyard, located on the road of the same name, just off Highway 227/Edna Valley Road.

Ryan Deovlet (of Deovlet Wines, and also of Refugio Ranch Wines) has been the winemaker at Biddle Ranch since the 2014 vintage. Chef Maegen Loring crafted the meal. She’s the owner of Maegen Loring Catering and a longtime favorite on the Central Coast for her knack pairing area wines with fresh, local fare.

The Biddle Ranch winery’s tasting room is surrounded by ample outdoor space that Bacon & Barrels’ staff put to good use that evening. The walled-in side yard, deck and courtyard protected us from the afternoon breezes as we commenced with appetizers and wines.

B&B Menu 7.15.16

First up was the Biddle Ranch 2015 Rosé, a delicate but flavorful blend of 60 percent sangiovese and 40 percent syrah. Soon making the rounds were paper cones full of popcorn dusted with chicharrones dust, a finger-licking delight when paired with the rosé.

Next in line came my favorite for the evening: Candied bacon “cracker” with whipped feta cheese, grapefruit and herbs. By this time, some of us had estate chardonnay in our glasses, which also married with this delightful bite of rich herbs plus savory bacon. Pure deliciousness.

The first course, steamed clams with butterbeans, pancetta, orange aioli and oregano showcased the freshest clams soaked with essence of orange and bacon sauce. The accompanying wine was the Biddle Ranch 2014 pinot grigio.

Then came second: Flatbread topped with chevre, prosciutto-wrapped beets and pickled greens, and paired with pinot noir.

The evening’s entrée was served with a 2014 syrah and featured bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with basil mashers and plum-blackberry salad. About those mashers? Yes, they were green, and I had three helpings …

… which meant I had zero room left for dessert: Bourbon-bacon pecan pie with orange caramel.

Other happy diners outside in the evening sun at Biddle Ranch

Other happy diners outside in the evening sun at Biddle Ranch

I appreciated Loring’s effort to keep the dinner “family style,” which for me translates to smaller servings all around. When meals are plated, one often ends up with too much food, which means we often overeat, and/or food gets wasted. Kudos all around to Loring and Holly Holliday, owner of Create Promotions, organizer of Bacon & Barrels.

 

 

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

 

 

 

San Luis Obispo County’s wine industry to honor leaders at California Mid-State Fair

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The wine industry in San Luis Obispo County comes together every year to recognize members of the region’s wine and viticulture community, and this year, awards will be presented Friday, June 22.

Wolff

Wolff

Peck

Peck

Thomas

Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards will be given to Jean-Pierre Wolff, Wolff Vineyards, Industry Person of the Year; Steve Peck, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Winemaker of the Year; and Bob Thomas, Mesa Vineyard Management, Winegrape Grower of the Year.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance — in partnership with the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association, the Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area, the Vineyard Team and past award recipients — worked together to identify the 2016 honorees.

His or her peers voted on each nominee for respective leadership and accomplishments across the county, recognized as the state’s third largest wine region.

“Each year the wine community looks forward to the Mid-State Fair as a time we can join our fellow agriculturalists in recognizing our leaders, innovators and visionaries,” said Jennifer Porter, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

“We are excited to honor these three men whose passion for San Luis Obispo County wine and quest for quality in the vineyard and winery is to be celebrated.”

The San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards event takes place at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 22, within the Mission Square at the Mid-State Fair.

The event is free (with paid admission to the Mid-State Fair) and the public is encouraged to attend.

Visit www.midstatefair.com for more information.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance represents wineries, growers and businesses in Paso Robles Wine Country, which comprises more than 40,000 vineyard acres and 200 wineries. For more information, visit www.pasowine.com

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Popular Bacon & Barrels makes San Luis Obispo debut this weekend, July 15-17

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Bottle Branding photos/Would you like bacon with your drink?

Bacon & Barrels celebrates four years of bacon-inspired food and barrel-aged libations with its San Luis Obispo County debut this weekend, July 15 to 17.

Holly Holliday, founding queen of Bacon & Barrels and owner of San Luis Obispo’s Create Promotions, parent organizer of this event and BubblyFest, relocated the popular event north from its early locations at Saarloos & Sons’ field in Los Olivos in 2013 and 2014, and last year, at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard outside of Solvang.

In 2014, just one year after launching Bacon & Barrels in Los Olivos, Holliday added a sister event every May since, in San Diego.

Bottle Branding photos/ Like creative food made with bacon? Bacon & Barrels is your new heaven

Bacon- and pork-belly inspired dishes will star this weekend at Bacon & Barrels

While general admission tickets remain available for this Saturday’s event at Madonna Inn Meadows, the coveted VIP (all-weekend access) tickets just sold out.

In the case of Bacon & Barrels, VIP stands for “Very Important Pig,” and guests who partake in that status take it Very Seriously.

VIP attendees will enjoy all three sections of Bacon & Barrels: Friday evening’s kick-off dinner at Biddle Ranch Vineyard House; early admission (noon) to Saturday afternoon’s festival at Madonna Inn Meadows with exclusive access to the lounge; and finally, the Buffet & Bloody’s Sunday Brunch at Sidecar, 1127 Broad St., also in San Luis Obispo.

The tickets that are still available (get yours today, as they will not last) include early-admission (noon to 5 p.m.) for the festival Saturday ($80); general admission (1 to 5 p.m.) ($60); and both categories of the designated non-drinker tickets ($30), for early and regular entry to the Saturday event.

All Saturday tickets include parking, a glass, live music, live chef and mixology demonstrations, and all food samples — while supplies last. You won’t leave hungry.

Those who pay to sample the libations get all of the above — plus everything alcoholic.

About those live demonstrations: Chefs from the hottest restaurants will prepare and proffer small plates starring the most creative forms of (what else) — bacon and pork belly. To pair with the nibbles will be drinks from brewers, winemakers and mixologists, who will offer bacon-inspired and bacon-based libations. You really cannot go wrong here, folks.

The Spazmatics will provide live music Saturday.

For more details on the entire weekend, visit http://www.baconandbarrels.com/schedule-slo/

Holliday notes that Bacon & Barrels is proud to support the Create Community Foundation, which provides grants and assistance to organization that serve at-risk youth. In addition, the festival makes it an annual goat to divert 95 percent of its trash from landfills via cutlery, napkins and cups that are biodegradable and compostible.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Larner Fête to feature food, music and seven wines from iconic Ballard Canyon vineyard

Winemaker Michael Larner and his family will open their private Ballard Canyon Road estate vineyard from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24, for the 2016 return of Larner Fête.

Providing the food will be Autostrada Wood Fired Pizza and Amaranto Catering, and musical entertainment will be by the Ruben Lee Dalton Band.

Tickets are $60 and available via www.larnerwine.com

The 2016 Larner Fete will feature seven wineries that source Larner Vineyard grapes. Pouring their wines will be Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz Wines; Scott Sampler of the Central Coast Group Project; Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs Wine Cellars; Mikael Sigouin of Kaena Wine; Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery; McPrice “Mac” Myers of McPrice Myers Wines; and Larry Schaffer of tercero wines.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Viticulture & Enology Program at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.

Since it was planted in 1999, the Larner Vineyard has provided grapes to winemakers across the Central Coast and beyond. Most of the wineries that purchased fruit as early as 2001, when the vines were first mature, remain clients of Larner Vineyard today.

More than two dozen winemakers produce wines sourced from the syrah, grenache, mourvedre and viognier grapes grown on the 34-acre estate vineyard.

Larner Fête attendees will be shuttled to the vineyard property from pick-up locations in Solvang and Buellton. Location details will be e-mailed to guests with confirmation of ticket purchase.

For more information, e-mail Emily Shirley Dixon, Emily@larnerwine.com

 

 

 

Winter Restaurant Week bringing dining specials to Lompoc Valley Feb. 21-27

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Restaurants in the Lompoc Valley will showcase their food and drinks during the inaugural Winter Restaurant Week, Sunday, Feb. 21, through Saturday, Feb. 27.

The Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau (LVCC&VB), the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance (SRHWA) and Shop Lompoc, Shop Small (SLSS) teamed to sponsor the seven-day celebration of culinary creativity in junction with the city’s restaurant and winery owners.

For $20.16, plus tax and tip, Winter Restaurant Week will allow dining patrons an opportunity to choose from a prix-fixe meal, a two-for-one dining option or a special event. Some eateries may also offer wine or beer pairings for an additional charge. Some will offer lunch and dinner, but others only one or the other.

We want people to come out to eat and enjoy themselves at a historically slow time for the restaurant industry,” said Ken Ostini, president/CEO of the LVCC&VB.

“Lompoc has some really unique restaurants with a wide variety of cuisines. We would love for out of town folks to come try us out and taste what Lompoc has to offer.

“There will also be opportunities to win a $25 gift certificate, as each participating restaurant will be awarding one at the end of the week to a lucky diner,” Ostini said.

For more information, contact the LVCC&VB at (805) 736-4567, Ext. 223, or email chelsea@lompoc.com

View the menus from restaurants at
http://www.lompoc.com/restaurant-week.html

Restaurants confirmed to participate include:

Alfie’s Fish & Chips

Bread Board Deli

Central Coast Specialty Foods

D’Vine Wine Bar and Bistro

Floriano’s

Herb Home

Jalama Beach Café

La Botte Italian Restaurant

Mi Amore Pizza & Pasta

Nikka Fish Enterprise

Pizza Garden

PJ’s Deli

QQ Aloha BBQ

Scratch Kitchen

Sissy’s Uptown Café

Tom’s

Village Burgers

Village Coffee Stop Cafe

Wild West Pizza & Grill

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Two Garagiste Festival winemakers share what makes Mourvèdre marvelous

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In anticipation of this weekend’s Garagiste Festival in Solvang, I decided to get some details about Mourvèdre, star of the show during Saturday morning’s seminar, “Digging Deep into Mourvèdre.”

I e-mailed questions to two of the three participating winemakers: Larry Schaffer, owner/winemaker of Tercero Wines, and Eric Mohseni, director of winemaking and vineyard operations at Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards.

Bob Tillman, owner/winemaker with his wife, Lynn, of Alta Colina Wine, will be the third participating winemaker during the seminar.

Mourvèdre, also known as mataró or monastrell, is grown widely around the world. Among its favored growing regions are the Rhône and Provence regions of France; in Spain; in Australia’s New South Wales and South Australia, and, closer to home, in Washington and across California.

In Santa Barbara County, the highest concentration of mourvèdre plantings can be found in the greater Santa Ynez Valley, specifically in the Ballard Canyon and Happy Canyon sub-AVAs, where temperatures top 90 degrees during the late summer and into fall.

That’s ideal weather for mourvèdre, which needs warmth and lots of hang time for optimal maturation.

Those attending Saturday’s “Digging Deep into Mourvèdre” seminar can look forward to an array of our region’s mourvèdre wines, according the organizers of the Garagiste Festival.

I asked Schaffer and Mohseni several questions about this up-and-coming grape varietal, long a favorite of mine:

Question: “I know Eric’s mourvèdre is estate-grown, but Larry, where do you source yours?”

Schaffer: “I get mourvèdre now from a plethora of different vineyards, depending upon what is available each specific vintage. The “constants” for me for my red wine are Camp 4 and Larner (since 2010), and Vogelzang Vineyard for my Mourvèdre rosé (since 2013).

“In 2013, I also got mourvèdre for red wine from Thompson and El Camino Real vineyards, and in 2014, from Zaca Mesa. My hope in 2016 is to receive mourvèdre from Larner, Camp 4, Zaca and perhaps one more site for red and Vogelzang for rosé.”

Mohseni: “We have had mourvèdre at Zaca for some time … the vines were grafted over in 1991, 1993 and 1999. We did a new, high-density planting of mourvèdre in 2008.”

Question: Give me a bit of background about the grape … Where does it thrive, and in what countries is it most heavily planted?

Schaffer: “Mourvèdre is native to Spain, where it is known as Monastrell and is second only to Grenache (or Garnacha) in terms of importance for red varieties. It hails from the Spanish town of Murviedro, near Valencia, and was most likely brought into France to the Provence region during the Middle Ages.

“It was a dominant variety in this region until Phylloxera hit the region and others in France in the late 1800s.

“It turns out that the variety proved much more difficult to graft to post-phylloxera rootstocks than other Rhone varieties, and therefore it was not as heavily planted in CdP, for instance, compared with Grenache. It’s also why the variety did and continues to do well in sandy soils, like Bandol (and Larner and Vogelzang).

“When mourvèdre was brought into this country, cuttings came from the area around Barcelona, where the grape was known as Mataro. In fact, to this day, on the California Grape Crush report, the variety is still called Mataro here in California.

Mohseni: “Larry nailed the background of mourvèdre!”

Question: Tell me your thoughts on working with the mourvèdre grape.

Schaffer: “Mourvèdre is both similar and dissimilar to other Rhone varieties that I work with. Like Grenache, it is very late ripening, making it a “pins and needles” variety in some vintages.

“But unlike any other red variety that I work with, the berries are not very turgid at all, and once cold soak begins, the skins begin to give way, making the cap more “mushy” than other varieties. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Because of this, the skins tend to stick to each other, and scents of volatile acidity at the beginning of fermentation, whether or not the grapes are innoculated, seem commonplace, but blow off once fermentation kicks in big time.

“It likes heat during fermentation, but too much heat can lead to reductive qualities, which can stick with the variety for a long time.”

Mohseni: “It can be a little of an enigma … It is a late ripener, but in some vintages it is the first to come out of dormancy and push. It has a nice growing season, but about a month before harvesting it can desiccate and have excessive “dimpling.” Not sure why … we watch closely and water accordingly, but regardless of water, it will still desiccate.

Since the grape has very thick skins, mourvèdre can weather the storms, so I don’t worry about it in tough wet vintages (not like we have had many of those). Usually as grapes ripen, the “meat” softens up.

“Mourvèdre tends to be “snotty,” or “pulpy” as I call it. Also, most vintages, I don’t see the seeds darken even at higher brix, so you can’t follow conventional physiological ripeness parameters.” 

Question: Grenache used to be a blending wine, and now look at it! Does the future hold the same for Mourvèdre? If not, why?

Schaffer: “Though it is “rare” to find mourvèdre bottled on its own in this country, it is common to see it done so in Spain. Here in the United States, one of the reasons it has not historically been bottled on its own is because it is challenging to “fully ripen,” and therefore ends up showing its meaty, earthy, funky qualities, ones that do not lend themselves to mass appeal.

“The challenge, therefore, is to find sites where it will ripen to the extent I am looking for and still retain the properties the variety is known for.

Mohseni: “I love blending with mourvèdre! It always helps the ZGris (from Zaca Mesa) and I love our ZCuvee when it is mourvèdre based. I lean to more savory and rustic notes, and mourvèdre is a perfect vehicle for that. It is not as bold and rustic as (mourvèdres from) Bandol.. California mourvèdre has more fruit.

Question: What are some of your favorite mourvèdres?

Schaffer: “That’s a good question. I like what Hardy Wallace is doing with his Dirty and Rowdy label, but his is a very different take on the variety — much lighter hand during fermentation, not a lot of extraction, more “delicate,” if that makes sense.

“I really enjoy the mourvèdres that Zaca puts out year in and year out; I’ve been a fan of Cris Cherry at Villa Creek, especially his last few vintages. I used to enjoy the Cline Old Vine mourvèdres, but have not had one in awhile. And Ken Volk certainly has made some great ones for a long long time. Oh, and a nod to Bandol in general.

Mohseni: “Cline, Tercero, Curtis, Tablas Creek and Bandol!”

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

 

Garagiste Festival ‘Southern Exposure’ returns to Solvang Feb. 13 & 14

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The Garagiste Festival, founded in Paso Robles in 2011 to introduce small-production, cutting edge winemakers to the public, returns to Solvang’s Veterans’ Memorial Hall Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 13 and 14, with two days of grand tastings, as well as signature tasting seminars on mourvedre and — to honor Valentine’s Day on Sunday — sparkling wines from the Central Coast.

“We are proud to continue our mission of bringing the best new garagiste winemakers to our audience and, just as importantly, bringing the story behind the wines straight from the winemakers themselves,” said Doug Minnick, Garagiste Festival co-founder.

The founders focus their efforts on winemakers who produce fewer than 1,500 cases of wine per year.

Featured will be ‘garagiste’ winemakers from the Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles, Napa and other regions. Proceeds benefit the Garagiste Festival Scholarship Fund at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department.

Garagiste (or “garage-east”) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot winemakers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules.”

Today the descriptor is a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world.

New this year is a drawing for two VIP tickets for Sunday, ($95) and a room on Valentine’s Day night at the Landsby, Solvang’s new luxury hotel. To participate, visit http://on.fb.me/1ZHwbpa

Tickets are available at http://garagistefestival.com

Early-access tickets for either day are $75 and provide entry at 1 p.m. General admission tickets to either day’s Grand Tastings are $55 each; the tastings run from 2 to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

For general information, visit http://www.garagistefestival.com

The Saturday (mourvedre) and Sunday (bubbles) tasting seminars will be moderated by Stewart McLennan, Garagiste Festival co-founder and radio host.

Saturday’s seminar, led by winemaker Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, will explore a variety of interpretations of an underdog grape beloved by many winemakers on the Central Coast. Other participants will be Bob Tillman of Alta Colina Wines, and Eric Moshseni of Zaca Mesa Vineyards. The three will explore the different styles of the Rhone grape varietal, and discuss why it’s one of the world’s most widely planted.

Sunday’s seminar, sponsored by BubblyFest, will focus on sparkling wines, aka ‘bubbles,’ and will feature three winemakers: Halcyon Wines’ Tyler Elwell; Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak Vineyards; and Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars.

Each seminar will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets to either seminar are only available as part of the VIP All-day Ticket, which includes a box lunch and early access (1 p.m.) to the grand tasting. VIP tickets are limited.

Winemakers already scheduled to pour include: Archium Cellars, Ascension Cellars, Baehner Fournier Vineyards, Bevela Wines, Brophy Clark Cellars, Carucci Wines, The Central Coast Group Project, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Clos des Amis, Coda Wines, Cordon Wines, Dascomb Cellars, El Lugar Wines, Graef Wines, Halcyon Wines, Iter Wine, Kessler Haak Vineyard, La Montagne Winery, Larner Vineyard, Levo Wines, Mallea Wines, MCV Wines, Millesime Cellars, C. Nagy Wines, Pace Family Wines, Press Gang Cellars, Rhythm Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Scott Cellars, Seagrape Wines, small + tall wines, Stirm Wines, STANGER/JP3, Tercero Wines, Travieso Winery, Trojak-Knier Winery, Weatherborne, West of Temprance and Workman Ayer.

Garagiste Festival Sponsors are Tonnellerie St. Martin, Glenn Burdette and Farm Credit West; hotel sponsors are VisitSYV.com and the Hamlet Inn.

 

“Winemaker as Chef” Aaron Watty displays duel talents in kitchen, cellar

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I’ll be honest: I’ve enjoyed multiple winemaker dinners this year, and each one was first-rate. But the most recent meal was made extra special by the fact that the winemaker, Aaron Watty of Big Tar Wines, was also the chef.

On Dec. 7, at the cozy Montecito Events Center (a former restaurant), Watty and his adorable mother, Kathleen Watty (aka “Momma Watty”), and guests enjoyed a multicourse “Winemaker as Chef” dinner and appetizers paired with Watty’s wines.

Watty, a native of San Luis Obispo, has a curriculum vitae that impressed me back when we first met in 2007 at Allan Hancock College in a enology class.

Growing up, Watty resided in Tahoe and Paris, and graduated from UCSB. While still a student, Watty worked in the fashion business in New York City, Milan and Paris. And then came many years in the restaurant industry, first in New York City and Miami, and then on the West Coast, in Truckee.

Upon his return to Santa Barbara County, Watty began waiting tables at Santa Barbara’s famed bouchon in 2006. To this day, he still works several shifts a week — that is, when he’s not making wine for himself or another producer.

Also in 2006, Watty began at Sunstone, where he worked in sales until 2008. Then he worked a year as wine director at the Wine Cask, and with Doug Margerum, making wine for Margerum Wine Co., for two vintages. Following came harvest and cellar stints with a custom crush, Sans Liege and Longoria Wines.

12.7.15 BT Char

Alaskan Arctic Char with a wild mushroom crust and on a bed of spinach paired with a Big Tar pinot noir

Watty launched Big Tar in 2012 with an emphasis on bordeauxs from the Happy Canyon AVA: A Three Creek (3C) Vineyards sangiovese, sauvignon blanc from McGinley Vineyard and cabernet sauvignon from Happy Canyon, and pinot noirs from both Rio Vista and La Encantada vineyards.

I tasted through his wines a year ago this month at a private tasting for small producers, and I was eager to see how they’d matured and developed in one year.

I know several winemakers whose talents in the kitchen match their skills in the cellar, and Watty is on that short list.

Sardines on toast paired with a Big Tar sauvignon blanc

Sardines on toast paired with a Big Tar sauvignon blanc

On Dec. 7, dinner guests gathered to sample appetizers: Bouqerones with peppers and olives, smoked sardines with cumin crema, olive, pepper and salami. Paired with these delights were Watty’s 2012 Three Creek Sangiovese and 2014 McGinley Sauvignon.

When guests seated themselves for dinner, Watty and his wait staff poured another sauvignon blanc, this one another 2014 from McGinley Vineyard, aged in neutral oak and bottled just three weeks prior to our dinner. It was paired with local black cod.

Watty purchased all of the meal’s vegetables from the Saturday Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market. From the arugula beurre blanc and white beans served with the cod, to the wild mushroom encrusted Alaskan Arctic Char, served on a bed of spinach, all the vegetables were first rate.

Chef turned winemaker turned fashion industry employee turned entrepreneur, Aaron Watty

Fashion industry employee turned winemaker turned chef turned entrepreneur, Aaron Watty

The char was delightful with the 2012 Big Tar La Encantada Pinot Noir, with the wine able to stand up against the spice of the mushroom crust.

The third course was three plates, and paired with three red wines: Roasted pork loin with prunes and potato gratin, paired with 2012 Happy Canyon cabernet sauvignon; char grilled leg of lamb with lentils francaise and carrots, paired with 2012 Cuvee Jean Murphy (named for Watty’s late grandmother); and to finish, Basque sheep cheese with membrillo and honey with black pepper, paired with the 2012 Rio Vista pinot noir.

Our table agreed that the lamb with lentils and the cuvee scored for best pairing, hands down.

Watty’s 2012 cuvee is 70 percent sangiovese from Three Creek, and 30 percent Star Lane Vineyard cabernet sauvignon, and very limited, as he produced just one barrel, or approximately 28 cases.

For more information on Big Tar Wines, e-mail Watty, aaron@bigtar.com, or visit http://www.bigtar.com