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

Precision Ag Consulting, Wine Communications Group finalize deal for Central Coast’s WiVi Industry Conference

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The owners of Paso Robles’ Precision Ag Consulting, who co-founded the WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference and Tradeshow, announced Tuesday that they have finalized a buyout with The Wine Communication Group, owner of Wine Business Monthly, for the annual March event.

The two companies founded WiVi in 2012 in an effort to create a regional wine industry conference and tradeshow on the California Central Coast, and it has grown into the largest industry event south of San Francisco. Lowell and Becky Zelinski own Precision Ag, a viticulture consulting company.

The partnership between the two companies was formed in an effort to expand the Zelinski’s former viticulture production conference into an industry-wide event, according to a news release.

The fourth-annual WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference and Tradeshow will be March 15 and 16, 2016, at the Paso Robles Event Center.

“This buyout is the fulfillment of a plan we put in place with Becky and Lowell over three years ago,” said Eric Jorgensen, president of Wine Business Monthly. “We are thrilled with the success of WiVi. Becky and Lowell have done a remarkable job and we thank them for their efforts.”

Becky Zelinski noted that it was always the intent of both companies that Wine Business Monthly would ultimately buy the show.

“We are pleased with the success of WiVi and excited that our collaboration with Wine Business Monthly allowed us to achieve our goal of creating a premiere educational forum for the Central Coast wine industry. We have always considered Wine Business Monthly our industry’s premiere trade publication and knew that teaming up with them would be a win-win situation. We know that WiVi is in good hands with Wine Business Monthly at the helm. We will continue to work with them to grow and promote the show and plan to remain advocates for WiVi because we think it is a great resource for our industry,” Zelinski said.

The transaction is expected to close in November and terms were not disclosed, according to the news release.

Wine Communications Group Inc. is an information and services provider for the global wine industry. As publishers of www.winebusiness.com, the leading website for the trade, and two of the industry’s leading print publications, Wine Business Monthly and Wines & Vines, they are dedicated to meeting the wine industry’s needs for information, analysis, resources and tools.

The Zelinski’s Precision Ag Consulting is an agricultural consulting company that specializes in vineyard management, viticulture production consulting, soil fertility and irrigation management, and ag waiver compliance on the California Central Coast.

The company is owned by Lowell Zelinski, who has doctorate degree in soil-plant-water relations from the University of California, Davis, and more than 35 years of experience in agriculture. Becky Zelinski manages the business. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and more than 25 years of experience in business administration, marketing, public relations and event management.

As a two-day conference, WiVi includes educational seminars with a regional focus on viticulture, winemaking and DTC/winery marketing addressed by today’s top industry leaders, as well as a one-day tradeshow featuring nearly 200 exhibits showcasing new products and innovative tools.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Dreamcote Wine Co. releases hard cider by the growler, plans cider expansion

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Winemakers Anna Clifford and Brittany Zotovich always have something new up their collective sleeves.

The two, the minds behind Dreamcote Wine Co., this year produced small batches of hard apple cider, which will be formally released this Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Dreamcote Fall Wine Release party, along with a new grenache, sausages and small-batch mustards and yes, guests wearing lederhosen.

In North America, “cider” is unfiltered apple juice. Beverages such as Dreamcote’s are known as hard cider, as they are fermented. While alcohol levels vary, they’re usually below 10 percent. Dreamcote’s is at 7 percent.

I caught up with the ever-affable Zotovich earlier this week in Buellton at Terravant Wine Company, where she is senior director of sales/winery services.

Dreamcote's cider is available at select eateries and via the Los Olivos tasting room and can be purchased by the bottle or growler

Dreamcote’s cider is available at select eateries, via the Los Olivos tasting room and can be purchased by the bottle or growler

For several months, Dreamcote’s 100-percent apple cider has been available by the bottle, but only recently have Clifford and Zotovich also made it obtainable via 2-liter growlers, poured straight from the keg.

The Dreamcote cider can be found at Scratch Kitchen in Lompoc and Industrial Eats in Buellton, as well as at a couple of Los Angeles accounts, where sales “are cranking,” Zotovich said.

She and Clifford are enthusiastic about experimenting with “cider trials” when they produce another batch in the next few months, and, Zotovich added ,“we hope to evolve into a line of seasonal and fruit ciders,” such as one made with apricots.

She discovered new inspiration by attending the Cider Summit in Portland last June. The Northwest Cider Association sponsors the two-day event in the food/wine/craft beer/spirits-savvy city. Zotovich returned home full of ideas and with a bright tank (vessel for secondary fermentation of beer or cider) in the back of her truck.

While Portland is a metropolis, it showcases an entrepreneurial spirit reminiscent of a smaller town, and encourages hand-crafted goods of all types. The earnest and enterprising Zotovich took note.

“I want to bring Portland down here as much as possible!”

Dreamcote’s Fall Wine Release Party will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Los Olivos, 2933 San Marcos Ave. (down the street from the corner of San Marcos and Alamo Pintado avenues).

 

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Deborah Hall of Gypsy Canyon Winery initiates Indiegogo campaign to rescue Thailand’s abused dogs and cats

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Facebook is full of sad stories about humanity and homeless animals, so when Deborah Hall of Gypsy Canyon Wines first read about Thailand-based Soi Dog’s plea for funds to help it rehome abused dogs and cats, she was skeptical.

At first, “I didn’t trust the legitimacy of the organization,” she said.

But Hall spent time researching the nonprofit organization, headquartered in Phuket, and was so moved by its efforts to save animals destined for the meat industry that she and friend traveled to Phuket for two weeks last year to lend a hand and learn more.

While in Thailand, “we toured the worst shelter in the world — in Bangkok,” Hall explained. Dogs and cats were packed like sardines into cages that hung from the ceiling, their feces and urine covering the floor in a fetid mess that one needed heavy boots to navigate.

And so was hatched Hall’s own effort to save Thailand’s animals, one dog or cat at a time.

“I named it ‘Ground Boots’ because we needed boots to walk in the filth,” she recalled. Her inspiration: “You put on a pair of boots and get to work. And make a difference.”

Ground Boots’ mission statement is clear: “Drink great wine, change the world.”

Working with Soi Dog in Phuket last year, Hall encountered a young male dog that had been rescued from the streets. He had suffered broken bones nearly too numerous to count, including his left hip, both legs and his pelvis. His right rear leg, shattered beyond repair, had to be amputated at the hip.

Hall rescued Ting from Thailand last year. Despite having three legs, Ting is cheerful and happy to have found his forever home with Hall

Hall rescued Ting from Thailand last year. Despite having three legs, Ting is cheerful and happy to have found his forever home with Hall

Hall named him Ting, and when she returned to her Sta. Rita Hills home, so did Ting.

To call Ting her daily inspiration would be underestimating Hall, for she exudes passion and a calm, fearless determination to help. “I wanted to do something from home,” and to make a difference, “you always start in your own backyard,” Hall told me.

In her backyard, Ting has blossomed into a outgoing pooch and plays with Hall’s three other dogs, two of which sat on either side of me on Hall’s couch during our interview.

Throughout this month, Hall and Ground Boots have a campaign via the “food” link on https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/drink-great-wine-change-the-world#/story

In 17 days, 60 people have helped raise more than $10,000, according to the web page this morning. The goal is $25,000.

The featured wine is a 2012 Santa Barbara County pinot noir bottled by Hall specifically for Ground Boots. Its label features whimsical artwork of a dog and cat, entitled “Jack along with Cookie and Judy,” donated to the effort by artist Donald Roller Wilson, Hall said.

Wilson’s offer of the use of his art was a lesson for Hall in the graciousness of humankind, she recounted: “You don’t know unless you ask.” And asking Wilson “was a shot in the dark.”

The purchase of one bottle of Ground Boots' pinot noir will fund spaying or neutering and vaccinations for three dogs or cats

The purchase of one bottle of Ground Boots’ pinot noir will fund spaying or neutering and vaccinations for three dogs or cats

Hall will donate 100 percent of the profits beyond her costs, which include the wine itself, the printing of the labels, the bottles and corks, she said.

The funds from the sale of one bottle ($70) will fund a spay/neuter session, vaccinations and medicine for three dogs or cats rescued by Soi Dog.

One case of wine will pay for an undercover effort by Soi Dog to bust and arrest those who traffic dogs for the meat industry, Hall said.

The purchase of five cases will make an ever bigger dent: “That money will sponsor a week-long effort by Soi Dog to hold a spay/neuter clinic within a village, and cover the costs of two veterinarians, two nurses and two dogcatchers,” Hall explained, adding that such clinics are typically held within a temple.

She plans to return to Phuket and Bangkok this fall to give Soi Dog the funds from her campaign, and to once again lend a hand in the shelters.

Hall is well aware that her Ground Boots is not the greater wine industry’s first attempt at raising funds for nonprofits, but pointed out that most others don’t donate 100 percent of their above-cost profits, only a portion.

As founder, proprietor and winemaker for Gypsy Canyon Winery, Hall keeps production for that label below 500 cases annually. Her estate vineyards comprise nine acres; total acreage of her property is 130.

After buying the remote Gypsy Canyon site in 1994, Hall and her husband, William, and their two young children relocated from Los Angeles to the property in 1997. William long had dreamt of planting a small vineyard on their property, Hall recalled.

A healthy cluster on one of the ancient Mission grape vines on Hall's Gypsy Canyon property. In the left foreground is the trunk of a nearby vine; many have grown parallel to the ground over time

A healthy cluster on one of the ancient Mission grape vines on Hall’s Gypsy Canyon property. In the left foreground is the trunk of a nearby vine; many have grown parallel to the ground over time

After buying the property, but before moving to it fulltime, the family discovered a three-acre hillside vineyard buried beneath an overgrowth of sagebrush on the southern edge of their property.

In 1996, the Halls, still commuting back and forth between their home in Los Angeles and the property, began to restore the vines.

In 1997, Bill succumbed to multiple myeloma, but Hall continued to pursue her husband’s dream of a small vineyard, and in 1999, she and her children planted pinot noir in a flat site below the vineyard of ancient historic vines.

After initially believing the hillside vines to be zinfandel, Hall had them DNA tested, and discovered that the head-trained vines, which today are nearly 130 years, old grow Mission grapes — the oldest grapes in Santa Barbara County.

She named the hillside of gnarled vines Marcelina’s vineyard to honor the first woman winegrower in Santa Barbara County, Dona Marcelina Felix Dominguez. In researching the history of her vineyard, Hall learned of the pioneering female grower, and of the Mission padres and their attempts at making wine from Mission grapes, as well.

In the early years following the first harvests of both the new pinot noir and Mission vineyards, Hall said she sold all of the fruit to other area winemakers. But more than 10 years ago, decided to follow her heart and funnel her passion for the canyon land into the label she named Gypsy Canyon.

In addition to using the Mission and pinot noir grapes, Hall makes chardonnay sourced from Bien Nacido and Brewer-Clifton vineyards, she said.

From the Mission grapes, Hall produces about 50 cases of Ancient Vine Angelica ($150 per bottle) that she ages in barrel for five years. She bottles the beautiful, amber-hued dessert wine in hand-blown, half bottles adorned with a hand-made paper label, and seals them with beeswax harvested from the bees on her ranch.

Copyright by Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

 

Ron Hill of Orcutt-based a-non-ah-mus wines only thinks he’s anonymous

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Although he is currently in the thick of harvest with most of the Central Coast’s other winemakers, Ron Hill took time early in August to taste me through his new releases.

Hill is the owner and winemaker of a-non-ah-mus Wines, based in Orcutt at C2 Cellars. I last wrote about Hill prior to the March 2014 Southern Exposure Garagiste Festival.

Photo by Jane Kennedy Adams/Ron Hill at a private tasting earlier this summer.

Photo by Jane Kennedy Adams/Ron Hill at a private tasting earlier this summer.

After he increased the a-non-ah-mus case production from about 340 cases in 2013 to 500 in 2014, Hill now is content to “stay small.” That way, he can keep overhead and labor low (or non-existent, if he utilizes the help of friends), and enjoy total quality control over his wines from vine to bottle.

That said, Hill has plans to open his first tasting room, in hip Los Alamos, by year’s end.

In August, we sat out on Hill’s back patio with his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Jack and Lily.

His newest releases include a 2014 viognier, 2014 grenache blanc, 2014 rosé of syrah and a 2013 pinot noir. Still available are older vintages of syrah and grenache; visit http://www.anonahmus.com

If you’ve met Hill, I’m sure you’ll agree that his personality — humble and serious with a side of playful — means that he’s a lot of fun to interview.

Which means that I’ve won the lottery, story-wise, as Hill last week agreed to let me “shadow” him for the next year, harvest to harvest.

I hope these series of stories will be as fun for you, gentle reader, as they are for me to turn out. My goal is to share a glimpse into the true life of a smaller-production winemaker, mud, sweat, tears and all.

But back to those new vintages:

Bottled in June, the 2014 a-non-ah-mus Viognier, sourced from Curtis Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, is elegant and displays vanilla and rose on the palate. Hill aged this wine in all stainless steel and allowed it to go through partial malolactic fermentation. It’s a beauty. Only 44 cases produced.

The 2014 a-non-ah-mus Grenache Blanc is a beauty of a wine, and pairs smashingly with cheese.

The 2014 a-non-ah-mus Grenache Blanc is a thing of beauty

If his new viognier numbers just 44 cases, Hill’s 2014 a-non-ah-mus Grenache Blanc production is only slighter higher, at just 48 cases, also roughly two barrels’ worth. So I have five words for you: “Get. It. Before. It’s. Gone.”

I’m a fan of stellar Grenache Blanc, having cut my teeth on Kris Curran’s trail-blazing version of this Rhone grape varietal many years back. I think Hill’s 2014 comes closest to the distinction that Curran’s still showcases, vintage after vintage.

Hill is pleased at this, his first attempt. “I’m very happy with this style of grenache blanc,” he said.

The vineyard from which Hill sourced this wine is a small one across from Larner Vineyard in the Ballard Canyon AVA. Rancho Boa Vista grows only grenache, syrah and grenache blanc, Hill noted.

This wine displays one of the longest and prettiest finishes I’ve encountered in quite some time. When Hill offered me half a bottle to take home after our tasting, this wine was my choice.

Hill, who notes on his website how, years ago, he was “taken under the wing of a group of winemaking cicerones” when he lived in San Jose, relocated to the Central Coast to focus on wine and landed an internship at Babcock Winery in 2001.

He stayed there 10 years, he wrote, having “gained the knowledge that in the craft of winemaking, there is always more to learn.”

Hill founded his own label in 2007, and utilized Babcock’s equipment and space to produce his wines there through the 2010 vintage, he said.

The third wine we sampled is Hill’s 2014 Rosé of Syrah, of which there are 41 cases. I’ve enjoyed several vintages of this rosé, having first tried it at a Garagiste Festival, and am just as enamored with this new vintage.

To me, rosés are more than “summer” wines: They represent everything that’s wonderful about life — time with friends enjoying cheese and crackers before a great meal. Because of their natural higher acidities, Rosés also pair well with rich meals, such as those we eat at Thanksgiving.

Last in our lineup was Hills’s 2013 a-non-ah-mus Pinot Noir. It stands out for many reasons, not the least of which is the label: It’s white (all other a-non-ah-mus wines sport a black label), and there’s a twist on the name — it’s “Anonymous.” By a-non-ah-mus.

On his website, Hill writes: “Grapes sourced from a vineyard that must remain anonymous are in our first release of our white label.”

Hill was offered leftover pinot noir grapes from a prominent vineyard. How could he say no? He said yes, and produced this gorgeous pinot noir. My notes: “Fruity, lighter, sexy and pretty.”

The wine is clone 667, and Hill fermented it utilizing 15 percent whole clusters and aged in for 20 months in 25-percent new French oak barrels.

He made 76 cases of this pinot noir, and sells it for $29 per bottle.

So there you have it: Four new releases from Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus wines. How long can Hill remain anonymous?

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

‘Bubblyfest by the Sea’ returning with parties, dinner, seminars and glamour

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Following sold-out inaugural events at Pismo’s Beach’s 2014 Bubblyfest by the Sea and the Pop-Up BubblyFest in San Francisco last April, organizers are gearing up for a sell-out year two from Oct. 2 through 4 in the seaside town of Pismo Beach. “Bubblyfest by the Sea is an upscale, educational, dedicated sparkling wine and Champagne event, with a touch of humor thrown in,” said Holly Holliday, event producer.

Jeremy Ball/Bottle Branding The debut Bubblyfest by the Sea last year. This year's event returns to the ocean front setting at SeaCrest in Pismo Beach

Jeremy Ball/Bottle Branding
The debut Bubblyfest by the Sea last year. This year’s event returns to the ocean front setting at SeaCrest in Pismo Beach

Bubblyfest will return to the ocean front SeaCrest Hotel, located at 2241 Price St.

Ticket sales opened in February, and while VIP tickets were snapped up within a week, a few remain available for the Grand Tasting Saturday, as well as Friday’s excursion, dinner, seminars and cocktail party, Holliday told me today.

Visit http://www.bubblyfest.com/schedule-of-events/ for details on each event from Friday through Saturday.

All bubbly, all the time. Organizers expect the weekend event to be another sell-out.

All bubbly, all the time. Organizers expect the weekend event to be another sell-out.

New this year is the Sparkling Wine “Excursionar,” a chauffeured field trip to Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, a local specialist in sparkling wines. Attendees will enjoy an extremely rare tour of the famed production facility, and will taste through and learn about the nuances of all seven of Laetitia’s sparklers with winemaker Dave Hickey in the vineyard during the winery’s harvest activities.

David Glancy, Friday’s seminar facilitator, is the founder and chief education officer of the San Francisco Wine School, and one of just 12 people in the world to pass both the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Master Exam (MS) and the Society of Wine Educators’ Certified Wine Educator exam (CWE).

The San Francisco Wine School offers professional wine studies, among them the French Wine Scholar (FWS), Society of Wine Educators’ programs (SWE) and the California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS).

Glancy also heads SFsommelier Consulting and sits on the editorial advisory board of Sommelier Journal.

Glancy will “lead” participants to the Champagne region for an educational tasting on the history of Champagne and the new age of California Sparkling wines, Holliday said.

The winemaking panelists are Clarissa Nagy of Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, Tyler Elwell of Halcyon Wines and Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars. They will discuss vintages, growing conditions, terroir and winemaking styles between the “Old Guard” and “New Guard,” Holliday said.

More information:

Web and tickets: www.bubblyfest.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bubblyfest
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bubblyfest

 

Wine & Fire 2015 highlights Sta. Rita Hills’ chardonnay, pinot noir and grilled meat

Wine & Fire, the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers’ Alliance annual event, returns to the AVA this weekend, Aug. 14-17, with a barn party Friday evening, a namesake “fire” barbecue seminar Saturday morning and the grand tasting at La Purisima Mission late that afternoon.

More than 40 of the SRHWGA vineyard or winemaking members will participate in the three main events, and most will also offer open houses and special tastings throughout the weekend.

The AVA comprises 30,720 acres, with 2,700 acres planted between 59 vineyards. Most common are pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, but 18 other cool-climate varietals also thrive. Visit http://www.staritahills.com/appellation/ for a map of the appellation.

Kimberly Spies Photography/ Guests at the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party relish the gorgeous view of the Sta. Rita Hills from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard historic barn

Kimberly Spies Photography/
Guests at the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party relish the gorgeous view of the Sta. Rita Hills from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard historic barn

Wine & Fire 2015 opens Friday evening with the Barn Party, held for the third year in a row at the old Sanford & Benedict barn, standing on a hillside in the historic vineyard on Santa Rosa Road. The venue offers a breathtaking view of some of the most celebrated vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

Friday’s event will feature large format and library wines from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, as well as fire-grilled pizzas from Bello Forno, and music by the Caverns.

Putting the “fire” back in Wine & Fire is the debut Saturday morning of the “BBQ Blast” seminar, also at the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard barn.

That event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Joe Padilla of Terravant Wine Company is the master of ceremonies, said Barbara Satterfield, executive director of the SRHWGA. With the weekend’s renewed focus on grilling, four of the region’s hottest barbecue chefs will share with seminar participants their hot tips on four different wood-fire cooking techniques. The four are Steve Clifton, Rodrigo Gimenez, Frank Ostini and Matt Toll. Following the “fire” presentation, “wine” will be added to the mixture as select SRHWGA members team up with the four chefs to pair their wines with the barbecue for seminar guests.

The four teams:

Steve’s Rogue Vineyard Team: This team will be led by Clifton, the area’s local expert on everything Italian (via Palmina Wines), as well as world-class pinot noir and chardonnay (via Brewer-Clifton Wines), will “rock the art of wood-fired flat breads” with the use of his pizza oven, Satterfield noted. Pairings: Selected wineries.

Clos Pepe Vineyard Team: Born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina, Rodrigo Gimenez grew up enjoying fire-roasted meats. The Argentine barbecue technique was cultivated over hundreds of years by that nation’s gauchos. Pairings: Clos Pepe Vineyard wines produced by Ken Brown, Clos Pepe and Liquid Farm. Gabe Saglie, noted TravelZoo editor and writer and one of my wine-scribe compadres, will round out the team.

Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Team: Frank Ostini, owner and chef at the Hitching Post II Restaurant, specializes in open-pit red oak barbecue, a Central Coast classic style that is gaining attention nationwide. Ostini, co-owner with Gray Hartley of Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post wines, travels the country representing our local food and wine mecca when he’s not making wine or fantastic barbecue. Pairing: Wines from Stanford & Benedict Vineyard, led by winemaker Steve Fennell of Sanford Winery; Shawn Burgert, Wandering Wino blogger and radio host; and the wines from Hitching Post Wines.

Zotovich Vineyard Team: Matt Toll of Tollhouse BBQ focuses on the long, slow cook with his own dry rub spices and a big rig smoker. Timing is everything when it comes to smoking, Toll believes, and he’ll share with guests the trade secrets of the closed smoker, Satterfield said. Pairing: Zotovich Vineyard wines from Zotovich Cellars, and Transcendence Wines

Cargasacchi Vineyard Team: Cargasacchi Vineyard will feature Cargasacchi, Loring Wine Company and Siduri Wines to accompany winemaker Peter Cargasacchi’s barbecue sliders.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard Team: Representing this team will be Kessler-Haak and LaMontagne and its grilling team, headed by LaMontagne’s Theron Smith, who plans to serve up tasty treats. Joining this team will be Michael Horn from CRN Radio. Pairing: Kessler-Haak Vineyard wines produced by Kessler-Haak and LaMontagne wineries.

Kimberly Spies Photography/ Wines poured during the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party. This year's Friday event will feature large format and library wines

Kimberly Spies Photography/
Wines poured during the 2014 Wine & Fire Barn Party. This year’s Friday event will feature large format and library wines

The band The Luck will provide music following the education seminar and during the tasting portion of the event.

One of my favorite spots, the beautiful and peaceful La Purisima Mission, will once again host Saturday evening’s grand tasting, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Join more than 40 winemaking members of the SHRWGA, sizzling local chefs and farmers for an evening of chilling and grilling

Avant, Babe Farms, Campbell Farms, Central Coast Specialty Foods, Homegrown Cowboy, The Hitching Post II, Los Amigos BBQ, RGC Argentine BBQ, Tollhouse BBQ, Scratch Kitchen and the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers will offer an amazing selection of local food favorites.

Providing live music will be father-daughter duo Country Heart.

Many SRHWGA members will also offer open houses and specials throughout the weekend. See http://www.staritahills.com/wine-fire for complete details on ticket sales, participating wineries, restaurants and food vendors, a list of open houses and more.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com