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Today I poured wine at a benefit for a wonderful local non-profit organization called Girls Inc.  The event was held at a beautiful estate in Montecito which was surrounded by an incredible garden full of interesting succulents and other unusual plants.  After this event my husband and I attended an industry-only wine tasting at Carr Winery in downtown Santa Barbara on the “urban wine trail”.   This is  a fun way to enjoy limited production wine, mix and mingle with other industry people and taste some great appetizers from area restaurants.   We loved the portabella mushroom wrapped around goat cheese from Blush.   We also loved all the wonderful cheeses by the folks from C’est Cheese.   By the way, Carr is open late (5pm-11pm) on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – so if you are looking for a fun place with great wine (by-the-glass and bottle service) check it out!  They even have live music on Fridays!

It was way too hot to cook tonight so my husband and I headed downtown in search of a casual dinner.  We found ourselves on State Street next to the Arlington theater at Jane.   If you’ve ever eaten at the Montecito Café you’ll notice that there are some of the same menu items found on Jane’s menu.  This is because both restaurants are owned by the same people and so they chose the menu “favorites” from Montecito Café and included them on the menu for Jane.

Jason and I were seated upstairs and dove into the wine list.   The by-the-glass list seemed a bit small to me, I wanted more choices.   With that said, there were some lovely wines on the list from Consilience, so we were happy.   It was too warm outside to drink red wine so I went with a perfectly chilled glass of Consilience Viognier (a nose of honeysuckle and orange blossom with a taste of crisp apple and pear).  I love this wine – the florals on the nose are absolutely heady – and yet it is dry on the palate.  Yum!  It went perfectly with my salad of fresh greens, grilled shrimp, smoked salmon with tarragon dressing.   Jason had the Greek salad with lamb sausage that went well with the Consilience Zinfandel (a big wine with flavors of black raspberry, plum and spices).  This restaurant has an appealing menu with enough options to make anyone happy.  I love all the entrée salads and the portabella mushroom sandwich.  Jason likes the burgers and the pasilla chili appetizer stuffed with Emmentaler cheese – seriously, do NOT pass that one up!  The pasilla chili has a spicy smoky character that is mellowed by the cheese – it is truly a match made in heaven!

I got my hands on the guide book for the 2009 Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting about a week prior to the event and came to the sad realization that there was absolutely no way I could taste all 90 wines.  In light of this, I went over the list again and again, making cuts until I had a list of around 30 wines.   I arrived at the event, armed with my list and trusty  camera (and its dead battery, sigh) and proceeded to taste through the list.   Over the course of the event a few wineries really stood out with some stellar wines  – Ampelos, Beckmen, Jaffurs, Jonata, Kaena, Margerum.

Ampelos
Peter Work was on hand pouring a 2007 Lambda Estate Pinot Noir (tart cherry, and hints of clove) which won’t be released until spring 2010.  The Pinot already tastes wonderful – I would think that a few more years will give it additional complexity.  I was thrilled that Peter was pouring the Dornfelder that I barrel tasted with him back in January.  It is still the inky, glass-staining wine that I enjoyed straight from the barrel – but the past months have given the wine some more time to develop complexity.  This was probably the most unusual wine of the day.  It was also one of my favorites!

Beckmen
I tasted the 2008 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache (strawberry, baking spices and leather) and the 2007 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah (black plum, fig and notes of coffee).   Biodynamic farming combined with winemaker Mikael Sigouin’s talents make for some amazing wines!

Jonata
With a price point of around $75, I probably would only drink the Jonata 2006 Todos Estate on a special occasion.  With that said, it was a real treat to taste this blend of 39% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Viognier.  Every sip was layer upon layer of flavor (black raspberry, black currant, clove, ginger, vanilla).

Kaena
Kaena winemaker/owner Mikael Sigouin (who is also the winemaker at Beckmen) was pouring his 2007 Grenache (only 75 cases made – bright flavors of cherry, cranberry and red raspberry) and a vineyard designate 2007 Larner Vineyard Grenache (150 cases made – deeply concentrated flavors of dark fruits).  Both were fabulous!  Mikael was also pouring his 2007 Hapa – a red blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Mourvédre (cherry, red raspberry, baking spices, anise and white pepper).   These will be released in the late summer – so you won’t have to wait long before you can get your hands on these wines.  Mark my words – this is a winemaker to watch!

Margerum
From what I understand, the 2007 Uber Syrah was an experiment.  Doug Margerum co-fermented 75% of the Syrah that was used in this wine.  This 75% was made by adding one tenth of a ton of each Syrah clone as it came in over the course of harvest.  While I was pretty skeptical this seemingly haphazard method, I have been a fan of Doug’s wines for years, so I tried the Uber with high hopes.  I was not let down – this is a seriously big, complex wine (black raspberry, plum, pepper, smoke) and I cannot wait to try it again after it is released this Fall.

Lastly, I had the good fortune to taste a barrel sample of a wine called Luna Matta  from a very tiny producer called De Su Propia Cosecha.   Only 80 cases of this wine (a blend of 40% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre) was made.   Though it is made right here in Santa Barbara county by a husband and wife team (Chris and Deanna King), I’d never heard of this wine…there I go living under a rock again.   This blend had a lush mouth feel and flavors of black plum, black pepper, spices and earth.   What a wonderful surprise to discover a “new” wine (well new to me).

All in all a fabulous event!  My thanks to the Winehound for picking up the torch (sadly dropped by the Wine Cask) and continuing the long tradition of the Santa Barbara Wine Futures event.

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