You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2010.

My friend Louise hosts a wonderful brown bag tasting every time she and friends feel like they need to cull their wine collections.   She calls it a Winemergency.  She specifies a type of wine or a few types as the unifying theme.  Then attendees bring appetizers to share and a bottle or two.  All the bottles are bagged, tasted and then everyone compares notes at the end just before the bottles are removed from the bags.   This evening we tasted no fewer than twenty nine wines:  seven Chardonnays, six Grenaches, nine Syrahs and seven blends.   Needless to say we weren’t drinking the wine, we were tasting, spitting and then scribbling a few notes.    I know some people feel like it is a waste to spit out wine – and I wholeheartedly agree with them.  With that said, these events present an opportunity to taste many wines side by side, which is one of the best ways to train your palate. After every wine was swirled, tasted, compared and contrasted, there were a few bottles that really stood out from the crowd:  2006 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, 2008 Brewer Clifton Chardonnay, 2007 Tre Anelli Grenache, 2004 Beckmen Estate Grenache and 2006 Rey Grenache (Note: priced around $20, the Rey is a great buy though it can be hard to find – try the Wine Hound in Santa Barbara or the Bounty Hunter in Napa if you’re trying to find Rey wines), 2005 Ampelos Epsilon Syrah, 2004 Beckmen Estate Syrah, 2006 Clos Saint Michel Châteauneuf-du-Pape (blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre), 2006 Ampelos Syrache (blend of 73% Syrah, 27% Grenache), 2008 Delas Saint-Esprit Côtes du Rhône  (blend of 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Carignan and a with a price of $15 a great buy).    In between tasting, spitting and scribbling notes, I managed to take a few snapshots.

The brown bagged lineup of wines

The brown bagged lineup of wines

After the reveal - the Chardonnays

After the reveal - the Chardonnays

After the reveal - the Grenaches

After the reveal - the Grenaches

2006 Rey Grenache - Lots of taste for very little money

2006 Rey Grenache - Lots of taste for very little money

After the reveal, the Syrahs

After the reveal, the Syrahs

After the reveal, the Blends

After the reveal, the red blends

I’ve enjoyed Cold Heaven winemaker Morgan Clendenen’s Viogniers for many years.  I especially love a glass of her late harvest Viognier after dinner in lieu of dessert.   Jason and I stopped by to taste at the new Cold Heaven tasting room in Buellton the other day.   I’ve never seen a red wine from Cold Heaven, so I was thrilled to see that there was a Syrah, called Second Sin, at the end of the tasting menu.  We started with the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($20) which had a nose of white grapefruit, and florals.  Ripe tropical fruit, citrus and bright acidity – the result of stainless steel fermentation- linger on the palate.   This would be a fabulous wine to have with scallops or oysters.  The 2008 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier ($33) was next on the list.   With a heady floral nose, flavors of guava and peach and a soft mouthfeel this is a gorgeous wine.   We then tasted a richer and more full bodied Viognier – the 2008 Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Viognier.  This had a beautiful nose of apricot and violets and well integrated flavors and a sweet, lingering finish.  Next up was the 2008 Vogelzang Vineyard Viognier which had a nose of orange blossom and tropical fruits (especially pineapple core)  and crisp acidity.   The 2007 Domaine des Deux Mondes Saints and Sinners is a wine made from a collaboration between Morgan Clendenen and Yves Cuilleron, an expert on Viognier from Condrieu.  Domaine des Deux Mondes is French for “Domain of Two Worlds” signifying the coming together of two worlds to make a single wine.  This was an absolutely beautiful wine with just the right amount of richness on the palate to make it luscious.  Only 3 % new oaks was used, so the fruit from Sanford and Benedict really shines.  Another product of the collaboration between Morgan Clendenen and Yves Cuilleron is called Deux C which is French for two C’s (one “C” for Clendenen and the second “C” for Cuilleron) is composed of wine made here in California combined with wine made in France.  This is quite literally a marriage of Old World and New World with two barrels of wine made in California combined with two made in France.   The vintage is 2005 however due to labeling regulations, this wine’s label cannot indicate a vintage.    Next, we moved on to two reds.  We tasted first the 2004 and then the 2003 Second Sin Syrah.  The 2004 Second Sin was made with fruit from top notch vineyards – Bien Nacido, Beckmen and Vogelzang.   The wine is a mere 13.5% alcohol (the fruit was picked slightly less ripe) – far lower than many if not most California Syrahs.  The wine tastes far more like a French wine than one from California.   I think this will age beautifully for a decade or more. The 2003 Second Sin is a glassful of beautifully integrated flavors including meat, black cherry and baking spices.   This is truly an elegant wine that gets better with each sip.

Be sure to stop by the tasting room and wine making facility at 92A Second Street in Buellton CA 93427.  The tasting room is open Friday through Monday from 12pm-5pm.

Kristy took us on a tour of the winemaking facility and barrel room.  Here are a few snapshots I took:


In the Cold Heaven barrel room

Spinning Mirrored Buddha Head watches over the barrels at Cold Heaven

Spinning, mirrored Buddha head watches over the barrels at Cold Heaven

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier marked with a horseshoe symbol

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 La Vina Vineyard  Viognier marked with a pistol symbol

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 La Vina Vineyard Viognier marked with a pistol symbol

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier marked with a high heeled shoe

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier marked with a high heeled shoe symbol

Barrel of wine at Cold Heaven marked with lotus symbol

Barrel of wine at Cold Heaven marked with lotus symbol

Just a quick little newsflash – I’m happy to announce that I’ve been asked to write for  =)  Here is a link to my first in a series of articles on large format bottles of wine.

The 2nd annual Dierberg / Star Lane industry open house was fabulous!  There are many fun industry open house events during the course of the year, but Dierberg sets the bar high!   The food is always wonderful!  This year featured raw oysters paired with Sauvignon Blanc.   Also, Bello Forno was there with a wood fired oven turning out incredible pizzas.  The Ballard Inn‘s Chef Budi Kazali was there with amazingly tasty pork belly.  The guys from Petros restaurant  were there dishing up bite-sized Greek meatballs – these were perfect with Syrah.  There was also an entire table of handmade chocolates and desserts from Jessica Foster Confections and Pattibakes.   A big “thank you” to the folks at Dierberg / Star Lane for hosting such a great party!   I took a few snapshots.  =)

Dierberg / Star Lane

Dierberg / Star Lane 2nd Annual Industry Open House

Ashley, Janeen and Anne from Tre Anelli and Consilience

Ashley, Janeen and Anne from Tre Anelli & Consilience

Jason and Jim from Tre Anelli & Consilience

Jason (WineNationUnderdog) and Jim from Tre Anelli & Consilience

Janeen, Jim, Mike, Louise

Janeen & Jim (Tre Anelli), Mike (Carhartt), Louise (Brander)

Kevin, Angela, Anne & Peggy

Kevin, Angela, Anne & Peggy

Peter and Jason

Peter (Scott Cellars) and Jason (WineNationUnderdog)

Anne (WineNationUnderdog), Angela and Peggy (Tre Anelli & Consilience)

Anne (WineNationUnderdog), Angela and Peggy (Tre Anelli & Consilience)

So much has happened since I last posted.  Nope, I am not part of the witness protection program – I’ve just been really, really busy.  Let me try to condense the last month into a few words and some photos.  First and foremost I moved from Santa Barbara to a lovely house out in wine country with a view of the edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Moving is never easy or fun, but in this case the massive effort was worthwhile.  I’m reminded daily about what makes Pinot Noir so good, when I wake up to a view of the Santa Rita Hills.  Often times the hills are shrouded in fog that burns off by mid-morning.  The east-west coastal valleys combined with fog, wind and rocky soil stress the vines and reduce crop yield.  This results in incredibly complex and layered Pinot Noir.  If you want to taste what I am referring to, check out Ampelos Cellars’ 2005 Rho Pinot Noir.  You’ll be happy you did!

Though I’ve only been in my new place about a month and a half, so much has happened!  In the few weeks I:

  1. unpacked a seemingly infinite number of boxes, many of which were full of wine or books…I wonder if I really need all these books?
  2. enjoyed some of my favorite fabulous local wines (De Su Propia Cosecha, Brander, Tre Anelli, Stolpman, McPrice Myers) while unpacking boxes – no wonder it took so long!
  3. poured Consilience wines at an event at Blush in Santa Barbara
  4. ate amazing woodfired pizza at Full of Life Flatbread (and oysters – WOW!) – if you’re into woodfired pizza come to Los Alamos to eat at Flatbread
  5. wrote the tasting notes for a couple of fabulous soon to be released wines from Tre Anelli (2007 Pinot Grigio, 2007 Sangiovese, 2008 Diavolessa)
  6. went wine tasting at Brander (Thank you Fabian and Louise for the tour and barrel tasting!) – I *love* the Purisima Sauvignon Blanc and the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  7. encountered all sorts of wildlife out here in the country – deer (see photo below), red tailed hawks, turkey vultures, mice, moles, skunks (unfortunately one of my dogs got too close to the skunk, sigh) a myriad of songbirds, mice, horses and a tree frog (oddly enough the frog was in my shower…go figure)
  8. visited chef Paul Kulik at the Boiler Room restaurant and La Buvette in Omaha – my two favorite places to eat and drink in the Old Market district

So much has happened and so many wonderful things are on the horizon!  First and foremost, there is lots of great news from one of my local favorites, Dragonette Cellars.  Very soon you won’t have to go out to the wine ghetto in Lompoc to visit Dragonette, because they are opening up a tasting room in Los Olivos, right across the street from Stolpman.  Also, any day now, Dragonette will release a wine that consists mostly of the co-fermented Syrah/Viognier that I fell in love with while barrel tasting last year (there are a few photos from this below).  The wine is a reserve release and is called MJM.  John Dragonette, Steve Dragonette and Brandon Sparks-Gillis dedicated this wine to their wives (Mitchi, Jen and Michelle), hence the name MJM.  Smart husbands.  🙂 Recently I visited Dragonette and tasted the 2007 MJM with winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis.  He was quite proud (and rightly so) of the almost released blend of 96% Syrah, 3% Grenache and 1% Viognier.   This is a gorgeous wine with layers of flavors – definitely one to save for a special occasion!  It wasn’t officially for sale yet (the bottles had not yet been hand dipped in wax) however I was able to convince him to let me go home with a couple of bottles.  Thanks Brandon!   Last but not least, Dragonette now has a wine club – you can join online too!

On Saturday May 15th, the Wine Hound Santa Barbara County Wine Futures event is happening.  Last year was an amazing opportunity to taste incredibly fabulous local wines.  Check out my post with details from last year’s event. This year I promise to charge my camera battery.   There will be around 130 different wines available for tasting from local producers.  Old favorites, including Au Bon Climat, Jaffurs, Qupé and Stolpman will be there and also some newer producers like Rey, Kaena and Shai.  I am really looking forward to this event!

Last but not least, my wine tasting group is collecting bottles for a special Colson Canyon Vineyard themed tasting.  So far we have collected red wines made from Colson Canyon fruit produced by Cleb, Tensley and Brander.  If you know of any other wineries that make a Colson Canyon vineyard designate wine please drop me an email.

Here are some random snapshots of food, wine and other miscellany.  Cheers!

Dragonette winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis

Dragonette winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis with a bottle of MJM

De Su Propia Cosecha

De Su Propia Cosecha red (Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah)

Pouring Consilience wines at Blush in Santa Barbara

Me pouring Consilience wines at Blush in Santa Barbara

lunch at Terravant

Lunch at Terravant (a fun place to taste wine - ask for a tour)

first meal at the new house

This is the first meal at the new house -we hadn't unpacked much yet

Dragonette 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Dragonette 2008 Sauvignon Blanc - it makes unpacking boxes better

McPrice Myers L'Ange Rouge

McPrice Myers 2007 L'Ange Rouge at Side Street Cafe (we were too tired to cook)

Tre Anelli 2008 Diavolessa

Tre Anelli 2008 Diavolessa - red blend of Dolcetto, Barbera, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel

first course of salad and oysters at Flatbread

First course of salad and oysters at Flatbread

Blissed out at Flatbread

Happiness is eating at Flatbread


What a fun surprise - a deer in my yard

2007 Duckhorn Decoy

2007 Duckhorn Decoy at Urban Wine Company in Omaha's Old Market district

La Buvette

La Buvette - you'll think you're in France, but it is really Omaha's Old Market district

wall of wine at La Buvette

One of the walls of wine at La Buvette

Foggy morning

The view from the patio - cool foggy mornings help make good Pinot Noir

no more fog

Foggy mornings turn into warm, clear days

Barrel tasting at Dragonette
Barrel tasting at Dragonette (photo courtesy of
Dragonette with the wine thief

Dragonette extracting wine with a wine thief (photo courtesy of

%d bloggers like this: