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The second annual Winehound Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting was an enormous success.  The selection of wines was staggering, the food was fabulous (wood fired pizzas from Flatbread) and the venue (the Fess Parker Doubletree) was far superior to last year’s event.   This year there were more than 125 wines from 50 different vintners.  The list is impressive to say the least:  Alma Rosa, Ampelos, Au Bon Climat, Autonom, Babcock, Beckmen, Brander, Ken Brown, Cargasacchi, Carhartt, Carr, Cent’Anni, Cimarone, Clos Pepe Estate, Cold Heaven, Costa de Oro, Demetria, Dragonette, Epiphany, Ethan, Flying Goat, Blair Fox, Happy Canyon Vineyard, Harrison-Clarke, Holus Bolus, Jaffurs, Jelly Roll, Jonata, Jorian Hill, Kaena, Kenneth-Crawford, Paul Lato, Lea, Longoria, Margerum Wine Company, Melville, Native9, Ojai, Fess Parker, Point Concepcio, Qupe, Rey, Samsara, Sanguis, Shai, Stolpman, Tensley, Tercero, The Paring, Tyler, Verdad, VIE, Vogelzang, Whitcraft.    With this many wines, I had to carefully pick and choose my way through the options.   Some of the wines were barrel samples, while many others were bottled, though unreleased.  Though I wasn’t able to taste everything, here is a list of the ones that really, really stood out for me :

Ampelos 2007 Rho Pinot Noir – cola, black cherries, earth, hint of vanilla.  465 cases produced.  Scheduled release late Spring 2011.

Ampelos 2007 Gamma Syrah – pepper, leather, dark berries, bacon.  655 cases produced.  Scheduled release Winter 2010.

Autonom 2007 Rhône Cuvee Central Coast – 55% Grenache, 36% Syrah, 9% Mourvèdre, black pepper, dark berries, meat, clove, mocha. 130 case produced.  Scheduled release Summer 2010.

Beckmen 2008 Syrah Purisima Mountain Vineyard – black fruits, fig, baking spices, bacon, mocha – next to my tasting notes I scribbled “this is a wine the critics will love”, I love it too.   400 cases produced.  Scheduled release Fall 2010

Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir Estate – black cherry, cola, Dr. Pepper, cocoa – a blend of clones 665, 777, 513, Pommard.  1000 cases producedscheduled release Spring 2011.   Clos Pepe’s Wes Hagen was also pouring what he said was the “first ever sparkling wine from the Sta. Rita AVA” – a 2007 Brut Rosé, made by Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars.  Unfortunately my palate was blown out after so many fabulous reds…dang.

Ethan 2009 Grenache Blanc – heady nose of apple, melon and florals, good acid and minerality.  I was head over heels for this barrel sample – it was gorgeous – one of the top 5 wines I tasted at the event.  I spoke with winemaker Ethan Lindquist who indicated that this is the first time he made a Grenache Blanc.  With only 150 cases made, get it while you can when it is released.  Scheduled release Fall 2010.

Ethan 2009 Sangiovese – red cherry, garrigue, ripe strawberry, good acid.  Fabulous “food wine”.  150 cases produced.  Scheduled release Fall 2010.

Jaffurs 2008 Grenache – spice, tart cherry, chocolate covered raspberry, 50% Thompson Vineyard, 50% Stolpman (all Alban and Tablas clones).  390 cases produced.  Scheduled release late Summer 2010.

Jaffurs 2008 Syrah Larner Vineyard – heady and beautiful, blackberry, black pepper, mocha, allspice, super long finish.  340 cases produced.  Scheduled release late Summer 2010.

Kaena 2008 Grenache Larner Vineyard – bright and gorgeous with flavors of red raspberry, cranberry, leather, super long finish.  One of the top 5 wines I tasted at the event.  100 cases produced.  Scheduled release Winter 2010.

Kaena 2008 Hapa – 56% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, garrigue, cedar, clove.  Again, one of the top 5 wines I tasted at the event.  200 cases produced.  Scheduled release Winter 2010.

Rey 2007 Syrah – 10 % Grenache and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, black pepper, mocha.  Wonderful wine for $20.  Available now – but only 100 cases produced so get it while you can!  NOTE:  Rey is a second label – the reserve label is De Su Propia Coshecha – if you see it buy it – your mouth will thank you.

Samsara 2008 Syrah Melville Vineyard – Unexpected nose of florals, black plum, black pepper,  earthy. Only 120 cases produced.   Scheduled release Fall 2010.

Samsara 2008 Syrah Ampelos Vineyard – Very integrated flavors for a 2008, black fruits, black pepper, garrigue and herbs.  Only 75 cases produced.  Scheduled release Fall 2010.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that Ampelos is a big favorite of mine; I love what Samsara’s winemaker Chad Melville has created with the wonderful Ampelos fruit.

Vogelzang 2008 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard – Fiddlestix is a fabulous source of fruit in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, intense flavors of tart cherry, ripe raspberry and caramel, well integrated flavors for such a young wine.   Only 100 cases produced.  Scheduled release Spring 2011.

What a wonderful way to spend the day – I only wish that the event were spread over two days, so that I could taste *all* the wines.  Maybe next year?  Many thanks to Bob Wesley and his team from the Winehound for putting on such a fabulous event!

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)

Jason and I had a wonderful dining experience at the picturesque Ballard Inn restaurant last night.  We were seated immediately at a romantic two person table near the fireplace.  We took a look at the wine-by-the-glass list and were impressed with the carefully chosen list of fabulous –mostly local- wines.  I ordered a glass of the 2007 Ampelos Rosé of Syrah (gorgeous deep pink color, bright taste –no oak, no malolactic fermentation, nose of citrus, watermelon, florals, mineral qualities, soft tannins).   Ashley, our young but very well informed and professional server, recommended a wine for Jason – the Kaena Hapa (a mouth filling, fruit/spice bonanza of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre – nothing short of WOW).  Kaena (which means “potential for greatness” in Hawaiian) is the personal label made by Mikael Sigouin whose day job is head winemaker at Beckmen. This talented and hardworking young winemaker is officially on my radar as one to watch!  Potential for greatness, indeed!  But, I digress.  Getting back to the food, we started off with two beautifully presented appetizers.  First, room temperature short rib meat with truffle oil served on a bed of watercress, garnished with small dollops of aioli and four purple potato crisps.  I’ve never thought of making a salad out of short rib meat, but this was amazing – moist, flavorful and rich, but not too heavy to eat in the summertime.  And who knew potato chips could be so decorative – and pretty?  Our second appetizer was crispy sweetbreads served with mizuna salad and arugula with macadamia nut pesto.  All the different textures and tastes in this dish blended harmoniously together.  Wow!  Ashley surprised us with a hamachi sashimi appetizer with soy-yuzu vinaigrette which paired beautifully with the Ampelos rosé.  Our entrées arrived soon after we finished the hamachi.  Jason’s entrée was the crispy skin barramundi with chive risotto and soy mushroom broth.  Barramundi is a white fish, though not as delicate in taste or texture as halibut.  Its firm texture and rich taste was complemented well by the chive risotto.  Jason ordered the 2007 Kaena Hapa Blanc (a white Rhone-style blend of  Grenache Blanc and Roussanne – well balanced, elegant, tropical fruit notes, luscious mouth feel and a long finish- only 170 cases made) to go with his fish.

Duck at the Ballard Inn

Duck entree at the Ballard Inn

I ordered the pan seared duck breast with sweet potato purée and balsamic reduction.  I decided that the Kaena Hapa (red) that we had with our appetizers would be wonderful with the duck – and it was!  Dessert was almond panna cotta with strawberries and coconut tuile, and a bottle of 2005 Cold Heaven Late Harvest Viognier (wonderful florals on the nose, rich on the palate with peach, apricot and honey).   Chef Budi Kazali, who was recently won the 2009 Ultimate Chef competition, came out of the kitchen for a few moments to greet diners.   Jason and I were happy to thank Chef Kazali in person for all the amazing food we enjoyed tonight!

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