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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!

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.

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!

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!

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 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!

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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