“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 http://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 http://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 http://www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Lompoc’s Scratch Kitchen debuts winemaker dinners with Kessler-Haak Wines

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Augusto Caudillo and winemakers Dan and Ellen Kessler-Haak collaborated July 19 for the first-ever winemaking dinner at the Lompoc eatery Caudillo co-owns, Scratch Kitchen.

Scratch Kitchen started service in early May, just three months ago. The chefs and co-owners, Augusto Caudillo and Gonzalo Pacheco, opened their doors to a lot of anticipation in this town — one that’s primarily working class and woefully light on quality food that isn’t Mexican or Thai.

Lompoc residents, starved for the innovative slash healthy cuisine easily found in other nearby cities, descended upon Scratch en masse, especially during lunchtime and for Sunday brunch.

For years, Caudillo, a 2006 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas, and chef Gonzalo Pacheco, his business partner and brother-in-law, had tossed around the idea of opening their own restaurant.

Caudillo is the youngest of eight children, and was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and raised on the Central Coast, according to www.scratch-kitchen.com He has worked at various restaurants around the country, including Lucky’s in Montecito, and as a personal chef.

Pacheco, born and raised in Mexico, moved to Santa Barbara in 1991, where he was introduced to the local restaurant industry. He graduated from the Hotel, Restaurant and Culinary Program at Santa Barbara City College in 1997, and worked in restaurants as varied as the Wine Cask, Fess Parker’s Grand Hotel in Los Olivos, and, like Caudillo, at Lucky’s.

* * *

On Sunday, July 19, arriving patrons were handed flutes of Kessler-Haak’s sparkling wine and pointed to a buffet of fresh fruits, crackers, breads and cheeses.

“I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d pick for a first-time winemaking dinner than Dan and Ellen of Kessler-Haak,” Caudillo said.

Once guests were seated, Caudillo, coordinating an eight-person wait and bar staff, put plates down in front of the 20-plus guests simultaneously, an impressive feat, and our meal began.

All of the courses and wines were well timed and the plates full of color and the food artfully arranged.

Pickled beets, watermelon and more comprised “Sottaceto,” paired with chardonnay

Leading off was “Sottaceto,” meaning “pickled” in Italian, a plate featuring medallions of fried goat cheese, beets, chives, cucumbers and watermelon radishes paired with Kessler-Haak’s 2013 Estate Chardonnay.

Next up was a strawberry confit and herb salad served with the Kessler-Haak 2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir. The salad featured Iberico cheese, which balanced the bright-fruit acidity of the wine.

Roasted Tasmanian trout with pancetta and basil paired perfectly with Kessler-Haak's 2011 estate pinot noir

Roasted Tasmanian trout with pancetta and basil paired perfectly with Kessler-Haak’s 2011 estate pinot noir

My favorite pairing was the choice by the chefs/winemakers to pair roasted Tasmanian trout, served ratatouille style with pancetta and basil, with the KH 2011 Estate Pinot Noir. The fish was perfect in flavor and texture, and the pancetta brought an elegant level of smoke to the table — but did not overpower the wine.

The fourth course featured a pistachio-crusted lamb loin served with a delicious cauliflower au jus with a smidge of mint jelly. Accompanying this was the 2013 KH Lafond Vineyard Syrah.

Lamb loin with cauliflower, mint and lamb jus

Lamb loin with cauliflower, mint and lamb jus

True story: I scraped clean my plate; I’ve never tasted better flavors of cauliflower.

Our meal ended with a dessert trio: A cheesecake bite, homemade Snickers-style chocolate bar, suitably melted in the heat of the night, and a tiny cheese board canapé. Accompanying these small-but-mighty-rich desserts was the Kessler Haak 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon.

Three small but mighty desserts were paired with Kessler-Haak's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard

Three small but mighty desserts were paired with Kessler-Haak’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard

Scratch Kitchen is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., also Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday dinner, 5 to 9 p.m.

Details: 610 North H Street, Lompoc, 809.0829

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

PROTOCOL Wine Studio illuminates both the business and passion of wine

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Imagine a place where one can not only taste and buy wine, but also study and learn about wine, meet winemakers and delve into the soul of the California, U.S. and global wine industry.

Such a business does exist: PROTOCOL wine studio, located in a San Diego business park.

Eric Guy and Tina Morey, the brains and passion behind PROTOCOL in San Diego

Eric Guy and Tina Morey, the brains and passion behind PROTOCOL in San Diego

Calling itself “True Wine Culture,” PROTOCOL is the brainchild of business partners Eric Guy and Tina Morey, and operates as a parent company to four endeavors: #Winestudio Project, WineStudio, Wine Intel and Le Metro Wine.

First, Le Metro Wine: Its owners call this “the world’s most cutting edge wine club,” which is led by a team of wine professionals, writers and artists.

Each of the six-bottle wine collections focuses on a theme.

Along with Guy and Morey is Aaron Epstein, who is described on the website as a “writer, dreamer, wine geek and stay-at-home dad.” After “studying, selling and writing about wine since before he could legally drink it” and traveling around the globe to work in nearly every facet of the wine industry, Epstein in 2012 moved to San Diego, and teamed with Guy and Morey to create Le Metro, where his role is “curator.”

He continues to write, contributing to Edible San Diego and Riviera San Diego, and writes his own blog, winedad.com, full of his adventures as a stay-at-home dad.

Epstein was recognized in Imbibe’s 2015 “Imbibe 75,” a list honoring “People, Places and Flavors that will shape the way you drink in 2015.”

Epstein’s big news, which I stumbled across visiting his blog, is that he, his wife and their son are moving to Shenzhen, China, at month’s end. “Big changes this way come; thanks to Wifey’s consulting gig, we’re preparing to embark on a yearlong family adventure,” he wrote. Alas, he will bid farewell to Le Metro Wine.

But before he does, enter “Rosé on Midsummer’s Eve”, coming to San Diego’ Westgate Hotel from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20, promoted by PROTOCOL and hosted by Le Metro Wine.

The goal: Sipping rosé wines from around the world, and watching the sun set on one of the longest days of the year from San Diego’s most glamorous outdoor patio, The Westgate Hotel’s Riviera Fountain Terrace. A selection of Provençal-style charcuterie – cheeses, meat board, garden-fresh vegetables and potato bar — will be available for nibbling, while San Diego’s funk and soul 14-piece band “Bump N Brass” will entertain guests all night — wear your dancing shoes!

Tickets are $55 for Le Metro subscribers, and $75 per person (through June 12) and then $89 the week of the event.

The backstory:

I met Guy and Morey in late summer 2013 when I accompanied two Santa Barbara County winemakers down to PROTOCOL Wine Studio to attend a winetasting featuring a handful of small producers. The space itself resembles an artists’ studio slash gallery slash classroom, with a small office off the far end. No glamour; pure utility and function.

Like many I’ve profiled in the wine industry, both Guy and Morey segued into wine education and retail from other careers. I’ll let them tell their stories …

Eric Guy: “Mine was a path with no heart. After 12 years in the banking and investment industry, I was well on my way to achieving everything I desired. And yet as I entered the decade of my 30s, I was completely miserable.

“So I stepped out of the relative comfort of white-collar existence and dared to ask the question, “What if I gave up everything in the pursuit of something meaningful?  And more importantly, what could that be?

“Not long after I sensed a life change was due, I found myself on a trip to San Francisco and onward through wine country.”

During this journey, Guy noted, he caught the flu, and …

“Through two nights of alternating between shivering and sweating, the spirit of the vines enveloped me. As I walked from the Eagle & Rose Inn, my refuge from this strange affliction, a seed was planted in my mind. It was a simple and casual thought, not the life-altering gong one might expect from an idea that would change my life. The thought was simply, “I wonder what working in the wine business would be like?”

I’ve spent the last decade of my life pursuing that question by unrolling my passion for wine and all that lies beneath it from culture, to history from science to socializing. Since entering the wine business I’ve worked as a retail floor grunt, wine buyer, retail manager, wine storage coordinator and Sommelier. The adventure has been worth every minute.  For me this is a business with heart, one that enables me to cultivate a life that I truly love.

Guy leads the West Coast workings of PROTOCOL wine.

Tina Morey:

“Wine was always at the family dinner table, especially the extended family. Even when I left home after college, wine was on someone else’s table and although I drank it and wonderful times were had, there was yet to be that wine “epiphany” everyone describes. So I went about my life: technical writer, pastry chef, caterer, wedding cake company chef and owner.

“It was a last-minute reservation at The Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington, that did it for me. We sat at a communal table, spoke and laughed with folks from all over the country, listened to a classical guitarist.

“The highlight for me was the professionalism and ease that each and every staff member elicited. I wanted that confidence, that knowledge, that sense of complete trust of each member’s ability at any given time during the evening. The wine was part of the entire experience, but it fit so seamlessly it never stood out, but floated from course to course — a tightly choreographed play where guest was center stage.

“That was 2005, so just two years later I sold the cake business and enrolled into the first Court of Master Sommeliers Education Program in the United States.

“Now a Certified Sommelier, I’m on the long and winding path toward Master of Wine. And that’s when I met Guy, who was a fellow employee at a local wine retail shop where I was hired as “lowly floor employee.”

There I had the opportunity to connect labels with actual winemakers and experience my first communal tasting glass experience with the other shop employees. During my time in the business, I’ve met the craziest and most sincere people I’ve ever known and I’m lucky to have called them colleagues and friends.

Today, Morey spends most days nurturing PROTOCOL’s East Coast clientele.

Both Guy and Morey are down to earth but full of knowledge and experiences about every aspect of wine, a fact that makes them a joy to be around. “Taste it, share it, live it!” is how they view their lives in wine, and I’d call that a most appropriate motto for the wine life.

Wine Intel. Sounds intriguing, yes? Think of it as intelligent solutions to wine management, especially the financial aspects of collections, and answers to questions ranging from transportation to liquidation and more. In addition, Wine Intel offers sommelier skills, for events and overall education, as well as wine consulting, retail services development and wine-list creation.

Finally, #WineStudio: This is PROTOCOL’s online Twitter-based program to “engage palates and brains.” It’s a combination of instruction and tasting, with a focus on producers, grape varietals, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching — and how this affects wine imbibers, say Guy and Morey.

Earlier this year, Morey graciously included me during a month-long focus on select bloggers, asking each of us to share how we came to write about wine and winemaking. Those of you Tweeters know that the Twitter-sphere is rapid-fire quick and demands concise language (skills I was forced to relearn during the evening I participated in #WineStudio).

I bemoan the fact that a lengthy drive separates me from PROTOCOL’s home base, but someday, I will return for a dose of wine education, or a special tasting.

Information and contact details:

Here’s more about PROTOCOL, straight from the heart of Morey and Guy:

PROTOCOL wine studio: Five Years On – A Start-up just Starting

http://protocolwinestudio.com

Eric Guy
GUY@protocolwine.com

Tina Morey
tina.morey@protocolwine.com

Location: 4186 Sorrento Valley Blvd., Suite H, San Diego CA 92121

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

California’s 2014 wine sales increase both in volume, value across United States

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California’s wine shipments in the United States were 225 million cases in 2014, up 4.4 percent from the previous year, according to the Wine Institute in San Francisco.

This translates to an estimated retail value of $24.6 billion, up 6.7 percent. California wine sales to all markets, both domestic and international, increased 3.7 percent by volume to 269 million cases in 2014.

“California has had three excellent harvests in both quantity and quality in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and these vintages are receiving global recognition,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute.

“The premium wine segment — $10 and above — is strong and with excellent prospects for continued growth over the next few years,” said wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside. “The value-priced wine segment has been shrinking because consumers are buying more expensive wine and because of competition from the increasing number of alcohol beverage offerings.”

The United States has been the world’s largest wine market since 2010.

Fredrikson explained that value-priced wines made up 75 percent of California table wine volume in 2014, while premium wines accounted for 25 percent of wine volume but almost half (47 percent) of winery revenues.

Because of the consumer transition to higher value wines, dollar sales grew faster than purchase volumes in 2014, according to Nielsen, a global provider of information and insights into consumer preferences and purchases.

According to Nielsen, in measured U.S. off-premise channels, the most popular wine types by volume were Chardonnay (19 percent share), Cabernet Sauvignon (13 percent), Red Blends/Sweet Reds (10 percent), Pinot Grigio (9 percent) and Merlot (8 percent), followed by Moscato (6 percent), Pinot Noir (5 percent), White Zinfandel (5 percent), and Sauvignon Blanc (4 percent). Red blends accounted for the strongest volume gains, along with Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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