Stagecoach Wine Tours Inc. awarded TripAdvisor’s “Certificate of Excellence” for five consecutive years of great reviews

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Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours Inc., where yours truly is a proud tour host, today announced that it has been recognized as a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame winner. The Certificate of Excellence award celebrates excellence in hospitality and is given only to establishments that consistently achieve great traveler reviews on TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP), the world’s largest travel site, has inducted Stagecoach Wine tours into its “Hall of Fame,” which honors businesses that have earned a Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years, the organization noted in a news release.

Winners include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a superior customer experience.

Being awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence five years in a row and inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’ is a true source of pride for the entire team at Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours Inc., and we’d like to thank all of our past guests who took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor,” said Eric John Reynolds, co-owner with Tyler Tomblin of Stagecoach.

The company has been based in the Santa Ynez Valley since opening for business in 2001.

“There is no greater seal of approval than being recognized by one’s customers. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on customer reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote of confidence to our business and our continued commitment to excellence,” Reynolds said.

Marc Charron, president of TripAdvisor for Business, echoed Reynolds’ comments.

“Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years is a remarkable feat. TripAdvisor is pleased to induct five-time award winners into the ‘Hall of Fame.’ By putting a spotlight on businesses that are focused on consistently delivering great service to customers, TripAdvisor not only helps drive an improvement to hospitality standards around the world, it also gives businesses both large and small the ability to shine and stand out from the competition.”

When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that takes into account the quality, quantity and immediacy of reviews and opinions submitted by travelers on TripAdvisor during a 12-month period, as well as business’s tenure and ranking on the Popularity Index on the site. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

TripAdvisor enables travelers to plan and book the perfect trip, using trusted advice from travelers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with seamless links to booking tools that check hundreds of websites to find the best hotel prices. TripAdvisor also includes TripAdvisor for Business, a dedicated division that provides the tourism industry access to millions of monthly TripAdvisor visitors.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for http://www.centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Paso Robles Wine Festival: Four May days celebrating Paso Robles’ wine country

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Coming in a few weeks is the 33rd annual Paso Robles Wine Festival, a four day-event showcasing wine country — and one that attendees will find educational and full of wine, food and music.

What organizers call the “quintessential Paso experience” will culminate Saturday, May 16, in the tree-shaded Paso Robles City Park, located downtown and surrounded by tasting rooms and restaurants.

The long weekend kicks off Thursday evening with winemaker dinners, followed on Friday evening by the RESERVE event, which features culinary bites from local chefs along with an auction that will benefit various San Luis Obispo County nonprofit organizations.

Note: Tickets to Friday’s RESERVE event and Saturday’s Grand Tasting are sold separately, and, like all tickets, available via www.pasowine.com
As of this morning, tickets remain available for all three ticketed events.

Saturday opens with an educational winemaker seminar featuring five panelists discussing five grape varietals/wines: Grenache Blanc, panelist Steve Martell, winemaker at Sextant; Chardonnay, panelist Rich Hartenberger, winemaker/owner, Midnight; Tres Violet, panelist Jason Joyce, winemaker, Calcareous Vineyard; Reserve Zinfandel, panelist Chris Rougeot, winemaker, Opolo Vineyards; and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, panelist Matthew Glunz, winemaker, Glunz Family Winery & Cellars

Seating is limited, and organizers expect the seminar to sell out.

Saturday afternoon’s Grand Tasting will showcase current vintages from more than 60 wineries. New this year is the chance for guests to purchase a picnic lunch from one of five food purveyors. They are Cass Café, Gusto on the Go Bistro, Red Scooter Deli, The Pairing Knife and Thomas Hill Organics. Each lunch comes with a Paso Robles Wine Country reusable lunch bag.

Each lunch is $10, and must be purchased in advance. Only 200 lunches will be available. For menu choices, and to purchase, visit http://www.pasowine.com/events/wine-festival-tickets.php

More details about the festival’s three ticketed events:

Friday, May 15 — RESERVE:

This outdoor tasting will feature winemakers pouring two wines within the categories of “Reserve,” “Library,” “White/Rosé” or “Futures.”

Saturday, May 16 — Winemaker Seminar: 

Each of the winemaking panelists will share and discuss one wine indicative of the Paso Robles region.

Saturday, May 16 — Grand Tasting

Beginning at noon, this event offers wineries arranged by varietal “zones” featuring Rhône-style, Bordeaux-style, Italian varieties, Burgundian-style, Zinfandel and “Other Wild Wines.” Pop-up seminars sponsored by the Paso Robles CAB Collective, the Rhone Rangers and ZAP will take place in the park’s bucolic gazebo.

For more details on the Grand Tasting, including a list of participating wineries, visit http://www.pasowine.com/events/wine-festival-wineries.php

 

 

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure in Solvang March 27-29: Best of the smallest

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SYV GF 2015The weekend described as “wildly exuberant and fun” by the Los Angeles Times returns to Solvang at the end of March with wine from cutting-edge micro-production wineries, a new winemaking symposium, winemaker mixer and Big Red “Shoot Out.”

Tickets for the weekend’s events, held at the Veterans Memorial Hall, remain available, but are very limited and Garagiste Festivals always sell out. For the full Southern Exposure schedule, seminar details, participating hotels and to buy tickets, visit http://garagistefestival.com

Proceeds from the weekend will once again benefit the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Wine and Viticulture program.

New this year are two new events kicking off Southern Exposure on Friday, March 27:

  •  Happy Yeast Make Better Wine: This educational (but fun) winemaker symposium features Cal Poly professor and winemaker Matt Brain of Baker and Brain. Time: 5 to 6:30 p.m.
  •  No Repeats: Rare & Reserve Winemaker Mixer: Winemakers will bring out the best of their best for attendees, including Club Only, Library and Pre-Release bottles, and compete in the “Big Red Shootout,” a friendly competition in which they blind-taste each other’s wines and vote for the best red in the room. Time: 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Come Saturday and Sunday morning will be Garagiste’s signature tasting seminars, which will be moderated by Stewart McLennan, radio host and co-founder of the Garagiste Festival with Doug Minnick.

On Saturday, March 28, will be “The Diversity of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA: It’s Not All Pinot & Chardonnay,” featuring Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak, Chad Melville from SamSARA Wine Co. and Peter Work from Ampelos Cellars.

On Sunday, March 29, comes “The Elephant in the Bottle: The Great California Alcohol Debate,” with panelists Norm Yost from Flying Goat Cellars, Keith Saarloos from Saarloos & Sons and Stillman Brown from Zeppelin Winery.

“We could not be happier to be back in Solvang for the third year in a row with yet another extraordinary slate of 60 talented and innovative micro-production winemakers from Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara, over 20 of whom are pouring at the festival for the first time,” said co-founder Minnick.

“More and more winemakers are telling us that The Garagiste Festivals are the only wine events they participate in because they are so full of passionate, knowledgeable (but decidedly un-snobby) fans of these very special handcrafted wines.”

Aaron Watty's label is Big Tar Wines, and this year's Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will be his first.

Lee Tomkow photo/Aaron Watty’s label is Big Tar Wines, and this year’s Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will be his first.

One of those winemakers is Aaron Watty, whose small label is Big Tar Wine Company. I met Watty in 2007 in classes at Allan Hancock College, when he worked in the tasting room of a Santa Ynez Valley winery.

This festival will be Watty’s first foray into Garagiste, and he’s excited to introduce the public to his wines, which include cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, sangiovese and pinot noir.

He has spent the last six harvests working with fruit from Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, and calls that AVA “the perfect place to grow Bordeaux varietals. I am making this my focus, because its what I know and love.”

At a private tasting in December, where I tried his wines for the first time, Watty told me that his production is between 400 and 500 cases. His first vintage was 200 cases, in 2012.

Watty made only one barrel of his 2012 pinot noir, and it’s a blend of three vineyards: Rio Vista, Sebastiano and La Encantada.

“I think the Garagiste Festival is a great event for small winemakers who do not have an outlet to show their wines,” he told me in a recent e-mail.

“The amount of people and press that the group provides let the small wineries get together and ‘show off.’ There are not many opportunities to pour like this.” Like most of the winemaking participants at Garagiste, Watty doesn’t have a tasting room.

He does have an extensive background in restaurants, including at Gotham Bar and Grill and Picholine in New York City, and Moody’s Bistro in Truckee, which he opened and managed. He continues to keep a foot in the restaurant business, he said, working a few shifts per week at bouchon in Santa Barbara.

Watty worked with Rick Longoria in Lompoc during the last harvest, learning more about pinot noir and chardonnay, he said.

Participating Saturday in the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure are: Apical Cellars, Archium Cellars, Baehner Fournier, Bellissimo Cellars, Bradley Family Winery, Brophy Clark, Carivintas Winery, Carucci Wines, Clos Des Amis, Cordon Wines, Cotiere, Crawford Family Wines, Dascomb Cellars, Ferguson Crest, Kessler-Haak Vineyards, LaMontagne Winery, Larner Vineyards, Levo Wines, No Limit Wines, Pence Ranch, Press Gang Cellars, Roark Wine Co., SamSara Wine Co., Scott Cellars, Seagrape Cellars, Section Wines, Solminer Wines, Turiya Wines and Weatherborne.

Winemakers on Sunday include Alta Colina Vineyards, Ascension Cellars, Barbieri Wines, Big Tar Wines, Central Coast Group Project, Center of Effort Wines, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Conarium Wines, Dilecta Wines, Dreamcote Wine Co., Falcone Family Vineyards, Graef Wines, Imagine Wines, J. Brix Wines, J. Ludlow Vineyard, Mattina Fiore, MCV Wines, Mount Dorado Winery, Old Creek Ranch Winery, Pace Family Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, STANGER Vineyards, Tercero Wines, Tierra y Vino, Vines on the Marycrest, Vino Vargas, Wandering Dog Wines, Workman Ayer and Zeppelin Winery.

Launched in Paso Robles in 2011, the non-profit Garagiste Festivals were the first to shine a light on the American garagiste winemakers, commercial artisan winemakers who handcraft less than 1,500 cases a year and pay close, hands-on attention to every wine they make.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for centralcoastwinepress.com

 

Local women winemakers celebrate Women’s History Month with March 28 tasting

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Women winemakers, winery owners and managers, viticulturists, enologists and cellar hands will gather on March 28 to taste and toast in celebration of Women’s History Month.

“Long before Congress designated March as Women’s History Month, women have been making wine history here in Santa Barbara County,” said Sonja Magdevski, owner/winemaker of Casa Dumetz, who will host the tasting at her two Los Alamos tasting rooms (Casa Dumetz and Babi’s Beer Emporium).

“Whether at the helm of winemaking, as pioneers Lane Tanner and Kathy Joseph have always been, coming up through the cellar ranks like Lorna Kreutz or, like Megan McGrath, moving into our area because of the allure of Santa Barbara County, our winegrowing region has always included women in winegrowing,” she said.

Karen Steinwachs, winemaker for Buttonwood Farm Winery, with Al Harry tasting, right

Karen Steinwachs, winemaker for Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, is among the women winemakers who will pour their wines March 28 at Casa Dumetz

The tasting will feature a broad array of wines made by Santa Barbara County’s women, including those from Bonaccorsi, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, Cambria, Carhartt, Casa Dumetz, Cebada Vineyard, Cold Heaven, Foley, Harrison-Clarke, Kitá, LaMontagne, Lucas & Lewellen, C. Nagy, Rideau, Riverbench and William-James Cellars in a casual and convivial environment.

“Of the more than 3,400 wineries in California, approximately 10 percent have a woman as their lead winemaker,” said Clarissa Nagy, winemaker for both Riverbench and her own C. Nagy wines.

“We believe the percentage here in Santa Barbara County to be much higher, and we also believe that women supporting our winemaking efforts in the office, the market, the cellar and the vineyard are just as important to the success of our region.  Let’s all stand up and be counted on March 28!”

The public is invited to the tasting, which will be held beginning at 6 p.m at Casa Dumetz, 448 Bell Street, in Los Alamos, CA 93440. The event is free of charge, and will include live music.

For more information, please contact winemaker Karen Steinwachs (Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard) at karen@vintegratedsolutions.com or 805.350.0257.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for http://www.centralcoastwinepress.com

Steeped in history, Zaca Mesa celebrating 42 years as Rhone powerhouse

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Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard, one of Santa Barbara County’s oldest vineyards, ranks high in local winemaking lexicon, and this year will celebrate its 42nd anniversary.

It is the vineyard that experimented with various grape varietals to test vineyard suitability, the training facility for some of the area’s most successful winemakers and the first vineyard in the county to plant syrah.

Winemaker Eric Mohseni and Brittney Burrows, Zaca Mesa’s public relations/communications and social media specialist, recently spent a morning tasting me through current releases and leading a tour of the facility.

Los Angeles native Mohseni, who graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a food science degree and chemisty minor, started his extensive wine career in retail as a wine buyer at Wine Country in Long Beach.

In 1997, Mohseni took a harvest job at Enda Valley Vineyards, and got bit by the proverbial wine bug. In 1999, he traveled to Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, for a second harvest, this one at Esk Valley. He credits his time there with honing his love for sauvignon blanc. His own wine label, Osseus, comprises 300 cases of that varietal.

In 2001, Mosheni joined Zaca Mesa as enologist, working his way up to assistant winemaker, associate winemaker and, in 2008, to winemaker.

Today Mohseni’s associate winemaker is Kristin Bryden, and the duo team to produce Zaca Mesa’s current annual production of approximately 35,000 cases of wine.

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The Foxen Canyon Road ranch that houses the vineyard, winery and tasting room is approximately 750 acres, said Mohseni, and is planted to 178 acres — 86 of which are syrah.

Six friends invested in the original property in 1972, and began planting the vineyard in 1973.

Today, just two of the original six remain owners: Brothers Lou and John Cushman, Mosheni said. Ruben Camacho has managed the vineyards for 37 years, Burrows said.

Since few other vineyards existed when Zaca was first planted, the owners experimented by planting many grape varietals to determine which would thrive. The original vineyard included cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, riesling, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, grenache, chardonnay and syrah.

After two decades of research into the best varietal-by-vineyard match, Zaca Mesa now focuses on the Rhône varieties of syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, viognier and roussanne because they flourish, block by block

“Now, we’re all planted to Rhônes, but for chardonnay,” Mohseni said; that chardonnay now is under contract to another buyer, and the 2013 Zaca Mesa chardonnay is the last vintage bottled from estate chardonnay.

Zaca Mesa's Homage Collection of wines includes this sauvignon blanc from McGinley Vineyard in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.

Zaca Mesa’s Homage Collection of wines includes this sauvignon blanc from McGinley Vineyard in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.

The 2013 vintage includes five whites and eight reds, both estate and the “Homage Collection” bottling, Mohseni said. The Homage line comprises wine from fruit sourced from other vineyards in 2013: Sauvignon blanc (McGinley Vineyard); pinot blanc and pinot noir (Bien Nacido); and cabernet sauvignon (Vogelzang). The whites are available for tasting and purchase; and the reds will be released in coming months.

The Zaca Mesa winery, visible from the road, was built in 1978 — the same year that vineyard crews planted syrah, making the site the first in Santa Barbara County vineyard to put that varietal into the ground.

The rest, one could say, is history.

Ken Brown was Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker, and among the others who worked at Zaca Mesa are Adam Tolmach (Ojai Vineyard), Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat), Daniel Gehrs (Daniel Gehrs Wines) and Bob Lindquist (Qupe).

Using cuttings provided by Gary Eberle, another syrah pioneer, Brown planted syrah in the section of the vineyard known today as Black Bear Block — named for the black bear (or bears) frequenting that area over the years, Mohseni explained —and Lindquist produced Zaca Mesa’s first syrah from that block in 1995.

Because of the syrah grape’s history at Zaca Mesa, and the fact that Santa Barbara County’s cool-climate syrah remains so highly regarded, Mohseni invited the region’s top syrah producers to a clone-based syrah “bull session” Jan. 15 at Zaca Mesa. Read all about it here

I tasted through 10 wines with Mohseni. In order:

2012 Viognier: All neutral oak makes this a lovely mix of melon and minerality. Mohseni utilizes two picks of estate viognier, one at 20 to 21 brix and the second between 22 and 23, and blends the two.

2012 Grenache Blanc: This estate wine comes from the 3-acre block along the road leading to the winery, and shows nice acidity.

2011 Z Blanc: Honey and light spice. This blend of 78 percent roussanne, 17 grenache blanc and 5 viognier showcases the varietals; “these three will always be the base of this wine,” Mohseni said.

2010 Roussanne: Complex, lovely and rounded after barrel aging. Mohseni, like some other winemakers, fondly describes roussanne as “the red wine drinkers’ white wine,” one that “really opens up in the bottle.”

2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Homage Collection): Light and classic.

2010 Z Cuvee: True story: This particular blend is what introduced me to Zaca Mesa more than 16 years ago. This vintage is 54 percent grenache, 34 mourvedre, 6 syrah and 6 cinsault. This cuvee’s varietal ratio varies by vintage, based on the “best and most available” varietals, Mohseni noted. He’s a fan of blends that bring out the best in each varietal.

2012 Grenache: Light and bright with essence of plums. From the Tablas Creek clone — a “workhorse” — this contains about 12 percent viognier, Mohseni said.

2012 Mourvedre: Packed with pepper and smoke, this is another winning expression of this classic Rhone grape. Growing it takes patience, as it’s “slow to ripen.” Zaca farms 15 acres each of grenache and mourvedre, Mohseni said.

2010 Syrah: Big mesquite smoke, and, no doubt, a big seller. This wine represented 10,000 or 12,000 cases of Zaca Mesa’s total that vintage, he noted.

2011 Chapel G Block Syrah: Pure elegance, and Mosheni recommends cellaring until 2023.

Visit zacamesa.com Tasting daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 6905 Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos. (805) 688-9339.

 

 

Zaca Mesa invites local winemakers to focus on syrah during technical symposium

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When I tasted with Mohseni on Jan. 7, he, Burrows and Matt Mauldin, Zaca Mesa’s California sales manager, were eager to share what they had in store on Jan. 15.

Given the vineyard’s history with syrah, and Mohsenti’s desire to brainstorm fresh ideas on how to market syrah to consumers, he and his staff had organized a “Syrah Bull Session.” Invited were Santa Barbara County’s syrah legends, among them Bob Lindquist, Craig Jaffurs, Bill Wathen of Foxen and Chad Melville of Melville and Samsara.

Since Hospice du Rhone relocated to Tennessee, and the the Rhone Rangers’ closest event takes place in San Francisco, Mosheni hoped today’s inaugural tasting would kick start other sessions throughout the year, and he plans to host a second seminar later this spring, with a date to be determined.

Syrah samples from the winemakers participating at Zaca Mesa's "Bull Session" on Jan. 15

Glasses awaiting syrah samples from the winemakers participating at Zaca Mesa’s “Bull Session” on Jan. 15

On this morning, we were seated around tables in the cellar, ready to taste more than syrahs, and talk clones, climate and consumers.

Santa Barbara County syrah is a force with which to be reckoned, with 8 percent of the county’s vineyards planted to syrah. That compares to 6 percent of vineyards throughout California.

In addition to Zaca Mesa, those participating were the winemakers from Casa Dumetz, Fess Parker, Blair Fox Cellars, Firestone, Foxen, Jaffurs, Melville/Samsara, Municipal and Qupe.

Each winemaker poured two or three wine samples, and discussed clones, rootstock, barrel aging and winemaking techniques.

One of Mohseni’s wines, for example, was a barrel sample of 2013 Syrah, Estrella clone, planted on 37-year-old own rooted vines that grow in sandy loam soil.

Representing Coastal Vineyard Care Associates were Jeff Newton, Ruben Solorzano and Ben Merz.

A representative from Sunridge Nurseries was invited but unable to attend, Mohseni noted, as were a few other local winemakers.

The Estrella clone was one of the stars of the day, for as Chad Melville pointed out, “there’s more Estrella planted here (Santa Barbara County) than throughout Northern California.” Other clonal discussion boosted the merits of 470, 877, 383 and 174.

Despite Estrella’s prevalence, it seems that no one clone is more “popular” than another. When asked to define the clone most in demand, Newton responded: “Our criteria is to follow the lead of the winemaker.

In addition, multiple syrah clones on own-rooted rootstock in a particular block “creates an interesting mix” in a wine, Newton said.

Lindquist, whose Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley was planted in 2005, favors terroir over clonal choice, noting how his site resembles “coolness” found in the Santa Maria Valley, where “cool climate syrah” really shines.

Santa Barbara County as a whole has “uniqueness” not found in other nearby regions because of the overall coolness found here, Lindquist said.

The winemakers present agreed that a tasting of library wines and a syrah “site tasting” would be educational, and that “banding together to get wine out there to the sommeliers and press” would benefit producers across the board.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press

Third annual WiVi will cater to industry professionals during two-day conference next week in Paso Robles

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Organizers of WiVi plan a “session for every wine profession” at next week’s industry conference and tradeshow in Paso Robles.

The WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference and Tradeshow on March 17 and 18 will offer 20 sessions to educate and entertain anyone involved or employed in the business of wine, organizers say.

WiVi will hold several industry sessions during the Tuesday, March 17, portion of its two-day conference next week

WiVi will hold several industry sessions during the Tuesday, March 17, portion of its two-day conference next week

Now in its third year, WiVi has grown into California’s largest industry networking opportunity south of San Francisco, with social events like the WiVi Launch Party, an exhibitor-sponsored luncheon, and the grand finale industry tasting and reception, Celebrating the Artisan Winemaker, hosted by The Garagiste Festival.

Tickets for the two-day event remain available online at www.WiViCentralCoast.com. Questions: info@wivicentralcoast.com or (888) 974-WIVI (9484).

unnamedScheduled for the Paso Robles Event Center, the conference includes educational seminars Tuesday and Wednesday, with a regional focus on viticulture, winemaking and DTC/winery marketing that will be led by today’s top industry leaders, organizers said.

Wednesday will also bring a one-day trade show packed with more tha 170 companies showcasing new products and innovative tools.

WiVi Central Coast is hosted by “Wine Business Monthly,” the magazine/website that provides resources for the wine industry, as well as Precision Ag Consulting, a regional viticulture-consulting business.

A full schedule of Tuesday’s sessions can be found at http://www.wivicentralcoast.com/program/agenda

Among the sessions scheduled are:

  • “Manage and Control Trunk Diseases,” presented by Douglas Gubler, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis. Gubler will offer preventative and cultural methods to minimize the spread of trunk diseases such as bot canker and eutpya.
  • “A Snapshot of Regional Harvest Chemistry: Seven Years of Wine and Grape Quality Analysis,” presented by Brenda Baker, chemist and owner of Baker Wine and Grape Analysis.
  • “Measuring the ROI of Social Media” presented by Steven Cuellar, Ph.D., of Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics. Cuellar will use data and case studies collected from some of the wine industry’s most successful campaigns to assess social media’s effect on the bottom line.
  • “Salary Survey: How Do You Measure Up?” is a presentation by Steve Treder, senior vice president, and Donna Bowman of Western Management Group, in which salary information specifically for the Central Coast wine industry will be extracted from the Wine Business Monthly’s annual salary survey, removing some of the mystery for both employees and employers on the Central Coast.
  • “Top 10 Tips for Success for Better Tasting Room Sales” presented by WISE (Wine Industry Sales Education) Academy Chairman Lesley Berglund, is based on the WISE Academy Tasting Room Best Practices Seminar, including relevant lessons for local tasting rooms taken from Berglund’s secret shopping program and the Wine Business Monthly Tasting Room Survey.
  • During his “2014 Year-in-Review & Update on Recent Changes in Ground Water Rights,” Lowell Zelinski of Precision Ag Consulting will look back at the 2014 winegrape-growing year. Chris Scheuring, legal counsel for the California Farm Bureau Federation, will discuss the monumental changes to come with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (aka Pavley-Dickenson).
  • “The Effect of Water Availability on Property Value,” to be presented by JoAnn Wall, appraiser, founder & CEO of Central Coast Ag Appraisers, will explore the influence that water availability has on property values.

On Wednesday, March 18, the WiVi Trade Show will feature more than 170 exhibitors with products and solutions for the modern winemaker, grape grower, or member of winery management, including companies whose innovations were voted as the “coolest new products” by Wine Business Monthly. 

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for centralcoastwinepress.com

The CCWP Wine Week: WiVi Central returns to Paso in March; Cal Poly receives $20,000 check from Garagiste Festival

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WiVi Central Coast two-day conference for growers, winemakers

The WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference & Tradeshow’s third annual event returns to the Paso Robles Event Center Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17 and 18, and organizers hope to draw winemakers, grape growers and hospitality managers to network and explore resources available on the Central Coast and beyond.

The conference includes education seminars on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and a Wednesday tradeshow that will feature more than 150 companies showcasing new products and tools.

Hosting WiVi Central are Wine Business Monthly, the wine industry leader in product information and resources, and Precision Ag Consulting, a regional viticulture consulting business.

“The Central Coast is still a young wine region but growing rapidly. Education and access to resources is important to its continued growth and success,’’ said Becky Zelinski, WiVi director.

“As the region grows, so does the importance of a conference like WiVi, which is the only one of its kind here. In just two days, anyone in the wine industry can learn from our panels of experts, network with peers, and connect with suppliers at the WiVi tradeshow. It really is a one-stop shop for the entire Central Coast industry,’’ she said.

Among the seminars scheduled both days are “The Year 2014 in Review and Update on Recent Changes on Ground Water Rights;” “The Effect of Water Availability on Property Values;” “Improving Wine Grape Quality Through the Use of Phenolics Measurements in Winemaking;” “Measuring the ROI of Social Media;” and “Top 10 Success Tips for Tasting Room Sales.”

The conference will include two social events: A launch party on Tuesday evening and an exhibitor-sponsored lunch Wednesday.

Registration for WiVi is open to the public and tickets can be purchased online. Early registration discounts and special discounted prices for wine industry association members are available through Feb. 28, as are free tradeshow passes for association members.

Information and tickets: www.WiViCentralCoast.com; email: info@wivicentralcoast.com, and phone: (888) 974-WIVI (9484).

Garagiste Wine Festival presents $20,000 donation to Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program

The Garagiste Festival presented a check for $20,000 to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture department from proceeds raised at its three Garagiste Festivals in 2014.

It also announced that the Cal Poly program will continue to be a beneficiary of the festivals in 2015, including the upcoming “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure,” scheduled for March 27-29 at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Solvang.

Receiving the $20,000 check were Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department Lecturer Shohreh S. Niku, second left, and Interim Department Chairperson Marianne McGarry Wolf, second right. Garagiste co-founders Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick are far left, and far right, respectively.

Garagiste Festival Photo/Receiving the $20,000 check were Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department Lecturer Shohreh S. Niku, second from left, and Interim Department Chairperson Marianne McGarry Wolf, second from right. Garagiste co-founders Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick are far left, and far right, respectively.

The check was presented in the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture lab in San Luis Obispo, where students are benefitting from spectrophotometers purchased using funds donated by the Garagiste Festivals in 2013.

“In addition to throwing a spotlight on small-lot, innovative artisan winemakers, a huge part of our mission is to further the education of future winemakers. It was very exciting today to see the results of our efforts at work at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture,’’ said Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick.

“We have many alums of the program among the exceptional winemakers pouring at our festivals and could not be more proud to be part of helping shape the future of our industry, starting with its next generation of winemakers.’’

Launched in Paso Robles in 2011, the Garagiste Festivals were the first to shine a light on the American garagiste winemakers, commercial artisan winemakers who handcraft less than 1,500 cases a year and pay close, hands-on attention to every wine they make. The only festivals in the United States dedicated to these innovative, hard-to-find winemakers, the events have helped thousands of consumers discover the remarkable wines of hundreds of garagistes.

“We appreciate the Garagiste Festival’s continued support of our program and its contribution to the vitality of our area, which is rapidly evolving into one of the most important wine regions in the world. We believe our program embraces the entrepreneurial spirit of the garagiste winemaker by integrating enology with viticulture and wine business. Our program reflects the evolution our wine region and the funds donated by the festival over the past three years, as well as the attention it has brought to our program, have truly made a difference,” Wolf said.

“This year’s donation will go a long way to helping extend the footprint of our students in the wine industry. Thank you Garagiste Festival, and thank you to the hundreds of garagiste winemakers and sponsors who help make this festival possible.”

The Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program includes nearly 300 undergraduate majors, making Cal Poly among the largest Wine and Viticulture programs in the country. The program uniquely integrates three fundamental components of the modern wine industry, with a curriculum emphasizing the inherent connectivity between wine grape growing in the vineyard, wine making in the winery, and wine selling in the marketplace through a unique “learn-by-doing” approach. The program is currently developing a Center for Wine and Viticulture that will include new state-of-the-art teaching facilities.

The upcoming Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will feature 60 artisan winemakers from throughout Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast pouring throughout two days, as well as wine tasting seminars and the popular Winemaker Mixer, which includes the Festival’s signature “winemaker shootout” —where winemakers blind taste each others wines to pick the best red.

For tickets and to be alerted to breaking news about Southern Exposure and other Garagiste events, sign up for The Dirt at http://garagistefestival.com/sign-up/ or follow us on Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or Facebook. For more information on The Garagiste Festivals, go to http://garagistefestival.com

Silicon Valley Bank predicts “breakout year” for U.S. wine biz

Silicon Valley Bank, a leading provider of commercial banking services to the innovation sector and the wine industry, releases its annual State of the Wine Industry report Jan. 21.

“We are seeing real strength in the U.S. economy going into 2015, which will increase demand for wine,” said Rob McMillan, founder of SVB’s Wine Division and author of the report.

“Declining oil prices are transferring wealth to oil-consuming countries, the employment picture is improving, the U.S. dollar is strengthening and interest rates will move at a measured pace. As long as the industrialized world economies can hold their own, the middle-income consumer will see improved prospects. We’ll be toasting to that.”

“We are especially positive on the year ahead,” McMillan said. “We expect the fine wine business will experience accelerating growth, achieving 14 to 18 percent sales growth in 2015. At the same time, the cellars are full with several consecutive years of very good vintages.”

Based on a survey of nearly 600 West Coast wineries, in-house expertise and ongoing research, SVB’s annual report covers trends and addresses current issues facing the American wine industry.

Key findings and predictions:

  • Supply: We expect to see the third consecutive harvest of heavy yield and great quality across most appellations.
  • Sales Growth: After finishing the year at the top end of our predicted sales growth of 6 to 10 percent in 2014, we are predicting a breakout year of growth in the fine wine category in the 14 to 18 percent range in 2015.
  • Pricing: While the large supply of wines in the cellars should normally indicate continued depressed pricing, we believe 2015 will be a year of both volume and price increases in the fine wine segment, driven by an improving economy and higher demand.
  • Demand: Wines priced below $7 a bottle performed poorly both on and off premise in 2014. This poor performance is likely to continue in 2015.
  • Planting: Grape planting is shifting regionally. Oregon and Washington are showing strong growth in planting on a percentage basis and we expect that this will continue for the foreseeable future given favorable quality and price dynamics relative to the fine wine growing regions in California.

SVB’s wine division specializes in commercial banking for premium wineries and vineyards and the industries that support them. SVB has the largest team of commercial bankers dedicated to the wine industry of any bank nationwide. Founded in 1994, SVB’s Wine Division has offices in Napa and Sonoma counties and serves clients in the fine wine producing regions of California, Oregon and Washington.

Palmina Winery names John Busby as general manager

Palmina Winery, which produces a range of wines crafted from Italian varietals grown in Santa Barbara County, has named John Busby as its new general manager.

Busby, previously an executive in the asset management industry, has been manager of direct-to-consumer sales at Palmina for the past two years.

“I am extremely enthused at the prospect of taking on this new role at Palmina,” Busby said. “As the winery celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015, I look forward to continuing to work closely with Steve and Chrystal to firmly position Palmina as a sustainable Santa Barbara County brand for the next 20 years and beyond.”

Steve Clifton, winemaker and owner, produced the first Palmina wines in the basement of his home in 1995. Formerly assistant winemaker at Rancho Sisquoc and manager of The Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, Steve was joined at Palmina by his wife, Chrystal, in 2000. The Cliftons are also partners in Brewer-Clifton, a Sta. Rita Hills producer of pinot noir and chardonnay.

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With harvest but a memory, Dreamcôte winemakers focus on spring releases

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Zotovich pulls a sample of fermenting grenache that will soon be bottled as the 2014 Dreamcôte Wine Co. rose

In October, Zotovich pulled a sample of fermenting grenache that will soon be bottled and released as the 2014 Dreamcôte Wine Co. Rosé.

On Oct. 24, when I sampled it, straight out of a bin and still fermenting, the 2014 Dreamcôte Wine Co. grenache rosé juice already radiated passion-fruit freshness packed into a bright magenta hue.

Winemaker Brittany Tanquary Zotovich, co-owner with Anna Clifford of the Buellton-based label, voiced satisfaction with the young wine, calling it “spring like and floral.”

The two produced it saignée style, removing — or “bleeding” — some of the juice from the must of the grenache grapes after a bout of skin contact.

Grenache from a Santa Ynez Valley vineyard

Grenache from a Santa Ynez Valley vineyard.

Earlier in October, I joined Clifford and Zotovich for a second harvest round, this time for grenache — destined to become this very rosé.

My first harvest ride-a-long visit had been to McGinley Vineyard for my first story about the two

This Oct. 10 grenache pick would be their first from this small site, located on Baseline Avenue just east of Ballard.

The vineyard’s owners had approached managers at Terravant Wine Company, where Clifford works as a winemaker and Zotovich as director of sales/winery accounts, for consulting help.

Zotovich, foreground, and Clifford, pick grenache from a vineyard near Ballard on the morning of Oct. 10.

Zotovich, foreground, and Clifford pick grenache from a vineyard near Ballard on the morning of Oct. 10.

“Brit and I worked with the owners this year to get the vineyard where we want it,” Clifford said.

That work included performing two green drops, a crop thinning maneuver used to weed out unripe (green) berries as cluster ripening progresses.

In October, the McGinley Vineyard syrah grapes that I observed the two harvesting on Aug. 29 were about one-third of their way to becoming Dreamcôte’s 2014 Carbonic Syrah and the juice was displaying “pretty beautiful acid,” Zotovich said.

Carbonic maceration occurs when whole (not crushed) berry clusters are fermented in a sealed vessel that’s been filled with carbon dioxide. Lacking oxygen, the whole grapes start intracellular fermentation, producing alcohol.

Clifford and Zotovich founded Dreamcôte in 2012. On the website is what I believe to be the perfect description of their company: “A secret society of flavor crazed, dynamic and tenacious individuals that give this project life.”

After many months of research and tasting, Clifford and Zotovich this year made the leap into cider production. Hard ciders are gaining popularity with wine and beer consumers, especially those who favor something “a little bubbly” now and then.

My introduction to ciders came courtesy of these two. On an August evening, with a meal of bread, cheese and fresh salads prepared by Zotovich, we shared various ciders from a couple of local producers.

I was intrigued: Both the “fizz factor” and the ABV are low (usually less than 8 percent), but there’s nothing timid about a well-made cider.

Under Dreamcote, the two will produce two ciders: “one dry, and one off dry,” said Zotovich.

* * *

On Nov. 11, while the bulk of the cider was fermenting away in a 300-gallon tank back at Terravant, Clifford and Zotovich had me meet them at Lompoc’s Zotovich Cellars.

There, they had divided several gallons of cider into “yeast trials” in roughly a dozen sample jars, topped with loosened lids to prevent explosion — just in case a sample jar suffered excessive carbonation. Each jar contained a different yeast.

Unscrewing lids and sniffing the jars’ contents, Clifford and Zotovich described aromas that ranged from “apple cider to flat allspice, from yeast to lemon to beef broth, and from chicken all the way to sweet and vinegar.” It was a start.

Their goal, for optimal cider: “We want as little ‘fizzy’ as possible,” Zotovich explained. The finished cider will be bottled unfined and unfiltered, since “people ‘get’ that a cloudy appearance” is a hallmark of ciders.

Both Dreamcôte’s 2014 Carbonic Syrah from McGinley Vineyard and the 2014 Grenache Rosé are targeted for release on Feb. 21, Zotovich told me this week.

The cider release date is “more fluid,” with hand bottling scheduled for sometime in March, and a picnic targeted for later that month or early in April, depending on weather conditions.

Brit Zotovich, left, and Anna Clifford discuss Dreamcôte Wine Co. with two writers at a private tasting in December.

Lee Tomkow Photo/Brit Zotovich, left, and Anna Clifford discuss Dreamcôte Wine Co. with two wine writers at a private tasting in December.

Late last year, Clifford and Zotovich released two 2013 vintages: Dreamcôte’s 2013 “Birdfish” Malvasia Bianca and the 2013 “Goat Without a Rope” red blend.

The two poured those wines and others at a private tasting Dec. 16 in Lompoc that was geared toward small producers.

Of the bright and lively Malvasia Bianca, sourced from Lucas & Lewellen Vineyard, Zotovich said: “People are going crazy for it at the tasting room.”

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The Top 22 Wines I tasted during 2014

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Let me be the first to acknowledge that yes, I need to venture further afield, because all of these wines hail from Santa Barbara County grapes — not that there’s anything wrong with that fact — and yes, I’m posting this list late, as it’s already 2015.

Oh well.

My disclaimer: I have personally tasted all of these wines, either by the taste, glass or bottle. Naturally, I sampled other wines throughout the year, but only the following made my cut for this list.

Taking good notes does pay, for I can share where and (sometimes) even when I came to taste these particular beauties. Comments appear where I remembered to jot them down … but in many cases, I was too enamored of the wine to do more than just sip.

In no particular order:

Discovered this at BubblyFest, and have since enjoyed it several times

Discovered this at BubblyFest, and have since enjoyed it several times

Mosby Wines Stelline di Cortese: (“Little Stars of Cortese”), California (estate) sparkling, NV (BubblyFest, October)

2013 Dreamcote Wines Malvasia Bianca: Lively. And, as the label states: “Life’s short; Drink what you like.” (Private tasting, December)

2012 Cholame Vineyard “Summer Shade,” Grenache Blanc: La Presa Vineyard. Crisp and complex.(Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure, March 2014). Cholame Vineyard features longtime local winemaker/vineyard manager Andy Ibarra as winemaker.

2012 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc: Vogelzang Vineyard. Straw colored, and more viscous, less brisk. (bottle purchase)

2010 Clos Pepe Barrel Select Chardonnay: (bottle purchase)

This wine strengthens my vow to consume more Italian varietals.

This wine strengthens my vow to consume more Italian varietals.

2010 Ethan Wines Nebbiolo: Stolpman Vineyards (bottle purchase)

2011 Sillix Wines Syrah:  (first tasted at Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure, March 2014), (bottle purchase)

2013 Lindley Wines Chardonnay: estate (private tasting, December)

2102 Carucci Wines Viognier, White Hawk Vineyard: (Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure, March 2014)

True confession: I've had a lot of this wine over the years. A LOT. And it never loses its allure.

True confessions: I’ve had a lot of this wine over the years. A LOT. And it never loses its allure.

2010 Jalama Wines “El Capitan:” (Blend of syrah, mourvedre and cabernet sauvignon) (bottle purchase)

2013 Alta Maria Wines Carbonic Pinot Noir: whole cluster, 100 percent carbonic maceration, bottled four months after harvest (tasting room)

As you can see, I couldn't choose just one pink wine. Here are my three dead-heat favorites: Hitching Post, Dragonette Cellars and Andrew Murray Vineyards.

As you can see, I couldn’t choose just one pink wine. Here are my three dead-heat favorites: Hitching Post, Dragonette Cellars and Andrew Murray Vineyards.

2013 Hitching Post Rosé; 2013 Dragonette Cellars Rosé (Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara); and 2013 Andrew Murray Vineyards, Esperance Rosé. (Bottle purchase, all three; the HP is pinot noir and the other two are Rhone blends)

2010 Samsara Wine Grenache: Spectacular. (bottle purchase)

2009 A-non-ah-mus Grenache: D’Vine Wine Bar, by the glass

2009 Stolpman Vineyards L’Avion: Roussanne, (bottle purchase)

2012 Stolpman Vineyards Estate Grown Syrah: (Wine Bloggers’ Conference seminar: “Syrah Terrority, Ballard Canyon,” July; and again during Celebration of Harvest seminar, October)

2011 Brave and Maiden “Union:” Blend of syrah, merlot and cabernet franc. Beautifully dusty. (Wandering Dog Wine Bar, by the glass)

2010 No Limit Wine “The Nutz” Syrah: (private tasting, December)

2012 Big Tar Wines Cabernet Sauvignon: Winemaker Aaron Watty’s goal is food-friendly wines, and he nails it with this silky beauty. (private tasting, December)

While I tasted all four of these Rack and Riddle bubblies, the Blanc de Noirs gets my top vote

While I tasted all four of these Rack and Riddle bubblies, the Blanc de Blancs gets my top vote

Rack and Riddle North Coast Blanc de Blancs: (100 percent chardonnay, NV) (BubblyFest, October)

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