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2007 WINE CASK SANTA BARBARA COUNTY WINE REVIEW Wine Cask wine director, Wendy Van Horn, and I spend months meeting with and tasting the fine wines from the best Santa Barbara County producers. We have a simple goal – to find the top100 (or so) wines produced in the county. While we always seek out new wines and new wine makers, we want to make sure we recommend wines and wineries with a proven track record. We balance the report with a variety of types of wines, wines that have reasons and seasons. There are wines for early consumption that we offer for day to day drinking. There are wines that are serious and age-worthy in the 3 to 5 year category and there are the legendary wines for collectors that will, can, and should age for ten years plus. I hope you enjoy the tasting notes and observations. Thanks and remember that wine is good living! Doug Margerum Owner, Wine Cask AMPLELOS Peter and Rebecca Work have had a busy year. While continuing to climb the steep learning curve required to successfully manage and grow high quality wine grapes, then turn them into wine, they have, on the physical level, completed the vertical integration of their winemaking operations with the acquisition of new winery space this past June. The new winery (which they share with fellow winemaker, Ken Brown), provides plenty of elbow room for production and cellaring as well as office space and enough extra square footage to allow for future growth. The winery represents yet another significant milestone in the couple‘s pursuit of their passion, yet it has not detracted from their focus on their estate vineyard. Peter spends a lot of time getting his hands dirty. He constantly experiments –different trellising methods, leaf pulling regimens, co-planting trials –all in an effort to learn the very best way to farm his grapes. Yields are carefully managed and quality is the clear priority both in the vineyard and in the winery. Without question, Ampelos is a property to watch. WV 2004 Pinot Noir ―Alpha‖, Santa Rita Hills 310 cases produced It‘s finally here! The debut of the first Estate Pinot from Ampelos. A blend of clones 115 and Pommard picked during the ‘04 heat spike that had everybody scrambling, this inaugural bottling is very pretty and destined to please. Bountiful red fruit dominates – raspberry, black cherry, strawberry – accented invitingly with hints of exotic spice, gingerbread and a warm earthiness. This sumptuous extract is balanced with bright acidity and softly framed by fine tannins. There is an appealing up-front quality to the fruit that is very ―friendly‖ yet not over the top. As we taste, Peter comments on making Pinot, ―it‘s about the fruit. I want to make Pinot that can be enjoyed with food.‖ 2004 Syrah / Grenache ―Syrache‖, Santa Barbara County 210 cases produced In the best tradition of blends from the Southern Rhône valley, this wine incorporates each individual element into a greater whole. Nearly 50% of the Syrah is from Alisos Vineyard, with the balance, 23% Syrah and 27% Grenache both from Roger Harrison‘s vineyard in Ballard Canyon. The Alisos Syrah is the dark, brooding base while the components from Harrison-Clark add flesh and plenty of lush fruit. The nose is redolent of blueberries and strawberries with lovely floral topnotes and a hint of underlying minerality. 1/3 new oak plays a subtle background note while fruit commands center stage. ARCADIAN Joe Davis continues to excel. His wines are truly wines for collectors. Joe‘s wines age. DM 2003 Pinot Noir ―Fiddlestix‖, Santa Rita Hills 176 cases produced This is a beautifully scented wine full of delicacy in the nose with a tighter than expected mouth feel and lots of complexity and verve as it lingers on the palate. Light in color but very powerful ala some of the great wines from Burgundy. Once again Joe uses all three clones of Pinot Noir (113, 115, & 667) from the impeccably farmed Fiddlestix vineyard. A vineyard Joe believes might be the best new vineyard planted in the nineties. He ferments each clone separately to evaluate the purity of each lot and then blends to make this his most elegant Pinot Noir. 2003 Pinot Noir ―Dierberg‖, Santa Maria Valley 722 cases produced From vineyards planted in 1997 by Jim Dierberg to multiple clones and on two distinct primary soils, alluvial sand and clay loam. Joe has chosen two ―explore‖ both soil types comparing clonal selection between the two different soils. Working with clones 115, Pommard 5 and clone 31 they have a chance to evaluate what clone matches best with what soil. It‘s a fantastic wine. The color is a very light and bright red shoes red. In the mouth it exudes power and nobility. I found tremendous spicy, earthy mushroom, red meat flavors with nuances of oak and vanilla. It‘s a very flavorful wine that lingers long in the mouth. It‘s a full bucket of pinot noir, richer and a tad more powerful than the Fiddlestix version. AU BON CLIMAT 2005 was Jim Clendenen‘s best year ever. Great wines, incredible demand worldwide, a new outlook, a great winery team, and finally, his best estate grapes ever. The world just can‘t seem to satisfy its demand for Au Bon Climat wines. These are the very very best from Jim‘s production. The 2004 Pinot Noir vintage was tough for many but since Jim has always been an early picker the 2004 ―heat wave‖ that affected many in 2004 was less a factor for Au Bon Climat, especially in their most important selections. DM 2004 Chardonnay ―Mount Carmel‖, Santa Rita Hills 180 cases produced I am very keen on this vineyard and it seems to only get better each year as new and better farming practices are instituted. Jim makes many different Chardonnays from a variety of vineyards in Santa Barbara County and they are all very good – especially in 2004. I decided select just one Chardonnay from Au Bon Climat as it is clearly the most exuberant rich classy wine of the bunch. It is a wine for serious wine collectors as it will age. It is also the perfect wine to pull the cork on for those important dinner parties where you need to have something very good but also very showy. With its opulent explosive creamy aromas of oak and its silky texture it is the go to wine for those special occasions – now and in the future. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Sanford & Benedict‖, Santa Rita Hills 150 cases produced What a Pinot Noir package this is. Consistently one of Jim‘s top wines and at this point I think we can safely say he is the master and king of Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir. He has been the most reliable producer of wine from this fruit. I think I can safely say he is now officially the man who has made wine from this vineyard longer than just about anyone. The 2004 was surprisingly tight initially in the mouth but as it warmed in the glass it stretched out and expanded its flavors to reveal an elegant fruit filled wine with smoky nuances, dried rose petal, and carpaccio complexities. The adjectives don‘t stop there – I spent a lot of time with this wine as I could not fully capture it as it evolved in the glass revealing additional flavors of candied cherries with hints of vanilla, coffee and toasty oak notes in the background. I‘m very keen on this wine. 2004 Pinot Noir Estate ―Knox Alexander‖ Santa Maria Valley 500 cases produced This wine is already so evolved in the aromatics it is hard to believe what it gives in the mouth. This will be one of the longest lived Knox Alexander‘s that Jim has done. Jim blends this as he racks it bringing it up with care and love like any good parent. He has had to adjust the blend and try new blends as the wines developed in directions different than expected in barrel. The estate vineyard, Le Bon Climat, provides 50% of the grapes, which in 2004 had an absurdly low crop that in the heat of 2004 got over ripe too fast, and the remaining 50% come from estate plantings at Bien Nacido vineyard. Jim made barrel selections that balanced acid, fruit, tannin and alcohol. I really like the final blend even though it is a little mixed-up in its youth. I want to see the wine in seven to ten years as the firm handmade wine merges with the opulent bouquet. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Isabelle Morgan‖, California 300 cases produced Sanford & Benedict dominates this blend making it a leaner tighter wine than ever before. It is very dark with a great fruit backbone. The remainder of the blend is the best barrels (that contribute to the structure) from vineyards in Mendocino, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara. Jim does the blend after the first racking and tweaks it a bit right before bottling. For the first time in many years I am giving the nod to Isabelle over the Knox – but just barely. It was an exceptional vintage for Sanford & Benedict fruit (see my notes for Jim‘s single vineyard Sanford & Benedict above) and it really is the main building block for this wine. It is also a great example of the extraordinary blending skills of Jim Clendenen who probably knows what constitutes great Pinot Noir more than anyone else… maybe on this planet. BABCOCK Last year, Bryan Babcock introduced a new lineup of single terroir wines that he calls Terroir Exclusives. In many ways they represent the culmination of years of experience and accumulated knowledge; in every way they are extremely impressive. As a farmer and winemaker, Bryan is practical. The majority of the estate‘s 75 planted acres are geared towards production of high quality, reasonably priced, everyday wines. And while Bryan employs mechanized farming and interventionist winemaking technologies as needed, he also incorporates more traditional techniques when he feels they make sense. For the Terroir Exclusives program the emphasis is definitely on the traditional side, as no effort or expense is spared – Bryan is trying to hit perfection. And it shows. WV 2005 Chardonnay ―TOP CREAM‖, Estate Grown, Santa Rita Hills 250 cases produced Bryan calls this ―the wine I always aspired to make,‖ with justifiable pride. It begins with a specific section of his vineyard called Top Cream in reference to the layer of sandy loam topsoil spread like frosting across the bench on which his mature Dijon Clones of Chardonnay are planted. It ends with the complete integration of the farming and the winemaking. Long ago, Bryan worked with a strain of yeast called Montrachet, desirable for the complex flavors it adds to the wine. The problem was that elemental Sulfur was used in the vineyard to combat the dreaded mildew, and Montrachet yeast, in the presence of even the minutest Sulfur residues, develops offensive stinky odors. While to this day, Sulfur remains the number one mildew prevention agent for most growers, Bryan has learned how to farm without it. As a result, he is able to transfer the gently pressed juice from his best Chardonnay vines, including its lees, into a bunch of new French Oak (50%), and then let it roll with Montrachet. In full Burgundian tradition, the wine then goes through complete malolactic fermentation during a 10-11 month stay in barrels, the last two months of which Bryan considers to be very important. ―That‘s when the lees, maloactic, barrels, and fruit really meld together,‖ says Bryan, ―It‘s the home stretch of the elevage.‖ Finally, the wine is gently coaxed into the bottle, without filtration. Says Bryan, ―once you master a craft, then the traditional starts to feel more and more like the practical.‖Creamy, layered, refined, complex, long, elegant, substantial, weightless elegance, lemon curd, pear, apple, nutbutter– these are just a few of the descriptors jotted in my notebook – the words rush out in a hedonistic tumble. Bottom line, this is exceptional. 2005 Pinot Noir ―OCEAN‘S GHOST‖, Estate Grown, Santa Rita Hills 250 cases produced From an ocean eons since gone, loamy soil comprised of sand, fossilized diatoms and fractured sea shells is the friendly ghost that serves as substrate for vines presently grafted to Dijon Clones 115 and 777. The farming for this wine has been completely tricked out; everything‘s done by hand to produce the very best Pinot on the place. 50% new French oak. Deep earthy nose, plums, black raspberry, a bit of warm spice. A big Pinot that carries itself with lightness and grace. BADGE George Harrison and Eric Clapton teamed up to write the song ―Badge‖ for Cream‘s classic ―Goodbye‖ album (released in 1969). Spoken, the word badge begins its single syllable with blunt force then relaxes into the soft glove of G sounding like J. It catches the ear. It comes fully equipped with readily identifiable logo pre-installed – badge = star. It‘s an excellent name for a German Shepherd Dog. Bruno D‘Alfonso had a new Pinot Noir project. It needed a name for the label. WV 2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills 100 cases produced Two vineyard sites are represented in the bottle. At 60% of the blend, fruit from Ashley‘s Vineyard serves as backbone. Its high-toned, angular, red-fruited notes harmonize with the deeper, broader bass line of black fruits and rich texture provided by the Ampelos component. Every duality requires its counterpart for completeness. Yin vs. yang; top vs. bottom, wet vs. dry. Individually, the constituents are tasty. Blended together, the wine gains complexity and fills out. In the glass, a tantalizing ambrosia of succulent red and black fruits mingles with nose tingling aromas of warm ginger, vanilla, smoke, cola and black pepper. From electrifying attack to expansive middle to lingering finish, this juice hits all the right notes. BECKMEN VINEYARDS I had a great visit with Steve Beckmen, Tom Beckmen (the patriarch) even stopped by. We tasted many barrels of top quality wine from 2005 and I was able to witness the thought that goes into the merger of the components of the Beckmen blends that we offer. Purisima Mountain Grenache is still the most sought after Grenache on the planet. Steve told me he has a list of 27 people waiting to purchase Grenache from his vineyard. DM 2005 Grenache ―Purisima Mountain Vineyard‖, Santa Ynez Valley 550 cases produced I visited Purisima Mountain Vineyard many times this year. This is one of the most beautiful vineyards in the county with its rolling hills and spectacular views. The most beautiful aspect to the vineyard in 2005 was the Grenache block that Steve farms for his estate production. These were perfect grapes; like solders in formation the grapes were all the same shape clusters as he had his crew cuts the shoulders and drop inconsistent bunches. The wine has a full basket of fruits and dark earth. One component of the final blend is a super bright, whole cluster fermented lot that blends well. The remaining component is co-fermented with 12% Syrah and touched up with various barrels of Grenache picked and fermented in a variety of manners. The final blend is a bold earthy wine with lots of texture and explosive flavors on the palate. It is as hedonistic as last years and I think it is the best ever from a great wine stand point: goes with food, ability to age, complexity, and length. 2005 Syrah ―Purisima Mountain Vineyard‖ Clone #1, Santa Ynez Valley 600 cases produced This is the best wine from a variety of root stocks. Steve does not see a dramatically different wine from these root stocks although there was a bit of dehydration in some of the lots. We tasted the three lots that will make up this blend. Lot 1: Dark, glass coating, deep violet and very fruit forward. Lot 2: more elegant, coffee bean, spice and cocoa. Lot 3: Highest raw fruit component, longest expression, powerful and more acidic – picked the earliest as well. The blend is another masterpiece and again, like many of the 2005 wines it will improve with some bottle age. 2005 Syrah ―Purisima Mountain Vineyard‖, Block Six, Santa Ynez Valley 300 cases produced The tightest Block Six wine that there has ever been. A blend from one block of three different clones (clone 174, clone 383, and Estrella clone) that is sourced from the uppermost portion of the block. It is explosive aromatically and just jumps out of the glass. Lots of pepper, spice, light brown tobacco leaves, sweet fruit, dried meats, chocolate, a touch of licorice and a dash of oak. It is very structured and complete even at this young stage. Some of these tannins will take years to resolve. I like the intensity and it fullness. I wrote in my notes: delicious, sublime, right and the fact that it will be a wine to age. THE BRANDER VINEYARD Fred continues his reign as king of Sauvignon Blanc. It is a wonder to see him craft and blend numerous lots to make his different level wines – from the time of the first early release, bottling happens every couple of weeks just to keep up with demand. The thirst for Brander is Sauvignon Blanc is so great he actually created the early release program and had wine to the market in November of 2005 from the 2005 harvest. DM 2005 Sauvignon ―Au Naturel‖, Santa Ynez Valley 600 cases produced Au Natural is produced from four lots of estate fruit picked on different dates and all keep on the skins after crushing for 24 hours. Fred, ever the iconoclast, has decided to add Sauvignon Gris (15%) and Pinot Gris (5%) to the blend as he feels this adds a layer of complexity and additional minerality. As usual this is a very high acid wine, leaving a distinct clean impression on the palate after the rich creamy mouth feel subsides. Although Fred‘s yields were up in 2005 he feels that there is more concentration in 2005. The 2005 is a touch sweet but if I didn‘t tell you wouldn‘t know as it appears dry because of the intense acidity. 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ―Purisima Mountain‖, Santa Ynez Valley 140 cases produced Out of 35 tons Fred has culled a small lot to follow-up his dramatic 2004 Purisima Mountain Sauvignon Blanc – which is the only non-estate single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Fred has ever done. While last year‘s version was an opulent barrel fermented version this year Fred is offering a lot that was keep on the skins for 24 hours (ala Au Natural). It is a high alcohol, lower intensity wine that has a touch of residual sugar. It is the first time he has done skin contact with a vineyard other than his estate and he is very pleased with the results 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ―Reserve‖, Santa Ynez Valley 250 cases produced Once again the daring and ―willing to push the envelope‖ Fred Brander takes a dramatic departure from the standard. Fred has produced a long line of top-notch estate Cabernet Sauvignons that are dark and tight. This is a wine that will need some age and or rich braised meats if it is to be consumed young. The kicker is that the wine has a 5% addition of estate Syrah in it that Fred feels adds complexity. You can‘t pick it out at first as the Syrah hides behind the strong Cabernet Sauvignon structure but once told, you can find the syrah both aromatically and see it immediately in the mouth. It definitely adds complexity. Enjoy! CARGASACCHI Peter Cargasacchi is a low-key kind of guy with a disarming wit and intelligence and, having just left his self-described ―Pinot Prison‖ warehouse winery (to distinguish, perhaps, from the more famous ―Ghetto‖ at the other end of Lompoc), I find that I have no better descriptor. This second vintage for his namesake label reveals both the excellent Pinot growing conditions for ‘05 and Peter‘s own growth as a winemaker. The first strains of a stylistic theme are beginning to be discerned in the wines – quiet, yet powerful, full of fruit, yet nuanced and earthy. WV 2005 Pinot Noir ―Point Concepcion ~ Salipuedes‖ Santa Barbara County $35.95 250 cases produced The optimal ‘05 growing season allowed fruit to hang long and ripen fully while still maintaining vital acid levels. A blend of Dijon clones 115 & 114, this wine reveals plummy dark fruits accented by a brambly herbal top note and invigorating acidity. A rich, earthy Pinot that will pair well with food. 2005 Pinot Noir ―Cargasacchi Vineyard‖ Santa Rita Hills $35.95 250 cases produced A big wine with an aspect of subtlety that belies its size on the palate. Produced entirely from clone 115 grapes and aged for about 10 months in French oak (60% new), this namesake wine possesses a decidedly masculine outline. There is plenty of fruit –dark plums, black berries and cherries – in ripe relief against a framework of substantial tannins, an earthy, mineral streak adds further dimension. The elements are focused and the tone is serious, yet tasty. CARHARTT VINEYARD This husband and wife team Mike farms the vineyard and Brook crafts the wines. They are a busy couple as they do all the winemaking, all their own vineyard work as well as operating their own lab facility – all the while raising a teenage son. Their winery space is brilliant – nestled in a little barn just steps away from their home. This is not a hobby. Mike and Brooke are passionate about their work and their finely crafted wines deserve to be in the elite class of Santa Barbara County wine producers. DM 2004 Merlot ―Estate‖, Santa Ynez Valley 300 cases produced This is beautiful wine; it is just fantastic to look at, densely dark and inky black. The nose is full of toasty oak, dark berries, and spice. The mouth is opulent, full bodied with a great mouth feel, smooth tannic structure and a long finish. Another outstanding Bordeaux varietal wine from the slew of great ones I have tasted from vintage 2004. This wine is an epiphany. Although this not ―a sudden illuminating discovery‖ because the wines from Carhartt have been as Mr. Carhartt would say ―all good‖. It is a classic; it is unlike any merlot you have ever had. You can tell Miles to go to hell and drink f*%&^^*g Merlot because Merlot can be amongst the greatest of all wines, remember Château Petrus ain‘t bad. 2004 Syrah ―Estate‖, Santa Ynez Valley 280 cases produced An explosive nose filled with spice, earth, and dark plums and cherries. It is a dense black fruit driven wine with pepper, firm tannins that are integrated and should age well. This plateau has yielded some of the finest Syrah fruit for many years now. It was Bill Wathen from Foxen Vineyards who first made the wine from this vineyard with great success. I really like the wines from here of late, they are in the Foxen style but have a more feminine touch – not as coarse and more shapely. CARINA CELLARS These are two of my favorite people to visit and do business with and they have one of the nicest tasting rooms in Los Olivos. They are an odd couple, but owner/financier wine nut David Hardee and the iconoclastic freestyle winemaker Joey Tensley continue to produce some of the most appealing wines from the central coast. I am offering the best wine to date for the dynamic duo. We are offering just the one wine since many of the grapes are now being sourced out of the county. I really love the new label (it does make a difference in how you feel about a wine – no matter how much we say it doesn‘t) is more appropriate, elegant and smart, for the wines as well. DM 2005 7%, Santa Barbara County 150 cases produced Simply called 7% now, this is always one of my favorite wines from Carina and it has become one of the most sought after wines from the Carina portfolio. Joey wisely extracts just the right tone as he co-ferments the brooding, dark, savage Colson Canyon old vines Syrah fruit from the Santa Maria Valley with 7% Viognier from Parker‘s Rodney‘s vineyard in Santa Ynez. Classic Côte-Rôtie program that should be emulated by more wineries in the area as the Viognier enhances the often-monochromatic flavors of Syrah whilst providing lifted perfumed aromas that marry beautifully with oak. It is a very chocolaty, rich, fruity bombshell that is one of the best Syrah‘s in the county. CLENDENEN FAMILY VINEYARDS The premise here is that this label allows Jim to make wines that are ―maxed out‖. Meaning he can push the envelope with new varietals, new techniques, and experiment with old world practices. CFV gives Jim the chance and dexterity to make wines that wouldn‘t fall into the Au Bon Climat portfolio. As I tasted the ABC line-up Jim was eager to get to these wines as he knew they would be the type of wines that I fancy. DM 2004 Tocai Friulano ―Borgo Buon Natalie Bien Nacdio Estate‖, Santa Maria Valley 100 cases produced This is just a stunning wine – not stunning in the big rich overripe way but in the elegance and ―me wants drink more‖ kind of way. I think Jim knew I would be keen on it as it has some very nice Sauvignon Blanc tones to it. It is thought that the Tocai grape from Fruili is the grape we know as Sauvignon Vert. Dry, light, and flavorful with fresh off the pear tree fruit. Borgo Buon Natalie, which means I partied with a girl named Natalie in a grass fort, is lightly straw-yellow in color, with an enticing nuance of wildflowers, fresh herbs and a dash of citrus. Very nicely balanced acidity heightens the flavors and gives it a long, clean finish. This is a wine to drink and enjoy this summer with seafood. 2002 Petit Verdot ―Bien Nacido Estate‖, Santa Maria Valley 100 cases produced I have loved the Petit Verdot that Jim produces from Bien Nacido for many years. This is the first time Jim has bottled it separately. This wine was aged a full three years in barrel. Unheard of in California wine making. The result is a very dark, intense wine of enormous complexity. Petit Verdot is one of the six approved grapes for making red wines in the Bordeaux region of France. It is usually used as a blending grape since a little bit goes a long way. Jim is one of the few California producers that have bottled Petit Verdot as its own varietal and I for one am glad he did. COLD HEAVEN Hailed as the Queen of Viognier, Morgan Clendenen is on a roll. With a new tasting room in Los Alamos, consensus amongst the wine cognoscenti is that Morgan is the single best producer of Viognier in the United States. Her partnership with Yves Cuilleron has not only brought her notoriety and fame, but I think it has also elevated her wines to a new level. I do a lot of barrel tasting for the Wine Cask review and I walked away from these wines declaring them to be some of the best I have ever tasted out of barrel. If other Viognier producers would make wines that approach the quality of those from Cold Heaven, I‘d undoubtedly reach for this varietal much more often. DM 2005 Viognier ―Sanford & Benedict Old Vines‖, Santa Rita Hills 175 cases produced This is maybe the best Viognier ever made in California. Morgan is passionate about her wines and has made several changes to her wine making program as the result of her partnership with Yves Cuilleron – adapting from him techniques used in the Rhône Valley to make her wines even better. The wine is fermented naturally with all native yeasts and, as it ages in barrel, it is periodically stirred with a special ―batonnage‖ tool to incorporate the wine with its lees, thus adding texture and complexity to the wine. Aging in neutral oak lends further textural nuance. Ultimately, the wine is a combination of powerful, rich, and complex aromas outlined with delicate hints of apricots mixed with orchard blossoms. Grown in the limestone soil of Sanford and Benedict vineyard, the wine shares tropical fruit flavors and a creamy mouth feel with a backbone of minerality and crisp acidity. A straw golden color and intense flavor makes this one of the best white wines in the county. CORE WINE I was very happy to have the opportunity to taste with David Corey in his little corner production facility located at Central Coast Wine Service co-op in Santa Maria. David is making some very attractive wines and I think these are his best yet. The wines are more refined and elegant than in years past without losing the qualities that make David‘s wines great. David‘s wines have personality. Those qualities and the wines personalities start in his passionate farming of his Alta Mesa Vineyard located at 3200 feet above the Cuyama Valley at the eastern end of Santa Barbara County. A vineyard like no other in Santa Barbara County combined with David‘s zeal and individuality are making him a star on the California wine scene. DM 2005 Grenache ―Alta Mesa Vineyard ~ Single Barrel Selection‖, Santa Barbara County 24 cases produced After tasting many different barrels I asked David if we might have one barrel of his very special Grenache exclusively for the Wine Cask. This particular barrel is from a gravelly section of Grenache from Alta Mesa Vineyard and it was so distinct and so perfect it was the obvious choice to bottle on it own. Dark garnet in color with a big deep plum, prune bouquet, with hints of garrigue, coffee, leather and smoke in the background. 2004 Elevation Sensation ―Alta Mesa‖ Santa Barbara County 150 cases produced This is one intense wine. Elevation Sensation is David‘s blend of Mourvèdre and Grenache that was farmed at a mere half ton per acre at his Alta Mesa vineyard. It has elaborate flavors that stretch and pull from tannin to fruit whilst evaporating esters of jam, smoke, berries, wood, earth and jus caress the mouth and demand you try it again because there is just so much going on here. A classic wine perfect for pairing with hearty fall meals. COSTA DE ORO As this vineyard matures the flavor profiles emerging from their Pinot Noirs remind me more and more of village Vosne-Romanée wines. Costa de Oro vineyard sells grapes to Joe Davis of Arcadian and to Paul Lato and I am seeing this same attribute in their wine as well. I am not sure many could endure a grape-growing partnership where takes 10 plus years for the vines to mature but the partnership between the Burk and Espinola families seems to be stronger than ever. Once again I have selected a single barrel of Pinot Noir exclusively for Wine Cask customers. DM 2005 Pinot Noir ―777‖, Santa Maria Valley 25 cases produced A single barrel selection that rates right up there with a barrel of Vosne- Romanée ―Petit Mont‖ I bought from Nicolas POTEL in 2001 from the 1999 vintage. In fact, after tasting through the various clone offered to me by Gary for a single barrel I went to my cellar and opened a bottle of the POTEL wine just to see if I was dreaming. The "Petit Mont" is one of the most sought after climate in the Vosne-Romanée 1st Growths region. Gary has made a world-class Pinot Noir that is delicate and silky on the palate, slightly austere in the finish as it is still so very young out of barrel, very pure, very well balanced, with a lot of class, long and intense, and very good. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Reserva Oro Rojo‖, Santa Maria Valley 125 cases produced For those of you who have been following the Wine Cask review for many years you know I have a deep appreciation for the wines of Gary Burk. Without exception they have improved year after year. A vintage like 2004 (heat wave at harvest) is perfect for this vineyard, which has to be located in one of the coldest parts of the Santa Maria Valley. It was great to be Costa de Oro in 2004. Those that picked early and picked quickly survived the record setting heat at harvest. The 2004 Reserva Oro Rojo is very pretty. The wine is fresh, lively on the palate, with subtle fruit aromas of currant and cassis combined with vanilla, smoke and toasted notes. Very nice, well balanced, structured wine with supple tannins and a long perfumed finish. Easy to drink now but will be at its best in a few years although you can drink it now through 2015. CURRAN Kris Curran has fallen in love with Spanish varietals. The success of her Grenache Blanc (which, wistfully, we are not able to offer this year as it has already been released) suggests that she is not alone in her appreciation of grapes from Spain. The future looks bright with plans to eventually include Tempranillo and Grenache Gris among others in her warm climate line up. These are the kinds of wines Kris really likes to drink and, with an air of pragmatism, she points out, ―at least, if I can‘t sell them, I can still drink them.‖ I bet she‘ll have to go thirsty. WV 2004 Syrah ―Black Oak‖, Santa Ynez Valley 600 cases produced For the first time, Kris has separated out the Black Oak lot from her Reeve‘s Ranch Syrah to be bottled on its own. Dark and rich with a substantial core of dense, ripe fruit, this juice revels in its brawn. The wine spends nearly two years in 50% new French oak which lends further dimension and grip. Slowly, the tightly wound elixir unfurls to reveal vibrant black berried fruit, primal earthiness, spiky pepper, and an ephemeral floral note. CURTIS Chuck Carlson is doing it right at Curtis and he is producing some of the best Rhone style varietals in Santa Barbara County right now. The winery is sporting a brand new press, the most beautiful new fermentation tanks I‘ve ever seen, new upright French oak storage units, and some of the best vineyards to work with. Curtis wines have the best price to quality ratios of any wine produced in the Valley but I would not expect this to last long. As customers clamor, sometimes three deep, at the Curtis tasting room there may soon come a time that the wines will be available at the winery only. 2005 Roussanne ―Estate‖, Santa Ynez Valley 400 cases produced The 2004 sold out so quickly that heads were spinning. There is a bit more in 2004 but do not expect it to last long. This golden, honeyed wine is a tad more mature at this stage than last years which will bode well for early summertime drinking. Nice balanced acidity with some nice dry notes that balance out the almost sweet fruit. 2004 The Crossroad, Santa Ynez Valley 500 cases produced A masterful blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah aged in 15% new wood all picked from what Chuck calls the knoll. The bright strawberry ladened Grenache has the Syrah for the backbone and tannin and a creamy finish. Very young at this point but it will be a super supper wine. The Crossroad has proven to be one of the most popular wines at the Wine Cask and it is only available through the Wine Cask or winery direct. DUO/DARA Apparently a large winery had already registered the name DUO, the name Gary and Teresa Burk have been using on their wines for over 3 years. The large, yet to be un- named, concern had also registered every variation of the number two many moons ago. So…. DUO will become DARA. DARA means "the heart of wisdom", and they were wise to check and see if that name had already been used – it had not! This year's Sauvignon Blanc will be the last release under the DUO label. DM 2005 Duo Sauvignon Blanc ―Faith Vineyard‖ 400 cases produced This is another winner of a Sauvignon Blanc from Mr. Burk. We sold out of this wine last year so I recommend acting fast! Smooth lovely fresh grass, pear, and hit of citrus aromas with a tight full mouth feel. Not quite as intense as last year's, but, as always, a definite best buy. 2005 Dara Grenache ―Larner‖, Santa Ynez Valley 100 cases produced It was another great Grenache year in 2005. The wines are brighter and crisper than last year so be prepared to let this rest for a bit. Grenache can age fairly fast so I would say one to three years. Grenache can sometimes be low in both pigment and this one is fairly light; but don‘t let that fool you. This is a fleshy, heady, very fruity wine that is a tad rustic, fleshy, sweet, dusty with a sweep of light oak black currants, and blueberries 2005 Dara Syrah ―Colson Canyon‖, Santa Barbara County 100 cases produced This might be Gary‘s best wine. The fruit from Colson Canyon in 2005 was impressive. From clones 877 and 7, this dark, brooding spice & berry ladened wine just expodles out of the glass. It is very savage and rambunctious at this point with cooked dark fruit, condensed blackberry and wild penetrating aromas hinting of briar patch, licorice, and black truffles. It will be a joy to see this wine after it has settled down a bit. It‘s a bit like a beautiful wild stallion right now (remember I am tasting these wines in Janaury) and Gary is just the right winemaker to capture it in the bottle. Highly recommended. DI BRUNO Bruno D‘Alfonso is in the midst of changing his life. After more than two decades as winemaker for Sanford, he is breaking new trail and exploring uncharted territory. Personally, I am impressed by this. Leaving the comfort zone is like jumping off a cliff from which you can‘t see bottom. A panoply of emotions runs a rampant course bouncing from excitement to thrill giving way to terror rising to euphoria sinking to despair and back up again. I don‘t mean to focus on drama, but I do feel compelled to ―doff my hat‖ in a nod of respect. On the plus side, Bruno is now free to devote his time to his own wines – news that will, no doubt, be greeted with enthusiasm by his many fans. WV 2004 Sangiovese ―Stolpman Vineyard‖, Santa Ynez Valley 900 cases produced Stunning. One word is really all that is needed. But why stop there? Year in and year out, this wine is among the top five wines sold in our program. The ‘04 vintage is particularly good and very Brunello-like, replete with a luxurious robe of black-cherry fruit supported by velvet tannins and a subtle uplifting streak of acidity. Bruno employs the same process for his Sangiovese as he does for Pinot Noir which, he feels, allows him to best access the sumptuous fruit. Oak is about 1/3 new and the wine will spend 18-24 months in barrel. Those who know this wine, buy it by the case! DIERBERG Dierberg Vineyard is located fourteen miles from the Pacific Ocean in the southern end of the Santa Maria Valley and features a variety of hillside slopes, sandy loam soils and western exposures planted with an ensemble of classic, low yielding Burgundian clones. This ideal combination of climate, aspect, soil and clonal material results in truly distinctive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. It is an exceptional team put together by proprietor Jim Dierberg. Nicholas G. de Luca is the winemaker. Of his wines, Nick says, ―You only rarely come across that special bottle that really turns your head and forces you to rethink everything you thought you knew about great wine. That‘s the wine I‘m trying to make—individual, complete and 100% genuine. The main thing is never to believe in your own voodoo too much to change your mind.‖ In addition there are a slew of California‘s greatest consultant‘s assisting in the project, David Ramey, consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs, consulting Pinot Noir winemaker, and Daniel Roberts consults on the vineyard which is farmed by Jeff Newton‘s Coastal Vineyard Care. Marta Polley Nichols runs the direct sales and marketing.DM 2004 Chardonnay ―Dierberg‖, Santa Maria Valley 358 cases produced What a wake-up call this was – the first wine of the day many weeks ago and I can still vividly remember the tastes and absolute pleasure I had tasting this wine. It is just about the best Chardonnay I have had in a long time – lush and tight at the same time. The color is light greenish gold as it literally coats the glass while swirling. The aromatics ranged from the acid notes of fresh citrus, lemon curd, to the tropical fruit pineapple/guava notes of typical of the Santa Maria Valley. Hidden in the background are lees, quality judicious oak, some aromas of fig, toast and real vanilla. I like the firm acidity and clean, long finish. This wine will age for several years. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Dierberg – Steven‖, Santa Maria Valley 196 cases produced This is another remarkable wine. Luxurious, dark velvety reds coat the glass as the brilliant, dense ruby red dances in the glass. A rigid selection of only the best barrels make this their most balanced and complex Pinot Noir to date. The wine features aromas of forest floor, fresh potting soil, blackberries and the characteristic raspberry aroma that I love from the Cote de Or and seems to be prevalent in Pinot Noir from the Dierberg Vineyard. On the palate I get more of the same blackberry/raspberry character but with a more meaty and dense core of, for lack of a better term, classic Pinot Noir fruit. Think of it as Volnay on steroids. The finish is long, with nice acid and some grippy tannin. This one will hit its peak in 2008/09. DOMAINE DES DEUX MONDES DDM is a collaboration of Yves Cuilleron and the Queen of Viognier, Morgan Clendenen. They are partners in a variety of projects under the mantle of DD2M; Deux C, a Cold Heaven Santa Ynez Viognier blended with a Cuilleron Condrieu, a Cold Heaven inspired Viognier produced in France to be imported by Morgan and a Condrieu wine from Cuilleron made in the Cold Heaven style. Morgan was jetting off the very next day after we tasted her wines to spend a week in Condrieu with Yves. At this stage of the world wine game, it seems that the boundaries are blurring and resistance is giving way as the old world opens its eyes to the possibilities of the new while the new world looks to the old with renewed respect. Yves‘s wines emphasize opulent, full blown ripe fruit surrounded by plenty of new oak. Meanwhile, Morgan‘s focus is on restraint, subtlety, minimal handling and little oak. Therein lies the secret to this wine and their project – successfully bridging two minds across an ever shrinking global span. DM 2005 Viognier ―Sanford and Benedict - Saints & Sinners‖, Santa Barbara County 525 cases produced Last year‘s inaugural release of this wine sold out within two weeks. In addition to the shared wine-making responsibilities on this wine, Cuilleron works with Morgan in their specific section of Sanford & Benedict reserved for the DD2M project. These are younger vines, and they work to get what they call the correct crop. The fermentation is done in barrel and kept very cool – below 80 degrees. The barrels are Hermitage barrels brought in specifically for DD2M – I have never seen these barrels in the US. The wine is fermented and aged in barrels of various ages: 1/3 new, 1/3 one year old and 1/3 two year old. As in the Cold Heaven Viognier, the lees are stirred to prevent development of reduced flavors and the fermentation is done with all natural yeasts. The wine has very lively acidity and aromas akin to the Cold Heaven wine, yet exhibits a subtle richness and old world sensibility that complements its exuberant new world fruit. Suffice to say it is the best of both worlds. DREW FAMILY CELLARS Jason Drew moved his winery and his family to a new property in Mendocino County last summer. Though he is very much missed, we are very happy for him and especially pleased that he is still working with Santa Barbara County fruit. WV 2005 Pinot Noir ―Gatekeeper‘s‖ Santa Rita Hills 480 cases produced 60% of the blend comes from Ashley‘s Vineyard; the other 40% from Rio Vista. The clones include 45% 777, 35% 115 and 20% 667. 35% new French oak. 25% whole cluster fermentation. 40% native yeast fermentation, 60% inoculated. What do these stats give us? Utter exuberance. Bodacious perfume. Luscious body. Vibrant red berry fruit explodes on the attack in an uninhibited gyration across the palate. A dash of spice, a warm earthy undercurrent, and a crushed violet top note complete the sensory symphony. Sappy metaphors aside, this generous juice is all about hedonistic pleasure. Adults only, please. 2005 Pinot Noir ―Ashley‘s Vineyard‖, Santa Rita Hills 200 cases produced. Relative to its sibling above, the Ashley‘s Pinot demands that we be serious. A bit more angular, certainly more focused and possessing substantial grip, this wine steps everything up a notch. When first approached, it broods with a subdued smolder before bursting forth with a torrent of sapid flavors --summer plums and cherry cream-savors merge with gingerbread, spiky hints of pepper, and butter toffee. Sumptuous. FIDDLEHEAD When asked to describe her winemaking style, Kathy Joseph replied, ―I think my wines reflect my curly-haired personality.‖ Certainly, her liveliness, exuberance, enthusiasm and zeal come through in the glass. I also taste evidence suggesting a streak of firm resolve and self discipline. Hers are wines of complex character and distinctive personality. Production totals about 5,000 cases annually. 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ―Goosebury‖, Santa Ynez Valley 278 cases produced Each year, Kathy crafts two speciality bottlings of Santa Barbara County Sauvignon Blanc, and this year the irrepressible, zestfully vivacious ―Goosebury‖ (the creative spelling came about as a result of BATF bureaucracy) grabbed my attention and wouldn‘t let go. The fruit, from Vogelzang and Stolpman vineyards, came in ripe and ready. A cold fermentation in stainless steel preserved the enticing, fresh character of the fruit and intentionally prevented malolactic fermentation. The result: a wine of immense appeal and palate tingling intensity. The flamboyant fruit bursts upon the senses in a rush of melon, ruby grapefruit, Meyer lemon, red-currant, white flowers, prickly pepper and, of course, spiny gooseberry. Its fulsome flavor is cast against a backbone of racy acidity and clear minerality. In a word, Sensational! 2003 Pinot Noir ―Lollapalooza ~ Fiddlestix Vineyard,‖ Santa Rita Hills 400 cases produced lol·la·pa·loo·za n. Slang : Something outstanding of its kind. The name says it all. This wine is the result of meticulous farming, thoughtful winemaking and sensitive blending. The fruit is from Kathy‘s much heralded Fiddlestix vineyard. New French oak is kept to about 35% -- just enough to provide a bit of added structure and spice without overshadowing the fruit‘s expansive aromatic profile. The wine is ultimately a blend of the best barrels in the house. This supple, broadly textured ‘03 is saturated with essence of sweet plum, black cherry and summer berries with alluring hints of ginger, cardamom and cola that are ever evolving in the glass. FLYING GOAT Norm Yost is hitting his stride. He‘s producing close to 2,000 cases annually. He has established excellent fruit sources and will be adding a couple more in upcoming vintages. His focus is on vineyard designate wines. His stated goal: to capture the identity of each vineyard in the bottle. What we love: that he offers wines from each of Santa Barbara County‘s two primary Pinot producing zones – and that his wines always seem to abound with pretty fruit that avoids tipping over-the-top – and that he‘s generally just a nice guy… Try the wines. 2005 Pinot Noir ―Rio Vista‖, Santa Rita Hills 500 cases produced A blend of clones 777, 667, and 115, the Rio Vista is all about supple, primary fruit. The winemaking is pretty straightforward – a couple of days cold soak, immediate pressing after fermentation into mostly neutral barrels (about ¼ new) – no extended maceration or other extraction techniques needed for this entry. It‘s all about the fruit. Pretty, precocious and showing a preponderance of red fruit character, this is a super friendly kind of wine that is sure to draw a crowd wherever it goes. 2005 Pinot Noir ―Dierberg Vineyard‖, Santa Maria Valley 250 cases produced I love the fact that Norm offers two Pinots from different AVAs as it provides excellent opportunity to compare and contrast fruit characteristics. Here, hot favorite clone 115 marries with the older Martini clone. 115 contributes sappy black cherry flavor and structure; Martini invests distinctive aromas of cola, peppery spice and prickly herbal notes. Together they infuse the wine with a freshening, nervy kind of structure and elegance that stimulates the senses. An excellent example of Santa Maria Valley Pinot. FOLEY The Foley mission statement: For over three thousand years man has endeavored to extract greatness from the grape. We're simply carrying on the tradition. I like this sentiment, simple and to the point; much like Bill Foley himself and his stellar wine making team at Foley. The quarterback Alan Phillips is assisted by marketing maven Mark Dirickson. For the Wine Cask review I am focusing on Rancho Santa Rosa estate wines. I feel these hillside plantings are the Grand Cru vineyards in Santa Rita Hills. Foley Estates is a luxury producer and when you tell your grandchildren you have some 2004 Foley Rancho Santa Rosa stashed in your cellar it will be as if there was 1947 La Tache in your cellar today. Wine Cask is proud to offer two exceptionally rare clonally designated wines from this spectacular estate. DM 2004 Pinot Noir ―Pommard Clone‖ Rancho Santa Rosa, Santa Rita Hills 150 cases produced This is a very formal wine that has a deeply saturated color. The aromatics features intense, ripe fresh blueberry, and huckleberry fruit. It is a wine with great definition, richness, and depth of flavor. This is a serious drink showing a judicious level of extract, clear ripeness, and sweet, seductive fruit. The acidity is excellent, helping give the wine freshness and length. While the 2004 has a little more alcohol than I generally like, it hides its alcohol well. I love the long finish. This wine will probably have a long window of peak drinking. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Clone 2A‖ Rancho Santa Rosa, Santa Rita Hills 250 cases produced This is exactly how a great Pinot Noir should taste like: elegant, feminine, almost delicate with soft texture. I really can‘t describe this wine as huge, right after calling it feminine but it is, big, very long tannins, almost overpowering, an epitome of masculinity as great long aging Pinots are supposed to be. Middlewine, a new wine word that speaks to a rare combination of both masculine and feminine qualities all together in one wine. It is so fine and I simply can‘t stop drinking it. FOXEN VINEYARDS Bill Wathen and Dick Doré, otherwise known as the Foxen Boys are doing it right. I first met Bill in 1979 whilst making a pilgrimage to Chalone Vineyard where Bill was the vineyard manager. We immediately hit it off and have had a very close relationship ever since. We were all inspired by one of California‘s greatest wine pioneers and Chalone founder, Dick Graff. Graff‘s influence inspires Bill‘s (and many a California wine maker who was lucky enough to know him) minimalist winemaking philosophy to this day. You know there must be some other influences as Foxen has cleaned up it act – spiffy new labels and they even have a new website. I suspect Dick‘s beautiful, talented and marketing genius wife Jenny Williamson Doré. So now I think it‘s correct to say: If you don‘t know FOXEN, you don‘t know Dick…or Bill…or Jenny. DM 2005 Chenin Blanc ―Ernesto Wickenden Old Vines‖, Santa Maria Valley 900 cases produced It‘s better. They have made this wine better. Aside from the work in the vineyard where much of the uneven clusters were dropped to get the most evenly ripened grapes ever they are in full control of this vineyard and doing all the work themselves. It‘s also better wine because it is half Stainless steel fermented and half barrel fermented making it fresher, lively and more engaging. It is also better because Bill did some skin maceration to increase the mouth feel. All in all it is a beautifully textured wine, bone dry with a backbone of minerality. Think Domaine des Baumard Savennieres "Clos du Papillon" on steroids but even more opulent. As I was writing this catalog I took a break and went to the store and bought a quince just to make sure of the aromas I smelled. The wine is voluminous and complex, with aromas of quince, apple pie and hints of vanilla. We will stamp your order crazy if you do not buy this wine. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Sea Smoke‖, Santa Rita Hills 400 cases produced This is a great wine. Full of tasty dark Pinot Noir flavors, smoky aromatics, and ponderous fruit. Picked on three different days from three different clones (115, 667, and 777) ten days apart and 1/3 fermented in new 225 liter Françoise Frères barrels with their heads removed. Do you know how crazy that is? I did one wine this year (in one barrel) and our buddy Sashi Moorman does some wines that way – usually in tiny tiny lots. The results are incredible – concentration, soft stylish tannins, and pure fruit. It might be the perfect fermentation vessel except all bottles would need to be sold for $100 plus. Suffice to say the wine is as sexy and wonderful as it can be and it will sell out immediately. Very Limited. 2004 Cabernet Franc ―Tinaquaic – Dry Farmed‖, Santa Maria Valley 145 cases produced This is another great Bordeaux varietal wine from the 2004 vintage in Santa Barbara County. These wines are also all so Bordeaux like and this one tastes like Cheval Blanc out of barrel. Often called America‘s best Cabernet Franc, the wine has a deep color, almost black in the middle with young purple glints on the rim. A concentrated and intense ripe fruit nose with hints of chocolate covered cherries, violets, black stone fruits. Beautiful vanillin oak tones (Foxen uses some of the worlds best and most expensive French barrels for this wine) and restrained soft tannins. Very young still, but the velvety palate promises more as it ages. 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ―Vogelzang Vineyard‖, Santa Ynez Valley 250 cases produced The 2004 vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon should be a wake-up call to the pundits who don‘t think Santa Barbara capable of producing Bordeaux varietals. Happy Canyon, with it‘s unique soil and its special climate protected from the maritime influences by plateaus and valleys running North and South is proving to be the place for these grapes. The wine is not of a specific place that I can make reference to – it compares to Bordeaux and Howell Mountain but has its own unique characteristics. Very dark cherry aromatics with lush soft tannins and a densely rich fruity scented combination platter full of blackberry, cassis, espresso, chilies and mineral notes. The wine‘s already resolved tannins make for complex and deep flavors and a lingering finish. I am moved to quote one of America‘s greatest writers: I drank it and it was good. HAPPY CANYON VINEYARD A stunning vineyard and polo property in, you guessed it, Happy Canyon owned by Tom and Laurel Barrack planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with additional plantings of Petit Verdot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon coming this year. I have been working with this vineyard since 2002 making a wine we call PIOCHO – the Indian name for the property and the name of Mr. Barrack‘s polo team. PIOCHO is a blend of all three varietals grown on the property Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. In 2004 the quality level of the vintage and the maturity of the vines demanded, as planned, reserve wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon Block 8 is a truly special vineyard causing wine/vineyard geeks who pass by to literally drool at the sight of the head trained vines planted to the steep hillside parallel to the road. No tractor works here as the terrain has been untouched by machine. The vineyard spraying is done by helicopter and the vines are maintained by the nimble sure footed team working with John Belfy‘s Buona Terra Farming. DM 2004 BARRACK ―Brand‖, Santa Ynez Valley 125 cases produced A Merlot based wine from the top section of this high plateau vineyard. It is a very dark deeply colored wine with a luscious velvety appearance in the glass. The super rich nose features notes of black plums, crème de cassis, licorice, dark earth, cola, toasty oak, and cedar smoke. The finish has a sweet and sexy complexity, richness of fruit, and incredible concentration. The tannins are very smooth and there is just bit acidity suggesting a wine to drink sooner but that will improve with four to five years of bottle age. I have tasted this wine from barrel for the last 14 months and it is the definitive silky merlot. 2004 BARRACK ―Ten-Goal‖, Santa Ynez Valley 125 cases produced A polo player‘s skills are expressed in goals and range from minus two to ten, with ten being the best. There are only five ten-goal players in United States. BARRACK Ten- Goal is the best wine, carefully blended, from grapes grown at Happy Canyon Vineyards. It is strikingly complex. Ten-Goal is a blend of 40% Block 8 Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% selected sections of Block 1 & 2 Merlot, and 20% Block 3 Cabernet Franc. The aromatics of white chocolate, ink, violets, Chambord liquor, with hints of earth under green grass and freshly shaved truffles lead to a full-bodied, dense, and layered wine, with a sweet fruit and clarity, massively intense flavors, and well integrated grape and oak tannins. The sum is greater than the parts with the Cabernet Sauvignon bringing the strength and backbone, the Merlot the lush sweet middle palate, and the Cabernet Franc adding the spice and verve. It‘s a blockbuster and it should age a minimum of 5 years and last for two decades although you will never regret opening a bottle. HITCHING POST It has been an unbelievable past couple of years for the Hitching Post wine team of Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley. Even as the Sideways buzz abates the demand for these wines continues to grow because, as with many Santa Barbara County producers, they were just waiting to be discovered. These guys are the big stars from Santa Barbara County now but they have always been big stars to us. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Rio Vista‖, Santa Rita Hills 220 cases produced This is a three clone blend from one of the great little vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills appellation. While HP is not a traditional cold soaker, they do use a slow growing yeast that takes about five days to start, so Frank figures that is akin to a seven day cold soak. Like many Pinots in 2004 the fruit came in pretty ripe. I don‘t really see it in the wine as it is very refined. Certainly it is a bit lighter than last year but I find that to be okay as we are trying to avoid late harvest Pinot Noirs – they simply don‘t age and they dominate the delicate food that pair so well with Pinot Noir. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Fiddlestix‖, Santa Rita Hills220 cases produced Four clones (4,115,667, and 777) grown at Fiddlestix vineyard are used here. Franks feels that 2004 was the perfect vintage for this vineyard. I agree. The wine is very flavorful, very expressive, with soft tannins, a powerful structure, complex nose and layers of fruit that are a bit hidden but will reveal themselves over time. The HP Pinots are always barreled down with a fair amount of lees so texturally they are broad wines and very mouth coating. Lovely wine. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Highliner‖, Santa Barbara County $31.95 1100 cases produced The top blended Pinot Noir from the HP repertoire is always called Highliner. As commercial fisherman Gray Harley was a Highliner – the name given to the best fisherman in the fleet. The Highliner is the best of the best from the variety of Pinot Noir vineyards they work with. This year‘s blend is 35% Rio Vista Vineyard, 25% Bien Nacido Vineyard, 20% Fiddlestix Vineyard, 13% Cargasacchi Vineyard, and 7% Sanford & Benedict. It is an alluring wine as you literally feel as though you want to jump into the glass. The lush Pinot flavors are full of smoke, bacon fat, wild fruits and oak. It has a very textural quality to it as the mouth feel expands as the wine warms in the mouth. It will be nice to see it after a year or two of bottle age as the very rich oak integrates with the long concentrated finish. 2004 Syrah ―Purisima Mountain‖, Santa Barbara County $23.95 220 cases produced I just flipped over this wine. Frank, somehow gets some of the very best clones from Steve Beckmen‘s Purisma Mountain vineyard. Frank and Gray are working with clones that are normally reserved for Steve‘s own block and clonal selections. This is a blend of clones 383, 99, 1, and 7 all propagated from the Beaucastel properties Tablas nursery in Paso Robles. The resulting wine is/was my favorite wine of the day. It‘s a rich saturated wine full of dark blue and black colors, sumptuous oak tinged aromas interwoven with white pepper, blueberries, blackberries, cassis, and licorice. Rich, with supple tannin and a long finish, this stunning wine should drink well for ten years plus. HOLUS BOLUS With possibly the coolest label in the program (at least for cephalopod fans – which I am), Holus Bolus is a collaborative winemaking effort that truly embodies a spirit of camaraderie and cooperation among friends and colleagues. There are four winemakers and eight arms, headed by a united goal to blend their talents and create a unique, multi- dimensional wine that transcends the individual. This project is an exercise in the art of blending. Each winemaker – Chad Melville (Samsara), Jim Knight (Jelly Roll), Sashi Morman (Piedrasassi & Stolpman), and Peter Hunken (Piedrasassi) – contributes wine to the project, then the blending trials begin…WV 2005 Syrah, Santa Barbara County 550 cases produced From limpid depths rise aromas replete with sapid black fruits sprinkled with white pepper, licorice, and a suggestion of violets. Juicy on the palate, it generously offers up loads of ripe fruit bounded by enlivening acidity and moderate tannins. Admittedly, this sample I tasted was an approximation, as the final blend had not yet been assembled. But, with a base of about half Piedra Sassi Syrah and roughly half and half Samsara and Jelly Roll, it is representative of the final wine. It is also an example of the cumulative benefits inherent in blending. The individual wines are great, but blended become an entirely new creature –the sum is greater than the parts scenario. Complexity increases as the components meld together. Where one element on its own may sing a melody, together they become a chorus of finely tuned voices singing in perfect concert. Hyperbole aside, this is delicious drink, program allocation is limited and will likely sell out – in other words, you snooze, you lose. HUBER Norm and Traudl Huber first planted their vineyard with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir about 19 years ago, well before the Santa Rita Hills became a buzz phrase on the lips of California wine lovers. They have generally sold most of their fruit to other producers, but, since 2000, have bottled a small amount under their own label. Norm Yost of Flying Goat is making the wines. WV 2005 Pinot Noir ―Estate‖, Santa Rita Hills 250 cases produced The Norm2 team presents us with a show-dog Pinot. Sumptuously fruit driven with loads of succulent cherry and black raspberry flavor, this lands squarely in the crowd-pleaser category. The texture is supple and open-knit and the focus is unabashedly on the opulent extract. Oak influence is moderate –about 20% new French. The juice, all clone 115, was cold soaked for 3-4 days, fermented in open-topped containers, pressed at dryness, and transferred to barrel. Though clearly there is some alcohol here, it is well camouflaged by that lavish layer of sappy fruit. A wine that just wants to put a smile on your face. JAFFURS WINE CELLARS Twelve years have passed since the inception of the label and a signature style has emerged. Craig Jaffurs likes bold, lusty wines that capture the palate‘s attention with vibrant fruit and rich textures. Never shrinking violets, his wines typically maintain a level of focus and structure that keeps them from going over-the-top. I asked Craig if he still experiments with winemaking. His response was to pull a sample of Syrah out of a barrel that had been allowed to ferment with the ―wild‖ or more accurately ―feral‖ yeasts in the winery rather than inoculated with a purchased strain. We compared this with a sample from another barrel of the same wine which had been inoculated prior to fermentation. The results were distinctive and very intriguing. ―Every year I make a list of things I want to try. In the past, I would manage each varietal in the same manner. Now, I am at the point in my winemaking where I am trying to fine tune my response to each wine and vineyard site.‖ WV 2005 Petite Sirah ―Thompson Vineyard‖, Santa Ynez Valley 400 cases produced This wine has become so successful since its ‘03 vintage debut that Craig Jaffurs convinced vineyard owner, David Thompson, to graft over an additional two acres to Petite Syrah just for him. Happily this means that there is a bit more wine to satisfy thirsty demand for this inky concoction saturated with primary wild-berry fruit accented with an exotic orange-spice and violet perfume. The fruit is extravagantly profuse, lusciously textured and quite hedonistic. WV 2005 Syrah ―Ampelos Vineyard‖, Santa Rita Hills $34.95 72 cases produced ―I tasted this wine the other day and was nearly moved to tears by how good it was.‖ With this comment, Craig offered me a taste (and set the bar high). I swirled, sniffed, sipped…and was wowed. Opaque yet glistening in the way of ravens‘ wings in sunlight, the wine exudes power. There is an intensely concentrated core of deep blueberry fruit mingling with glimmerings of white pepper and violet essence. Picked at a very ripe 26.5 brix, the grapes have evolved into wine of substantial extract that, happily, exhibits an equally robust tannic grip and invigorating verve. This is the second vintage that Craig has worked with this vineyard. The fruit is Estrella clone from high density plantings in sandy loam soil on south facing hillsides. Craig‘s tears may well be justified – and emulated by those who miss their chance to purchase a few bottles of this delectable potion. JELLY ROLL I may be biased, but I think there is no better training for becoming a winemaker than to work either in a restaurant or retail store as a wine buyer. There is just no substitute for the depth and breadth of knowledge and palate milage gained through daily tasting of a range of wines at every price and quality level. I now step off my soap box while Jim Knight advances my case. His family owns a wine store and he is a wine buyer. His wines reflect the sensibility of a palate familiar with the classic benchmark wines of the world yet attuned to the special qualities of California fruit. He makes Syrah. Wines from the northern Rhone are what he likes to drink, and his new world wines are modeled on their old world counterparts. Jim‘s wines invoke nuance and subtlety while still celebrating the robust character of SB County Syrah. This is his fifth vintage and they just get better and better. WV 2005 Syrah ―Larner & Stolpman‖, Santa Ynez Valley 200 cases produced No new oak, the fruit needs to shine. And so it does. Limpid, vivid, brilliant, the wine is animated and deliciously exuberant. There are blueberries, and blackberries and chocolate covered cherries. Subtle floral and spice notes elevate the nose. Neutral oak contributes a discreet textural element – it rounds out the middle without interfering or obscuring the pure fruit character of the wine. Really lovely. KAENA Mikael Sigouin made a big move this year, leaving Beckmen and joining the winemaking team at Fess Parker. As an employee of Fess Parker, Mikael looks like the antichrist for his allowing fermentations to occur naturally and never adding enzymes or MLB to be as native as possible. Must be the Hawaiian in him? Production is caped at 500 cases for Kaena, just where Mikael likes it. The wines are great because Mikael knows what great wine is. We are thrilled with Mikael‘s insatiable love for Grenache and his ability to create these special small lot wines under the larger umbrella of Fess Parker. DM 2004 Grenache ―Larner Vineyards‖, Santa Ynez Valley $23.95 50 cases produced I feel that the Grenache from Ballard Canyon is some of the best Grenache in Santa Barbara County. Larner Vineyard grapes continue to dominate the Wine Cask review and Mikael has made a stunner here. The aromatic wine starts off with long esters as the wine reaches the palate. The wine is noble and rich, with elegant fruit rounding out the wine. This is a ―necessary to buy‖ wine. It is breathtaking in its finish – Mikael should be the ambassador for garage wine producers and for Grenache in particular as his few barrels stand mighty against the gigantic production of Fess Parker. 2004 Hapa, Santa Ynez Valley 75 cases produced I am very keen on this part Syrah (66%) and part Grenache (34%) from Terra Alta Vineyard which is located at the very northern end of Ballard Canyon. Mikael fittingly calls the wine ―Hapa‖which defined from Wikipedia, is an individual of mixed racial or ethnic heritage, especially someone of partial Native Hawaiian ancestry who is born in Hawaii. Used without qualification, it is often taken to mean "part Hawaiian and part white." The term is used descriptively, and few Hawaiians today consider it an offensive slur. The wine is totally dominated by the mere third of Grenache with its sweet fruit, charcoal overtones, and burnt blueberries. While the Grenache lingers the Syrah‘s minerality, garnered from the calcareous slopes of this vineyard come together to create an intense finish. Reminds me of Beckmen‘s Grenache-Syrah blend Purisima. This wine is close to Mikael‘s heart as he is ―Hapa‖ himself. KENNETH-CRAWFORD Mark ―Crawford‖ Horvath and Kenneth Gummere continue their winemaking pursuit with an exceptional line up. Business is booming for the small winery that gained additional space this year after Jason Drew, with whom they shared winery space, moved his operation to northern California. Their production is now up to about 1600 cases with plans to top out around 2000. The entire lineup is rock solid, though the Purisima Syrah is a standout. WV 2004 Pinot Noir ―Clos Pepe‖ Santa Rita Hills 75 cases produced Produced from 100% clone 115, which Mark feels is the clone best able to produce a ―complete‖ wine without blending with other clones, this wine is pure ―classic, spicy Santa Rita Hills Pinot,‖ according to Mark. The fruit is all dark – plums, blackberries, and black cherries with spicy, smoky accents. The texture is firm and robust. Oak influence is moderate – about 35% new French oak. In the glass, there is a lot of fruit, plenty of acid, and firm, dusty tannins – the raw materials are all present and accounted for. I think this wine will only get better as the elements further integrate over time. 2004 Syrah ―Blue Fin‖, Santa Ynez Valley 300 cases produced This multi-vineyard Syrah is named in honor of Blue Fin tuna – a species highly prized by sushi chefs for its exceptional quality and purity of flavor. After a tasting of the many different grades of Tuna with a local Sushi Chef, Mark and Kenneth were blown away by the intensity of flavor and the richness of the Blue Fin. They felt that the name and its association with quality and richness were well suited to describing the impetus behind this wine. The vineyard breakdown: 20% Purisima Mountain – for bright aromatics and lift; 50% Larner adds notes of tobacco and tar; 20% Stolpman – provides structural backbone in the form of firm tannins; 10% Lafond which brings cool climate spice to the nose. Oak influence is moderate – 1/3 new French oak. Each component was vinified separately and blended after malolactic fermentation completed. The final blend is outstanding – full of deep blueberry fruit and warm spice; full-bodied, yet with plenty of tannin. 2004 Syrah ―Purisima Mountain‖, Santa Ynez Valley 90 cases produced ―The best wine we‘ve ever made‖ – This is what Mark told me as he poured the sample. That‘s quite a claim to make, but after tasting it, I think I may agree with him. The fruit is all clone 1 from a special experimental parcel that is biodynamically farmed on the Beckmen‘s Purisima Mountain vineyard. This is undeniably Syrah with abundant red and black fruit, high toned aromatics that shift and expand to include sweet berries, white flowers, pepper, grilled meat and a bit of smoke. The juice dances across the palate managing to contain its considerable heft within a surprisingly elegant framework. Truly lovely stuff. KUNIN WINES Seth Kunin started his wine making career in 1998 with a simple philosophy: when you open a bottle of his wine, you can be assured from vineyard to glass, very little has been done to alter the purity of the fruit or its natural terroir. The Kunin motto: as nature intended. I think Robert Parker sums it up nicely "Seth Kunin's winemaking style offers the elegance and complexity found in top-class French wines, as well as the sweet, ripe, tasty fruit the better California offerings routinely possess". DM 2005 Viognier ―Stolpman Vineyard‖, Santa Ynez Valley 495 cases produced This is a luscious offering from a ripe vintage. It‘s a powerful, full-bodied wine that shows-off a bit in the aromatics as the fruity nose literally jumps out of the glass with light spice, pear and dried apricots. Seth prevents malolatic fermentation in the wine, thus preserving desirable natural acidity. Fermented in older French barriques and kept there on the gross lees until bottled. 2005 Pape Stars, Central Coast 550 cases produced This is one of my favorite wines of the vintage; it has also proven to be a star wine for Mr. Kunin – selling out upon release. A blend of 60% Grenache 25% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah. Sweet, lush and liqueur-like; this has the velvety texture and peppery, spicy character of a top-notch Vacqueyras. Creamy-sweet but kept firm and fresh by juicy acids. Very suave wine, with the material to handle its 15.4% alcohol. At this price, the wine is an absolute steal! 2004 Syrah ―Alisos Vineyard‖, Santa Barbara County 240 cases produced What a riot this wine is…a riot of fruit so explosive it like it isn‘t really regular wine. It‘s like it isn‘t real. Blackberry and intense black licorice simply jumps out of the glass. I‘m telling you I have never had a wine quite like this. It is crazy. It is great. PAUL LATO It was another great tasting with the wonderful Paul Lato. He brings proscuitto, fennel, pate and freshly baked bread to our meeting. We taste his elegant wines in perspective – looking at the older with the new and taking time, old world time, to actually talk about the wines. Paul is very articulate and, as I have mentioned before, he is a poet. I have a whole page of notes for the one wine. DM 2004 Pinot Noir ―Duende – Gold Coast Vineyard‖, Santa Maria Valley 70 cases produced Three barrels of Pinot Noir from the Gold Coast vineyard that is elegant light and lean with a tight grip and a crisp salivating finish. As the wine opens in the glass it becomes rounder and richer in the glass. It becomes Burgundian, with full body and aromas that keep expanded and it unfolds in the glass. The last sip is when you see the true beauty of this wine. Like many of the Gold Coast Pinots I see a distinct Vosne-Romanee characteristic in this wine. Duende is a term Paul originally heard from Spanish sherry producer Emilio Lustau – it is a flamenco term that means someone who is playing with inspiration. This is a wine for those who dare to dream, for those who inspire, for those in the know. ETHAN LINDQUIST 2005 marks the fifth vintage for this second generation winemaker. With quiet aplomb, Ethan Lindquist continues to forge his own trail while respecting the lessons learned from his father (Bob Lindquist of Qupe). His focus remains on Rhone varietals, commenting ―they‘re what I know and love‖ with a stated preference for working with organically farmed fruit whenever possible. Dedicated to producing small, handcrafted lots of high quality wine, his total production is now closing in on 1,000 cases with an ultimate goal of somewhere near 3,000 within the next five years or so. WV 2004 Syrah ―Purisima Mountain‖ Santa Ynez Valley 125 cases produced The fruit is all Estrella clone and comes from a special, experimental vineyard block farmed using biodynamic methods. The ‘04 crop was small – from berry size, to cluster size, to total yield. But those tiny berries burst with big, bold flavors … from the inky depths in the glass waft dark, brooding aromas – blackberries and blueberries laced with earthy animal scents that slip onto the palate as a silky ribbon of … fleshy… Honest wine that shows off the sumptuous flesh characteristic of the Estrella clone. 2005 Grenache ―Alta Mesa Vineyard‖ Santa Barbara County 250 cases produced Dave Corey‘s Alta Mesa Vineyard fruit is new to Ethan‘s growing program. Ethan sought it out because he really likes Dave‘s wines (so do we) and champions Dave‘s organic farming methods. The fruit came in really, really ripe and Ethan inoculated the must with a very vigorous yeast strain in an effort to convert all that sugar as efficiently as possible and capture the sappy, candied fruit quality he finds so appealing. He seems to have succeeded as the wine exudes sweet red fruit aromas of summer ripened strawberries and brambly raspberries. High toned herbal notes and a distinctively earthy bass line frame the exuberant fruit. MWC MWC is the negociant label for Margerum Wine Company. I blend and bottle exceptional lots of Santa Barbara County wines from varietals that I don‘t actually produce. What started out as the private label for Wine Cask has morphed into MWC. The long relationship we have had with Au Bon Climat has allowed us to gradually increase the production of the one wine we have under this label right now. MWC PNO is distributed to fine dining restaurants and wine stores throughout California. The wine is a great restaurant by the glass wine as I blend it for early drinking, and it represents an exceptional value considering its pedigree. DM 2005 PNO, Santa Barbara County 1000 cases produced 2005 might be the best year for Santa Barbara Pinot Noir ever. Jim Clendenen, Santa Barbara‘s Pinot pioneer, has declared it to be the best vintage he has ever seen. Of the various lots from which the blend is going to be made there is no wine I wouldn‘t have on its own. As I write this in January I must tell you that I will not do the final blend until June or later. If you have enjoyed previous MWC Pinot Noirs I can assure you that I have better barrels than ever before and it will be the best one yet. I have procured over 40 barrels, five times as much as last year because the quality is so good. The final blend will be mostly from A block at Le Bon Climat vineyard (clones 667 and 115) and even in January the wine was rich and supple. I have never tasted such flavored wines so young. As the demand for Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir continues unabated we are feeling rather keen to be able to offer one of the best Pinots produced for a price almost unseen in the market. MARGERUM WINE COMPANY Vintage 2005 was completely wild. Normally I pick my whites put them to bed move into the Rhone red grapes as they ripen, slowly shift gears and pick the Happy Canyon Bordeaux varietals, and then finish harvest receiving the Washington State Pinot Gris. No such luck in 2005 as everything pretty much came in on top of each other. The winery was so full we actually stacked our ¾ ton fermenters on top of each other. The results are terrific, the whites are brilliant and the reds are as flavorful as I have ever seen. I have never seen the grapes have their flavors so early which enabled me to pick a little less ripe than in previous years. I hope you enjoy these wines. DM 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ―Vogelzang‖, Santa Ynez Valley 175 cases produced The Vogelzang is always my favorite Sauvignon of the three that I produce. Someday I hope to be able to make enough to satisfy the demand. Luckily I am in the front of a long line of wine makers trying to procure Vogelzang Sauvignon Blanc. If, and when, I do I will continue the farming practices that we have established. Right now this very expensive single cluster per shoot, radical green harvest, and leaf pulling is subsidized by the Vogelzang‘s who have given me the opportunity to make the best wine possible from their vineyard. If, and when, I do get a larger section I am afraid I will need to sell this wine for quite a bit more. Fermented in stainless steel, no ML, lots of lees stirring, and this year I have put 15% in a two year old barrel to add a bit more complexity and depth. 2005 M5, Santa Ynez Valley 1200 cases produced M5 is my pride and joy. M5 is a blend of the five principle Rhone varietals – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Counoise. I co-fermented a tiny bit of Viognier in one of the lots but I am not going to call the wine M6. I have a cadre of top-notch vineyards which I use to make this blend: Syrah from Colson Canyon, Black Oak, Alondra de los Prados, Alisos, Vogelzang, and Great Oak Ranch. I get Grenache from Purisima Mountain, Crossroads, Vogelzang, Thompson, and … I procure Mourvèdre from Vogelzang, Zaca Mesa, Terra Alta, and I get the Counoise and Cinsault from the Stolpmans. I also increased the co-fermentation program with 10% Genisis of M5 – everything but Syrah and 10% Uber Syrah a co-fermentation of all of the Syrah. Yes, we are having fun. It will be the earliest drinking M5 as the wines already have their secondary flavors due to early ML‘s, more co-fermentation in the blend, and very flavored grapes at harvest. The M5 mission statement: M5 is a wine that is from a thought – I blend a wine that is an amalgamation of memories, both distant and recent, of wines I‘ve tasted and loved the past thirty-two years. 2004 Syrah ―Alondra de los Prados‖, Santa Barbara County 50 cases produced This is a very special vineyard and it is clearly my top Syrah in 2004. Vintage 2004 had a big heat wave which mostly affected early ripening varietals like Pinot Noir. Tom Krig the hands on vineyard owner of Alondra de los Prados always farms this one acre parcel to maximize flavors and this usually results in a rather small crop. We got caught and right at the end of the heat wave, not knowing if it was going to continue, we decided to pick. We did two picks. The first go through was to pick the perfect perky clusters – we got a little over a ton. The second pick were the grapes that were a little saggy and dehydrated we got a little over a ton. I kept the two picks separate and we lovingly named the first pick the Brittney Spears cuvee and the other the Margaret Thatcher cuvee. To a person, when I tasted visitors to the winery on the two cuvees, the Thatcher cuvee was preferred – intense sweet, ripe, and hedonistic. Of course I blended the Thatcher cuvee into the M5 but not before bottling a case of it. Hey, I‘m a hedonist too. In fact the Brittney Spears cuvee has the body for the long haul and is by far the better wine but it needs the years I hope you‘ll give it to mature. Additionally, this vineyard is co-planted to Viognier which I co-ferment with the Syrah. THE OJAI VINEYARD Visiting Ojai Vineyard is always such a pleasure. The wines are great, the people are terrific and the tacos always hit the spot. Adam Tolmach has a very clear vision with regard to his winemaking. Starting in the vineyard, he is exceedingly particular about farming methods and vine management techniques. The vines in his blocks are cropped at very low levels; one ton per acre is quite typical for Adam (while atypical for most others). Winemaking is equally meticulous. Discussing his thoughts on the 2005 vintage, Adam remarked that, ―it was a prolific vintage with great potential. However, from my view, there were many vineyards that looked like crap. Seems like many people just go with the flow.‖ In contrast, Adam‘s labor intensive practices imbue his wines with an intensity and concentration that speaks for itself. It‘s hard to argue with great results. WV 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ―Westerly Vineyard‖, Santa Barbara County 550 cases produced A perennial favorite of the Wine Cask review, and the ‘05 looks to be stupendously good. Barrel fermented in neutral French oak, the wine is comprised of two lots fermented separately. One lot is from Adam‘s super low yielding block which contributes laser like focus and a dense core of fruit; the second lot is from higher yielding vines planted on the same parcel and adjacent to Adam‘s. Here the texture is more open-knit, the fruit more forward and friendly. Together, the components harmonize into a lushly textured elixir redolent of ripe citrus, melon, zippy herbs and red berry and backed by plenty of verve. 2004 Chardonnay ―Clos Pepe‖, Santa Rita Hills 175 cases produced I am admittedly a big fan of this wine. This fruit from this very cool vineyard site presents certain challenges, but the results are impressive. As Adam has become more experienced working with the site, he has learned to anticipate potential problems and respond accordingly. He is also willing to discard lots that don‘t make the grade, regardless of cost. He has de-emphasized the use of new oak to the extent that it comprises only about 15%. Instead, the focus is on purity of fruit. And lovely fruit it is – creamy, expansive with notes of ripe pear, fig, lemon curd, almond, brioche…There is plenty of grip, yet the wine manages that ineffable marriage of substantial weight with supple elegance. 2003 Pinot Noir ―Fe Ciega‖ Santa Rita Hills 135 cases produced This is the first vintage for Adam working with fruit from Fe Ciega. He really likes this site, remarking that, ―this vineyard has a really neat personality.‖ I tasted this wine out of barrel last year, and my interest was piqued. Recalling this as I revisit the wine a year later, I find my palate again very excited. From the deep, inky color in the glass emerges an intensely perfumed nose – exotic spice, smoke, herbal tang over juicy plum and black raspberry fruit. This is big pinot with substantial structure and the potential for long life. Grand cru quality at premier cru price! 2004 Syrah ―Roll Ranch‖, California 550 cases produced Adam is really happy with this vintage of Roll Ranch Syrah. The farming was done perfectly, the fruit was beautiful and the wine looks to be superb. Scents of ripe black fruits, roses and white pepper fill the senses, followed by expressive, sappy black berries and very refined, velvety texture on the palate. This is an outstanding vintage for Roll Ranch. 2003 Grenache ―Purisima Mountain‖, Santa Ynez Valley 130 cases produced This Grenache takes the place of the ―Vin du Soleil‖ blend that we have featured previously in the catalogue and which Adam is no longer producing. Instead, he offers this incredibly concentrated, very serious, intriguingly complex Grenache. With one sip, it becomes clear that this is a significant cut above the average quality Grenache on the market. Spicy, hard candy and fruit leather notes waft above a dense core of fruit that weaves flavors of summer ripened berries into a silky, sappy, slippery textured wine that fully engages the senses. To capture such fruit intensity required significant effort in the vineyard. Yields were kept exceedingly low – ½ ton/acre. There‘s no new wood – Adam feels that, for Grenache, wood needs to be in the background and the fruit should command center stage. While many Grenache based wines offer exuberant, friendly fruit, the concentration and complexity of this entry clearly move up to another quality level. 2005 Viognier Ice Wine ―Late Harvest Roll Ranch‖, California 280 cases produced Life is too short to skip dessert…especially this sumptuous elixir. Extravagant aromatics redolent of peaches, exotic flowers, and creamy almonds explode with a burst of opulent flavor on the palate. To capture all this honeyed goodness, Adam picks the grapes late in the season when they are super ripe and then freezes them to further remove water and concentrate flavor. The shriveled berries release their remaining nectar during pressing and are then fermented until the residual sugar is around 25-27 percent. The resulting wine is relatively low in alcohol, abounds with delectably sweet flavor, and is a100% fat free dessert. Lap it up. PALI WINE COMPANY What happens when you throw together a bunch of insurance professionals and a holiday booze cruise? Apparently, you decide to start a winery. So goes the story of Pali Wine Company. Flash in the pan or here to stay? It‘s probably still too soon to say. Regardless, they‘ve got Brian Loring making their wines, have secured excellent fruit sources, and, in the interest of spreading a bit of hopeful gossip, I‘m told they are planning to invest in a substantial winery project. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, we‘re pleased to introduce this inaugural offering from Pali. WV 2005 Pinot Noir ―Turner Vineyard‖, Santa Rita Hills 125 cases produced At the time, I had no intention of adding another producer to the program. But, then I tasted the wine. It screamed ‗show dog‖ with undeniably bold, forthright, tongue-coating, lip-smacking, how-can-I-deny-this-to-my-customers, hedonistic pleasure. So, I said, yes. As mentioned, Brian Loring is the winemaker. Turner Vineyard is a property situated behind Babcock and Melville that is starting to garner attention. In the glass, black Dijon clone Pinot reveals itself with intense perfume and voluptuous fruit – a big bowlful of berries oozing sweet juice. 50% new French oak is incorporated into the elevage and adds textural dimension and fattens the middle. Can you see why I had to say yes? QUPÉ Bob Lindquist, the father of Rhone varietal production in Santa Barbara County calls Qupé a modern stone age winery. Qupé‘s goal is to produce handcrafted Rhône varietals and Chardonnay from California‘s Central Coast employing traditional winemaking techniques to make wines that are true to type and speak of their vineyard sources. These are wines that are completely balanced and are wines that simply taste good – what a concept! Yet, because of the good acidity from their cool vineyard sites they all benefit from aging. The Wine & Spirits Buying Guide named Qupé one of theArtisan Wineries of the Year and included Qupé in their 100 Best Wines of 2005. 2004 Roussanne ―Bien Nacido Hillside Estate‖, Santa Maria Valley 384 cases produced I have already tasted this wine about three times out of barrel. Bob is giddy about this wine and I hope he doesn‘t sample it all away before it is bottled as every visitor to the ABC/Qupe wine making facility is lead to the back building dodging forklifts, Pip the Border Collie, hoses, and pallets to get a taste of this beautiful wine. It is so honeyed and rich with a golden hue color that coats the glass. It it almost like biting into a honeycomb the wine is so textured. The flavors expand on the palate to include Tahitian vanilla crème brulée and nutmeg scented eggnog. One expansive wine that is a ―wow‖ for any special occasion. 2004 Syrah ―Stolpman Vineyards‖, Santa Ynez Valley 96 cases produced Each year I pick a favorite single vineyard from the five or six single vineyard wines that Bob produces. The Stolpman Vineyard soil seems especially suited to the style of Syrah Bob Lindquist produces (good acidity, firm structure, age ability) as the vineyard has a lot of limestone in it. Bob has been making Syrah from Stolpman since1996, and with the exception of a great 2001, he had always blended it into the Central Coast Syrah. However, there is a new program at Stolpman, under the guidance of Stolpman‘s winemaker Sashi Moorman and vineyard manager Jeff Newton. They are ―super farming‖ their best vineyard blocks to get the very best quality attainable. This wine is from the Tablas Creek clone 99, which seems especially well suited to Stolpman‘s terroir. Bob‘s regimen is to completely de-stem the fruit without crushing the individual berries, cold soak for 48 hours in open-top fermenters, and when fermentation starts he (I mean not Bob) manually punches the cap down twice a day. Fermentations last between 15 and 20 days; then he presses, settles the wine for 24 hours and then puts it to barrel. In 2004 Bob procured a mere 1 ½ tons of the ―super farmed‖ (and ―super expensive‖) fruit which yielded 4 barrels (one new François Frères, one 1 year old Françoise Frères and two neutral barrels). The wine is aged 15 months, racked three times and bottled without fining or filtration. The aromas exhibit a deep, black raspberry fruit with hints of spice and red pepper, and a bit of smoked meat. Rich flavors, balanced acidity and persistent tannins argue for some aging. It‘s still a juicy, forward 2004 though, so I‘d say drink it now to 3-5 years. 2004 Syrah ―Bien Nacido Hillside Estate‖, Santa Maria Valley 690 cases produced This Syrah is grown on the steep Z block perched high above all of the ―other‖ vineyards at Bien Nacido. Z block is the original custom hillside block at Bien Nacido. Bob is know for making cool climate syrah and this high altitude southwest facing slope vineyard with its poor soil, cool winds, and stressed vines delivers classic cool climate grapes to Bob. His Hillside is always the ―textbook‖ Californian Syrah in its balance and flavor profile. As is the procedure, all of the grapes were de-stemmed into small open top fermenters. With each lot, Bob (I mean Enrique) draws off two barrels of saignée after about five days and barrel ferments this portion of the wine. This barrel fermented portion ends up being about 12% of the final blend and adds a nice toasty mocha character to the wine. The wine is then aged for nineteen months in François Frères French oak barrels of which about two-thirds are new. The 2004 is a dark intense wine which reminds me a little of the some of the best Hermitage I have had. This is California meets France as the fruit is forward, but it has good restrained tannins and acidity lurking in the background. A classic. ROCK HOLLOW This is a wine made from Adam Firestone‘s tiny vineyard right below his house just south of Los Olivos. The Syrah Adam has planted is the Syrah Noir clone. The wine is made by Curtis winery wine maker Chuck Carlson. A sister wine from the same vineyard, Cabernet Franc, is made by Kevin Willenborg the wine maker at Firestone. The definition of Defilade is Marine speak for planting a vineyard to look like fortifications against the wine or something like that. DM 2004 Syrah ―Defilade‖, Santa Ynez Valley 100 cases produced This is a big serious wine – far more generous and strong than last years impressive showing. It has very rich core fruit, great length, good grip, chocolate with aromas of violets and pink peppercorns. The wine is the same price as last year which is a treat for a really stunning and exceedingly rare wine. RUSACK This winery has experienced a meteoric rise in quality during the few years since John Falcone took over winemaking duties. From overseeing a substantial re-planting program on the estate to securing top notch fruit sources offsite to developing a signature style for the wines, his efforts continue to pay off. Demand has never been greater. As we tasted through the wines, we discussed his approach to growing grapes and making wine. In the vineyard, rootstock selection is critical for the specific site, and he believes climate has the biggest impact on flavor development. In the cellar, blending is integral to the program, whether blending particular clones within a varietal or blending different varieties together to create a finished whole. At every step, each variable must be considered within context of the big picture. From the evidence in bottle, the big picture is clearly visible. WV 2004 Pinot Noir ―Reserve‖, Santa Rita Hills 300 cases produced Hedonistic, sultry, opulent –these words headline my tasting notes. This is the third year that we have featured this wine in the lineup and each year our allocation sells out. The fruit is 50% Fiddlestix; 25% Rancho Santa Rosa; 25% Huber Vineyard aged 11 months in barrel – 1/3 new French oak. A mixture of clones are incorporated including Pommard clone 4, clones 667, 113, & 115. The grapes came into the winery quite ripe due to the late summer heat spell, but John adapted his winemaking in response (such as shortening the skin contact time) and the results are impressive. Sumptuous black fruits – blackberry, boysenberry, and ripe plum mingle with notes of cola and a bit of spice. The texture is positively lush and the fruit expansive. When asked about his ―ideal‖ Pinot, John responds easily, ―Pinot Noir should be pretty, fruity, and elegant yet still have structure. To capture intensity in the mid-palate is the hard part.‖ His Pinots have certainly struck a chord with wine lovers and demand is great. 2004 Anacapa, Santa Ynez Valley 350 cases produced For Bordeaux varietals, the ‘04 summer heat spike provided a welcome extra boost for these later ripening grapes. And this vintage is possibly the best Anacapa thus far produced. 75% Cabernet Franc from Valley View vineyard, 13% Merlot from Bien Nacido and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon from Falcone vineyard. Tasted separately, it is clear that each component offers unique characteristics. The Cab Franc displays lovely aromas of rose, violet, smoke, and classic herbal notes; the Merlot reveals succulent, sappy dark red berry and cassis flavors beneath high-toned floral top notes; the Cab Sauv manifests enticing anise accented aromatics enveloped within deep, dark, black cherry and cassis fruit and backed by substantial tannin structure. Together, the elements harmonize in a swirl of complexity that clearly demonstrates the positive power of blending. This is truly fine. SAMSARA Chad Melville describes himself as a ―terroir-ist‖ – that is, he is particularly intrigued by vineyard site, in capturing and expressing the characteristics unique to each vineyard. In his tiny production winery (about 500 cases), everything is done by hand, and done with gentleness and great care. Quality trumps efficiency. Further, in a trend that many wine drinkers applaud, Chad is focusing on reducing the alcohol levels in his finished wines. Picking at lower brix (sugar) levels, fermenting in open-topped containers (which allow alcohol to volatilize/evaporate) and increasing time in barrel prior to bottling, are techniques he is employing to naturally lower the alcohol levels by a couple of percentage points. Bravo. WV 2005 Pinot Noir ―Ampelos Vineyard‖, Santa Rita Hills 80 cases produced Chad has worked with Syrah from this vineyard, but this is the first year for Pinot Noir. He is particularly pleased to be working with vineyard owners, Peter and Rebecca Work, noting that, ―they have the passion to be great wine growers.‖ The clones on Chad‘s block are 2/3 115 and 1/3 Pommard clone 4 planted on a gradual west facing slope. As in the Syrah above, the fruit is handled with lots of labor intensive, hands-on care that shows in the final wine. Wafting out of the glass, scents of ripe boysenberries and raspberries mingle with crushed violets. The structure is subtle, allowing the vibrant and lush quality of the fruit to headline while acidity and tannin lend quiet support. 2005 Syrah ―Verna‘s Vineyard‖ Santa Barbara County $31.95 80 cases produced Syrah clones 877 and 470 planted on a southwest facing sandy loam hillside along with a bit of Estrella clone planted on the richer loamy slope below are the primary components. The fruit was handled with the utmost care, carefully destemmed and hand sorted berry by berry before going into open-topped fermenters. After fermentation, the wine was basket-pressed SLOWLY over eight hours directly into barrel (30% new French oak). A splash of Malvasia (about 5%) has been incorporated into the wine for the heady, spiced bergamot aromatic lift it provides (and Chad loves). In the glass, a vivid core of bright blueberry fruit expands on the palate; there is concentration without excessive heat and excellent grip on the finish. SEA SMOKE Fanfare, accolades, allocations, and general hyperbole aside, these wines are champion show dogs. The goal, describes winemaker Kris Curran, is to produce three great Pinots each with a very distinctive and individual style. To achieve this requires clear vision and attention to detail from vineyard to barrel to bottle. After tasting through the wines, I declare: Mission Accomplished. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Botella‖, Santa Rita Hills There‘s no way around it, Botella is slutty. Ripe, lush and overflowing with sensuous dark fruits, it exudes an aura of decadence. Moderate use of French oak– about 1/3 new – and no extra skin contact accentuate the fleshy fruit character. Plums, dark berries, a bit of spice, a hint of cocoa -- the aromas and flavors are exuberant and unbounded in a late night, shed the inhibitions kind of way (read- lots of fruit, soft tannins). There are no hard edges here; every drop slides down easy. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Southing‖, Santa Rita Hills To borrow winemaker Kris Curran‘s analogy, this wine is like an experienced woman – deep, complex, multi-dimensional. She reveals herself in enticing increments that keep you coming back for more. Southing is more elegant and higher toned than either of her siblings. At the core, there is dense dark red fruit supported by firm, yet refined structure, perfumed with a profusion succulent berries and warm spice. This middle child is bewitching charmer in elegant dress. 2004 Pinot Noir ―Ten‖, Santa Rita Hills This wine has everything – all ten of the clones cultivated in the vineyard, 100% new French oak, extended maceration –the works. It packs a wallop! Riotous aromatics redolent of black cherry, black raspberry, boysenberry, licorice, cardamom, cola, and black pepper swell above massive fruit extract and bear-hug tannins. Thickly textured, super saturated, and bordering on bombastic, this Pinot is not for the faint of heart. Thrill seekers wanted. TENSLEY These wines just keep getting better and better. They keep getting impressive reviews from the wine press as well. Luckily for us Joey remembers who supported him in the beginning and he is giving us as great allocations of his much sought after wines. It is hard to believe Tensley Wines, established in 1998, had their first release totaling just 100 cases. In 2005, his production reached a mere 2,000 cases. Still, the underlying philosophy behind Tensley Wine has not changed - use as little manipulation as possible and let the vineyard speak for itself. 2005 Syrah ―Terra Alta Vineyard – Clone 99‖, Santa Barbara County 200 cases produced Robert Parker rated the 2004 in the 90 – 92 point range and I think the 2005 is going to be a better wine. It won‘t get as high a rating because, like many of the 2005s that were picked before becoming too over ripe it has a firm tannic backbone and good acidity to match the fruit. Fermented and left on the skins an amazing 26 days the wine is surprisingly light and bright but it‘s a monster in the mouth, tight and pure with a pretty and very fragrant bouquet of watermelon fruit, spicy pink peppercorns, plums, and wild flowers. With a little age the wine with its balanced fruit will age with poise for many years. 2005 Syrah ―Colson Canyon Vineyard‖, Santa Barbara County 800 cases produced Joey has this vineyard dialed in and he always get the pick of the vineyard. This year‘s wine is all clone 7 from the very first plantings at Colson Canyon. He always get the old vines the in several different pickings getting a variety of grapes that are the least and most ripe they can be. The wine is a sweet wild delicious exciting savage tempting earthy fungi oak bark black red burnt cocoa bittersweet vanilla barn toast cream tar laddered piece of work. I think this vineyard is extraordinarily good and I think Joey makes one of the best – and it is certainly the most expressive and envelope testing. Buy this. 2005 Syrah ―OGT‖, Santa Barbara County 100 cases of magnums (only) produced While the blend had not yet been finished I was able to taste many of the components. Imagining how the tight Terra Alta Syrah is going to enliven and stretch the Colson Canyon which will be the majority of the blend. There is some very good old vine Grenache which I am sure will be added to the wine that has to be the best from Tensley because it is named for his son Oliver Gunner Tensley aka OGT. VERDAD These are two of the most exciting wines in the review and they offer an opportunity to explore different flavors from ―new to America‖ grape varieties that offer bright new wine experiences. These wine are especially food friendly and food needy; with the emergence of Spanish cuisine as the darling of the food magazines you will need these wine to pair with that cutting edge fare. There could be no better time to embrace these wines. Bob and Louisa Lindquist have made a commitment to produce Spanish varietal grapes. 2005 Albarino ―Ibarra Young Vineyard‖, Santa Ynez Valley 330 cases produced Ummm This wine is very good. A virtual cornucopia of apples and pear fruits all packaged in a tight crisp clean wine that explodes on the palate. 2004 Tempranillo Blend, Santa Barbara County 450 cases produced This is a wine of massive expression, a statement wine, a bold wine a wine for the ages. This is as big as it gets in my book while still being balance with the gobs of fruit. This is the Chateau Latour of Tempranillo. It‘s huge. It‘s bold. Immensely structure and full of dark bark, burnt blueberries, dark chocolate and spicy beef jerky. Jerky is actually derived from the Spanish word "charqui," which describes dried meat strips. This is the biggest wine, in terms of tannin, in the review and it is not for the faint of heart. I can‘t imagine if it was 100% Tempranillo as12.5% Syrah and 12.5% Grenache is added to tame the beast. Go for it. WESTERLY The talented team of wine maker, Seth Kunin and grape grower, Jeff Newton, of Coastal Vineyard Care, are honing their skills to a fine edge. With each successive vintage, their increasing level of experience and knowledge is transformed into more beautiful fruit and ever better wine. This is the BEST Sauvignon Blanc yet from Westerly Vineyard. I even told Seth it was better than mine. No, wait...I take that back. In addition, after tasting many other Syrahs made from Westerly Vineyard fruit, this entry most definitely ranks as the BEST! Way better than mine. Wait…I don‘t make a Westerly Syrah. DM 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ―Estate‖, Santa Ynez Valley 1100 cases produced This ―pick of the estate‖ Sauvignon Blanc is bright and clean in the glass, a very spotless and perfumed white wine with nuances of Bartlett pear, apples and a touch of grapefruit rind. It‘s fresh, dry and light with substantial bouncy floral and white peach flavors and a long, lacy finish that is fruity sweet with hints of gravel in the finish. This is the best one yet. 2004 Syrah ―Estate‖, Santa Ynez Valley 650 cases produced A very elegant, refined Syrah from relatively new plantings at Westerly Vineyards, which spans 85 acres, and is planted to eight varietals amid the rolling terrain of Happy Canyon. Each of the Syrah clones used in this blend is shaped by its unique location and rootstock on the estate. Vineyard manger, Ben Meri, works to create a unique synergy of climate, clone, and soil using progressive viticulture techniques. For the Syrah, root growth and vine vigor are limited, ensuring smaller vines and low yields—a perfect combination for the development of intensely flavored grapes. Although the aromatics are intense, full of spice and dark berry flavors, the mouth is all about length and elegance. A complexity wrought from the soil, a unique combination of barrels both new and old and judicious care in the wine making make this a very pleasing wine. WINE CASK Private label wine, that is very fine! It can‘t be beat, cause it‘s so neat! Blended carefully every year, so you can buy it without fear! Special label with hand painted art, makes it a wine dear to the heart! Priced so low, you can save money for a show! Buy it now while you have the chance, else I‘ll pull down your pants! 2005 Chardonnay ―Special Reserve‖, Santa Barbara County 150 cases produced Another great Wine Cask Chardonnay. The 2005 was delicious and drinkable a mere three months after the grapes were harvested. So, we are going to bottle this vintage earlier than in past years to capture the bright fruit. Once again 50% from Fred Brander‘s father‘s Los Olivos Vineyard which is adjacent to the Brander winery building and 50% from the Plam Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley. 2005 was big vintage, a little less intense than previous years, more approachable early. In contrast, many of the Wine Cask Chardonnay‘s we have previously bottled seem to be at their best with a bit of bottle age – not a common thing for California wine. Partial maololactic fermentation, half tank fermented and half barrel fermented. It is the best value chardonnay in Santa Barbara County and still the same price!
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