Category Archives: Santa Barbara

Move over Syrah…Ballard Cyn is all about Roussane

Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara County is one of the most recent grape growing regions to attain the American Viticulture Area classification, or AVA. This little sub-region sits on one of the most picturesque drives in California. Ballard Canyon Road starts at State Route 154 (aka San Marcos Pass) and bends and winds its way to a little south of Buellton (home of the famous Pea Soup Andersen’s) on State Route 246. The road is only 7 miles long and full of native oak trees, rolling hills of vines, and even a few bison to complete the scenery straight off a vintage Americana postcard.

Wine drinkers are soon to hear more of Ballard Canyon as it is becoming one of the red Rhône hot spots of this great state, especially Syrah. Before receiving its official nod, Ballard Canyon was already getting a buzz of approval from sommeliers and winemakers alike. Vineyards and producers within the AVA’s boundaries include Stolpman, Beckman, Rusack, and Jonata, are all being touted for their red Rhônes. However, after a recent tasting, it was the Roussanne that was really a surprise.


stolpman vineyard

Photo courtesy of Stolpman’s Instagram —

Roussanne is not the most recognized white wine from Southern France, which is of course Viognier – the two are most commonly blended with a third grape Marsanne. It is rare to see a 100% Roussanne wine – last year there was 1277 tons of Roussanne picked while the total for Viognier was 28,000. There are distinct differences between the two: Roussanne has flavors of peach and apricot compote while Viognier tends to lean on the more tropical side of the fruit spectrum, also with characteristic pear notes. Both are on the fuller side in mouthfeel.


Stolpman, Cosecha, Bressades, Roussanne

The first Roussanne I tried was from boutique producer De Su Propia Cosecha, a winery that firmly puts all its concentration in the vineyard. The name is Spanish for “Of One’s Own Harvest” and proprietor/winemaker Chris King personally tends the vineyards from which he buys fruit. This is a very uncommon procedure as most just buy the grapes, while King is probably in the vineyard more than the winery. King sourced these grapes from Stolpman vineyard, and this is a wine that stands out. There was a fresh apricot nose with hints of honeydew, also some flavors of almond and water chestnuts; nectar in its full definition.

I tried Stolpman Vineyard’s own Roussane a few nights later. Stolpman was the first to plant Rhone varieties in Ballard, and really began the trend across the canyon. Their Roussanne is named “L’Avion”, French for airplane, as the vines grow on a former airplane strip on the property which started out as cattle ranch. This wine too is quite special, with a lovely nose of peaches and cream, some hints of honeysuckle and with clean cut minerality on the finish.

To put these two wines in perspective I took a quick jaunt out to my local bottle shops in search of a French Roussanne. Although I came up empty handed in 100% Roussanne wine, I did find a 50/50 Rousanne Viognier made by Mas des Bressade in the Costières de Nîmes, one of the more southern bits of the Rhône . Although this is made up half of Viognier it is still full of Roussanne flavor, lots of peaches, apricot compote, fresh minty tea leaves and tropical melon.

The Ballard Canyon wines were very fragrant and what made them stand out was the pureness on the palate. Both had such ripe stone fruit flavors and an underlining acidity mixed with minerality that adds a fresh note. Food-wise and because of the medium weight of Roussanne these wines will go perfect with most poultry, fish or seafood and citrus sauces. Fish or shrimp tacos with mango salsa or grilled salmon with a lemon cilantro sauce, the weight of the wine will counter light lemon or lime sauces. In fact, I would go as far as saying it will stand up to medium spicy Thai dishes as well. I am just imaging a chicken yellow curry matching perfect to the peach and apricot flavors of Roussanne.

So, remember the name ‘Ballard Canyon’ particularly if you come across one of these delectable Roussannes, a perfect match for your spring and early summer.


De Su Propia Cosecha is available here, at their online store, for $28

Stolpman Vineyard’s L’Avignon is available here, at their online store, for $38

Mas Bressade is available at various merchants here, for around $17

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Dragonette Cellars and Lo-Fi

Stopped by Buellton the other day to check out Dragonette Cellars’ new(ish) digs. They’ve moved their wine making facilities into what was once Sanford’s first winery….so kinda historic! I tasted through some barrels with winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis. I first came across Dragonette for research on the Happy Canyon AVA in Edible, and quite liked the sauvignon blanc they’re making from the hottest sub-region of Santa Barbara.

Dragonette Cellars

Our tasting table and the two tanks of what is sure to be pretty insane grenache!

This time however, it was the soon to be released grenache that interested me most… unexpectedly from Santa Rita Hills, a region known mostly for Burgundian varietals, Pinot and Chard.
The 2012 John Sebastiano Vineyard Grenache (in Santa Rita Hills) as well as the Thompson Vineyard (which is in fact in Los Alamos Hills) are usually blended by Dragonette, but this time they are seriously thinking about bottling them individually, which personally I think is the way to go. Dragonette has a tasting room in Los Olivos – 2445 Alamo Pintado Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441 805-693-0077

By the way, I hadn’t realized the guys at Dragonette had been consulting and making Liquid Farm’s wines for the past few vintages. So, should probably get some deserved praise for all those high scores and mentions…..I think they’ve taken a considerable step back now that Liquid Farm has its own rented place next door.

Brandon Sparks-Gillis (L) and Mike Roth (R)

Brandon Sparks-Gillis (L) and Mike Roth (R)

The whole reason why I went to Dragonette was because another winemaker Mike Roth had invited me down. Mike has recently left his post at Martian Vineyards and is going solo under his own label Lo-Fi, he’s renting a corner of Dragonette’s winery.  If you’ve tasted any of Mike’s wines or spent even a minute chatting with him you’ll know he draws a lot of his inspiration from Beaujolais and the natural side of winemaking…and that will be his focus with Lo-Fi.

He will soon be releasing a Cab Franc and with what could be called one of the most awesome label’s I’ve come across. It’ll retail at $25. Lo-Fi Winery Mike Roth

 Just a note – Buellton is fast becoming an urban wine destination in it’s own right, although places like Lucas & Lewellen have always been there, other wineries like Dragonette, Margerum and Roark are posting stakes.

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Food & Home Santa Barbara – Summer Wine Issue

Food & Home Santa Barbara

I’m very fortunate to have three articles in the current issue of Food & Home Santa Barbara.

Click on the pictures below to go to the stories.


  Food & Home Santa Barbara Wine Issue

A quick break-down of what is happening in Santa Barbara’s wine country. With some listings on some of the best places to visit.

Including Dragonette Cellars, Tercero Wines, Daniel Gehrs, Curtis Winery and De Su Propia Cosecha.
Plus my alma maters – Fess Parker Winery and Rusack Vineyards

Food & Home Santa Barbara Wine Issue

I interviewed five of the top winemakers in Santa Barbara: Bob Lindquist, Jim Clendenen, Doug Margerum, Justin Willet, and Sashi Moorman (pictured above)

Food & Home Santa Barbara

An in depth look at the Urban Wine Trail down in the Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
This is a go to guide to some of the best wine made in Santa Barbara proper.

Places like Whitcraft, Carr, Municipal Winemakers, Jaffurs and Anacapa Vintners (who have since changed their name to AVA)

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Sweet! The 2010 Longoria Vino Dulce

It’s Spring, but damn is it cold…so I’m breaking out the port!

Rick Longoria makes his fortified wine just about every other year.
Lucky for us 2013 is when the new batch got bottled.

He sent me a tank sample before bottling….and it was a great little tipple.

Rick Longoria Vino Dulce
The 2010 Vino Dulce is made out of Syrah – you get sweet cigar smoke, chocolate, coffee bean, cocoa and fresh black and blueberries, there’s vanilla ice cream and hint of spice on the finish.
Went great with jam donuts and chocolate torte.

Longoria Port

Pretend it says 2010 on the label

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Back Alley Tasting

It is almost fitting that the inaugural seminar for the Urban Wine Trail will feature the Syrah grape. Much like the off-beat style of the Funk Zone wineries, the Rhône varietal can be considered an underdog contender in a mostly Pinot-centric town. Six winemakers are coming together. this Saturday February 16th, in the heart of the Funk Zone at the Goodman Reed Warehouse on lower Santa Barbara Street, heralding the virtues of a grape that is very much establishing its own root hold on Santa Barbara County soils. “We decided to focus this seminar on Syrah since most of the Urban Wine Trail wineries produce Syrah and we want to highlight a varietal that is overpassed many times, says Doug Margerum, owner and winemaker of Margerum Wine Company. He is one of six winemakers featured at the symposium, which will also include: Christian Garvin of Oreana Winery, Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs Cellars, Martin Brown of Kalyra Winery, Dave Potter of Municipal Winemakers and Bruce McGuire of Santa Barbara Winery. They all plan on tasting you through their own personal path with the grape. “Tasters will come away knowing that Santa Barbara County Syrah can rub shoulder to shoulder with Rhônes from the rest of the world”, says Craig Jaffurs, 56, Owner/winemaker at Jaffurs Cellars, and one of the first wineries to set up shop in downtown Santa Barbara, back in 2001.

The Alley Cats

“Syrah is one of the varieties Santa Barbara County does best,” says Ryan Carr, 36, Chairman of the Urban Wine Trail and owner/winemaker of Carr Winery. “It can grow in the different, cool, moderate and hot climates of Santa Barbara and this tasting will show the different perspectives of the grape from each producer.”

The seminar will be moderated by Santa Barbara News-Press columnist, Gabe Saglie. While guests will have a chance to sip through and learn about the most popular Rhône varietal at the symposium, later on in the day there will be an opportunity to try the different wines from 17 of the Urban Wine Trail wineries at the Grand Tasting. “It’s the first time we are all together in one spot”, says Christina Gumpert, 39, General Manager of Oreana Winery. True to those words it is interesting to note that this is in fact the first time the Urban Wine Trail members have organized a collaborative tasting and seminar, a sign of maturity for a group that has proved rather popular with both the tourist and local foot traffic near Cabrillo Blvd. A sign perhaps, that the group is not only growing but has created quite the trendy destination amongst the myriad of downtown attractions.urban wine trail logo

Also at the Grand Tasting, the urbanites are collaborating with local charity, the Arts Fund, in an effort to raise money for local artists through an auction and art sales. Displayed throughout the venue there will be 17 pieces of art produced by local artists and inspired by each of the Urban Wine Trail wineries. A live auction to raise money for the charity will be held on the evening, and will include travel packages to Sonoma, San Francisco, Malibu and Los Angeles.Alley12

Participating Urban Wine Trail wineries include: Au Bon Climat, Carr Winery, Cottonwood Canyon, Deep Sea, Grassini Family Vineyards, Jaffurs, Kalyra, Kunin Wines, Margerum Wine Company, Municipal Winemakers, Oreana Winery, Pali Wine Company, Sanguis, Santa Barbara Winery, Silver, Whitcraft Winery, and Summerland Winery.

Local restaurants Arlington Tavern, Paradise Café, Wine Cask, C’est Cheese, and Bella Vista at the Four Seasons will be providing hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday, February 16th 2013

Syrah Seminar – 10am – Noon

Grand Tasting from 5:30pm – 9pm

Both being held at Goodman Reed Warehouse, 120 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Ticket Prices:

$100 — Syrah Seminar + Grand Tasting Package

$75 — Grand Tasting Only

$50 — Seminar Only

Tickets are available on the events page of the Urban Wine Trail website:

Or directly at the ticket site:

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The garage is open for pouring

From the Santa Barbara News-Press – January 26th

The popular wine show from Paso Robles, The Garagiste Festival is rolling its way down south to Solvang, in what will hopefully be an annual event, Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure.

Garagiste is all about celebrating the little guy and will feature 30 of Santa Ynez Valley’s high-quality, small-production winemakers, on February 16th. The new non-profit festival follows on the heels of 2012’s sold out Paso Robles Garagiste Festival, which hosted over 40 wineries and 1,000 attendees, and will incorporate the festival’s signature high quality wines, personal winemaker interaction and renegade spirit.

Larry Schaffer from Tercero Wines will be pouring from his conical flasks at the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Larry Schaffer from Tercero Wines will be pouring from his conical flasks at the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

The Garagiste Festivals, are dedicated to discovering and promoting artisan garagiste winemakers and showcase high-quality, cutting-edge, small production, commercial wineries that produce fewer than 1,200 cases a year.

The term garagiste derives from a movement in Bordeaux from the mid 1990’s. It is the nick-name given to those who made “vin de garage” or garage wine and is in reference to a group of rebellious Bordeaux winemakers who were tired of the strict oenology and viticulture laws that govern the region. As they never had their own estate vineyard, the garagistes would have to buy their grapes, in some cases very sought after expensive grapes, they made wine of a modern style, unlike anything at the time.  The term which at one point was a back handed compliment, has evolved to define wine that is made in a small quantities or micro-cuvée.

“In response to overwhelming demand, we have expanded the festival a hundred miles south to Santa Ynez Valley, one of the most exciting garagiste regions in the country,” said Garagiste Festival co-founder Doug Minnick. “The Santa Ynez Valley is the perfect next location as we continue to expand the Garagiste Festival to expose more garagistes to even more wine consumers.”

South African winemaker Ernst Storm, South Africa, makes wine under his own label Storm and is also head winemaker at Curtis Winery in Los Olivos, is looking forward to the event, “I think it is a great way for consumers to taste and also talk to smaller producers that they would not have gotten in touch with otherwise. It gives us winemakers the chance to showcase personality driven wines from small batches made with a lot of care and attention to detail in an intimate environment.”  Storm will be pouring his 2011 Sauvignon Blanc-Santa Ynez Valley, 2009 Pinot Noir-Santa Maria Valley and the 2010 Pinot Noir-John Sebastiano Vineyard.

Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, who is known for decanting his wine in to laboratory beakers, has a different take.  “When you only make 4-500 case you don’t have much to get out there and shows like this are the perfect opportunity to showcase your wine to wine savvy consumers who don’t necessarily know about our names.”  Schaffer is planning to pour a variety of his wines which will include will be his 2011 Viognier and Grenache Blanc, as well as his Mourvedre.

Melissa Sorongon, co-owner of Piedrasassi, is looking forward to taste some of her compatriot’s wines, “Because a lot of these winemakers don’t have their own vineyards, it would be interesting to try wines made from the same vineyards but by different winemakers.”  Piedrasassi will have their 2010 Central Coast White, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Roussane as well as their 2009 Central Coast Syrah.

Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure - February 16th 2013

Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure – February 16th 2013 in Solvang

The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure takes place at the Mission-style Veterans Memorial Hall in  Solvang.  The one-day festival begins at 11:00 AM with the seminar “The Ultimate Barrel Tasting – Oak Flavors Tasted and Explained”. Winemaker and vineyard owner Michael Larner, of Larner Vineyard, and winemaker Ryan Render, of Rendarrio Vineyards and cooperage Tonnellerie Saint Martin, bring their knowledge of viticulture, winemaking, and barrels to the table in this special comparison barrel tasting of wines made by McPrice Myers from the Larner Vineyard. Attendees will learn and taste through a selection of wines made from the same vineyards but put through different oak treatments.  Basically, showing how oak can affect the finished product and change the profile of a wine.

Current wineries in attendance are: Altman Winery, Autonom, Baehner Fournier Vineyards, Blair Fox Cellars, Casa Dumetz, Center of Effort, Deovlet Wines, El Rey Wines, Frequency Wines, Ground Effect Wines, J. Wilkes Wines, Kaena Wine Co., Kessler-Haak Wines, La Fenetre Wines, Larner Winery, Luminesce, Nagy Wines, Native9 Wine, Pench Rance, Piedrasassi, Refugio Ranch, Roark Wine Co., Ryan Cochrane Wines, Shai Cellars, Storm Wines, Tercero Wines and Transcendence Wines., with more to come.

For tickets and more information on The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure, go to, or follow on Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or Facebook.

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Garagiste Festival, Parking Up In Santa Barbara

Really happy to hear that the Garagiste Festival will be making its way down south! The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will be taking place in Solvang next month, February 16th.

I have a belief that a lot of innovation and trends come from smaller projects and it’s great to know there is a dedicated wine show with the same thoughts.

I’ve attend the first two Garagiste Festivals in Paso, most recently last November, and each time came away with about 6 new producers who I thought were breaking trends with potentially future star wines…Ambyth Estate will always be a stand-out in this regard.

There are about 30 producers pouring wine with some of my personal favorites in attendance: Piedrasassi, Ground Effect, Storm Wines and Tercero Wines

If you have Presidents day weekend free, support the little guy, and definitely mark this event on your calendar.

Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure - February 16th 2013

Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure – February 16th 2013 in Solvang



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Fortifying Santa Barbara

In Britain, drinking Port wine around Christmas is about as quintessentially English as drinking cups of tea, hiring a chimney sweep, or being rain-soaked. Technically speaking, Port should have all the boxes checked for a blockbuster, 100-pointer, trendy wine: huge and full-bodied, rich multilayered depth, sweetness (that is Amarone sweet, not sickly sweet) and most of all high in alcohol.

santa barbara

Suffice to say, Port has an image problem.  Maybe because it’s the festive tipple of choice for old Aunt Rose and Uncle Harry or maybe it’s not as fashionable as Pinot Noir, who is to know?  What we can say however, here in Santa Barbara, port and other fortified wine has a lot going for it, mostly the diversity in choice.

There are a handful of wineries making some sort of fortified wine style.  It might be the traditional Port using grapes found in Portugal, or a New World take on one of the oldest of Old World wines.  It’s not all Port in Santa Barbara though, as there are also some fine examples of other types of fortified wines.

Port 101

Port is one of the oldest traded wine commodities and its roots are deep in British culture, mostly because they discovered it.  In the late 1680’s, King William III of England embargoed and later heavily taxed any trading with France.  In search of quenching their wine thirst English merchants traveled south and eventually found their way to Oporto, the second largest city of Portugal, and the mouth of the Douro River.

The Douro is a beautifully winding river with steep cliffs on either side, terraced with vines.  It is also considered the oldest demarcating region in the world, having its appellations mapped out in the late 1700’s.  Due to the heat the grapes tend to get very ripe resulting in fermentation that is quick, fast, and culminates in a wine deep in color and high in alcohol.  This type of wine proved to be a major hit back in London and donned the name ‘blackstrap.’  Evidently, it was also perfect for fortifying.

Rick Longoria walking his vineyard

Rick Longoria walking his vineyard

It was while shipping this wine from Portugal for its rough sea journey to the Britain that merchants would top the barrels up with a measure of brandy, to help with stabilization.  However, the wine that Port derives from today, was actually being made by an abbot in a monastery of the town of Lamego, located in the high altitude mountains above the Douro river.  It was discovered by sons of a Liverpudlian wine merchant, they found the abbot adding brandy to partial fermented wine rather than the finished wine and thus started the British love affair with Port.

Fortified not Late Harvested

Fortified wine is any wine that has had a high alcohol spirit, usually brandy, added to it.  Although port wine grapes are usually picked later, it is not to be confused with late harvested wine.  These are grapes picked late to make dessert wine, high in sugar content but low in alcohol.

Daniel Gehrs Fireside Port
Daniel Gehrs Fireside Port

The winemaking process for fortified wine is very much like that of regular still wine, only with a few added steps.  Of course starting off with the grapes, you set them off on their primary (alcoholic) fermentation. However, instead of letting the wine stop fermenting naturally, you prematurely stop it by adding the brandy.  The brandy will kill all the yeast thus disallowing the fermentation to continue and leaving you with a rich, full-bodied, sweet wine, high in alcohol (because of the brandy).Consilience Zinfandel Port

Here in Santa Barbara or half way across the world in Portugal, the process is the same, the difference being that California, unlike the Old World wine producing countries, has no governing body monitoring the process.  This in turn allows for a variety of styles from the producers, all making fortified wine, all making it similar to the process above, yet all with a twist of uniqueness making it Californian in its own right.

Gypsy Canyon Winery and Vineyard 

Gypsy Canyon Angelica

Gypsy Canyon Angelica – photo cred:

While scoping out her new property to plant Pinot Noir in Lompoc, Deborah Hall owner and winemaker of Gypsy Canyon, in Santa Rita Hills, happened upon a vine, then another and another.  Soon thereafter she discovered that she was standing in a three acre Mission grape vineyard, mostly like planted in the late 1880’s by Franciscan monks.  It had been hidden for all these years, under sage brush.

Since very few wineries use the grape any more Hall headed to the Santa Barbara Archives Library figuring the padres had the most experience with the varietal.  What she found was that the local padres did in fact use the grapes to make wine and actually used it to make a fortified wine called Angelica.  Hall uses the same winemaking recipe she found in the archives.  In the archives she also found a note by Father Dúran to Governor Figueroa stating that although the white wine made at the San Gabriel Mission was used at the altar, the wine called Angelica should be used for—whatever.  The vines used are on still on their own roots and not grafted, and it is only producing Mission vineyard in California over 100 years old.  “I’ve named the v

ineyard, Dona Marcelina’s Vineyard, in honor of the first woman wine grower in California.”

Lucas and Llewelyn Vineyards

L&L has been a making a port style wine for about ten years.  What is unique here is that each year the port variety changes.  Sometimes it’ll be Merlot other years maybe Syrah.  It changes because they like to use the grapes that will gain the most ripeness each year.  Megan McGrath Gates, head winemaker, (who I incidentally went to high school with at Midland, in Los Olivos) very much enjoys this non-dedicated method.

Megan McGrath

When not making wine Megan doubles as a hand model.

“We are very humble in our approach to making port.  I’ve been to the Douro and wouldn’t try to sell our wine as traditional, rather we are almost throwing caution in the wind, we are trying to be creative and have had really good results.”

Daniel Gehrs Winery

Dan Gehrs has been making port wine in the California since the late 70’s and continued to do so when he moved to Santa Barbara in the early 90’s.  For his port wine Gehrs sources fruit, a mix of traditional Portuguese grape varieties, from Amador and Madera County.  He finds that he really like the grapes coming out of northern California, also soils, particularly in Amador, are similar to those found in the Douro.  “Port is the most fashionable of fortified wines, it has a great history with the Portuguese and the English.  I have always admired Portuguese ports, I enjoy the wine and making it, but it’s a challenge as a winemaker to work along those lines and produce something that is reasonably outstanding.  Striving for perfection the Fireside Port is the wineries mainstay, while Gehrs also makes a ten year old tawny as well as various other single variety ports.


Brett Escalera has made a Zinfandel port since the inception Consilience, in 1999.  Originally, he thought o make a Zin table wine but it came in so ripe he ended up making it in to port.  “I love port and love dessert wines. The genesis of my port was out of a necessity.  Here I was with these grapes that I knew make a decent table wine out of, so what do you do when life hands you lemons—you make lemonade.” “The flavor profile really exudes Zin. That’s what distinguishes it from traditional port.  It’s a California port in the fact that it tastes so much of and has loads of Zin character.”

Longoria Wines

Rick Longoria is making a port style wine from Syrah, just enough for the tasting room pretty much every other year since 2004.  Much like Escalera at Consilience the original vintage was a matter of consequence.  When some Syrah grapes arrived he felt they were way too ripe for his style of Syrah.  “I know for a lot of guys it would have been ideal to make some killer Robert Parker scoring wine, but for me, it wasn’t the winery’s style,  I said gosh, let’s look into a dessert wine.”  It has worked out well for Longoria, and Vino Dulce ended one of the bestselling wines.  He feels like Syrah is good grape to use as it keeps its spicy character and wants to offer a different take on the traditional style.


Margerum Wine Company

Margerum Amaro

Magerum Amaro….aka ‘the bomb’

Doug Margerum is making more of an herbal digestif than a port-style wine.  It’s called Amaro and its closest known relative on the shop shelf would probably be Fernet-Branca.  Much like port the wine is fortified with brandy, however with a few added ingredients, “roots and bark, lemon and orange peel and just about anything else I can find” explains Margerum.  He found when traveling through Italy, all the little wineries would have a house Amaro, each time similar in taste yet unique to the winery.  Upon returning he decided Margerum too would have an Amaro to share with its visitors.

It is made in the solera system where barrels all bleed into each other, vintage after vintage or in Margerum’s case – batch after batch.  It is an aging style used to make Sherry wine and creates wine that consistently tastes the same year after year despite using different vintages in the process.  Although Amaro goes well by itself, especially after dinner, Margerum like mixing it into his ‘Perfect Manhattan.’

Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker Winery has had made a non-vintage port off and on since 2000.  The original idea came when Eli Parker (Fess’ son) planted a vineyard of traditional port wine grapes, at his house.  Now with Blair Fox at the helm the tradition continues.  “Fortified wines are cool because they have that aged, nutty, oxidized character that you don’t typically look for in young still wine.  The uniqueness here is Fess Parker are using traditional port style gr

Fess Parker Winery

The man

apes, the likes of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao–grown in Santa Barbara County.

Although we may not have the rain and sleet of British weather, our nights do get cold.  What a perfect time to crack open a bottle of port to warm yourself up with a few sips.  Santa Barbara is spoiled for choice when it comes to fortified wines and any of the above would be perfect after a meal, with cheese or dessert, or better yet, in your favorite seat next to a log burning fire.  Enjoy.

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Some wines of late

Here’s a few wines that have stood out recently.


Villemade, Hervé – 2010 Cheverney, La Bodice. A natural Chardonnay we brought back with us from Paris. Crisp, ripe and fresh. Was in the 12 euro range, acquired at Le Verre Volé


Pierre Péters, NV (i think) Grand Cru, Blanc de Blanc. A wedding gift from some friends and a lovely Chardonnay at that! Champers how I like it…fresh green apple flavor with a hint of creaminess, some stone fruit as well, long lasting finish. Not sure on the price


Piedrasassi, PS Syrah 2010 (I think) – I always seem to be talking about this place. Didn’t write a tasting note for this but remember I really enjoyed it…think it was in the $18 area (but was given as a sample) seriously worth a plunge….Winehound in SB carries it or drop by their place in the Ghetto.


Alain Graillot, 2009 Crozes Hermitage
Had this wine at the end of a large meal. Was absolutely perfect in every way…again no tasting note. But I really remember the ripeness of the berry fruit mixed with that great Syrah spiciness. Think strawberries with a dusting of cracked black pepper. If any fault at all it was our own for trying the stuff in its adolescence, the wine has a good 10-15 years in it. Had this at Bacchus a tiny wine bar on Hyde, in Russian Hill – $75 (ouch, but damn good)

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A Pinot that blew me away….now that rarely happens

Just a quick note to bring your attention to Evening Land Vineyards (ELV), a fairly large operation with wineries in Burgundy, Oregon and also here in the Santa Rita Hills – they specialize in Pinot Noir and make some Chardonnay as well.

Evening Land Vineyard

Evening Land Vineyard

Their tasting room will be opening in a little over a month’s time, on March 4th, in the Wine Ghetto…more information to follow on this as I am sure it will be a great event.

sashi moorman

Sashi Moorman the head winemaker at ELV in California.

In the meantime below, is a tasting note of my favorite of their local Pinots. The grapes are sourced from a beautifully tended vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, called Tempest. Take note of this name, as the names of Burgundy vineyards are remembered and each vintage chronicled, I believe one day too wine drinkers will look back upon the different vintages of the Tempest, comparing intricate differences between the years.

2009 Evening Land Vineyard, Tempest, Pinot Noir
Dense, concentrated cherry fruit on the nose. Perfumed scents
of violets and rose petals. Minerality too in the form of pencil
shavings. Palate is well balanced with crunchy cranberry flavors.
Long lasting refreshing finish.

$60, online at ELV store, also a lot of ELV’s wines are available
at the Winehound at various price points

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