Category Archives: sparkling wine

Sparkling wine for my real friends…..


I tried my first Sta Rita Hills vin clair chard from a barrel of one of the Sashi/Raj (SaRaj, perhaps?) projects, back in 2012 I think. It was sublime, to say the least. Tension in its full definition. The wine brought me plummeting back to the white chalky soils of Champagne. Without even trying one fully feremented bottle, I have complete confidence in what it’ll become.

At this year’s WOPN, Sea Smoke was pouring their Sea Spray (see what they did there?) it was perfect. A crisp blanc de noir, lovely tiny boules, wild strawberry on the nose and a palate cleansing finish.

Sea smoke sea spray

At a recent industry  tasting held at Palmina  I was able to try a few more local sparklers, sadly, there were only eight. This was due to a lot of the sparkling in the county not even being in bottle yet and also the tiny amounts producers even have. The following three were my top picks of the night.  Lucas & Lewellen Blanc de Noirs was my favorite on the night. Nectarines, apricot and brioche. Perfectly balanced. – $30 (great price) Summerland Winery Brut using Sonoma fruit was very crisp, and tasted of granny smiths and lime. $30 While Brewer-Cliftons straight Chard, from their own 3D vineyard, has more mouthfeel and a bit heavier with nutty, yeasty flavors and baked peach. You could age this one for 10 years or so. $50  

There is a sparkling future in Santa Barbara County and I really think Sta Rita Hills will be leading that pack. In a bit of a discussion afterwards I asked about price, as its expensive making this stuff and competing against Les Grand Marques, which I believe SB County can do against non-vintage stuff, but it will be no easy task.

However, a good point was brought up by Morgen McLaughlin, who heads up SB County Vintners Assoc no less, that if we consider the local sparkling producers like those of the grower Champagner movement, that SBC will more likely to shine.  In short, Santa Barbara County sparkling, and for me specifically Sta Rita Hills, is California’s answer to grower Champagne…..there you have it.

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Terroirs or not terroirs: that is the question


When Terroirs Wine Bar & Restaurant first opened, about a year ago, it created a huge buzz within the wine industry. This was mostly due to its association with Les Caves de Pyrene, the very popular and ever eclectic wine agent.

Les Caves sources and supplies a huge range of natural wines. If you think of biodynamic wines as extreme organic, natural wines are an extreme hyper-biodynamic — max…the natural kind.

There is no governing body for natural wines, but the idea is that they are…well…natural.  Nothing added to them at any point during the winemaking process and sourced most likely from biodynamic vineyards.  The lack of filtering and SO2 leaves the wine cloudy due the combination of left over yeast bits as well as oxidation.  The wines are very delicate too, in a chemical sense, if they are not already completely oxidised once the cork is pulled, you better drink it quick…because it soon will be.

The wines are very difficult to make and keep. They are by no means a recipe wine and when they are perfect can be some of the most sublime tasting wine you will ever try.  There is very little made, and of that very little is palatable.  I would like to cherish my first memory of tasting a natural up there with other great wine moments – sadly however it will only be remembered as the first time my gag reflex when into overdrive.

So  after all the hype about Terroirs, I thought I should pay the place a visit…and to cut a long story short, it sucked.  Snails were rubbery and the bone marrow slimy. …the wine wasn’t nice and the only saving grace was the lemon posset.  I didn’t like the place and for good reason.  This first experience was over a year ago and despite my lack of pleasure in the place, everyone else seemed to be having GREAT meals there. In chronological order there was Jancis Robinson…top wine writer giving the place thumbs up in November ‘08.  Next was the Independent,  4 out of 5, followed by Matthew Norman with a whopping 9.5 outta 10.

The Telegraph gave the place 5 out of 5

AA Gill…gave it 3 out of 5

Then in August, my most trusted food journo…Jay Rayner, the guy who I’ve agreed with most loves the place!

Honestly WTF!

I vowed to not go there again…but two Saturday’s ago was a very very cold 1.0 °C night…couldn’t bear the walk from Whitehall to Bar Italia, so I decided to give the place another go…

Perched in the newly-opened, retro fitted basement bar we quickly tucked in to Fine de Claire oysters at £1.50 each.  A fair price and amazingly fresh, as if the had only just been pinched from Neptune’s palm himself.  This was paired with a wonderful sparkling Tribbiano made by Camillo Donati in the region of Emilia Romagna…it was unfiltered and was cloudy…but despite the look the wine was amazing! It had light baked apple aromas and flavours, with some citrus fruits as well.

Fine de Claire Oysters, at Terroirs London

Camillo Donati - 2007 Trebbiano Bianco Secco

Next was the plate of charcuterie…with the triad of Saucisson “Noir de Bigorre”, Duck Rillettes and Pork & Pistachio Terrine, all as rustic as the wooden board they were served on. A generous helping but at £12, one would expect it.

The Tuscan chopped raw steak for £8 was coarsely cut up and melted in the mouth and came close to being my favourite dish (Note-As many of the dishes were in French I was surprised to see this dish listed as raw steak rather than tartar).

Charcuterie and Tuscan Chopped Raw Steak (why not say tartar?)

But the star of the meal was by far the Partridge and Choucroute, individually the bird was gamey and the sauerkraut…well tasted like sauerkraut (with juniper berries).  But together they made a beautiful flavour combination that deserves its own post – titled Partridge and Choucroute: You didn’t know?! It kicks ass!

Partridge and Choucroute (the chef kindly cut it in half for us)

As for desserts there was three of us and each of our desserts were splendid —>>>> Pain Perdu (French Toast) & Caramelised Banana, Bitter Chocolate Pot and Crème Caramel (this one was prob the best).

Bitter Chocolate Pot and Pain Perdu (don't worry it found its way...into our bellies)

Marco de Bartoli - Vecchio Samperi Ventennale

Besides the sparkler I also enjoyed  a wine that can only be described as a digestif.  Marco de Bartoli’s wine (incidently he is considered one of the best producers in Sicily) – Vecchio Samperi Ventennale is auburn in colour and has a splendid aroma of herbs and nuts, dried fruits and graceful palate with enough acidity to not make it cloying. It is made with the Grillo grape and probably considered a Masala wine in most circles, but de Bartoli ranks it as a table wine.

I can happily say this time around Terroirs stood up to the accolade and I shall frequent it again.

Fin!

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