Category Archives: Wine News

“The Professor Has Been Drinking (Not Me),”

Democratic Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro ( his wiki), of California’s 2nd district (which is basically from the Oregon border all the way to the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge), is about to get a huge boost in student support. That is, if his proposed assembly bill No. 1989 passes. The bill proposes that students between the ages 18 and 21 can taste wine and beer in class!!!

Now, before you underagers head in to English 101 and crack open a PBR, or whatever it is the youths of today are drinking (King Cobra, perhaps?)….there are some strict stipulations. First, you have to be enrolled in a “qualified academic institution,” secondly, you must be a qualified student and lastly, and this is the stickler, you can only “taste.” The official name of the assembly bill is: Underage Drinkers: students in winemaking and brewery science programs.

Wesley Chesbro

Wesley Chesbro (smiling at the camera) looks on at Track Seven Brewing Co. in Sacramento as Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 647, a bill by Chesbro that clarifies state law so that craft breweries may refill customers’ “growlers” – photo courtesy Chesbro’s office….so he seems to be pro common sense for the drinks industry!

Below are the actual definitions extracted from the bill:

A qualified student may taste an alcoholic beverage, and both the student and the qualified academic institution in which the student is enrolled shall not be subject to criminal prosecution under subdivision (a) of Section 25658 and subdivision (a) of Section 25662, if all of the following criteria are met:

  • The qualified student tastes the alcoholic beverage while enrolled in a qualified academic institution.
  • The qualified academic institution has established an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree program in enology or brewing that is designed to train industry professionals in the production of wine or beer.
  • The qualified student tastes the alcoholic beverage for educational purposes as part of the instruction in a course required for an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree.
  • The alcoholic beverage remains in the control of an authorized instructor of the qualified academic institution who is at least 21 years of age.
  • Nothing in this section shall be construed to allow a student under 21 years of age to receive an alcoholic beverage unless it is delivered as part of the student’s curriculum requirements.
  • “Qualified academic institution” means a public college or university accredited by a commission recognized by the United States Department of Education.
  • “Qualified student” means a student enrolled in a qualified academic institution who is at least 18 years of age.
  • “Taste” means to draw an alcoholic beverage into the mouth, but does not include swallowing or otherwise consuming the alcoholic beverage.

I wonder if they’ll have a “proper spitting method” in the curriculum as well.

However, and class room humor aside, this could actually be a huge boost to the winemaking education system in California. About a year ago I tried all of Cal Poly’s wine, there was a student from the program there (not pouring) and he explained how he hadn’t tried any of the wines as he was under age.

“WHAT?!?” I cried, “You haven’t tasted your own wine?”
He sheepishly shook his head.

sensory evaluation

What sensory evaluation might look like….

Obviously, I found that a tad absurd…a student who is learning to make wine (or beer for that matter) can’t actually taste the product they’re making, and even worse have any point of reference of what styles they might or might not prefer.

Hypothetically, a winemaking student could get through a large portion of their studies, finally get to taste at 21, and hate the stuff! What then lawmakers?! This bill could possible prevent hundreds of students wasting precious loan money and years in college to only find out they like vodka better.

The bill will be heard by the committee in the State’s capital on March 23rd. I believe it’ll be heard one more time after that before there’s a vote.

I hope the wine industry gets behind this one as it can have a real positive impact on our state’s future winemakers.

I’ll be posting updates as I find them.

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Santa Barbara’s wine future starts now.

Printed in the Santa Barbara News-Press, May 6th, 2013. 


Brian McClintic has sent me this note, explaining there will be a postponement to the futures tasting.


First of all, I wanted to thank you for the amazing support you’ve shown us.  The response has been overwhelming.  
With that, it has become apparent that our license will not cover an event of that size, taking into account the current state of construction.

For this reason we’re forced to postpone the tasting until August 10th.


The Santa Barbara wine futures program made famous by the Wine Cask, in El Paseo, is making its way back to our city. This time however you’ll be heading to the Funk Zone to taste some of Santa Barbara County’s best pre-release wines. Sommeliers Eric Railsback, 28 and Brian McClintic MS, 37, are restarting the program that will give you the opportunity to try and purchase over 50 different producers’ wines, before they are bottled, at the opening of their new wine bar and shop, Caveau, on the corner of Anacapa and Yanonali streets.

This will be a return to Santa Barbara for Railsback who graduated from Westmont College in 2007. While attending, he worked at the Wine Cask where he developed a taste for European wines. Since then, he has made quite a name for himself as a sommelier. Railsback has been up and down the state working for the likes of Chef Gordon Ramsay in Los Angeles and most recently heading up the wine program, for the Mina Group restaurant, RN74 in San Francisco. He’s also managed to stick in a few harvests in France, most notably at Domaine Dujac the famous Burgundian wine producer in Morey-Saint-Denis.

Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic MS

Eric Railsback (left) and Brian McClintic MS (right) – looking studious

You might recognize his business partner McClintic, as he was one of the sommeliers featured in the film SOMM that played at this year’s Santa Barbara Independent Film Festival. The film followed a group of sommeliers for a few years whilst they studied for the Master Sommelier exams, a qualification with a notoriously low pass rate (spoiler alert, McClintic passed). He will be the only Master Sommelier in Santa Barbara County.

The two are both very excited about their new venture and especially about the wines from the county.

“Santa Barbara wine country is way more exciting than Sonoma or Napa or any of those other places, just the potential, the terroir and everything, it’s pretty epic.” Says Railsback, who has been visiting the region off and on over the past few years and is making a wine under the label Lieu Dit, with local winemaker Justin Hewitt of Tyler Winery, since 2010.

McClintic too, really believes in the wines from the area. “Eric and I feel the same way about the wine from Santa Barbara, this is no joke and not a line, we without a question believe this is one of the most underrated terroirs in the country, if not the world. With the soil, the climate, the typography, everything included, Santa Barbara is incredibly underrated and it is an incredibly dynamic area, he says, “We are proud of the area and everything about our business serves to promote Santa Barbara County wine.”

Railsback and McClintic met in San Francisco a few years ago, McClintic was looking for a place to live and through a mutual friend, another sommelier Rajat Parr, was introduced to Railsback.

“What was supposed to be one week staying at his tiny studio flat, ended-up being nine weeks.” Recalls McClintic, it was somewhere in this time that the idea of Caveau was born.caveau site

The pair are modeling Caveau, which is being built in the new development that used to be Santa Barbara’s original fish market, on the Parisian wine bar. A place where you can have a glass of wine, a plate of charcuterie and cheese but also where you can purchase a bottle to take home. McClintic will also be teaching a wide variety of wine courses at the location, everything from beginners appreciation to how to blind taste. Wines sold will be from Santa Barbara County with a wide variety of European wine as well.

Doug Margerum, who started the original futures program in 1987, when his family owned the Wine Cask is happy the torch is being relit. “I am thrilled someone is re-championing it again, it’s really good for the wine community and really promotes the wines of this area to a broader audience. Eric is a superstar in the wine business as is his partner, Brian; I think they’ll do a great job. Santa Barbara County needs some advocates and these are the perfect guys to do it.”

Caveau’s Futures tasting will include: Alma Rosa, Alta Maria, Anacapa Vintners, Au Bon Climat, Barden, Barrack, Bien Nacido, Estate, Beckman, Bonaccorsi, Buoni Anni, Brewer-Clifton, Carlson, Cebada, Chanin, Clendenen Family Vineyards, Curtis, Goodland, Grassini, Habit, Happy Canyon Vineyards, Jaffurs, Kunin, La Fenetre, Lieu Dit, Margerum, Melville, Municipal Winemakers, My Essential Red, Native 9, The Ojai Vineyard, Palmina, Piedrasassi, Piocho, Qupé, Roark, Sandhi, Samsara, Sillix,, Stolpman, Storm, Tatomer, Tyler, Vallin, Verdad, Wenzlau, Zotovich Cellars

“We wanted a good balance of the old guard who started Santa Barbara County, like Adam Tolmach, Bob Lindquist and Jim Clendenen who have been doing it forever. And new smaller, up and coming wines that no one knows about.” Explains Railsback.Caveau Wine Bar Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting will be on Saturday May 18th August 10th at Caveau Wine Bar & Merchant.

131 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
From 11am – 5pm

Tickets can be purchased for $70 at
For more info contact either Eric Railsback or Brian McClintic at

Or call 1-503-314-4318

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