Tag Archives: au bon climat

Keyed Up


As cliche as it might sound, the Key to Wine Country event really did unlock some new tasting room doors…I think that sounds better than, I got keyed at Key to Wine Country, not sure if that even makes sense. Regardless the “keys” thing is put on by the Santa Barbara Vintners Association. You pay $100 for your ticket and there is a bevy (and a few bevvies for that matter) of different tasting rooms to visit, throughout Santa Barbara County. Admittedly, this is one of the more creative winery experiences I’ve come across. Definitely, more interesting than those big room and table affairs.

You’ll need a map of the county as all sorts of winery folk get involved. Some have food or chocolate with wine parings, others do vineyard walks, the best by far are the intimate winemaker chats (you have to RSVP as spaces are limited) where they taste you through their decision making steps, from grape to bottle….I fancied the El Paseo experience. A tour of all six tasting rooms in the maze-like corridors of El Paseo, in downtown SB.

El Paseo Santa Barbara

El Paseo is located just above De La Guerra and between State and Anacapa. Doug Margerum’s tasting room has been here the longest, about four years or so, next to his Wine Cask restaurant. Doug talked one of SB’s most famous winemaker’s, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat fame, to open next door. You can find ABC wines to purchase, dating back decades. There’s also Grassini out of Happy Canyon AVA. And two other spots Happy Canyon Vineyard and Jamie Slone, whom I imagine also opened tasting rooms under Doug’s suggestion….and why not, he makes both of their wine (totally different styles too!).

This whole winery wonderland is really the brainchild of Doug Margerum, and I must applaud him as it has really propelled, actually started, the whole State Street wine scene. It truly is a handful of the best Santa Barbara has to offer. As for the wines I tried here are my three favorites:

Top accolades go to Au Bon Climat. Their tasting list is true to the winery’s Burgundy roots, but there’s all sorts of stuff to try. The bog standard Santa Barbara County Chardonnay for instance, which is used by MWs in London to teach classic Chardonnay. There’s everything from Aligote to Riesling to purchase, but my fav wine of the day in fact was a Chardonnay from ABC.

2009 Au Bon Climat “Compelling” Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County – A tight lemony and raw apricot little number, when you talk about tension in wine make sure you try this. Has years to go, but if you’re into crisp and fresh it’s ready now – $35 (There’s also a ’98 Nibiollo that was insanely good and a steal at $35)

2009 Au Bon Climat "Compelling" Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County

2009 Au Bon Climat “Compelling” Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County

 

Margerum actually has two tasting rooms. His regular one with an entrance on Anacapa, then MWC 32 a few steps into El Paseo, where they pour older vintages and reserve wines. It was at his Anacapa room that I found my fav though.

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County Margerum is all about Rhone varietals and this Syrah does not disaapoint in the slightest. I reckon it has quite a few more years (about 10), but you can have it now, no problem. It is a very, very approachable wine. With a hint of peppercorn spice and fresh juicy blueberries – $40

Margerum’s straight Grenache was also very good.

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

 

Four years back, Grassini’s Bordeaux inspired wines were the first I tried out of the Happy Canyon AVA, I really liked them. There was a turn of events and Justin Willit of Tyler fame (and also partner to Mandy Grassini) made the previous vintage and his wines were being poured. I’ve been looking forward to trying Willit’s Bordeaux style, his own label is very much about Pinot and Chardonnay and above all that restraint…it was interesting to see him venture to the dark side of the noble grapes. The Sauv Blanc was particularly fresh, the grapes were picked at the very dawn of harvest, beginning of August and probably very low in potential alcohol. The two Bordeaux blends were also quite fresh it was however a single varietal wine that I really enjoyed.

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA – not a grape you see very often, if at all, by itself. Petit Verdot is usually used to add back bone or rather mid-bone to the mid-palate of Cab and Merlot. Grassini PV is what I like to call a crunchy wine. It tastes as if your biting in to handful of juicy ripe blackberries, super concentrated fruit. There’s some musky like leather and grippy tannin. Like it’s palate the price too is a hefty $95, steep but a very good wine.

A great thing to note at Grassini’s tasting room, they pour all their high-end wines with a coravin, my first time seeing it in use….totally impressed!

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA

 

Look out for the Keys to SBC next year. Thanks to Morgen and Taylor over at the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association for sending the tickets. Find out about future SBCVA events on their website — www.sbcountywines.com

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Santa Barbara’s wine future starts now.


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

**UPDATE**

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

Louis,

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.

Thanks,
Brian

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 www.caveau.eventbrite.com
For more info contact either Eric Railsback or Brian McClintic at info@caveausb.com

Or call 1-503-314-4318

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I seem to write about Pinot a lot, even though it’s not my fav grape


The story of Sanford Winery isn’t a happy one, but a story nonetheless told time and time again through the history of wine.  Sanford was one of the top Pinot Noir producers in Santa Barbara for much of the late 80’s and 90’s.  Richard Sanford set up the organic vineyard and to cut a long story short….the place ended up going to the man.

However, all is not lost – because the vineyards are still in operation and the grapes bought by the very famous winery Au Bon Climat, (aka ABC).

Au Bon Climat (ABC) Pinot Noir

I tried the ABC Sanford & Benedict recently and was quickly reminded of how good the Pinot in Santa Barbara is, especially from the popular Santa Rita Hills…although it still has some time there is lots of cherry, some herbs and a savoury, velvet-like palate. The wine does come at a price though, averaging about £25.  Find it though, and you should be happy.  Here are some agents that sell it online, found them on wine-searcher.com also Berry Bros sells a lot of the ABC range.

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