Tag Archives: santa barbara wine

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 — http://instagram.com/stolpmanvineyards

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

Tagged , , , , , ,

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:


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 http://garagistefestival.com, or follow on Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or Facebook.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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



Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vindictive ***hole? No, it’s Volatile Acidity! please vote

Partly due to this article http://huff.to/jKqGDN that rubbed me the wrong way and partly due to a wine I cracked open last night…I would like to know your thoughts on Volatile Acidity….the notorious VA!

his is your brain on Ethyl Acetate

This is your brain on Ethyl Acetate

I am a fan.  This is mostly influenced by the winemaker guy, Gavin Crisfield, I worked  for  in the Languedoc.  Gavin really likes VA and played the winemaker’s equivalent of Russian roulette by intentionally oxidizing his wines, mostly in the form of long barrel aging.

But faithful readers…what are your thoughts?

Would you be so kind as to vote below…merci.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: