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Archive for the ‘Santa Maria Valley’ Category

Santa Maria Valley,Santa Rita Hills

July 27, 2011

Chardonnay Symposium in Santa Maria, California

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Chardonnay Symposium in Santa Maria California

Chardonnay is the world’s white wine darling. And at Santa Maria Valley’s recent Chardonnay Symposium, we learned she is also one of the most debated. Whether you love an oaky + buttery one, a stainless steel + flinty one, or prefer to never drink the stuff, it’s definitely a wine that makes for a heated discussion.

Burgundian white is usually considered the pinnacle of a well-made Chardonnay. Although the California style has typically meant more: more fruit, more oak, and more butter. Jay McInerney compared this old California classic style to another California classic, Pamela Anderson. In his view, this type of Chardonnay is more about silicone enhancements to try and please the sweet American palate than about a true representation of the grape. He later wrote about a new style of Chardonnay coming out of California, one being passionately followed by winemakers Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton of Brewer-Clifton.

Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton pouring Chardonnay

This new style, described as zingy, nervous and fresh, attempts to let the varietal stand out on its own, without a lot of manipulation in the winery, over-malolactic-ization or years of cradling in the bosom of new French oak. This is the style, according to Brewer, that lets Chardonnay shine – although he does wave a white flag for Chardonnay (c’est trés charmant).

Deovlet Chardonnay

And the Chardonnay was shining, along with the sun, on newcomer Ryan Deovlet of Deovlet Wines, who poured his first release of 2009 Solomon Hills Chardonnay.

Flying Goat Blanc de Blanc sparkling - Goat Bubbles

Another Santa Barbara county favorite is Flying Goat Blanc de Blanc, the only sparkling wine made entirely locally and known in these parts as Goat Bubbles, a great palate refresher for all that Chard!

Foxen Chardonnay

Also, don’t miss Foxen’s Steel Cut Chardonnay, which is soon to be released, for that unoaked new California Chardonnay experience.

Some more notable Chardonnays at the Symposium:

I like my Chardonnay oaked, unoaked, from California and from Burgundy, but what I like best is how Chardonnay is not-so-quietly evolving, while also staying tried and true.

Well done darling.

Chardonnay Symposium

Santa Maria Valley,Santa Ynez Valley

October 3, 2010

Grape Stomping in Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County

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Grape Stomp in Santa Barbara Wine Country

Grape Stomp in Santa Barbara Wine Country

One of the best things about Harvest time in Santa Ynez valley and Santa Barbara wine country is the annual Celebration of Harvest event. The other is stomping grapes.

Several wineries in the area have grape stomping parties, some of which you can race through the vineyard, wear a toga, or reserve some of your own wine that you stomped (along with the other stompers). Read below to find out where…

Kalyra Winery: the Great Grape Stomp

This is one of the oldest grape stomp parties in Santa Ynez valley, and I do mean a party. You can show up in anything from a Lucy Grape Stomp outfit to a toga. Any grape-related costume is encouraged, as well as drinking as much wine as possible, then jumping on a drunken tractor winery tour, plus eating and dancing to live music on the front porch. Get a first-hand account and find details here.

Sunstone Winery: Harvest Stomp Party

Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez Valley

Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez Valley

This yearly event over two weekends in September is a favorite grape stomp event in the area. It’s an all-day affair in the gorgeous Provençal-style vineyard and winery. It begins with a special bubbly cocktail made just for the event, then picking grapes in the vineyard. After being educated by the winemaker and Rice family on winemaking, you’ll climb into the grape vats and stomp to your heart’s content. A gourmet picnic lunch is also included, as well as the family’s line of wines, including some from the underground, dusty library. Get details here.

Andrew Murray Vineyards: Harvest Open House

When Andrew Murray opens his winery to the public, you want to go. The food is really good, the Syrah is plentiful, and the music and ambiance makes for a lovely fall afternoon in the vineyards. A bonus: this year you get to stomp grapes as well. You’ll also see some of the best Weekend Wine Specials of the whole year. It’s a good time to stock up, eat your fill and stomp down. Held at the winery on Foxen Canyon Road, call for directions.

Tres Hermanas Winery: Your Own Custom Crush

Santa Barbara County Grapes

Santa Barbara County Grapes

Each fall at this event in Santa Maria Valley, you can pick, crush and stomp your own grapes, and make your own wine. Winemaker Luke Lindquist will guide you through the process, then give you some of his wines’ barrel select tastings and feed you lunch. After your wine is bottled (roughly 15 months), you’ll get your own case of wine that you helped make! And you’ll get much more information and instruction than you bargained for with Luke’s vast expertise. It might just end up being the best wine you’ll ever make. Will be held at the winery on Foxen Canyon Road, contact the winery here.

Gainey Winery: Grape Stomp & Crush Party

Enjoy a full day of activities like grape-picking, special barrel samples, aroma demonstrations and the ever-popular barefoot grape stomp. Held each September, read more here.

Santa Maria Valley

June 13, 2010

Sisters, Grapes & Cowboys – Tres Hermanas Winery

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Tres Hermanas Winery Barn

Tres Hermanas Winery Barn

There are several clues at Tres Hermanas Winery in California’s Santa Maria Valley that you are among cattle ranchers: the big red barn next to the tasting room (used by the Teixeira family’s ranching forefathers), the miles of ranch land and small herds of animals surrounding the winery, and the mechanical horse proudly displayed in the tasting room (and yes, customers can still ride this horse).

But what you really want to do is taste the wines. There are around 20 small-lot production wines for sale, with 6 on the current tasting sheet. If you get one of the family members behind the bar – it’s not hard to do…Paulette Teixeira, her sister Beverly and her daughters Stacey, Tracey and Marcey (the three sisters) frequently work in the winery – or even better, the wine maker Mark Horvath, ask if anything else is open for tasting.

You won’t be disappointed. Every wine on the sheet is unique, interesting, well-made and highly enjoyable. Exceptional even, especially the 2007 Roussanne – a white Rhone varietal that has been gaining popularity, some of which Luke made with wild yeast – and the 2007 Refosco, a grape native to northern Italy, Croatia and Slovenia and hardly made in California, or in the US at all. Deeper and more complex than a Sangiovese but lighter and easier-to-go-down than a Cab or Syrah, this Refosco is a real find here in Santa Barbara wine country. All these wines are gems.

Tres Hermanas Barrels

Tres Hermanas Barrels

Mark is intent on doing something different, something new, while retaining all the heritage and traditions of old world wine making. And it shows. Ask for a tour of the winery and vineyards and you’re in for a real treat: learning about terroir, trellising, bud break and shatter, seeing wines in various stages of cold fermentation and aging, and visiting horses, cows and sheep.

In fact, this is still the headquarters for the family cattle operation and if you happen to be enjoying this countryside along Foxen Canyon road on an early spring morning, you could witness a Cattle Branding right here in front of the barn. Cattle will fill the hills with their plaintive moos while young calves are herded into groups, then roped and branded one by one with the JT cattle brand by a host of neighborly ranch hands.

This is cowboy wine country.

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