Wine Tasting Report: The Good Stuff


Wine Tasting Report: “TheGood Stuff”

First off, that is a terrible name for a tasting. What was I thinking? I was hurried and simply wanted to convey that we would be drinking some…good stuff. However, that does not do this line-up justice. This tasting was a wonderful selection of domestic wines; one white and five red. We started off with 2010 Le Pich Sauvignon Blanc, a second label from Purlieu Winery in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley. This is such a fine Sauvignon Blanc. An adult wine, to be sure. I served it at cellar temp [55 or so] and it was a perfect opener. We moved into a Pinot Noir phase with 2010 Suacci-Carciere Pinot Noir, a small, family-owned winery in the Russian River Valley AVA. This wine is made by Ryan Zepaltas [Zepaltas, Siduri] and I chose it because it is [in my mind] the epitome of RRV Pinot Noir: Clean, fresh and bursting with fruit and spice. Our second Pinot Noir is made of grapes from the gem of Santa Barbara County, the now-famous Bien Nacido Vineyard. But this is no ordinary Pinot. The 2004 Whitcraft Winery Bien Nacido Q Block is unfined and unfiltered. It has 16% alcohol! I used the Coravin to decant about half the bottle. I had to save some of this for later. I took a sip of this and the lights went fuzzy. Hot? Nope. Clean? Forget it. This was a heavy, dirt-in-the-bottle, heavenly, true expression of Pinot Noir. Yummy, indeed! Time to lighten things up with a little Merlot. Wait, Merlot?! The bane of Miles’ existence? Oh yes, dear friends, Merlot. Do not, I repeat, do not believe the hype. The 2009 Leonetti Cellars Walla Walla Valley Merlot is a thing of beauty. The Cellars of Leonetti are also impressive, as seen in this photo from GB.Leonetti Cellar
Next we return to California with an iconic brand, Silver Oak. The 2005 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley was drinking beautifully on this day. Rich, full of Cassis and pine-box on the nose. What a well-made wine. We finished the tasting with a personal bottle. The 2005 Madrigal Petite Sirah was given to me by Chris Madrigal, the owner. He signed it “Thanks for my first Black Sabbath wine tasting” So you can imagine what that was like. This wine is so dense is refracts light. Purple teeth and smiles seem to go hand in hand with this monster of a wine. Blueberry on the nose and so soft going down. DSC02629
Mmm. I thought I might never open this particular bottle, but the Coravin allowed me to share it without pulling the cork. Nice. Oh, hold on a minute. We have a BONUS WINE! Thank you Terrence, who brought out this beautiful 1964 Calon-Segur from his personal cellar. Calon-Segur has a long and rich history. It is a classified Third-growth and the most popular Bordeaux on Valentine’s Day, due to its heart-shaped label. This one still had something to give.


Perfect label, nice ullage, and NO FRUIT TO SPEAK OF. Whew! It’s not often you get to drink a 50-year-old bottle of anything.


What did we like about tonight?
Tonight people came together to drink wine, talk, laugh and learn. We drank wines that people were and were not familiar with. Conversations were started, interrupted and restarted. The price was very fair, the wine was very good. I think people will remember this event. Perhaps it is when they see a now-familiar label or hear a phrase or name they picked up tonight. In my eyes however, it all goes back to the wines. To look around and see people enjoying while they learn. That is what keeps me coming back. Join me next time for wine tasting.
Some extra pics:


The lineup:
2012 Le Pich Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
2010 Suacci Carciere Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
2004 Whitcraft Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Block Q
2009 Leonetti Merlot, Walla Walla Valley
2005 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
2005 Madrigal Petite Sirah, Napa Valley
1964 Calon-Segur, Bordeaux


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Santa Barbara Field Trip!

Today I am looking at two wineries that own NO vineyards. All the fruit is purchased. These wineries are able to produce high-quality wines every year. Small, thoughtful wineries are going away en másse but these folks continue to blend passion and knowledge into some of my personal favorites.
Whitcraft Winery

Our first stop is Whitcraft Winery. Superb wines made with minimal intervention. A true tasters paradise awaits those brave enough to go five blocks away from the heart of the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. The styles are so old-school that they may seem revolutionary to the uninitiated. Wine for wine nerds, if I may. The photo above is from Sideways. [Don’t let that stop you from drinking these wines!]
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are the best-known varietals for this family- owned winery.

Chris and Kathleen (Barnato) Whitcraft started Whitcraft Winery in 1985. This was not, however, Chris’ first entry into the wine business, as he had hosted a local wine radio program in Santa Barbara County for more than ten years before that, and had in the process learned from some of the best winemakers in California. They include Joe Heitz (Heitz Cellars), Dick Graff (Founded Chalone and AVA’s), and Burt Williams (Williams & Selyem, and now Morning Dew Ranch) to name a few. What began as a hobby grew into both a passion and a lifestyle, the commitment to which is present to this day in every bottle of our wine.

Whitcraft Tasting
This was the tasting line-up when I was there. Oh so good! Do yourself a favor and try some of these awesome wines today! I try to always a couple bottles on hand. You can contact Whitcraft directly. Tasting room open 11-4. Always call to confirm.
I picked up these goodies last time I visited…
Whitcraft 3-Bottles

Whitcraft Winery
36 A S. Calle Cesar Chavez
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
(805) 730-1680

Jaffurs Syrah & Petite Syrah
Jaffurs Wine Cellars
Just a couple blocks from the ocean is Jaffurs, which sits in a cozy neighborhood. What that means is you can get some awesome beach wines…at the beach. Superb Rhone varietals are all they deal with here. “What about the white wine for mommy at the beach?”…well, Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Viognier…all so good! The single-vineyard wines are truly special. Always worth seeking out, to be sure. And the reds are almost too good; I almost don’t want to say another word about them… Truthfully, I am relieved when I see Jaffurs on a wine list. When I stopped in this was the display available:
Jaffurs Display

I wish I had room in my cellar for two of each! Everything was wonderful and Dave Yates [GM and assistant winemaker] was so knowledgeable and kind. It’s hard to stay excited about anything for after twenty years yet here they are, proudly displaying their wares and know-how in a fun, approachable and delicious way. For the Petite Sirah fans reading this, let me address you directly. CALL/EMAIL THESE GUYS AND ORDER SOME TODAY! Serious tooth-staining juice with the ability to make anyone smile wide. And if you have been good all year, maybe Santa will bring you some of the Upslope Syrah.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars
819 E. Montecito St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
PHONE & FAX (805) 962-7003


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Cold Weather Wines

Welcome back! I recently returned from a LONG trip…Las Vegas, Atlanta, Denver, Joshua Tree…whew! I’ll have more to say on that later. For now, let’s talk about Cold Weather Wines. Syrah, Mourvedre, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon come to mind. Of course ANY wine is suitable, as long as it makes you happy. But here in Southern California, we have more hot days than cold. So it feels like a treat to have to bundle up and head over to someone’s house with a hearty bottle of Cornas [Rhone Valley, produces only 100% Syrah]. To me, this is the perfect time to try some small, Central Coast goodies. Recently BB treated us to a delightful Zinfandel from Paso Robles. 2011 Cypher, Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel [photo below]



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Sud de France – Languedoc-Roussillion


I had the pleasure of attending a class on Sud de France – Languedoc-Roussillon region. Such a mysterious and fun area of the wine world. Seriously, you could drink a different bottle every night and in a year you might begin to really grasp the true craft of these wines. Red wine, white wine, sparkling wine [Cremant de Limoux], sweet wine. The Vins Doux Naturels or VDN for short, the most famous fortified sweet wine from this region, dates back to  the 13th century. So plenty of history and well-made small production wines. Co-ops have allowed small vineyard owners to produce wine without having to own the winery, a practice still in use today [I’m looking at you, Wine Ghetto of SB]. This region is huge and produces millions of bottles each year. Sure, there is a lot of bulk juice, but that’s not the point. [I mean, California = bulk juice capital] A new generation of wines and winemakers has sprung up. They see the opportunity to produce personal, wonderful wines on properties that cost a fraction of those in Bordeaux or Napa Valley. This is the place where classic stylings and a thirst for modern, cutting-edge wine-making techniques have harmoniously come together to benefit you, dear reader. Many wines are pesticide-free. Organic. Biodynamique. Although most wine-makers do not advertise as such. They are growing a lot of good grapes, as opposed to a few years ago when they were known for high yield, low- quality acreage. And so many grapes! The whites include Chardonnay, Roussanne, Picpoul, [SO GOOD WITH OYSTERS OMG] Marsanne, Vermentino, Bourboulenc, Clairette blanche, Grenache blanc and many others. Among the reds, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, and Mourvedre [or Mataró or Monastrell, one of my favorites] are major grapes of the Corbières, Faugères, Fitou, [there are 2 of them!]and Minervois AOCs. I cannot wait to taste some more wines from this World-Class wine region.



Just a few photos to keep you interested….
Languedoc-Roussillon MLM Sud de France - Languedoc-Roussillon Map
Languedoc-Roussillon Map
This one is out of focus. What do you expect after 50 wine in 10 hours, spread over 2 days. Sheesh!

Day 1 lineup – Whew!

Day 1

Day 2 lineup

Day 2

The Good Stuff

Oh now this is a fun wine. Not for the faint of heart.

Mas Becha

Chateau Maris – C’est très magnifique!

Day 1

Very nice.


Everyone is learning about wine!

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Fire Relief Tasting

First, I want to say Thank You. Those who came over and those who generously gave to this worthy cause. I appreciate all the goodwill.
Well, I can honestly say a good time was had by all at our Fire Relief Tasting. What Fire Relief? you may ask yourself. Well, my Uncle Kelly lives in Colorado. His house burned down in June. He lost everything in the Black Forest Fires. He managed to rescue his landlord’s eight horses but in the process lost his home. The only things he had time to save were his dog, his truck and a motorcycle. He is a real-life country song. In an attempt to raise money for him, I put together this tasting with wines from my personal cellar. We enjoyed some wonderful wines and really had fun.

Here is a photo of some wines we drank that day.

What a great venue! More tastings here for sure!
Image 1

Here are a couple photos of the destruction. Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.







The yellow truck in this photo was bought my Great-Grandfather brand new in 1972.
Very few things survived, this truck is the only thing on the property to remain intact.


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Personal Wine Shopping at TJs

So this weekend I went to Trader Joe’s for a personal shopping trip. We picked up all kinds of gluten-free, wheat-free things, some cheese and kettle corn. Then we turned to the wine aisle. That’s where having a Wine Jerk with you helps. The Wine Jerk shops with you at your favorite store, and helps you pick out wines for YOU. This is a very fun service and the feedback has been all good. Today I am sharing four wines that made the cut from a recent trip to TJ’s.


[L-R] Bogle Phantom, Trader Joe’s Petit Verdot, Kono Sauvignon Blanc, Floriana Gruner Veltliner.

Here are the four wines, all under $20, and all are pretty good.
The Bogle Phantom is a dark, rich blend, perfect for the Fall season. “The poor man’s Prisoner” [$16]
The Kono Sauvignon Blanc is a typical New Zealand-style, fresh and crisp with sweet peas and fresh-clipped grass notes. Perfect for the 100 degree days we have left in this year. [$8]

The Trader Joe’s Brand Petit Verdot comes from Paso Robles. A superb effort! Now, you know the Wine Jerk loves him some Petit Verdot. And this one is very juicy, with smooth lavender notes and lots of character. [$15ish]







And this is the deal of the month! Seriously, I know you want to drink red wine now that the weather is cooler [86 degrees today!] but this is a perfect late afternoon sipper. Gruner is one of the only wines I have found that goes with asparagus, among other fresh green veggies. Or perfect by itself. At only $5 a bottle, I suggest trying this beautiful wine. [$5]

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