A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg
Purely by coincidence, I spent the last two weekends tasting a number of limited production wines—while the number of bottles may be small, their variety is large and their quality is excellent.
First up was a lovely tour, barrel sampling and wine tasting at the Santa Ynez estate home of Westerly Wines. What a treat! Winemaker Adam Henkel played host for the private event. He’s a Kentucky-born charmer who came to the vineyard a few years ago, after a decade in Napa Valley making wines for Harlan Estate and Swanson Vineyards.
First of all, the estate is beautiful. Based in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, it was once part of a 3,900-acre horse ranch, Westerly Stud Farms, and horses still graze the neighboring estates. Our first wine was a 2013 Westerly Sauvignon Blanc, a bright, fresh and balanced wine that was perfect for a warm, spring afternoon. Then Henkel took us into the barrel room, where we sampled the 2014 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay and the 2013 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, both of which were quite promising. This winery is state-of-the art, with reds fermenting in concrete conical tanks, French Oak and traditional stainless steel, while the whites cold ferment in concrete “eggs,” as well as small French Oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. It’s amazing the number of different winemaking vessels available, and Westerly seems to have them all on hand.
Then it was onto the picturesque dining room, where owner Roger Bower greeted us warmly. At lunch we tasted an excellent Bordeaux varietal, the 2010 Westerly Fletcher’s Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. We also tasted the 2012 Cote Blonde, a blend of 87% Syrah and 13% Viognier co-fermented together to create my new favorite wine. It’s really nicely balanced and full bodied with a wonderful smell of dried apricots of flowers. Trust me, it’s delicious! It was a great introduction to these (new to me) wines. I definitely won’t be a stranger!
The winery is not open to the public, however wine club members are invited to special events and staff will be pouring at a number of upcoming wine festivals, including the 2nd Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend at the Bacara Resort & Spa April 16-17. Click here for details.
The Garagiste Festival
Speaking of festivals, if you want to know what’s new and exciting in the world of wine, the Garagiste Festival is the place to be. Named for the GARAGISTES (gar-uh-zhē-stuh), which comes from a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garages, who refused to follow the “rules” of traditional winemaking, the festival focuses on producers of less than 1,500 cases, which means these are wines you are unlikely to find very easily. The Solvang festival had two days of Grand Tastings, with different wines poured a each one.
One of my favorites was the 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay from Seagrape Cellars, which is a side project for Buttonwood Farm Winemaker Karen Steinwachs (started with her late husband, Dave). Another festival fave (I was focused on whites) was Baehner Fournier Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon.
Wine + Beer
Rosé was also on the menu this week. As part of its one-year anniversary celebration, Wine + Beer in the Santa Barbara Public Market is offering a special “Drink Pink” rosé tasting series that runs through April 7 features some excellent local winemakers:
Tatomer “Spaatburgunder” Rosé, made of 100% Pinot Noir
Stolpman Vineyards Rosé, Ballard Canyon, made from 100% Grenache
Margerum Wine Company “Riviera” Rosé (97% Grenache, 3% Counoise and Cinsaut)
Dragonette Cellars Rosé, Happy Canyon (70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre),
Liquid Farm “Vogelzang Vineyard,” Happy Canyon, made from 100% Mourvedre.
Tasting flights are only available through next week, but the wines—so perfect for spring —are all for sale by the bottle in this bustling tasting room. Cheers!
When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”