Cocktail Corner: Garagiste Wine Festival

Garagiste Festival 2017, courtesy photo.

Garagiste Festival 2017, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Recently named “America’s Best Wine Festival” by USA Today, the Garagiste Wine Festival returns to Solvang February 8 – 10. “Garagistes” (pronounced garage-east) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. 

Showcasing the wines of some of California’s best small production winemakers, the seventh anniversary festival has a number of different components, including the popular “‘Original Garagiste” seminar, featuring Central Coast winemaking legend Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines interviewed by Garagiste Festival Co-founder and KRUSH radio host, Stewart McLennan.

“We are proud to lead off our main event with a one-on-one discussion and tasting with Ken Brown—a true original ‘garagiste’ many years before micro-production winemaking became a movement,’ says McLennan.  “Ken was one of the first to recognize the cool climate potential of this region back in the 70s and to craft delicious wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay right here in Santa Barbara. We are looking forward to an informative and inspiring conversation as we taste some of his delicious wines.” 

Brown’s winery, Ken Brown Wines, focuses on very small lots of Pinot Noir from the finest vineyards of Sta. Rita Hills. Recognized as one of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers and innovators, he was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and spent 20 years at Byron Winery as well. Not only was Ken Brown among the first vintners to realize the tremendous promise for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Santa Barbara County, he was also the first winemaker to introduce the Syrah grape, as well as Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, to the region. The “Original Garagiste” seminar runs from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 9 and will focus on how he helped shape the Santa Barbara wine scene and why he ultimately returned to small-lot winemaking. 

Winemaker Ken Brown leads off the 2019 Garagiste Festival with a one-on-one discussion and tasting. Photo by Rocco Ceselin, courtesy Garagiste Festival.

Winemaker Ken Brown leads off the 2019 Garagiste Festival with a one-on-one discussion and tasting. Photo by Rocco Ceselin, courtesy Garagiste Festival.

Dubbed a “tasting nirvana,” “strange and wondrous” and “one not to miss” by the Los Angeles Times, the Garagiste Festival is renowned for its renegade spirit, passionate winemakers, handcrafted wines and rules-breaking, anti-snobby ethos. The wines are poured directly by their makers, and it’s definitely one of the most fun—and accessible—festivals to talk to winemakers about their passion projects. 

In many cases the winemakers are employed by larger wineries but showcase their own, lovingly crafted, small batch concoctions at the Garagiste Festival. For example, Marisa Matela Beverly is Owner/Winemaker of Bevela Wines (which will be showcased at the festival), but has also been working with Au Bon Climat, Qupe and Verdad wineries since 2008.

“Under these two pioneers of Santa Barbara county wine, I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can,” says Beverly. “Over the years, this has helped fine tune my palate and path in winemaking. I am allowed all the freedom I want when it comes to the production of my wines. This helps keep Bevela Wines unique and very boutique.  The best example of influence and yet freedom is my barrel aging regime.  I saw and tasted what extended aging can do for certain Italian varieties, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to use this technique.  It is not the most cost effective—and takes a lot of floor space—but the end results are undeniable, it is worth it!”

Guests can taste those end results on Friday, February 8 at the popular “No Repeats, Rare & Reserve,” tasting, where attendees can get up close and personal with the winemakers as they share limited Club Only, Library and Pre-Release bottles and Barrel samples, and enjoy a BBQ buffet from local favorite Neighbor Tim’s BBQ.

Bevela is pouring a library selection of the Matela Teroldego (the 2010 vintage) as well as the current release (the 2012 vintage).  “We also have a special selection of 2014 Presqu’ile Syrah, only bottled in magnum and only available to our allocation list.  This wine is our silent auction item on Saturday,” says Beverly, who will be pouring her  2017 “Fractured Emergence” Chardonnay, 2012 “Matela” Teroldego, 2015 “Old Fashioned Superstition” Syrah, and 2015 “Unforeseen Alchemy” Red Blend at the Grand Tasting Event on Saturday, February 9.

The Grand Tasting runs from 2-5 p.m. showcasing over 40 winemakers pouring 150+ wines and 20+ unique varieties. Among the winemakers scheduled to pour are: Ascension Cellars, Bevela Wines, Blatty, Bodega de Edgar, Bolshoi Family Wines, Byron, Camlow Cellars, Cholame Vineyard, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Copia Vineyards, Cordon Wines, Corner Cellars, Cutruzzola Vineyards, D.Volk Wines, Dascomb Cellars, DeWit Vineyard, Dracaena Wines, Elwood Wines, Ferguson Family Winery, Golden Triangle, Greyscale Wines, Hoi Polloi Winery, Kaleidos Winery, Kimsey Vineyards, Kings Carey, Lepiane Wines, Luna Hart, Maiden Stoen, Marin’s Vineyard, MCV, Metrick Wines, Montagne Russe, Montemar Winery, Nexo, Pelletiere Estate, RF Fine Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Seagrape, Sycamore Ranch, Temperance Cellars, Tercero Wines, Thomas William Fermentation Company, Torch Cellars, Volatus, and Westerly Wines

All tickets include unlimited tastes, complimentary cheese and charcuterie and a souvenir Stolzle crystal wine glass—plus a Silent Auction full of enticing wine packages which benefits The Garagiste Scholarship at Cal Poly

Dana Volk of D.Volk Wines is pouring at the Garagiste Festival, and offering special discounts to festival attendees at her nearby Solvang tasting room. Photo by Bottle Branding, courtesy D.Volk Wines.

Dana Volk of D.Volk Wines is pouring at the Garagiste Festival, and offering special discounts to festival attendees at her nearby Solvang tasting room. Photo by Bottle Branding, courtesy D.Volk Wines.

Dana Volk, Owner/Winemaker of D.Volk Wines, will be pouring on Friday (her 2016 John Sebastiano Vineyard Syrah, which is usually only available to wine club members) and Saturday. She says, “I have poured wine at many festivals in my 25 years in this business and this is by far my favorite one to show my wine at! The attendees are genuinely interested in getting to know you personally and to learn about the wines and winemaking.”

On Saturday she’ll be pouring and offering special discounts on D.Volk Wines’ 2017 Curtis Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Ynez Valley; 2017 Grenache Blanc, Dorigo Family Vineyards, Ballard Canyon; 2017 Rosé, Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley; 2015 Pinot Noir, Duvarita Vineyard, Santa Barbara County; and 2016 Hampton Family Vineyard Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley.

“There is a special place in our hearts for Solvang, and for the amazing small production winemakers who pour at this venue. Solvang, and the beautiful Veteran’s Memorial Hall, lend such a charming and intimate setting for attendees to chat and taste with the winemakers and owners who will be pouring their hard-to-find wines. We love the diversity of the wines poured here, with multiple micro-climates, grape varieties and innovative blends represented.” says Garagiste Festival cofounder Doug Minnick

With the exception of the Passport Day tastings, which take place at individual wineries and tasting rooms, all festival weekend events take place at Solvang Veterans’ Memorial Hall, 1745 Mission Dr., Solvang.

Tickets are very limited, so if you want to go, you should act now. To purchase tickets, click here. Hope to see some of you there. 

Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 25, 2019.

Cocktail Corner: Sipping for Good

BELMOND EL ENCANTO & SUNSTONE WINERY CRAFT CUSTOM BLENDS TO BENEFIT YOUTH INTERACTIVE

Belmond El Encanto has partnered with Sunstone Winery to craft two custom blends in support of the local youth organization Youth Interactive. Photo courtesy Belmond El Encanto.

Belmond El Encanto has partnered with Sunstone Winery to craft two custom blends in support of the local youth organization Youth Interactive. Photo courtesy Belmond El Encanto.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

I’m always excited to hear about partnerships between local wineries, local businesses and local nonprofits. After all, when good wine benefits a good cause … well, it’s all good!

Most recently, Belmond El Encanto  collaborated with the beautiful, family-owned Santa Ynez Valley winery Sunstone Winery to craft two custom blends in partnership with GO Campaign to support Youth Interactive, one of my favorite local organizations that works to create youth-led businesses to help participants explore their creative and entrepreneurial talents. 

Belmond El Encanto worked directly with winemaker Bion Rice and the Sunstone team to craft each wine.

The first custom blend, released in December, is Enchanted Riviera (pictured above). It is a 2017 cuvée consisting of 50% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. Each of the four lots used to compile this blend originated from the 28-year-old Sunstone Estate Vineyard.

The white blend, Charming Vista, will be available in early 2019. A select panel from Belmond El Encanto and Youth Interactive’s Board developed secret blends for a blind tasting at Sunstone Winery, and a Level 2 Sommelier from the winery chose the winning blend.

Youth Interactive Artist Jack Miles with his artwork that is featured on the "Enchanted Riviera" bottle. Courtesy photo.

Youth Interactive Artist Jack Miles with his artwork that is featured on the “Enchanted Riviera” bottle. Courtesy photo.

The bottle label artwork was created by Youth Interactive participant, 18-year-old La Cuesta Continuation High School student, Jack Miles. A fan of abstract art, Miles was mentored by celebrated local artist James-Paul Brown on the design.

“Youth Interactive means a lot to me. It is a safe place where I know that I can always come to and feel free to be myself and express myself. I am able to meet important people in the community and expand on my skills to become a better person,” says Miles, who hopes to find a job that allows him to utilize his talents and give back to the community.

Founded in 2012, Youth Interactive Santa Barbara  is a grassroots after school Entrepreneurial Arts Academy that bridges opportunity and social divisions by providing creative young adults from all walks of life with the keys to self-sufficiency. Sold exclusively at the hotel, Belmond El Encanto will donate five dollars from each bottle sold to the organization. 

You can also check out some of Youth Interactive’s other products at their new gallery space, the State Gallery @ YI Shop, located at 1219 State St. across from the Granada Theatre in Downtown Santa Barbara.

Sunstone Winery, courtesy photo.

Sunstone Winery, courtesy photo.

“Collaborating with both Sunstone Winery and Youth Interactive is the perfect match for Belmond El Encanto,” says Colleen Huther, General Manager of Belmond El Encanto. “Being a strong advocate for sustainability, we appreciate the environmental preservation and organic growing that is inherent with Sunstone Winery. A majority of our local community outreach efforts focus on youth, the future stewards of our planet. We can’t think of a better youth organization to support than Youth Interactive.”

Cheers to good wine and good causes! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 18, 2019.

Cocktail Corner: Wine World News & Happenings

Presqu’ile Winery scores big in National Tasting Room Rankings, releases Rescue Wine Collection; The Pillars Wines showcase Bien Nacido Estate; Brick Barn Wine Estate Scores Big in Competition; Guarachi Wine Partners Acquires Parker Station; Cambria Estate Winery joins Stewards of the Land with Leonardo DiCaprio

Presqu’ile Tasting Room, photo by Avis Mandel.

Presqu’ile Tasting Room, photo by Avis Mandel.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Presqu’ile Winery Rates #2 in USA Today’s 10 Best Tasting Rooms in the U.S.

Presqu’ile, the Murphy Family’s contemporary estate winery in the hills of Santa Maria, placed second in USA TODAY’s 2018 National Readers Poll of 10 Best Tasting Rooms across the United States, serving as the only representative and entry from Santa Barbara County.

“Our mission at the Presqu’ile tasting room is to share our passion for the wines from Santa Maria Valley and our estate vineyard in a relaxed, elegant setting while providing world-class hospitality,” states Matt Murphy, co-founder and president. “The nomination for the top 10 Best Tasting Rooms and second place finish in the poll is a testament to the hard work our team puts in daily to deliver this experience. They are an extension of our family and do an incredible job living up to our high expectations for the guest experience at Presqu’ile. A huge thanks to our friends and extended family who voted for us; we are so appreciative of the support.”

Nominees for USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards categories are chosen by a panel of relevant experts. Presqu’ile (pronounced press-KEEL) is a small, family-run winery dedicated to making exceptional cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Presqu’ile is a multigenerational collaboration between Madison and Suzanne Murphy, their three adult children, Matt, Anna and Jonathan, and their daughters-in-law, Amanda and Lindsey. No strangers to agriculture, four generations of the wine-loving Murphy family have been farming land in Louisiana for almost a century. Led by eldest son Matt Murphy, the family founded Presqu’ile—the Creole word for “almost an island”—both as a tribute to a beloved Gulf Coast family gathering place that was lost in Hurricane Katrina, and because they envisioned Presqu’ile as an island-like haven amid the vines. Also on the team is rising star winemaker Dieter Cronje.

Left: Murphy family members Charlie, Anna, Matt, Pokey, Suzanne and Madison; right: Assistant Winemaker Mike Chase with Gus and Nyla. Photo courtesy of Presqu’ile.

Left: Murphy family members Charlie, Anna, Matt, Pokey, Suzanne and Madison; right: Assistant Winemaker Mike Chase with Gus and Nyla. Photo courtesy of Presqu’ile.

Rescue Wine Collection

Presqu’ile also recently joined forces with the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society to release the Rescue Wine Collection named for the winning dog and cat of the Presqui’le Spokesdog and Spokescat Contest honoring the second annual Presqu’ile 5K9 Run & Walk held this fall. The contest and event benefited the work of the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society.

The Miller Family Releases of The Pillars Wines, Historically Inspired to Represent the Foundation of the Bien Nacido Estate
Nicholas Miller, Stephen Miller and Marshall Miller, proprietors of the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates. Courtesy photo.

Nicholas Miller, Stephen Miller and Marshall Miller, proprietors of the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates. Courtesy photo.

The Miller family, owners and stewards of the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates, recently announced the release of The Pillars, a selection of three historically inspired wines from the most exceptional parcels within Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Since Bien Nacido Vineyard’s inception in 1973, the most impressive parcels of the vineyard have commanded the highest demand and demonstrated the greatest quality. It’s with this understanding that, after 45 years, the Miller Family has decided to craft these three special wines, anchored in the rich history of Bien Nacido and appropriately called the Pillars to represent the foundation of the winemaking program. 

 “The Pillars Wines were created to honor our family’s history, leadership and vision for growing the world’s best grapes and producing the highest quality wines from the Bien Nacido Estate,” shares Nicholas Miller, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “The name was really inspired by the pillars of our family.”

Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estates are part of The Thornhill Companies, the industry-leading umbrella brand owned by the Miller Family—one of California’s premier winegrowing families who have been farming California’s Central Coast for five generations. In addition to the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates, The Thornhill Companies includes such well-respected brands as J. Wilkes, Ballard Lane, Smashberry and Barrel Burner wines, French Camp vineyard in Paso Robles and the custom crush facilities Central Coast Wine Services and Paso Robles Wine Services.

Brick Barn Wine Estate Scores Big in Competition
Brick Barn Wine Estate Winery, courtesy photo.

Brick Barn Wine Estate Winery, courtesy photo.

The Brick Barn Estate Winery & Vineyard recently won some awards at 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge and the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition. Here’s a round-up of the award-winning wines:

2016 Albariño: Block 1 / Albariño Clone 1 / 1.9 acres. A lively rendition of this classic Spanish variety. Bright white flower aromatics build in the glass, leading to a crisp and direct core of exotic citrus and pear. These qualities are enhanced with extended skin contact, light pressing and extended cold settling prior to fermentation and aging in stainless steel.  2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge:  Best in Class, Best in Show, Best White, Double Gold and Best of the Central Coast.2018 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition: Double Gold.

2016 Vermentino: Block 7 / Vermentino Clone Tablas A / 2.1 acres. An aromatic white that offers both crispness and length. Grown in a wind-protected block behind the winery, this wine shows delicate floral notes of peach and honeysuckle followed by vibrant white fruit flavors—all layered over a fresh sea breeze salinity and a lasting, stony finish. 2018 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition: Sweepstakes Winner White Wines.

2017 Grenache Rosé: Block 2 / Grenache Blanc Clone 141 / 3.28 acres Alive with a vibrant fragrance of rose petal and chalk followed by a juicy core of fruit and beach stones. This wine is whole cluster pressed, settled and co-fermented with Grenache Clone 136, Grenache Clone 513 and Grenache Blanc. 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge: Silver Medal.

2016 Chardonnay: Block 5 / Chardonnay Clone 4 / 5.04 acres Block 6 / Chardonnay Clone 809 / 2.96 acres. A focused, terroir-driven  Chardonnay. Bright and alluring tones of citrus and pear are driven by a crisp mineral structure derived from the alluvial sands of our estate’s lower blocks. 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge: Gold Medal.

2016 Cabernet Franc: Block 18 / Cabernet Franc Clone 332 / 2.64 acres. Grown in the upper blocks of our estate vineyard, this wine derives power and finesse from an east-west row orientation along a rocky, hillside terrain. Deep red fruit and spicy aromatics lead to flavors of currant, pepper and dark cherry, all supported by firm, structured tannins. 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge: Gold Medal

The 35-acre Brick Barn estate vineyard, which opened its Buellton tasting room in 2018, is open to the pubic daily. For more information, visit www.brickbarnwineestate.com.

Guarachi Wine Partners Acquires Parker Station from Fess Parker Winery
Parker Station Wine, courtesy photo.

Parker Station Wine, courtesy photo.

Guarachi Wine Partners  and Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard recently announced Guarachi Wine Partners’ acquisition of Parker Station, a Central Coast Pinot Noir brand. Guarachi Wine Partners will be representing and supporting the brand by leveraging its experienced sales team, developing marketing campaigns and national distribution to grow brand awareness and overall volume. The wine will continue to be produced by Fess Parker Winery for a period of five years.

“Ten years ago, I saw an opportunity to expand past South American wines and into California produced wines. Our domestic portfolio now features Guarachi Family Wines  —a high-end luxury label sourced from micro lots within Estate vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, and a gathering of high quality wine brands at reasonable prices including Black Ink,  tenshǝn,  Surf/Swim  and  BACON,” says Alex Guarachi, founder of Guarachi Wine Partners and owner of Guarachi Family Wines. “Parker Station is the perfect addition and fits a niche for our portfolio with its great price point Pinot Noir and drinkability that consumers are looking for. Part of the future plan for the brand is to extend the line to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. I’m excited to share this wine with everyone and looking forward to a long term partnership with Fess Parker.”

Tim Snider, President of Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, adds, “As we enter our 30th year as a family owned and operated winery here in Santa Barbara County, we feel a return to our core identity by focusing on our higher-end and single-vineyard wines is the best path forward for the family.” Snider continues, “Connecting with Alex Guarachi about his vision to grow the Parker Station label is a mutually beneficial opportunity, and we know the brand will continue to flourish as part of their portfolio, which represents the richness and diversity of the global wine world.”

Cambria Estate Winery Partners with Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for “Stewards of the Land” Grant Program 
Courtesy Cambria Estate Winery.

Courtesy Cambria Estate Winery.

Cambria Estate Winery recently announced the launch of its “Stewards of the Land” environmental sustainability grant program in partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF). LDF has worked on environmental issues globally for the past 20 years and pulled from their broad network of leaders and organizations in the space to nominate the women for this new grant program.

The Cambria “Stewards of the Land” grant program identifies and empowers female leaders who are making meaningful contributions to environmental and community-based causes.  In partnership with LDF, Cambria Estate Winery’s co-proprietors Julia Jackson and Katie Jackson selected two recipients who will each receive a $25,000 grant to further their mission as Stewards of the Land.  The inaugural grant recipients, Calla Rose Ostrander and the Women’s Empowerment Program of Amazon Frontlines, were selected for their demonstrated commitment to environmental conservation and excellent stewardship of our natural resources, in California and around the globe, respectively.

“Our ‘Stewards of the Land’ program is not only focused on identifying inspiring female leaders in important environmental causes here at home, but the program seeks to extend its impact and reach to places around the globe that are not normally in our day-to-day conscience, like the Amazon,” says Julia Jackson, co-proprietor of Cambria and Family Ambassador for Jackson Family Wines. “We’re very excited to support Calla Rose Ostrander’s work to improve carbon capture and regeneration, and the Women’s Empowerment Program of Amazon Frontlines for its dedication to protecting over five million acres of rainforest that is vital to worldwide oxygen supply and sequesters vast amounts of carbon.”   

“We are excited to use our vast network of environmental change makers to help Cambria Estate Winery identify and champion women who are leading impactful efforts to protect the health of our planet,” says LDF Executive Director Justin Winters. “The inaugural grant recipients, Calla Rose Ostrander and the women from the Women’s Empowerment Program of Amazon Frontlines, are incredible examples of the type of thoughtful, innovative and collaborative leadership that we believe is the key to ensuring a vibrant our future.”

“We are proud to partner with LDF to help bring worldwide attention to environmental stewardship,” says Katie Jackson, co-proprietor of Cambria Estate Winery and Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs for Jackson Family Wines. “We are supporting innovative initiatives that will have a real, lasting impact on improving soil health, while also empowering women to become environmental leaders in their own communities.”

Throughout its history, Cambria Estate Winery has taken serious, continuous steps to preserve and protect the land, take care of its employees, and support the local community.  Every aspect of the winery’s operations, from the cellar to the estate vineyard, practices sustainable farming and winemaking techniques. For more information, visit cambriawines.com/stewards-of-the-land. 

 Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 14, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Brave & Maiden’s New Estate Winery and Tasting Room

Brave & Maiden Estate exterior, courtesy photo.

Brave & Maiden Estate exterior, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Wow. The breathtaking new Brave & Maiden Estate Winery and Tasting Room is definitely upscale and sophisticated. This is not your grandma’s winery for sure! This beautiful 70-acre estate, with a brand new state-of-the-art facility, brings an exceptional new wine experience to the Santa Ynez Valley.

Owner Rizal Risjad purchased the property in 2010 and, with his business partner and Managing Director, Jason Djang, established Brave & Maiden Estate in 2011.

Brave & Maiden Estate, inside winery, courtesy photo.

Brave & Maiden Estate, inside winery, courtesy photo.

“From the beginning, our vision for Brave & Maiden has been to become a world-class brand and we’ve never wavered from that,” said Djang, at a press preview event last month. “From our top winemaking team to our certified sustainable vineyard, the completion of our winery and tasting room is a giant leap towards making that vision a reality.”

The Brave & Maiden name is from the “Legend of Nojoqui,” a local version of the Romeo & Juliet story. Set at the nearby Nojoqui Falls, the legend recounts the story of star-crossed lovers who choose sacrifice over separation. According to the website, “inspired by such profound commitment, we’ve created a twofold and ambitious commitment of our own: to craft extraordinary wines and to share them with unforgettable hospitality.”

Brave & Maiden Estate exterior, courtesy photo.

Brave & Maiden Estate exterior, courtesy photo.

The 46-acre vineyard includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc. Brave & Maiden is also a SIP certified sustainable vineyard dedicated to producing handcrafted, single-vineyard estate wines and red blends.

Under the direction of Winemaker and Consultant Paul Hobbs and Winemaker Josh Klapper, with Ruben Solorzano managing the vineyard, Brave & Maiden’s wines are committed to producing estate wines with the utmost level of quality and care. This attention to detail is obvious in Brave & Maiden’s new tasting room and 8,000-case production facility, which were designed by Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects, who are known for projects as Harlan Estate Winery, Larkmead Winery and Meadowood Napa Valley, Brave & Maiden is their first winery project on the Central Coast.

Tasting Room interior of Brave & Maiden Estate, photo by Jeremy Ball.

Tasting Room interior of Brave & Maiden Estate, photo by Jeremy Ball.

With stunning fireplaces, wood paneling and neutral earth tones, the impressive tasting room is spacious and comfortable, with indoor and outdoor seating areas and a private side area reserved for wine club members’ use. A huge sliding glass wall opens onto the expansive olive tree-filled courtyard between the tasting room and production facility, providing a great place to enjoy views of the picturesque vineyards and mountains.

Brave & Maiden offers three new wine experiences, all daily by appointment:

-a 45-minute Seated Tasting, where a dedicated host will guide guests through a curated selection of limited-production wines

-the Tour and Tasting option, offering a glimpse into the vineyard and backstage view of Brave & Maiden’s winemaking process, ending with a seated tasting

-the Tour, Tasting & Lunch, a two-hour elevated experience that includes a guided tour of the estate, followed by a seated tasting and gourmet lunch.

Brave & Maiden Estate, inside winery, courtesy photo.

Brave & Maiden Estate, inside winery, courtesy photo.

“With our new facility, our goal is to provide extraordinary experiences that are tailored to each individual guest, where they feel educated, entertained and cared for,” says Djang. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to share our journey and our wine with the community in an unforgettable experience of hospitality.”

“Brave & Maiden’s sustainably farmed vineyard is exceptional and I have no doubts the addition of the new winery and hospitality facility will further enhance and validate the brand’s presence in this world-class wine region,” shares Hobbs, who is somewhat of a legend in the winemaking world, as part of the initial team at Opus One, with a South American winemaking career that carries on today with his wines from Viña Cobos and his legendary status as the pioneer who launched malbec’s rise to fame. In additional to consulting projects, his impressive pedigree also includes being the owner and winemaker for Sebastopol-based wineries, Paul Hobbs Winery and CrossBarn, as well as his international partnerships, Viña Cobos (Cobos, Bramare, Cocodrilo, Felino), Crocus (Cahors, France), and Yacoubian-Hobbs (Armenia).

Brave & Maiden Estate exterior, courtesy photo.

Brave & Maiden Estate exterior, courtesy photo.

“We’ve invested all of ourselves in this project and are eager for guests to experience our wines first-hand. We strongly believe in the greatness of Santa Barbara County as a wine region and are privileged to be a part of it,” says Djang.

Brave & Maiden Estate is located at 649 N. Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez. For reservations, please call 805/693-2989, email reservations@braveandmaiden.com, or visit braveandmaiden.com.

Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 19, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: The Wine Shepherd

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Two of Santa Barbara County’s hottest restaurant teams—PICO in Los Alamos and The Black Sheep in Downtown Santa Barbara—have joined forces to create The Wine Shepherd, a new wine bar, tasting room and wine shop located next to The Black Sheep at 30 E. Ortega St., Santa Barbara (at the corner of Ortega and Anacapa Streets, across from Paradise Cafe).

PICO co-owners Will Henry and Kali Kopley have an excellent selection of wine in the retail section of the restaurant and The Wine Shepherd extends those offerings into Santa Barbara’s buzzy Presidio Neighborhood. It also offers an additional tasting room for the well-regarded Lumen Wines, which Henry co-owns with pioneering Santa Barbara County winemaker Lane Tanner.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

“We have a 2,000-bottle wine inventory at PICO, available to enjoy at the bar, in the restaurant, or for purchase to take with you…with The Wine Shepherd, we’re simply sharing PICO’s unparalleled wine selection with a greater portion of Santa Barbara County,” states Henry, whose father, Warner Henry, founded The Henry Wine Group import, wholesale and broker empire.

The Wine Shepherd, whose name is a play on words referencing The Black Sheep, offers a wide array of local, domestic and international wines for sale, as well as a carefully-curated list of beer and cider. Housed in the former Seagrass Restaurant space, The Wine Shepherd’s “upcycled chic” ambiance features a tasting bar built by Henry himself, where a selection of 14 or more wines by the glass—plus beer and cider—are available, as well as Lumen Wines tasting flights and excellent cheeses and charcuterie from PICO Chef and Partner Drew Terp. The Wine Shepherd also offers competitive pricing on bottles to go.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

With a string of hits in the food and wine world, Kopley is owner-founder of five different establishments in North Lake Tahoe, California: three Uncorked wine bar locations, Soupa restaurant, and Petra, a wine-inspired restaurant in Northstar. As a restaurateur, Kopley was a customer of The Henry Wine Group, which led to her introduction to Will Henry. The two are now married are parents to an adorable little girl. 

“The Wine Shepherd marks the seventh wine-related business in which I’ve recently had a hand in launching, and is modeled after some of my Tahoe-area businesses,” says Kopley. “We have such a loyal PICO following…and many of our friends and fans make the drive from Santa Barbara to Los Alamos. The Wine Shepherd will give them just a taste of what PICO has to offer, but closer to home.”

“We will offer a large selection of wines from around the world, as well as a healthy representation of local heroes. As we do at PICO, we will focus on small production, family-owned producers and obscure, hard-to-get wines, plus old vintage rarities and gems,” says Henry.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

The Wine Shepherd, photo courtesy Anna Ferguson-Sparks, Stiletto Marketing.

Henry and Kopley chose The Wine Shepherd’s location after becoming friends with The Black Sheep’s family of owners, Chef Robert Perez and his son, Ruben.

“We have always loved what the Perez family has done with The Black Sheep. Kali was also a patron and huge fan of their former Nevada City restaurant, Citronée,” says Henry. “We intend this to be a partnership with them that will both enhance the wine experience that we’ll offer, and augment The Black Sheep’s existing wine program.”

The Wine Shepherd is open Tuesday through Friday from 3-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m., with special happy hour prices from 4-6 p.m. daily. For more information, visit WineShepherdSB.com.

Cheers!  Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com. 

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on July 6, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Get the VIP Treatment at Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Rob Brown.

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Rob Brown.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

It’s always lovely to visit Fess Parker‘s bucolic 714-acre ranch in Los Olivos, but they recently refurbished the VIP Barrel Room, which makes it an even better wine tasting experience.

The tour starts with a video, shot by acclaimed photographer Rob Brown, of the history of the ranch and Fess Parker’s development of the vineyard on what is now known as the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.  Though Fess passed away in 2010, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is still family owned and operated, as it has been since 1989.

Fess Parker Winery, courtesy photo.

Fess Parker Winery, courtesy photo.

Following the video, we went into the barrel room for a discussion of the cooperage selection, and the wine aging process, as well as a special barrel tasting. Our tour was just for my husband and I, but they can accommodate up to 12 guests.

Tasting at Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Tasting at Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

You then go into a seated tasting of some top notch wines,  accompanied by a selection of savory bites prepared by the culinary team at The Bear and Star restaurant (another delicious Fess Parker family venture at the nearby Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa in Los Olivos). Among the six notable wines we tasted that day were the 2016 Pommard Clone Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills and the 2015 Ashley’s Pinot Noir, also from Sta. Rita Hills.

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Peter Malinowski.

Fess Parker Winery Barrel Room, photo by Peter Malinowski.

Tasting in the sophisticated new barrel room—designed in dramatic shades of red and black, which are warmed up by wood cabinetry and shelving—definitely feels like you’re entering the inner sanctum of the winery, and creates a dynamic contrast to the more homespun vibe found in other, more public, parts of the winery, where tastings are also offered.

Fess Parker Winery patio, courtesy photo.

Fess Parker Winery patio, courtesy photo.

The VIP Barrel Room Tasting and Tour is only available on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m., by reservation only, and is $50 for non-wine club members and $35 for wine club members. For more information, call 800/841-1104 or email barrett@fessparker.com.

Fess Parker Winery is located at 6200 Foxen Canyon Rd., Los Olivos and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on the 12 other wineries on the Foxen Canyon Wine trail (one of the most beautiful ways to explore Santa Barbara Wine Country, in my opinion) click here.

Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Fess Parker Winery, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Cheers!  Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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 believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on June 22, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: SB County Women Winemakers Dinner

Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner is March 8.

Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner is March 8.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, and I can’t think of a better way to toast the occasion than by attending the second annual Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers Dinner.

Last year’s festivities were, quite simply, amazing, delicious and fun, with a great spirit of collaboration and mutual admiration among the winemakers and chefs taking part.  Because the inaugural event—which was planned, executed and sold out within the space of a few weeks—was so popular, the event’s organizers have expanded this year’s dinner to accommodate more guests and to provide different levels of options for participation and support. 

I can’t wait! 

The charitable event, which runs in its entirety from 5:30-9 p.m. at K’Syrah Catering & Events (478 4th Place, Solvang, www.kscateringandevents.com) will, for the second year, benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County. Tickets to the March 8 event are currently on sale, at womenswinemakerdinner.eventbrite.com.

Last year's Women Winemakers Dinner, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

Last year’s Women Winemakers Dinner, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

More than 20 female winemakers will be joined at the March 8 event by some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s leading culinary ladies, the latter of which are collaborating to create a four-course, sit-down dinner to pair with some of their winemaker colleagues’ wines. In addition to the seated dinner portion of the evening, this year’s event features a tent on a closed-to-traffic street in front of K’Syrah’s downtown Solvang venue. Housed inside the tent is a pre-dinner tasting reception (available as a separate ticket), where more than 20 women winemakers will be on-hand to pour tastes of their wines and talk with event guests from 5:30-7 p.m. The tent festivities also include passed appetizers and a cheese table from local female cheesemonger Janelle McAtamney of Solvang’s Cailloux Cheese Shop.

Participating winemakers and wineries confirmed include: Karen Steinwachs, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard; Sonja Magdevski, Casa Dumetz Wines; Brooke Carhartt, Carhartt Vineyard & Winery; Alison Thomson, Lepiane Wines; Lane Tanner, Lumen Wines; Adrienne St. John, Rideau Vineyard; Gretchen Voelcker, Moon Unit Wines; Jessica Gasca, Story of Soil; Tara Gomez, Kitá Wines; Angela Osborne, A Tribute To Grace; and Kimberly Smith, LaMontagne Winery, with more to be announced  soon.

Chef Brooke Stockwell, Executive Chef at K’Syrah Catering & Events, will be joined in the kitchen by baker Amy Dixon, of The Baker’s Table in Santa Ynez; Theo Stephan, owner of Los Olivos’ Global Gardens; and additional Santa Ynez Valley chefs and food crafters, to be announced as the event nears. 

VIP-level tickets for this year’s event will include both the tasting tent and the seated dinner, where guests will be treated to wine pairings by, and conversation with, an exclusive selection of some of Santa Barbara County’s female winemakers, who will also be announced in the coming weeks. A dessert reception will follow the seated dinner, where guests may continue to mingle with the winemakers.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated worldwide since 1909, with a focus on working women’s achievements and issues. In a working environment that sees about 10% of the global wine industry as female winemakers, Santa Barbara County boasts a much higher percentage of women winemakers than most places in the world, with nearly double the average. The March 8 event will bring together a good portion of the County’s female winemakers in a show of support for each other, and other working women, world-wide; those who toil and labor while honing and elevating their craft in their workplace, while also balancing work-lives with family and community service.

It’s going to be a wonderful evening. Hope to see some of you there! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 9, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Oh Hanukkah!

The final 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} takes places on Dec. 19 at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

The final 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} takes place on Dec. 19 at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

The first night of Hanukkah is December 12, and that night also kicks off an awesome edible Hanukkah collaboration between two Santa Ynez Valley Chefs—PICO’s Drew Terp and Brooke Stockwell of K’Syrah Catering & Events—on an eight-day foodie fest building up to a final eight-course, seated dinner with wine pairings—featuring some of Santa Barbara Wine Country’s Jewish winemakers.

The “8 Days” event begins on December 12, with the first Hanukkah candle at PICO restaurant (458 Bell St., Los Alamos) and Chef Drew’s reveal of a new Hanukkah-themed dish hinting at the courses destined for the final night’s seated, eight-course dinner. Diners at PICO will be able to view all six nights’ special dishes, but will only be able to order the dishes as they are “lit”–in other words, “Dish #1” will be available on night one and all subsequent nights, whereas on night three, guests will be able to order Dish #1, #2 and/or #3. In addition, winemakers scheduled to pour at the final night’s event will pour their wines at PICO on select nights of candles one through six.  

The last two evenings of 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} take place at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

The last two evenings of 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration} take place at K’Syrah Catering & Events, courtesy photo.

Then, on Monday, December 18, the second-to-last night of Hanukkah, the holiday party travels to K’Syrah Catering & Events’ venue (478 4th Pl., Solvang), where a ticketed reception will showcase eight different Hanukkah-inspired plates in a passed hors d’oeuvres format. A cash bar will also be available that evening, offering a full bar plus creative craft cocktails entailing ingredients traditionally used in Jewish holiday celebrations. Tickets for the food portion of the evening of December 18 are $25 per person if purchased through December 13, or $30 per person if purchased after December 13 or at the event entrance, and are available at 8-days-edible-hanukkah-collaboration.eventbrite.com. (Cash cocktail bar is not included in the ticket price.)

The finale takes place on Tuesday, December 19 at K’Syrah Catering & Events and includes an eight-course collaborative Hanukkah menu from Chef Drew and Chef Brooke and an optional selection of associated wine pairings. 

Here’s the delicious sounding “8 Days” Finale Menu” (Wine Pairings TBA)

1 — Potato latke, smoked salmon, black pepper, salmon chicharrónes, crème fraîche, chive oil

2 — Roasted beet salad, honey vinaigrette, goat cheese crouton

3 — Fritto Misto (zucchini, winter squash, apple, fennel, with sage brown butter emulsion)

4 — Savory Kugel (kale, cipollini, gruyere, challah breadcrumbs)

5 — Parsnip latke, grilled quail, pomegranate, with charoset

6 — Braised brisket, fermented apple sauce, grilled root vegetables, smoked sunchoke cream, crispy taro root

7 — Olive oil cake, cherry soup, bay leaf chantilly lace

8 — Apple beignet, dulce de leche, sour cream ice milk

Tickets for the Tuesday, December 19 finale event run $85 per person with optional wine pairings for an additional $40 per person, and are available at 8-days-edible-hanukkah-collaboration.eventbrite.com (advance ticket purchase is required).

Courtesy 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration}.

Courtesy 8 Days {an Edible Hanukkah Collaboration}.

Are you cooking your own meal this Hanukkah? Israel’s leading wineries just released a food and wine-pairing guide for the holiday, offering an innovative spin on matching wine with traditional Hanukkah dishes.

The guide, from Israel’s Golan Heights and Galil Mountain wineries, and their North American importer, Yarden Inc., calls for creative pairings such as gewurztraminer with potato latkes and sour cream. “The spicy and off-dry notes of the gewurztraminer will accentuate the subtle spices of the latkes,” the wineries suggest. “The medium-bodied viscosity will work great with the cream.”

However, if you are among those who prefer applesauce with your potato pancakes, the wineries suggest sauvignon blanc should be your go-to bottle. “You will want a bit more acidity to go with the underlying acidity in the applesauce,” the guide says. “The dryness of the sauvignon blanc will make the applesauce taste slightly sweeter; and the grass and herbal notes will bring out the earthiness of the potato.”

Other creative twists include viognier with sweet potato latkes and applesauce, and chardonnay with zucchini latkes and sour cream. For those who prefer to head straight to the classic jelly doughnuts, the wineries suggest a moscato as “the perfect foil.” Download the entire, free guide here.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 6, 2017. 

Cocktail Corner: Kings Carey Wines

Kings Carey's first wine releases include (L-R) 2014 Grenache, 2015 Grenache and 2016 Rose of Grenache. Courtesy photos.

Kings Carey’s first wine releases include (L-R) 2014 Grenache, 2015 Grenache and 2016 Rose of Grenache. Courtesy photos.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

No matter how many times I’m reminded that you can’t judge a book by its cover, I’m still a sucker for an interesting wine label, so I was particularly intrigued by the samples I recently received from Kings Carey Wine, the new label by Liquid Farm Winemaker James Sparks.

It turns out the eye-catching labels are by Philadelphia-based illustrator and artist, Hawk Krall.

Kings Carey Grenache 2014 label, designed by Hawk Krall.

Kings Carey Grenache 2014 label, designed by Hawk Krall.

James Sparks! Hawk Krall! Do these guys sound like movie character names or what! But they’re also both very talented. Krall’s work was familiar to me from the beloved and vanished foodie mag Lucky Peachbut he’s been working his artistic magic for more than a decade. He’s well known for his food illustration, in particular, as well as his humorous editorial illustration, gallery showings and installations.

Kings Carey Rose 2016 label, designed by Hawk Krall.

Kings Carey Rose 2016 label, designed by Hawk Krall.

In SAVEUR Magazine, another foodie fave, Krall pens and illustrates a recurring series of pieces in the publication, “Hawk’s Illustrated America,” which “follows his journeys through the back roads of the U.S. in search of our country’s most obscure and delicious regional specialties.”

Of course, this wine is more than just a pretty package. We tasted the first three wines—a 2014 Grenache (John Sebastiano Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley AVA); a 2015 Grenache (John Sebastiano Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills AVA); and a 2016 Rosé of Grenache from new Santa Ynez Valley AVA vineyard, Brick Barn—and enjoyed every last drop.

“I’m trying to produce ‘untypical’ wines of typicity,” says Sparks. “It’s not that this region can’t produce these types of wines; it’s just that you don’t see it very often. These are not fruit bombs. These are clean expressions of the fruit at-hand.” 

In addition to his private Kings Carey label, Sparks continues to create Liquid Farm’s variety of wines (currently five Chardonnays, a Rosé of Mourvèdre, and two Pinot Noirs). 

The Kings Carey winery space is located in Lompoc. Visits and private tastings are by appointment only, and reservations may be made by emailing info@KingsCarey.com.

Kings Carey Wines may currently be found in these locations:

Restaurants & Bars
Cecco Ristorante | 475 First St., Solvang, CA 93463
First & Oak | 409 First St., Solvang, CA 93463
Community Craft | 2446 Alamo Pintado Ave., Los Olivos, CA 93441
Bell Street Farm | 406 Bell St., Los Alamos, CA 93440
Scratch Kitchen | 610 N. H St., Lompoc, CA 93436

Retail
Nielsen’s Market | 608 Alamo Pintado Rd., Solvang, CA 93463

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 15, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: A Taste of Italy with DoctorWine

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

As far as I’m concerned, one of the only things more fun than enjoying a great wine and food pairing is enjoying it with smart people who are willing to share their knowledge and make the experience even more delicious. When DoctorWine himself, Daniele Cernilli—a highly acclaimed expert on Italian wines and the author of The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017—came to town last week, I was thrilled to be able to break bread with him and taste wines from some of his favorite producers.

Our tasting at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant was definitely a treat.

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Named one of the “50 Most Influential People in the Wine World” by Decanter Magazine, Cernilli is a journalist by trade, and in addition to being a regular contributor to Italian newspapers, trade and consumer publications, he has written a number of technical books on wine and wine tasting. In addition to multiple editions of The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine, his books include, among others, Memorie di un degustatore di vini (Memories of a Wine Taster), a chronicle-memoir of his first 25 years as a taster with this opinions on many Italian and foreign wines, and Vitigni del Mondo (World Wine Grapes), written in collaboration with Dario Cappelloni, which is the most complete catalog of wine grapes ever published in Italy.

In other words, he knows his stuff, and so did the eight wine producers who accompanied him on a tour of California.

First up was Torre Rosazza – Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Fruili DOC 2016. Torre Rosazza is one of the largest producers in Europe, and Pinot Grigio has been cultivated in Friuli for centuries with great results that showcase the area’s hilly terrain. Luisa Bortolotto, the winery’s Export Manager was on hand to answer questions. Paired with a delicious salad of gems lettuces, heirloom tomato, cucumber, mint and  mouth-watering herb creme fraiche, this wine was fresh and very drinkable.

DoctorWine Daniele Cernilli leads The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour luncheon at Les Marchands, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

DoctorWine Daniele Cernilli leads The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour luncheon at Les Marchands, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Next up were two wines paired with a delicious summer corn chowder: Querciabella – Chianti Classico DOCG 2013 from Tuscany, along with Owner Giacomo Neri; and Feudo Maccari – Saia Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2014 from Sicily.

Querciabella, as DoctorWine explained, has been organic since 1988, long before there were any regulations around the practice and this very classic, 100% Sangiovese Chianti was quite lovely with a balance of fruity and savory notes. The Feudo Maccari wine, made from 100% Nero d’Avola grapes was very complex and full bodied, but quite well balanced, and also paired very well with the soup.

Our main course was the Les Marchands fabulous take on Steak Frites, with pan seared hangar steak, wild argula, salsa verde and French fries. It paired really well with three different wines: Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2012 from Tuscany/Montepulciano, accompanied by Owner Francesco Carletti (“King of the old Tuscan wines is the Nobile,” says DoctorWine, and it did indeed have some royal flavor); Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG 2013 from Piedmont, a lovely 100% Nebbiolo classic Barolo; and Velenosi Roggio Del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore DOCG 2012 from Marche. 

Finally a lovely assortment of cheese and Helena Ave Bakery breads accompanied the last two wines: the Robert Parker 100-point-rated Casanova di Neri – Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 from Tuscany/Montalcino, along with General Manager Roberto La Sorte (yes, it was excellent); and the Bertani – Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007 from Veneto/Amarone, accompanied by Technical Director Girdano Formenti. DoctorWine explained that the Bertani was a classic Amarone, made the traditional way, in vineyards devoted entirely to producing drying grapes. The grapes are set aside to dry on (racks made from bamboo canes and then they ferment in concrete and age in barrels for seven years. It’s a complicated process, but so very worth it.

Want to learn more about Italian wine? Cernilli’s website, www.doctorwine.it,  is entirely bi-lingual (Italian-English) and is designed especially to give an Italian perspective to a global public. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 5, 2017.