Sunday, April 26, 2009

Brigantine Irving Johnson

The Brigantine Irving Johnson was in port this weekend, so I went down to see her. This is a modern-built tall ship, not a reproduction or a restoration of anything else. There are a pair of them (the other one is named Exy Johnson), and they are used for training vessels. You can read about them here. I wasn't able to see her under sail, but there's a nice photo here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A visit to La Huerta

On Earth Day we stopped by at the Mission Garden's Open House ("la huerta" means "garden" in Spanish). This little gem is hard to find -- it's down to the west of the parking lot beside the Old Mission -- but definitely worth the trouble. It's a project of Jerry Sortomme and a number of dedicated volunteers: they are collecting plant specimens from original mission and ranch locations and propagating and displaying them here. They have figs and grapes from several missions and tiny sweet wild strawberries from Rancho San Julien, just to name a few. Very exciting!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Big Wine Sale Tomorrow

Touring and Tasting Magazine, which is based here in Santa Barbara, is advertising a "warehouse sale" tomorrow from 2-5pm only. I don't know a thing about it -- they promise 40-70% off retail prices -- but I plan to go. Maybe I'll see you there!

125 S Quarantina Street (at Cacique St)

Thursday, April 23, 2009


For our last stop we drove to Los Olivos, where Longoria was hosting a special tasting in the garden. Here's Rick "behind bars":

Rick was pouring his 2008 Pinot Grigio. We tasted several Pinot Grigios throughout the day, and they were all good, but I thought Rick's was the best. Nice, crisp flavor of peaches and pears, and just a slightly flowery aroma. Next was the 2007 Sta Rita Hills Chardonnay, spicy with just a hint of butter from the malolactic fermentation. Then came the 2007 Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir, with flavors of red fruit and spice. Finally, Rick poured four Syrahs: 2005 and 2006 from both Clover Creek and Alisos Canyon, paired with chocolate. That seemed like enough tasting for one very hot day, and we came home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clos Pepe, and...

We drove West on Santa Rosa Road to the Clos Pepe winery (the vineyard is on Hwy 246). It's set back from the road in a walnut orchard, in a facility they share with Cold Heaven, Bruno D'Alfonso & Kris Curran, and Arcadian. Chanda was there, with a couple of her greyhound friends; Wes was pouring, and there were tacos.

We tasted a 2001 Chardonnay from Wes's library, very clean and crisp with lemons and apricots on the palate. That was followed by six Pinot Noirs. Wes follows the wine wherever the grapes take him, and these Pinot's ranged from an elegant and subdued Burgundian style to a big, brassy Sta Rita Hills version. I didn't take any notes so you won't get descriptions, except to note that I brought home two bottles of the 2007 "Vigneron Select".

I would certainly have enjoyed tasting at Arcadian or at Cold Heaven, but being relatively familiar with their wines we passed on this occasion. I did ask Morgan about her new Sauvignon Blanc project...she's known as the "Queen of Viognier" and this is a new grape for her. But she told me she bottled it two days ago, and it's still mad. So no tastes were available. Next time perhaps...

Instead we drifted next door, where Bruno and Kris have set up shop. Kris was the founding winemaker at Sea Smoke; she has left them and is with Foley and Lincourt now. She still finds the time to make her own wine under the Curran label. Bruno was for many year the winemaker for Richard Sanford; he now makes under the labels Badge and DiBruno. We tasted the 2006 DiBruno Pinot Grigio and the 2007 Curran Grenache Blanc. The latter is one of my favorite wines, with a big and bold flavor with just a touch of residual sugar. We also sampled the 2005 Badge Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir, a delicious, dark, moody Pinot, and the 2004 DiBruno Sangiovese. They also had some good-looking sandwiches, but we had filled up on tacos and so took a pass on that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alma Rosa

Our next stop was at another long-time legend with a new name...Alma Rosa. Richard Sanford was the first to plant Pinot Noir in what is now the Sta Rita Hills, in 1970 at the famous Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Sanford had studied Geography, and he could see this was a prime area for winegrapes (although no one else had thought it before). He went on to found Sanford Winery and make beautiful wines for many years. Now, having lost that venture to the Terlato Group, Richard and his wife Thekla are making good wine once more.

Here are some photos of the new/old tasting room on Santa Rosa Road:

We tasted the 2007 Santa Barbara County Pinot Gris, a delicious, bright wine; and the 2006 Sta Rita Hills Pinot Blanc, which I especially enjoyed. The 2008 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay was next, with citrus and pineapple flavors, a touch of malolactic and just a bit of oak. This wine won accolades from the Wine only $19 it's a great buy! And finally we tasted the delicious 2007 Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir.

Although Alma Rosa has been back at this spot for a while, it was the first opportunity we had had to visit. It's good to see them back and prospering at this lovely location!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wine Festival Weekend -- A Tasting Tour

This weekend was the Vintners' Association Festival Weekend, and many tasting rooms were open. We started our day at Ken Brown Wines. Ken was pouring at his new digs in Buellton.

Ken Brown was founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa, back in 1979. It was Ken who first questioned the wisdom of planting mostly Bordeaux-style grapes in Santa Barbara County, and who first experimented with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the region. He founded Byron winery in the early 1980's. I can remember seeing all the Cabernet Sauvignon vines along the lower end of Tepusquet Canyon cut off and regrafted with Pinot Noir as Ken Brown's revelation begain to sink in . . . except in the hottest eastern parts of the region, it's too cool to grow good Cabernet Sauvignon, but the Burgundian grapes just love it!

So you could say Ken Brown has more experience than just about anyone else in making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here in Santa Barbara County. His wines have an intensity of flavor combined with perfect balance. All the sharp edges have been rubbed smooth. We tasted the 2006 Nielson Vineyard Chardonnay and five Pinot Noirs: 2007 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, 2006 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, 2007 Sta Rita HIlls Pinot Noir, 2006 Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vyd, and the 2006 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe. Each offered the unique flavor of the fruit, with the Ken Brown touch.

Ken's new location is in the Terravant Wine Company on Industrial Way in Buellton, a new multi-producer facility. They were hosting a Festival Bbq and tasting later in the day that looked to be the best bargain of the weekend. Some of the many wineries involved included Byron, Huber, Hitching Post, Imagine, Thorne, and Alere -- the Bbq was from Hitching Post, and the $20 fee was a donation to People Helping People. It looked like a great event, but we wanted to move on to a few other locations. Future posts will detail all the stops...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roasted Salsa

I was invited to a party yesterday, and I brought along this salsa. Everyone seemed to like it:

Freshly Roasted Salsa

Approx. 8 medium-sized tomatoes, any variety
1 to 3 jalapeño peppers
1 large red or yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp. Extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
The juice of one lime
1/3 c. chopped cilantro

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Chop 6 of the tomatoes, holding back two to add later in their uncooked state.
  3. Chop the onion and the seeded jalapeños (Let your tolerance for heat determine how many you use…). Place the tomatoes, onion and jalapeños in a 9×13 roasting pan.
  4. Drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil and sprinkle it with the salt. Toss and put in preheated oven.
  5. Cook the vegetables for 15 minutes, then remove them to stir. Put them back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven, stir again, and let the vegetables sit for another 15 minutes.
  6. Chop the raw tomatoes roughly and mince the garlic.
  7. Combine the roasted and raw vegetables and the lime juice. Insert an immersion blender and pulse until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.
  8. Add the cilantro and pulse one more time to incorporate it. Taste to adjust salt, and serve immediately, although the flavors improve with chilling.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Last Night the Wind Died Down

...and Albertson's had top sirloin on sale. Good coincidence! So I grilled a big steak and served it smothered with caramelized onions and peppers, with oven-roasted potatoes and a bottle of Foxen 2006 Pinot Noir, Julia's Vineyard. Life in Paradise! No pictures -- we ate it too quickly for that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Look Out of Any Window

...any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky