Saturday, August 25, 2012

Discovering "The Fire Within" at Wine & Fire in the Sta. Rita Hills

Mile Marker 7.28 at Fiddlestix Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

On a warm August morning, a sold out crowd descended on Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills for the Wine and Fire Symposium hosted by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance. "The Fire Within" seminar featured two panels of winemakers dedicated to producing superbly crafted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from this highly-acclaimed wine growing and producing region in Santa Barbara County.

The symposium was moderated by Josh Raynolds of Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, who did a fabulous job of highlighting the expressive wines of this region and leading a great discussion and Q&A among the winemakers about their winemaking practices, clonal diversity, the "low alcohol movement," and the advantages of using cork and screwcap enclosures, among other topics.

(From L-R) Josh Raynolds, Nikki Nelson, Dan Kessler, Karen Steinwachs, Wes Hagen
From (L-R) Frank Ostini, Deborah Hall, Peter Cargasacchi

While the panel debated or opined on different topics, the seminar attendees blindly tasted through the selection of wines, making note of the qualities of each wine and guessing which wine matched the winemaker's bottling.  Even the winemakers were asked to describe the qualities of each wine and guess which wine was their own.  Despite the heat, all the attendees enjoyed the seminar, tasting and luncheon, as well as the vineyard tour led by Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe.

(From L-R) Dan Kessler, Nikki Nelson, Jeff Nelson, Brandon Sparks-Gillis
Wes Hagen leading a discussion about viticulture and the Sta. Rita Hills

The Chardonnay Panel featured the following wines and winemakers:

The Pinot Noir Panel featured the following wines and winemakers:

As the sun began to set in the late afternoon, hundreds of oenophiles gathered at La Purisima Mission in Lompoc for the Grand Tasting event. Wineries and food purveyors lined the walkways in the shaded gardens, while winemakers poured a selection of their award-winning Sta. Rita Hills wines.  At this historic site, the pioneer winemakers of the Sta. Rita Hills, such as Richard Sanford and Ken Brown, stood side-by-side with the rising stars of the region, including Dan Kessler (Kessler-Haak Vineyard & Winery), Jeff and Nikki Nelson (Liquid Farm), Brandon Sparks-Gillis (Dragonette Cellars) and Ryan Zotovich (Zotovich Cellars).

Ken Brown, Ken Brown Wines
Richard Sanford, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards

The expressions of the Sta. Rita Hills intensified with every sip of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or other cool climate varietal wine.  The profile of each wine offered a great representation of the salinity, minerality and crispness of Chardonnay; the earthy and vibrant berry expressions of Pinot Noir; and the pepper and spice of cool climate Syrah.  The Grand Tasting helped shine the spotlight on nearly 50 wineries and vineyards and dozens of talented winemakers in the Sta. Rita Hills, as well as the importance of the wine industry to the local and regional economy.

Congratulations to Executive Director Barbara Satterfield and the entire membership of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance for hosting the annual celebration of the Sta. Rita Hills!  It was a wonderful success and a pleasure to participate in this year's Wine and Fire Symposium and Grand Tasting.  See you next year on August 17th for more Wine & Fire!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines, Sta. Rita Hills

If life is about the journey, then Dan and Ellen Kessler picked the right road for this chapter in their lives and the path forward looks very promising.  The journey has led them to purchasing prime real estate in the Sta. Rita Hills surrounded by the most acclaimed vineyards in Santa Barbara County and in one of the most picturesque settings anywhere in California.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard is located on Highway 246 in the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills - the Shangri-La of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.  K-H counts Clos Pepe, Hilliard Bruce, Huber and Gypsy Canyon as neighbors. Planted in 2005, the 30-acre vineyard features sandy loam soils planted to seven Pinot Noir clones and three Chardonnay clones.

Central Coast Uncorked joined Santa Barbara Wine Talk (Phil Carpenter) on a perfect summer afternoon for a vineyard tour and tasting with owner/winemaker Dan Kessler.  If anyone makes you feel at home and a part of the family, it's Dan and Ellen Kessler.  After our vineyard tour, we were greeted in the backyard patio with a selection of cheese, salumi and fruit, as well as Kessler-Haak's estate wines.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines sources Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to local producers including Liquid FarmDragonette CellarsCarr Winery, and Samsara, among others.  But when you have premium grapes, you might as well make premium wine.  K-H is producing an estate Chardonnay, two estate Pinot Noir wines, Rose of Pinot Noir, Syrah from Turner Vineyard, and a dry Riesling from Lafond Vineyard.

Due to limited production and distribution, Kessler-Haak wines are available at select stores and wine bars in Santa Barbara County and online.  With the increasing acclaim of their wines and that of the producers who source their grapes, Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines is sure to be a sought-after label from the Sta. Rita Hills.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines
1700 Gypsy Canyon Drive, Lompoc
(805) 735-2283
By appointment only, Monday-Saturday
Facebook: Kessler-Haak Vineyard & Wines
Twitter: @KHVines

Chardonnay & Pinot Noir Blocks, Kessler-Haak Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
Kessler-Haak Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
Kessler-Haak Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fog Crest Vineyard: Russian River Valley's Hidden Gem

It's not in the glossy brochures and maps, but Chardonnay and Pinot Noir lovers have reasons to put Fog Crest Vineyard on the proverbial map as a destination for premier Russian River Valley wines.  Fog Crest Vineyard, located in the heart of the Russian River Valley, spans south/east along a sandstone ridge above the Santa Rosa Plain planted to Dijon clones of Chardonnay and heritage clones of Pinot Noir.

Fog Crest Vineyard is located on Occidental Road, east of Gravenstein Highway (State Route 116) in Sebastopol.  A narrow road winds its way from the busy two-lane road through the estate vineyard to the winery and tasting room set on a slopping hilltop with spectacular views of the Russian River Valley.

James and Rosalind Manoogian purchased their 30-acre property on Occidental Road in 1998 with the intention of producing estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines crafted in the "Old World" style and showcasing the incredible terroir.  Under the direction of consulting winemaker David Ramey and winemaker Daniel Moore, the Manoogian's have received widespread acclaim for their Laguna West and Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.  These superbly crafted wines are a great representation of Burgundian styles and techniques, yet identifiable as a characteristic and elegant Russian River Valley wine.

Fog Crest Vineyard is also completing construction of a new tasting room with sweeping vistas of the estate vineyard and the Russian River Valley.  Once completed, the tasting room will offer visitors a premier location to enjoy Fog Crest wines.  It's all a work in progress; so, the more you buy, the quicker it gets built.

Be sure to visit Fog Crest Vineyard on your next wine country vacation to Sonoma County's Russian River Valley!  These wines are sure to please any palate and compliment your favorite food pairing.

Fog Crest Vineyard
7602 Occidental Road, Sebastopol
(800) 931-2906
Open by appointment only
Facebook: Fog Crest Vineyard
Twitter: @fogcrest

Fog Crest Vineyard Winery Road
Fog Crest Vineyard & Winery, Russian River Valley
Laguna West and Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Wines

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Savor the grapes of Wrath

"...and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath.  In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage." (Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck)

John Steinbeck's iconic novel of the Joad family's migration west to California depicts the plight of poor Americans during the Great Depression and the ensuing economic and social hardship that trapped millions of people throughout the country.  It's also an appropriate quote to highlight the plight of wine drinkers from monolithic wines to truly hand-crafted wines that represent the best of the terroir, varietal and vintage.

On June 3, 2012, the Rhône Rangers provided the backdrop for my wine epiphany and introduction to Wrath Wines of Monterey County.  The Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting Event featured dozens of wineries from all across California.  It was easy to overlook the table near the entrance to the event at the historic Vibiana when there were some many other familiar wineries in the room.  However, there was a buzz among some of the trade that a winery with a fierce name and edgy label was pouring some of the best Syrah wines at the event.

The epiphany occurred after just one sip.  If there weren't ABC rules prohibiting more than one ounce from being poured in a glass at one time, I would bogart every bottle of wine until my desire for more is satisfied, at which point you might want to call an ambulance.  After experiencing Wrath's Syrah wines, I decided to plan a visit to the winery following my trip to Sonoma County.  I could not delay another week or month the opportunity to experience Wrath Wines.

On a late summer afternoon, I traveled south on River Road and veered right onto Foothill Road to the winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  Wrath Wines and the SIP-certified San Saba Vineyard is set on a nook below the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA overlooking the Salinas Valley. For a course refresher (including this wine blogger), the Santa Lucia Highlands is situated along the Santa Lucia Range above the Salinas Valley and across from the Gabilan Range to the east. This cooler climate growing region benefits from its close proximity to the cold waters of Monterey Bay. On the westside of the property sits a late 19th century home moved from Salinas to the vineyard in Soledad.  This bare structure, which is the perfect setting for a horror novel or a Halloween party, is the backdrop for Wrath Wines' label (see picture above and below).

The color version of the Wrath Wines label
San Saba Vineyard

The formal tasting room is spacious and entertaining with large windows and doors that afford spectacular views of the estate San Saba Vineyard.  Outside lies a patio that wraps around the tasting room and overlooks the irrigation pond.  If you were looking for a solitary location to entertain friends and family with superbly crafted wines, then you found the right place.  There isn't much around here, but within the confines of the property, your desire for solitude is complimented with a glass of great wine and scenic views of the agricultural epicenter of California's Central Coast.

Wrath Wines Tasting Room
Wrath Wines Tasting Room

The daring name of Wrath Wines reveals an attitude, passion and inherent respect for producing authentic wine specific to the terroir.  Wrath produces over a dozen clone-specific, estate sourced and/or single-vineyard wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. The quality and craftsmanship of their wines borders on perfection, at least for my palate. When you drink Wrath Wines, you think of the following words: aromatic, complex, layered, opulent, structured and well-integrated.  For the most recent vintage, my favorites include the McIntyre Vineyard Chardonnay, Ex Vite Pinot Noir, Doctor's Vineyard Syrah and Moscato.

Wrath's Single Vineyard Pinot Noir & Syrah Wines

There is no hype about Wrath Wines' growing acclaim.  There is a new mecca for great wine in California's Central Coast and its called Wrath Wines.  Savor the grapes of Wrath...

Wrath Wines
35801 Foothill Road, Soledad
(831) 678-2212
Open Fri-Mon, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Facebook: Wrath Wines
Twitter: @WrathWines

Carmel Tasting Room
Ocean Ave. and Mission St., Carmel (located on ground floor)
Open Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. and Sun 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(831) 620-1909

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Wrap Up: Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting 2012

On June 3, 2012, the Rhône Rangers welcomed hundreds of Rhône wine enthusiasts to the historic Vibiana for the annual Los Angeles Tasting Event.  The nearly sold-out event featured more than 45 wineries pouring over 200 wines from Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles, Monterey County and Washington State.

The Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting opened to the trade at noon, followed by a VIP lunch with the winemakers and local food truck favorites, Slammin' Sliders, Border Grill and Coolhaus.  At 3:30 p.m., volunteers opened the doors to hundreds of Angelenos for the Consumer Tasting.

With some many wineries present and not enough time to cover half of them, it was wise to set out with a list in hand of wineries to visit and wines to taste.  As of late, I have been enjoying more white Rhône blends and single-varietal wines, so there were ample options at each stop. It's summertime!

Earlier this spring, Alta Colina released new wines that are destined for stardom including the Marsanne-based 2010 "Claudia Cuvee" and 2009 Mourvedre.  Anglim Winery was pouring refreshing wines such as the 2010 Viognier (sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard) and the 2011 Rosé, which was perfect for the warm weather outside.  Speaking of refreshing and succulent, Victor and Jennifer Abascal of Vines on the Marycrest introduced their new white Rhône blend, the 2011 "At Last."  This blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc will quench your summer thirst during a hot afternoon in Paso Robles, with perhaps a serving of shellfish or Asian cuisine.  Better yet, grab a glass and enjoy a view of the vineyard from the deck of the new tasting room as soon as it opens to the public (fingers-crossed that it's soon!).  Ecluse Wines was also pouring quite a few new releases including single-varietal Rhône wines sourced from vineyards in Paso Robles.  The 2009 Petite Sirah was showing well and will continue to benefit from additional bottle aging and decanting.

Refugio Ranch made their debut at the Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting with two stellar wines: the 2010 "Ineseño" (Roussanne/Viognier) and 2009 "Barbareño" (Syrah/Petite Sirah).  Located on 415 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley, the property is perched on slopping hillsides covered by old oak trees and approximately 25 acre plantings of Rhône and Italian varietals.  If you are interested in trying all three estate wines, visit the new tasting room located in Downtown Los Olivos at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Highway 154.

Now, the highlight of this year's tasting was Wrath Wines of Monterey County.  Although I moved on from my love affair with Syrah wines to other varietals, Wrath brought back that loving feeling with their lineup of vineyard-designated, Santa Lucia Highlands-sourced Syrah wines.  In sum, the 2009 Syrah wines are opulent, layered, well-balanced and ready to enjoy now.

Finally, no Rhône Rangers tasting is complete without the antics of winemaker Larry Schaffer (Tercero Wines).  We have lost count as to how many wines Larry now produces, but one thing is certain: he's got a wine for very occasion and every type of cuisine.  Tercero Wines is producing a great GSM blend called "Cuvee Christie," along with single-varietal, vineyard-designated wines from renowned vineyards in Santa Barbara County.  One of my personal favorites is the 2009 Mourvedre (Camp 4 Vineyard).  If you have the patience, decant it over the course of an hour or longer. 

Regretfully, I missed out on Maison Bleue Winery, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Ridge Vineyards, and JK Wine Co.  I hope you got to try these wines and many more at the Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting Event in Downtown Los Angeles.  See you next year or on the road in the Central Coast.  Cheers!


Alta Colina 2010 Claudia Cuvee, Estate, $28
Alta Colina 2009 Mourvedre, Estate, $42

Anglim Winery 2010 Viognier, $26
Anglim Winery 2011 Rosé, Central Coast, $15

Ecluse Wines 2010 Viognier, $28
Ecluse Wines 2009 Petite Sirah, $36

Refugio Ranch 2010 White Blend, "Ineseño," $28
Refugio Ranch 2009 Red Blend, "Barbareño," $42

Tablas Creek 2010 Grenache Blanc, $27
Tablas Creek 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, $40

Tercero Wines 2008 Red Blend, "Cuvee Christie," $30

Vines on the Marycrest 2011 White Blend, "At Last," $24

Wrath 2010 Syrah, "Ex Anima," $25
Wrath 2009 Syrah, Doctor's Vineyard, $39
Wrath 2009 Syrah, Fairview, $39

Victor & Jennifer Abascal, Vines on the Marycrest
Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard
Wrath Wines, Monterey County

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sip and Savor Sonoma County

The blog may be called Central Coast Uncorked, but this wine enthusiast took the opportunity last fall to indulge in the wines of Sonoma County.  The two day trip through Sonoma County featured a great selection of wineries in the Russian River Valley, Downtown Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley, as well as a sampling of some great cuisine (casual and elegant) in Healdsburg and Geyserville.

As a newbie to the area, I relied on my experiences tasting wines from local producers at events such as Family Winemakers of California, recommendations from Twitter followers and fellow winemakers, as well as the Wine Road - Northern Sonoma CountyWinegrowers of Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley Winegrowers.

These resources helped me plan a memorable two day trip through Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. Visitors to northern Sonoma County should also indulge in the wines and magnificent landscape of the Alexander Valley, home to more than 40 wineries.  And its all within an hour and a half drive north of San Francisco.  In 2012, I am looking forward to flying or driving north to sip and savor the rest of Sonoma County.  There is so much more to experience!


The fog was thick and the cloud cover was low on a crisp fall weekday morning in the Russian River Valley. As you peer down the narrow roads surrounded by sloping rows of vineyards covered with the glow of red, orange and yellow colors, the Russian River Valley comes into focus in one dramatic landscape as the sun peers through the fog and clouds.

On a porch overlooking the vineyard, I enjoyed a full tasting of the newest releases from Benovia Winery. Earlier in 2011 during the Family Winemakers Pasadena Trade Tasting, I fell in love with the wines of Benovia. It's almost impossible to enjoy a lineup of wines from a single winery, but Benovia hit it out the park with some spectacular Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wines from the  Russian River Valley. Recommendations: Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, Sonoma County Zinfandel, Cohn Vineyard Pinot Noir.

While the sun, clouds and fog played hooky throughout the morning, I focused on the next stop: Inman Family Wines. Kathleen Inman is true to her craft as a winemaker should be, with a spin or screwcap on the competition. Located at the junction of Olivet and Piner Road, Inman Family Wines produces Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rosé and Sparkling wines from Russian River Valley vineyards such as Thorn Ridge Ranch and their own Olivet Grange Vineyard. Recommendations: Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir.


Have you ever trekked through a new area not knowing what to expect on the other side of the ridge? On a rain soaked morning, I encountered the "wow" factor in the Dry Creek Valley just on the other side of the hill from Healdsburg. It is almost as if you are being warped into another time zone studded by small and medium-sized vineyard plots in a stunning landscape in northern Sonoma County.

Located on Dry Creek Road, north of Healdsburg, is one of the highlights from my trip in this renowned wine producing region - Unti Vineyards. Established in 1997, Unit Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery producing small lots of estate grown Zinfandel, Rhône and Italian varietals. Recommendations: Rosé, Barbera, Segromigno, Zinfandel.

As W. Dry Creek Road road narrows and ends at its northern point, a dirt path off the main road winds through the vineyards of Preston of Dry Creek. Preston is a family operated farm winery worth the visit, especially for Rhône wine lovers. Recommendations: Mourvèdre, Syrah~Sirah.

If you are looking for the true wine garagiste experience, look no further than Frick Winery. These hand-crafted, small lot wines are produced largely from estate fruit, as well as Carignane from 100 year old vines in Mendocino County.

Russian River Valley
Dry Creek Valley


Davis Family Vineyards
52 Front Street, Healdsburg  (707) 569-0171
Open Thursday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Hawley Winery
36 North Street, Healdsburg  (707) 473-9500
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


Unti Vineyards
4202 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg  (707) 433-5590
Open daily by appointment, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Preston of Dry Creek
9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Collier Falls Winery
4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg  (707) 433-7373
Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Frick Winery
23072 Walling Road, Geyserville  (707) 857-1980
Open Fri-Sun 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Summer); Sat & Sun 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Winter)

Ridge Vineyards (Lytton Springs Winery)
650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg  (707) 433-7721
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Benovia Winery
3339 Hartman Road, Santa Rosa  (707) 526-4441
Open daily by appointment, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Inman Family Wines
3900 Piner Road, Santa Rosa  (707) 293-9576
Open Thursday-Monday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Joseph Swan Vineyards
2916 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa (Winery entrance on Trenton Road)  (707) 573-3747
Open Saturday & Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Fog Crest Vineyard
7602 Occidental Road, Sebastapol  (800) 931-2906
Open by appointment only

Woodenhead Vintners
5700 River Road, Santa Rosa  (707) 887-2703
Open Thursday-Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


21047 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville  (707) 857-3471.  Lunch and Dinner

Diavola Pizzeria
21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville  (707) 814-0111.  Lunch and Dinner

213 Center Street, Healdsburg  (707) 431-0100.  Lunch and Dinner

109A Plaza Street, Healdsburg  (707) 433-5282.  Dinner

Costeaux French Bakery
417 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg  (707) 433-1913.  Breakfast and Lunch

The Wurst
22 Matheson Street, Healdsburg  (707) 395-0214.  Lunch and Dinner

Moustache Baked Goods
381 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg  (707) 395-4111.  Cupcakes


Best Western Plus Dry Creek Valley Inn (Economy)
198 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg  (800) 222-5784

Healdsburg Inn (Historic)
112 Matheson Street, Healdsburg  (800) 431-8663

Hotel Healdsburg (Luxury)
25 Matheson Street, Healdsburg  (800) 889-7188

Benovia Wines, Russian River Valley
Entrance to Benovia Winery, Russian River Valley
Inman Family Wines, Russian River Valley
Woodenhead Vintners, Russian River Valley
Davis Family Vineyards, Healdsburg
Unti Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley
Preston of Dry Creek Winery & Vineyard

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting Event 2012

Rhône Rangers fans: Your favorite wineries are coming to Downtown Los Angeles to the iconic and historic Vibiana.  On June 3rd, the Rhône Rangers will ride into Los Angeles with over 40 winery members pouring over 200 Rhône varietal wines at this premier location.

This intimate tasting has found a heavenly home in the City of Angels after a couple years in Santa Monica.  Within the Baroque-inspired Italian façade, wineries from California's premier wine growing and producing regions will match the grand setting with some of the most tantalizing wines from mostly small, family-owned producers.

For over 100 years, the Cathedral of St. Vibiana welcomed worshippers through its doors near the historic core of Downtown Los Angeles.  After suffering extensive damage during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and a drawn-out legal battle to preserve the historic site, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles relocated to another site a few blocks away and the structure was preserved and operates today as a premier event venue.

Vibiana is located at the corner of Main Street and 2nd Street surrounded on one side by the Thom Mayne-designed Caltrans building, the new LAPD Headquarters, and the historic Higgins Building, which was built in 1910 and contained the city's first privately-owned power plant.  In the background stands Los Angeles City Hall - the tallest building in Los Angeles until 1964.

Before the wine tasting begins, one hundred "Backstage Pass" holders can enjoy an informal picnic-style lunch from 2-3:30 p.m. with the winemakers outdoors in the courtyard, as well as entry to the consumer walk-around tasting at 3:30 p.m.  The Consumer Tasting will take place from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  And like any large gathering in Los Angeles, the food trucks will be on hand to help you pair tasty treats with those wines.  Check out the video below from the 2010 Los Angeles Tasting for all the highlights of this premier tasting event.
Participating Wineries: Acquiesce Winery, Adelaida Cellars, Anglim Winery, Alta Colina, Andrew Murray Vineyards, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Calcareous Vineyard, Cass Winery, Clavo Cellars, Clayhouse Wines, Cornerstone Cellars, Cosa Obra, Curtis Winery, Denner, Derby Wine Estates, Eberle Winery, Ecluse, Edward Sellers, Epiphany Cellars, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyards, Frick Winery, Grey Wolf Cellars, Halter Ranch Vineyard, Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery, Hug Cellars, J. Lohr Vineyards, JK Wine Co., L'Aventure, Maison Bleue, Martian Ranch, Meyer Family Cellars, Michael-David Winery, Miner Family Winery, Qupe, Refugio Ranch Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Stolpman Vineyards, Tablas Creek Vineyards, Tercero Wines, Thacher Winery, Treana & Hope Family Wines, Venteux Vineyards, Villicana, Vina Robles, Vines on the Marycrest, Wrath, Zaca Mesa Winery.
Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting Event
Date: Sunday, June 3, 2012
Time: 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Location: Vibiana, 214 South Main Street, Downtown Los Angeles
Cost: Consumer Tasting - $45, Backstage Pass - $85

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Winemaker Profile: Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines

If you know anything about Santa Barbara County Wine Country and its colorful characters of winemakers, then you know the name Larry Schaffer.  A couple of things come to mind when you hear his name: "eccentric," "mad scientist," "cheerleader for Santa Barbara County wines" and "zany." Perhaps you have your own description, but remember, this is a family-oriented blog.

It all started when Schaffer left a career in the publishing business to pursue a degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis and his dream of becoming a winemaker.  With his degree in hand, Larry moved his family from Southern California to the bucolic Santa Ynez Valley to become the enologist for Fess Parker Winery.

During his stint on the winemaking team at Fess Parker, Larry began his quest to produce Rhône varietal wines under his new label, tercero wines.  With his winemaking and sales experience, Larry has transformed his Santa Barbara County wine label into a grassroots business built on a solid viral following and word-of-mouth notoriety.  Nobody said it was going to be easy to distinguish himself from the other well-established wineries in Santa Barbara County, but Schaffer remains focused on his goal of producing acid driven, Rhône varietal wines.

Tercero Wines offers a range of wines including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, a Rhône blend, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Rosé, and a dry Gewürztraminer.  The grapes are sourced from a numerous vineyards in Santa Barbara County including Thompson, Larner, Tierra Alta, Watch Hill, White Hawk, and Camp 4.  Be sure to ask Larry what's his favorite wine.  He'll ask you which one of your children do you love more.  Come on Larry; everyone has a favorite child.  They just don't say it front of the other children...

With six vintages under his belt, Schaffer continues to perfect his craft and expand his label with the opening of a new tasting room in Downtown Los Olivos.  You can find Schaffer and tercero wines at any of the tasting events held each year by the major wine industry associations such as the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association, where he serves on the Board as Vice President, Family Winemakers of California, and Rhône Rangers; just look for the guy with the Erlenmeyer flasks.  What better (or cheaper) way to decant wines, right?

If there is one thing Larry enjoys most, it's connecting with people and sharing his reasons why Santa Barbara County is the premier grape growing and wine producing region in California.  SBC is an amazingly diverse region with numerous AVAs and microclimates that truly produce some of the best wines in the world.  But whatever you do, don't loop Santa Barbara County in with the rest of the Central Coast and don't assume one part of Santa Barbara County is the same as all other parts. Schaffer will make sure you leave with the facts.  Don't worry Larry; we are quickly learning.

tercero wines
2445 Alamo Pintado Road, Los Olivos (entrance on San Marcos Ave. next to Dragonette Cellars)
(805) 245-9584
Open Friday-Monday, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. or call for an appointment
Facebook: tercero wines
Twitter: @tercerowines

tercero wines line up
tercero wines tasting room
Schaffer pouring at Family Winemakers San Diego Tasting 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Exploring Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail

While the allure of Santa Barbara County Wine Country brings in thousands of visitors annually to the famous towns and appellations of this iconic wine destination, people are quickly discovering the fifteen wineries that line the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail from the scenic coastline to Downtown's Historic Arts District.

Located 90 miles north of Los Angeles, Downtown Santa Barbara is easily becoming a premier wine destination for novice and experienced wine drinkers looking for quality and award winning wines from Santa Barbara County.  The Urban Wine Trail's convenient location allows wine tasters to park their cars and walk to many of the tasting rooms that line Anacapa Street just a block or two from Cabrillo Boulevard and Stearns Wharf.

The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail also features one of the most acclaimed Rhône varietal wine producers in California - Jaffurs Wine Cellars.  Jaffurs sources Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne from renowned Santa Barbara County vineyards such as Bien Nacido, Thompson, Ampelos and Verna's.  The winemaking team of Craig Jaffurs, Dave Yates and Matt Brady produce stunning wines that represent the finest qualities of Rhône varietals and the terroir of each vineyard.

If you want to stick to the itinerary and enjoy as many tasting rooms as possible, grab a sandwich to go from Panino in Montecito (1014 Coast Village Road, 805-565-0137) or Downtown Santa Barbara (834 Santa Barbara Street, 805-963-3700).  After a day of tasting, there are plenty of fine dining options throughout town with exemplary wine lists.  Likewise, Santa Barbara has a hotel for every budget and accommodation.


Au Bon Climat, 813 Anacapa St., (805) 966-9463. Open daily 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Carr Vineyards & Winery, 414 N. Salsipuedes St., (805) 965-7985. Open daily 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. & Thursday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Cottonwood Canyon, 224 Anacapa St., Suite 1A, (805) 963-1221. Open Fall/Winter: Thursday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. & Spring/Summer: 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Conway Family Wines, 217 Stearns Wharf, (805) 618-1185. Open daily 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars, 819 E. Montecito St., (805) 962-7003. Open Friday-Monday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Kalyra Winery, 212 State St., (805) 965-8606. Open daily 12:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Kunin Wines, 28 Anacapa St., (805) 963-9633. Open daily 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Margerum Wine Company, 813 Anacapa St., (805) 966-9463. Open daily 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Municipal Winemakers, 22 Anacapa St., (805) 931-6864. Open daily 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (till 11:00 p.m., Thursday-Saturday)

Oreana Winery, 205 Anacapa St., (805) 962-5857. Open Monday-Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Friday-Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Sanguis, 8 Ashley Ave., (805) 845-0920. Open by appointment only

Santa Barbara Winery, 202 Anacapa St., (805) 963-3633. Open daily 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Silver Wines, 724 Reddick St., (805) 963-3052. Open by appointment only

Summerland Winery, 2330 Lillie Ave., (805) 565-9463. Open daily 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Whitcraft Winery, 36 A South Calle Cesar Chavez, (805) 730-1680. Open Friday-Monday 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.