Stars of Santa Barbara, a wine tasting at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, sponsored by LearnAboutWine brought together some of the fantastic wineries from Santa Barbara County, sharing old favorites along with new releases.
In my opinion, the winery that really stood out at this event was Shai Cellars. Shai in Hebrew means gift. Shai Cellars certainly gives you the gift of exceptionally wonderful wine. Living in Los Angeles, owner/winemaker Shawn Shai Halahmy, a realtor discovered the wines of Santa Ynez Valley with his favorites being the Rhone style varietals. In 2008 Shawn released his first vintage, Adome, which means red in Hebrew. This Rhone blend combined Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. At the tasting I sampled the 2009 Adome, a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was very drinkable, balanced and smooth with a velvety finish and a hint of berries. I also tasted the 2009 Grenache another very balanced wine. In addition I sampled the yet to be released 2010 Adome. This wine I would rate equally as fabulous as the 2009. . I was impressed with the consistency of the wines. The wines from this boutique winery are only available directly from the winery.
This year I was enamored with several wines offered by Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Santa Barbara. Having discovered Jaffers in 2009, I still have some Jaffurs 2008 Syrah in my cellar. Another writer had suggested I try the 2011 Grenache Blanc, Thompson Vineyard and they were absolutely correct. The wine exhibits a fruity fresh yet sweet flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed. The 2010 Syrah, Santa Barbara County was very jammy, smooth and balanced. The 2009 Grenache was very fruity.
At Kessler-Haak I compared some of their 2009 Pinot Noirs to the yet to be released 2010s. For Kessler-Haak 2010 appears to be a really good year so stay tuned for the March release of the 2010 Estate Pinot Noir, Clone 2A SRH AVA, a very fruity and balanced wine as well as the 2010 Pinot Noir Single Clone Pommard, a fruity and floral wine.
I consider Andrew Murray Vineyards one of the most well priced wineries around. As Andrew Murray states, “There is no ego pricing involved”. My favorite was the newly released 2011 Syrah Tous les Jours a truly balanced jammy wine at an exceptional value of $16. I find all of Andrew Murray’s wines drinkable, consistent and well balanced.
Buttonwood Farm had two new releases. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc known as Zingy is true to its name as it has a spicy finish that is definitely Zingy. The 2012 Syrah Rosé is fruity with hints of spice. What makes this wine different is the processing of this Rosé in what is called Methode Provencal. I found it interesting that the grapes grown for this Rosé are pruned early and the canopy is leafed in such a way that causes the skin of the grapes to ripen early. Buttonwood de-stems about a ton of the grapes in an open fermenter along with the rest of the grapes, which are left as whole clusters. The de-stemmed grapes are foot stomped to gently break the skin, extract the color and the Syrah spiciness into the juice that is so evident in this wine. The whole clusters are placed in the press to spin a couple of times, letting the clusters remain in the cool overnight. This allows the weight of the clusters to start creating juice. First the whole cluster grapes are pressed in a pre-chilled stainless steel tank, than the de-stemmed grapes are pressed in the same tank. Once settled it is moved off solid lees to another cold stainless steel tank, a yeast called Rosé is added. The wine ferments at about 52 degrees to bring out the aromatics of the Rosé. Once the yeast has consumed the sugar, the tank temperature is turned down to 30 degrees to inhibit malolactic fermentation.
Liquid Farm 2011 White Hill Chardonnay, a fresh crisp wine is one of my very favorite chardonnays and the best Chardonnay at this wine tasting. Liquid Farm also featured the newly released 2011 Golden Slope Chardonnay and the 2011 Four Chardonnay. Like Liquid Farm’s owners Jeff and Nikki Nelson, the wines exhibit a refreshing exuberance.
What makes D’Alfonso-Curran different is that many of their red varietals are aged in barrels longer than those of other wineries in the area. The 2007 D’Alfonso-Curran Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir was just bottled and released. The extra aging time benefits the wine. The Di Bruno 2007 Sangiovese, Stolpman Vineyard was smooth and fruity.
Other wines worth mentioning are the Grassini Family Vineyards 2010 “Articondo” Red Blend, a smooth fruity and balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, Kenneth Volk Vineyards 2010 Verdelho, Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles with its citrusy flavors and the 2011 Dragonette Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc.
All in all the wine tasting was excellent, I only wish I had more time to experience some of the other wineries present.
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