Dates have been set for the April 1997 Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival. This premier event and showcase of Santa Barbara County wine has been set for Saturday and Sunday, April 19 & 20. Tickets are $60. To get on the Vintners' Association mailing list, call 688-0881. The association will start taking ticket orders in January.
Congratulations, Part One: Laila Rashid and hubby Jeff Grogger celebrate the birth of their bouncing baby boy, Miles Joesph, born November 20. Laila is the publicist for Santa Barbara Winery and past president of the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association. Her husband Jeff is an associate professor of economics at UCSB.
Congratulations, Part Two: In a recent blind horizontal tasting of what was billed as the "Best of 1994 California and Oregon Pinot Noirs," two local pinots took top honors--Stephen Ross and Whitcraft Winery.
Let's backtrack a moment and define terms. A blind tasting is a tasting where the judges do not know the brand name of the wine they are tasting. It is widely known that knowing what you are tasting can prejudice your evaluation. Most of the best wine competitions including the highly regarded Orange County Fair competition employ this methodology. It can be taken one step further, too, with what is called "double blind evaluation," where the judging panel doesn't even know what grape varietal is being tasted.
Horizontal refers to the fact that all of the wines under scrutiny are of the same vintage. On the other hand, a vertical tasting would examine several or maybe many vintages of a wine from a single producer.
The top scoring wines were the 1994 vintage Stephen Ross pinot noir from the Edna Valley which is located between Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo, with fruit coming from two vineyards: Paragon and Edna Ranch. The complex aromas are that of cherries, cinnamon, and earth. The wine retails for $16.
Owner-winemaker Stephen "Ross" Dooley was the winemaker at the Edna Valley Vineyard winery in San Luis Obispo County from 1988 to 1993. The Stephen Ross release is his first under his own label.
The 1994 Whitcraft Winery pinot noir from Bien Nacido Vineyard is one of the most sublime wines I have ever tasted, and the only wine I have ever scored with 20 points out of 20 points. It's big and massive, and like the Stephen Ross exudes generous tones of cherry and cinnamon in the nose. But while the Ross pinot is of a lighter style, the Whitcraft is big and brash, and retails, if you can find it, for $40 plus.
Another top wine in the pinot noir tasting was a ringer--a wine from a home winemaker, Doug Coleman, a north county resident who runs the crime lab for the Santa Maria Police Department. Doug's pinot noir had a very distinctive character which made it stand out in the tasting--sort of a "barnyard" character which can be very appealing, and often found in better French red burgundies. The grape source was Piccho Vineyard, the vineyard of Maison Deutz near Arroyo Grande. Being a home made wine, the wine is not for sale.
Just in time for the holidays, a new sangiovese made by Talley Vineyards winemaker Steve Rasmussen. The wine is called Rosso di Paso and retails for $16. This hearty red wine is made from the venerable sangiovese grape which is the great red grape of Montalcino in Italy. It is also the main grape in Chianti, a wine that most of us are somewhat familiar with. It is also the main grape of the Tuscany region of Italy where it is the main grape of a new breed of Italian wines called "Super Tuscans."
This wine exudes generous aromas of black cherries and plums with prominent hints of allspice in the nose. A tasty quaff perfect for the holidays and holiday fare.
Another tasty holiday treat comes from Mosby Winery--Bill Mosby's new rosé made from the sangiovese grape, a wine called Rosato di Sangiovese. Exuding tones of fresh grapefruit and perhaps a slight hint of herbs. Made from estate grown fruit, this wine retails for $12 and would be a perfect mate to roast bird and stuffing this holiday season.
Holiday Cheer! December events:Bob Senn owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium
Saturday & Sunday, November 30 and December 1, 10-5, the Firestone Vineyard and Curtis Winery (formerly Carey Cellars) hold holiday open houses. For more information call Firestone at 688-3940, or call Curtis at 688-8554. Sunday, December 1, Sunstone presents its holiday open house with hors d'oeuvres and Christmas music. Saturday & Sunday, December 7-8, 11-5, Buttonwood Farm Winery presents its annual holiday open house and art show with label artist, Seyburn Zorthian, and agrisculpturist, Warren Wellman. 688-3032. Saturday, December 7, 12-3, Mosby Winery offers its annual Christmas open house with roasted chestnuts, hot mulled wine and baked Christmas goodies made by Jeri Mosby. Saturday, December 7, 6:30 p.m., Santa Barbara Winery presents a candlelight dinner with winemaker Bruce McGuire and catered by David Cecchini, new chef at the Wine Cask. $75. Reservations required. 963-3633. Sunday, December 8, noon to 5, Brander holds its Christmas open house. 688-2455. Saturday, December 21, 2 p.m., Bedford Thompson Winery presents a Christmas Fandango, an early California Christmas that includes a pageant, piñatas and incredible edibles. Call for more information. 344-2107.
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