A Good Wine is a Good Wine ....
A merlot, best of show red in pinot noir country? Yeah. And a damn fine wine too! At the first-ever Santa Barbara County Fair wine competition, splendidly organized by Wes Hagen, the Best of Show Red was Gainey's 1999 Santa Ynez Valley merlot. Best of Show white was Foley's 2000 Santa Barbara County Barrel Select Chardonnay. And the Best of Show blush went to Zaca Mesa Winery for their "Z Gris" Santa Ynez Valley Estate pink wine, a blend of Rhone varietals.
I think the surprise was best of show for a merlot and not a pinot noir or syrah.
A good wine is a good wine is a good wine.
I was one of the three judges on the Santa Maria Times Central Coast Wine judging panel organized by Chris Edwards, the Times Special Sections Editor, in late 2001. I recall then, that one of the standout wines, was Gainey's 1999 Santa Ynez Valley merlot-the Best of Show winner now! It's worth searching out, as are both the Foley Estates and Zaca Mesa Best of Show wines too.
Gold medals (and double golds) also went to producers like Beckmen, Kahn, Santa Barbara Winery, Mosby, Lincourt, Lafond and Brander.
Speaking of Santa Barbara County
Let's keep the name "Santa Barbara" and make south county get a new name for the new county. The south coast will still have the name "Santa Barbara" for its county seat anyway. For marketing purposes, we have got to have the name "Santa Barbara." Mission or Los Padres just won't fly as names.
This was really brought home to me on my recent trip back to the Midwest. People understand when you say you live an hour north of Santa Barbara. They may not be able to exactly pinpoint Santa Barbara geographically, but they've heard of it. Not the case with our fair city of Santa Maria I'm sorry to say. But wine drinkers -- especially pinot noir lovers -- are developing a growing recognition for the Santa Maria Valley appellation. And I think when the final chapters are written on Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria Valley and new Santa Rita Hills appellation, will be the standouts for pinot noir and chardonnay.
Cocktails for Two.
Somehow the topic of classic American cocktails came up at work recently. We dwelled on sidecars, a cocktail I have never had. It's out of vogue, and probably has been all of my life (as I can remember), since, I like so many, were weaned on martinis and manhattans. So when I got back from Nebraska, I fixed my first sidecar. A delicious quaff, and here's the recipe:
Two parts brandy (I used Germain-Robin's Fine Lot 18),
One part lemon juice (fresh from my neighbor's back yard),
One part Cointreau.
Shake this concoction in a shaker, and pour into a stemmed glass.
Times's wine columnist lives in the serene Los Alamos Valley and owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
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