El Nino and the Vintage
The news is El Nino these weeks, and Jeff Newton, owner of Coastal Vineyard Care, a Santa Ynez Valley vineyard consulting company, tells me that so far El Nino has little, if any, impact on the 1998 vintage because the vines are still dormant. Newton noted however the major impact so far has been storm damage to roads and to major erosion in some vineyards, notably near the Santa Ynez River.
He also said there has been a lot of deposition of river bed silt, sand and rocks into vineyards near creeks and rivers in the area.
In Other News
Pioneer Santa Barbara County winemaker, Tony Austin, has been found guilty on a felony charge of manufacturing methamphetamine on a vineyard property near Los Alamos almost a year ago. He will be sentenced March 18.
The Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival is set for Saturday, April 18, and Sunday, April 19, from 1-4 p.m. at the Firestone Meadow near Los Olivos. The Saturday date is already sold out. Tickets are $60 each. To order tickets, call the Vintners' Association at (805) 688-0881. To get on the Vintners' Association mailing list, call them or write to P.O. Box 1558, Santa Ynez CA 93460.
The festival this year will be held outdoors, under the oaks, and both days will provide the opportunity to taste the wines of over 40 Santa Barbara County wineries, as well as food from dozens of area restaurants and caterers.
New this year is a live auction featuring rare wines and lifestyle items.
The 1998 Vintners' Festival poster artist, Nancy Phelps, who owns a gallery in Los Olivos, has created a picturesque watercolor of an early morning vineyard scene. She will autograph posters at the festival. The poster is available in advance for $15 (including tax and shipping) by calling the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association.
In conjunction with the festival, individual wineries host open houses, dinners, and other special activities. Click here for events at the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
For you long-ranger planners, the Vintners' fall event, "A Celebration of Harvest" is set for Saturday, October 10 from 1-4 p.m. at Rancho Sisquoc Winery, east of Santa Maria. The date has been moved up this year so as not to conflict with a harvest festival elsewhere.
People & Praises File
After years at the helm at Zaca Mesa, winemaker Dan Gehrs has left to become winemaker at the new Winery at Bridalwood at the old Mandysland horse ranch.
Kathy Joseph, owner-winemaker at Fiddlehead Cellars has been named consulting enologist at Zaca Mesa, and Benjamin Silver who has been functioning as the assistant winemaker there has been officially given the title. Congratulations are in order.
In an elopement and private ceremony in the Bay Area, January 10, Jenny Williamson of Cambria married one of the "Foxen Boys," Dick Dore, co-owner of Foxen Vineyard with Bill Wathen. Dick is also president of the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association. Congratulations!
Congratulations are also in order to owner-chef-winemaker, Frank Ostini of the Buellton Hitching Post II. This pinnacle of barbecue gastronomy has been written up in the February, 1998 issue of Gourmet magazine.
And Lane Tanner Winery, based in Santa Maria, was given three stars in Oz Clarke's Wine Advisor 1998 (published by Little, Brown and Company). Listed as one of the top producers, she was the only local winery to receive three stars, which by Clarke's terminology, is defined as "an exceptional, world-class wine/producer."
Tax break! And future winemaker Raleigh James Burk was born to Gary and Teresa Burk on December 30. Gary is the assistant winemaker at Au Bon Climat-Qupe, and he also produces Costa de Oro wines from family-owned Gold Coast Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley. Congratulations! Briefs: There are three micro producers of wine in our fair county who have joined the membership ranks of the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association -- Macmillan Wine Company, which is based in Santa Maria, Longoria, which has just opened their lovely tasting room in an historical old adobe, on Alamo Pintado Road, between Buttonwood Farm and Foley Estates, (The tasting room is open Friday through Sunday.) and Brewer-Clifton, which is based in Santa Barbara. (Greg Brewer is the assistant winemaker at Santa Barbara Winery and Steve Clifton has just assumed the position of general manager at Brander.)
Santa Barbara County is pinot noir country, and Santa Barbara Winery has just released a stunning pinot noir rose, a first for the winery- a 1997 vintage Pinot Noir Vin Gris, which is a dry, barrel-fermented wine, 87 percent pinot noir from Gold Coast Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, and Lafond Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, and 13 percent grenache from Stolpman Vineyard off of Ballard Canyon Road. This wine was "bled off" from selected fermenters of pinot noir and fermented to dryness in French oak puncheons.
This wine is a wonderful match with spring rolls, smoked salmon, crab and a perfect accompaniment to almost any luncheon fare. About 250 cases were produced. Suggested retail is $11.
Bob Senn writes The Independent's monthly wine column, "Grapevine," and owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
Back to News Leads . . . .