Wife said I should get up to Lompoc one more time before she goes on a business trip. I couldn't grab my car keys fast enough.
Posted I was on my way up on Facebook and Nikki Nelson from Liquid Farm said I should stop by for barrel tasting. Invite me to barrel taste...and I usually don't turn it down. Most of the time, I'm waiting outside the door before the owner/winemaker shows up.
Upon my arrival, hit Jalama Beach Cafe on Ocean for a breakfast burrito, picked up a winemaker's drink of choice (beer, in this case, Stone Pale Ale, Red Hook) for Jeff and Nikki and hit the facility off Central.
I'm very familiar with this facility. Nikki and Jeff Nelson share the space with Dragonette. I've had some amazing experiences in this building. Barrel tasting with Brandon Sparks-Gillis and the brothers Dragonette. Watching Brandon develop before my eyes, one vintage at a time. I KNEW this day was going to be one of those days.
At Family Winemakers in Del Mar, I don't know if there was a label being talked about more than Liquid Farm. Dragonette was also super popular...notice the link? Mr. Spark-Gillis. When I heard of this label that would switch his focus to old world chardonnay, I was super excited to see how versatile Brandon's winemaking could be. My oh my...I didn't know it could be this good.
Nikki had the table set for us. First up was the freshly bottled 11 rose. Mourved with a smidge of grenache to add some color (100% Vogelzang fruit). Did I mention they make the wines from Santa Barbara, not Bandol?! Mineral...light on it's feet...touch of funk. Money. 10 White Hill & Golden Slope...so beautiful on every level. Lively...but layered. Crazy.
Then, before we knew it, Nikki was grabbing the thief. After the first sample...I was walking around in a haze. These were 2011 samples...how can they be this complex?! Nikki just kept pulling samples that topped the last. Two different blocks from Zotovich...Huber...Kessler Haak...Rita's Crown...then the hammer, Clos Pepe. I don't believe I've had a Clos Pepe in 100% new French oak. My God...the super complex, rich notes were amazing.
Jeff and Nikki could make every one of these chards a single vineyard designate. But like Brandon, they believe in blending. Jeff and Nikki aren't totally against a single vineyard designate, heck, let's see how these barrels develop. But as we tasted the samples, I could see the puzzle pieces coming together. Acid from here...mineral from there...salinity from this one...tropical notes over there. Brandon is a master of blending (i.e. Dragonette Seven Syrah, seven different vineyards).
All leading to a laser focused philosophy, "Typicity". From the website (http://www.liquidfarm.com), "The degree to which a wine reflects its varietal origins." These wines seem like direct descendants to their old world ancestors. It's more a hommage to them. Nikki and Jeff have a true passion and love for those wines, and they want to show everyone that those wines can be made here, in Santa Barbara! And to produce wines from the Santa Rita Hills that compare, wait, scratch that, gives White Burg a serious run for their money. Incredibly impressive.
The wines also seemed to reflect the exact patch of earth the roots occupy in the vineyard. Thus, giving these wines "typicity" to the vineyard sites they came from. This is so evident from how distinct each sample was from each other, even though they came from the same site, but from different blocks. The two Zotovich barrels were nothing alike! Just freaky...
Jeff and Nikki are motivated...they have a goal...a vision...and it is going to happen. I think this might just be the next big thing. The next chard to be mentioned with Aubert and Rhys as some of California's best.
I could have stayed all day with them and the wines but there was plenty of other wines to try at Locals' Day in the Wine Ghetto.
Locals' Day-Lompoc Wine Ghetto
As we left for the Ghetto, the clouds decided to open up. When we arrived, there were hundreds of folks running from one tasting room to the next. What a beautiful sight. Mark Cargasacchi took point on organizing this event and did a phenomenal job. Mark and Clinton have stepped up to be the unofficial Publicists/Marketers for the Ghetto. They've constructed the website and have taken key roles on such things as Locals' Day.
First stop was the Arcadian tasting room. We weren't the only ones with that idea. The room was absolutely PACKED. Jill Davis was behind the bar and was absolutely slammed. The 06 Dierberg Chard was amazing. Fresh, focused, minerally. Santa Ynez Syrah was also a big crowd pleaser.
Chris Bratcher was there as well pouring his Bratcher chard and pinots. The lineup is very impressive. The 09 "Mary Ellis" chard is from Sierra Madre and is lean and mean. Wow. 09 "Jane Madison" Sierra Madre pinot was just as focused with a beautiful acid streak. Perfect fruit balanced with earth. 10 pinot was just bottled and is showing same notes. Chris had a 08 La Encantada pinot open and decided to share. Oh man...the nose is a dead giveaway to the site. Beautiful fruit and spice to go along with mushroom. You can't help but get consistent notes from this vineyard. The mouth feel was spot on with a great balance of weight with acid. I walked out with this one.
Chris had been working with Justin Willett (Tyler WInes) for a few vintages. Chris has decided to take over winemaking in the 2010 vintage. Joe Davis will also be around to lend a hand when needed. I'm SUPER excited for this label. All wines are $35/bottle or less. These wines are an absolute STEAL!! (http://www.bratcherwinery.com/index.html)
Holus Bolus/Hocus Pocus/Black Sheep Finds
Next stop was to see good friend Peter Hunken at Holus Bolus. Peter has taken over the Holus Bolus label and also has Black Sheep Finds and Hocus Pocus. Peter is one of those guys that is as nice as his wines. And he is a very nice guy. I'd been looking forward to trying the 10 Holus Bolus Blanc for a while. 100% roussanne...waxy, layered, aromatic...super complex. "12.5% alcohol" Peter said. I almost spit it back at him. I got two bottles to go. The 10 Hocus Pocus Thomson (Carneros, not the Santa Barbara vineyard) pinot is so yummy and killer for $24/bottle!! Then the heavy hitter, 08 Holus Bolus Rim Rock syrah. Man, I love this vineyard and what Peter does with the fruit. Full-bodied, sexy beast. Love it. I'm tellin' ya, check out these wines! (http://www.blacksheepfinds.com/)
Walked in to see Peter Zotovich working an absolutely jam packed room. I haven't seen Pete for a while and he was thankful for the videos I posted (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVGOzKeWcwk & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFODHPlhQTo) a while back. Wines are showing excellent right now. 09 chard always shows great acid and mineral to go along with hint of oak. Ryan made a rose for the first time and it is very tasty. Super refreshing. The pinots...where to start. 09 pinot is right where I want it. Red fruit with acid and mineral. Alive in the mouth. Awesome. 09 Reserve pinot is bit bigger in the mouth with a silky, sexy structure. Then, the big boy...09 syrah. Serious cool climate powerhouse. Dark, inky, thick...dark fruits, white pepper. This vineyard can kick out Rhones. I can't wait to try the grenache when vines start bearing fruit.
Went by Piedrasassi to see if we could say hello to Melissa Sorongon. Melissa is Sashi Moorman's (winemaker) wife and works diligently on this label. Suffice it to say, they've had some great press recently (i.e., http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/09 ... 20120209/2 & http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... DTL&ao=all). When we walked in, the place was jam packed. We squeezed into the other room and saw Melissa pouring frantically. We stood to the side and let her work. She turned around, saw us and warm hugs were exchanged. So happy and excited for them. First up was the 09 Piedrasassi Central Coast White. Predominantly sauv blanc. Freaky white...full bodied...round. Makes sense when you see what they did to make it (from technical notes):
However, every once in a while we cut loose and do something really weird. Enter, stage left: Piedrasassi White Wine. We took white grapes, destemmed them, then put them, whole berry, into a French oak puncheon. There they sat, fermenting away, then soaking up flavor from the grape skins and lees for twelve whole months.
08 Central Coast syrah is an absolute beautiful blend that has that Northern Rhone skew. Loved this offering! Great vineyard sites (from technical sheet):
100% Syrah from the White Hawk Vineyard (Cat Canyon/Santa Barbara County), the Rim Rock Vineyard (Nipomo/San Luis Obispo County), and the Harrison-Clarke Vineyard (Ballard Canyon/Santa Barbara County)
When we said our goodbyes, it was 4pm on the dot...when the event officially ended. We ran over to Jalama to say hello and thanks to Mark Cargasacchi. Even with the terrible weather, the event was amazing. I seriously can't wait for next year.
And in a flash, I was on the road home back to San Diego. What a great day...