Triumphant Return: First Trip Back since Moving Across Pond

General Wine Discussion (Tasting Notes, Reviews, Info, Etc...)

Triumphant Return: First Trip Back since Moving Across Pond

Postby Phil_Carpenter » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:16 pm

Every day since moving to the UK, I get lost in a daydream. Thinking of sun over vines, walking the streets of Los Olivos, or watching a thief descend into an open barrel bung. The smell of oak in a temperature controlled space. The roll-up metal doors of the Wine Ghetto. The hugs and smiles of all our friends. A double-edged sword to say the least. These visions give me momentary solace on these constantly rainy or frigid windy days. On the other hand, every once in a while, a tear will drop due to the pain of missing all the elements mentioned above.

My wife and I carved out three days to be in our favorite AVA when we came out for our holiday visit. I tried not to watch the calendar...but the countdown was ever present in my head. FINALLY, the day had come to head up. Ever since I was a kid, I couldn't sleep the night before a special event. The eve before our trip was no exception. Jumped into the shower at 4:30am, and got on the road by 5am. The only stop on the way up was at Intelligentsia in Silver Lake. We made such good time that we beat all the hipsters. It was shortly after seven, so that's pretty easy. We got into Buellton in time to have breakfast at Ellen's before our first meeting. Hydrated with water, ice-tea, and tummy full of proper greasy food...we headed across the 101 freeway.

When my pulse starts to race
Tunnel.jpg (455.63 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

I apologize, I didn't take formal notes for most of the trip. Too much catching up to do. But I I have a pretty good memory.


What can I say, had to start the trip off with a bang. Brandon Sparks-Gillis was waiting at the door for us with a smile, like always. Big hugs lead to glasses, then to barrels and tanks. We started with some amazing Vogelzang sauv blanc out of barrel. Reminded me why I think Brandon is making some of the best SB in California. Next we drank a couple barrel samples of rose that were hardly pink. Let's add rose to the top of the list of Brandon's offerings. Fresh, acid, and pristine. Only a couple months in barrel. Damn. Next, was 12 Sta. Rita Hills pinot from tank. This one made me almost cry. Mainly Sebastiano, which explains the brilliant fruit. But the Radian Vineyard shines through here. This vineyard is heading up my list with a bullet. 09 MJM was a Northern Rhone beauty disguised in a Dragonette bottle and label. This offering would make any winemaker in that area jealous. The whole lineup was phenomenal. We could have spent all day with Brandon. As we were leaving I mentioned we hadn't been to Harrison-Clarke yet. Brandon whipped out his cell phone, made a call, and we were on our way.

Brandon & Jessica Gasca
Brand&Jess.jpg (560.72 KiB) Viewed 8870 times


Ballard Canyon is beautiful. The newest AVA in Santa Barbara was in all it's glory on this day. Crystal clear, cloudless day with beautiful sun. Roger Harrison met us in their driveway and instantly escorted us into the rows. With a light kick of the foot, powdery limestone puffed up like a cloud. Vineyards in dormancy are so beautiful to me. As we walked, I was struck by the views. Beckmen's Purisima Mountain Vineyard, Jonata across, and Stolpman's vineyards below. Stunning. Roger took us to their efficient winery in the corner of their property. Hilary, the winemaker showed up with thief in hand and we went through some barrels. Dark, concentrated, herby, smokey, and purple floral syrahs just kept coming. Iron and white pepper were in the flagship, Cuvee Charlotte. Wines as beautiful as the views and folks. We said goodbye to Roger and Hilary and headed down the hill into Los Olivos.

H-C_1.jpg (516.23 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

Roger & Me
H-C_2.jpg (409.74 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

H-C bottle.jpg
We brought the Cuvee Charlotte to dinner...smokin'.
H-C bottle.jpg (442.75 KiB) Viewed 8870 times


Larry Schaffer...the first person we met when we came to SB in 07, and now close friend, was behind his tasting room bar, feverishly turning screw tops off his bottles. More hugs and stems. Laurie Jervis was there as well, which always makes our day. Larry's whites were hitting on all cylinders. The roussanne, a new addition to Larry's portfolio, was just amazing. All the roussanne elements, but with an acid finish. Clean and yummy. 09 Larner syrah just keeps gaining depth. Another place we could stay all day.

The man...
Larry.jpg (631.71 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

Lindley Wines

Jake and Frankie Lindley have become great friends. So fun and energetic. Their vineyard is the farthest west site in the Sta. Rita Hills. For the past couple vintages, they have been buying fruit from other sites (La Lomita for pinot, Sierra Madre in 2011 and Vigna Cesarina in 2010 for chard) and making their wines in the Clos Pepe winery in Lompoc. Jake and Frankie invited us to barrel taste the first wines they made from their property. I can't tell you how exited I was at this opportunity. When do you EVER get to taste the first vintage of a vineyard?! Most importantly, when do you get to share in the excitement with your friends as they taste the barrels for the first time as well!!

I took some formal notes to document this once in lifetime event:

2013 Duvarita vio: 3 months down. Banana, white flowers, pineapple. Lively tropical, lemon rind, gravel mineral.

2013 estate wente clone chard: 100% stainless. Clean tropical, even liveliness. Lemon/lime. Great feel.

2013 Pommard 3B: Grilled meats, touch of loam, nuts, perfumed, hint of strawberry as nose comes out of glass. Consistent. Great acid orange rind. Strawberry. Smoky

2013 Pommard 1C: more perfumed, rose, touch of smoke and leather. Brilliant, pristine red fruit with a touch of mushroom. Great acid finish.

2013 667 1B: pristine strawberry, touch of rosé pedal. Pine? Just mouthwatering strawberry/ raspberry. Lively.

2013 667 3A: meaty, gamey, hairy, loam. Fresh blueberry, structure, length.

2nd barrel. Spice, shoe leather, red fruit.

Radian: earthy, anise, herbs, exploding red fruit.

2013 Lomita/Lindley 115: gamey, velvety structure.

After a few happy dances by all of us, and some tears (well, on my part), we all just enjoyed this momentous occasion. I had a feeling these wines were going to be good since Jake is an excellent winemaker. But I was just blown away by how good these wines were forA a brand new vineyard. Most of the wines were through malo, and felt like they could have been bottled already! If you haven't tried Jake and Frankie's absolute MUST!!

Pullin' some samples
Jake_1.jpg (543.53 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

Lindley Lineup.jpg
View from the top...about to make history.
Lindley Lineup.jpg (543.9 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

Feelin' pretty proud for my friends
Jake_3.jpg (299.44 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

La Montagne

We went to visit Kimberly Smith at her new tasting room. Kimberly's wines are absolutely beautiful. I've written about them before on this site, and on this day, they didn't disappoint. Kim had some special treats in store for us. First was a barrel sample of 13 Huber chard. Just an amazing lemon/lime with acid. I haven't had a vineyard designate from this site as good as this since those older Diatom's. Then there was two pinots. First was the 12 Rancho La Vina pinot, which had spicy red fruit with great mineral and acid. Second was the 12 Kessler-Haak. This one was a little bit darker and concentrated, but with the typical acid and mineral you get on a K-H wine. Stunning. Out of bottle, previously, the 11 Sierra Madre rocked my world. It showed great on this day, with salinity, spice, and red fruit. This day though, the 12 Huber was more expressive. Just pristine red fruit and baking spice. Kim is really on the right path when it comes to making wines. Keep an eye on this label.


Dan and Ellen are amazing people. I can't tell you how welcoming, genuine, and kind they are. I always look forward to just sitting at a table with them and talking. Add to this experience, their beautiful wines. Perhaps the label I'm most excited about. The potential of their site is astronomical. Situated on the western side of the Sta. Rita Hills, you can see Hilliard-Bruce and Clos Pepe by just swiveling your head a couple degrees.

Shortly before our visit, Dan sent an e-mail announcing their sparkling program. There are four offerings, and we had the distinct pleasure to try two of them.
First was the brut. Here are the specs on the bubbles from the K-H website:

The cuvee is 75% Pinot Noir/25% Chardonnay, fermented at 52F. 30% was held in barrel and received 100% MLF prior to blending. Second fermentation was via méthode champenoise with a 10 month tirage. The wine received a 12 g/l dosage.

K-H brut.jpg
Brut sparkler...
K-H brut.jpg (437.69 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

Second was the brut rose. Here are the specs from the K-H website:

The cuvee is 100% Pinot Noir, fermented at 52F. Second fermentation was via méthode champenoise with a 10 month tirage. The wine received a 14 g/l dosage

K-H rose1.jpg
Rose sparkler
K-H rose1.jpg (619.64 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

K-H rose2.jpg
Flute loop
K-H rose2.jpg (543.33 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

These were such beautiful examples of what will most likely be the next wave in wines coming out of the Sta. Rita Hills. This AVA just has the mineral and acid to make sparkling wines. These wines were not over-the-top yeasty or toasty. They had pristine fruit notes. Brut had an apple/pear thing to go along with a hazelnut. The rose was just bursting with clean, acidy, pomegranate. Wow. Both beautiful in the flute. The bubbles were like fireworks. Kudos Dan...amazing.

On the still side...two wines really stood out to me. First, 2010 estate chard. Dan's chard is arguably one of the best in the valley, in my honest opinion. Crazy lemon/lime notes with a solid acid streak to go along with oak notes that add layers, but doesn't overpower. Next, 2011 pinot. I fell in love with this wine. This was a classy lady. Perfume, rose, delicate red fruit. Balanced and pure. This one will turn some heads.

K-H Vineyard 1.jpg
Kessler-Haak vineyard in dormancy...beautiful
K-H Vineyard 1.jpg (541.02 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

K-H Chard.jpg
One smokin' chard
K-H Chard.jpg (422.92 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

K-H Vineyard 2.jpg
view from the patio
K-H Vineyard 2.jpg (543.45 KiB) Viewed 8870 times


ALWAYS gotta go see how the guys are doing when in town. Matt Brady made time for us. Weather was perfect outside, and so were the whites. 12 grenache blanc and vio were stupendous. Perfectly balanced. 10 grenache had a light body and so elegant. Single vineyard Thompson was also a always. Added bonus was trying Matt's wine. Matt and Drake Whitcraft (winemaker at Whitcraft Winery) have worked together on a riesling under the label, 'Mes Amis'. Riesling is really stepping up in the valley, thanks to winemakers like Graham Tatomer, Dan Kessler, Jody Towe, and now, Matt and Drake. This had beautiful stone fruit, white flowers, with limey gravel. This had been recently bottled at time of tasting. Check this one out if you can! Matt also had his 10 Grandaddy Grenache open as well. Larner fruit, which means all good. Juicy, yet balanced. Great red fruit. Lovely.

One talented dude...
Matt.jpg (528.94 KiB) Viewed 8870 times


I was so excited when Aaron Walker said he had time to meet with us. We met up at the Pali tasting room in the Funk Zone. Been a while since I been to that part of town...what a BEAUTIFUL setup. Aaron poured us the lineup of Pali and Tower 15. Aaron is one hell of a winemaker. The whole lineup was great. The 2011 Cargasacchi pinot was rosy, pristine red fruit, and loamy. A very nice, balanced expression of this fruit. The 2011 Fiddlestix pinot had the site's spice, loam and orange rind. Aaron also busted out a 08 MoonWalker Alisos syrah. I've been wanting to try Aaron's personal label for some time. I really hope this label gets out and in front of folks. Just a really yummy syrah. Great structure and finish. Smoky, with darker red/blue fruit. Was able to pick out a smidgen of grenache due to that familiar saddle leather/raspberry note on the nose. Great stuff.

Pali Lineup.jpg
Stellar lineup
Pali Lineup.jpg (539.33 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

So cool hangin' with this guy
Aaron_Phil.jpg (564.67 KiB) Viewed 8870 times

I really hate that patch of the 101 south from Santa Barbara to Ventura. Not only because of the typical traffic...but because I have to sit in that traffic (usually for an extended amount of time) and get over my emotions of leaving the area I love so much, and how much I'm going to miss being away. It especially stung this time around since we live so far away now. What an amazing trip though. We couldn't of had a better time.
Admin for this Lovely Site
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 159
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:31 pm
Location: San Diego

Re: Triumphant Return: First Trip Back since Moving Across P

Postby sbfireman » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:31 pm

What great trip and amazing notes! You are always welcome at my campfire!! Safe travels


Posts: 32
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:44 pm

Return to Wine Chat

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests