Santa Barbara Wine Futures Event

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Santa Barbara Wine Futures Event

Postby Wineholio » Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:11 pm

Last Saturday I attended the Santa Barbara Wine Futures event held at Les Marchands wine bar in Santa Barbara. The actual event was held in the parking lot Les Marchands shares with adjoining restaurant The Lark, and ran from 12:00 noon to 4:00 PM. Approximately 40 producers, many of them lesser-known, typically small production wineries were on hand to pour barrel samples or recently-bottled wines. The full catalog of wines that were poured, along with a 2013 vintage report by Les Marchands co-owner and Master Sommelier Brian McClinitic, MS is below, along with my tasting notes and impressions of the event. Prices shown are the discounted futures prices available through Les Marchands until May 31, 2014. You need not have attended the futures event to take advantage of this discounted pricing.

Full Catalog and 2013 Vintage Report:

Tasting Notes

Alta Maria
The lovely Stephanie Varner was on hand to pour two whites and a pinot noir that was off list. I did not take notes on the PN.
2013 Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc Santa Barbara County - [Barrel Sample] Light straw tint, almost clear. Nose of grapefruit blossom. Light bodied, crisp with a bit more grapefruit and some minerals. Delightful summer wine and great QPR at $13/bottle. 1500 cases made.
2013 Alta Maria Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley - {Barrel Sample] Blend of Clone 4, 74 and Wente. 8% malolactic fermentation. Neutral oak. Light golden straw color. Not giving much aromatically at this point. Lighter, clean style chardonnay. Offered at $21/bottle. 1500 cases made.

Winemaker Chuck Carlson (ex-Curtis) was pouring two wines.
2013 Carlson Blanc "Trois Fleurs" Santa Ynez Valley - 50% Gewurztraminer, 25% Chenin Blanc and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. All Curtis estate fruit. Very light, muted straw tint. Nose has razor-like elements of peach and apricot blossoms. Light mouthfeel that is dry, balanced and has some acidity that is magnified toward the clean finish. Another nice summer wine with QPR at $19/bottle. 13.5% ABV.
2013 Carlson Pinot Noir 'Sebastiano Vineyard' Sta. Rita Hills - 665 and Swan clones. Light ruby red color. Mostly transparent. Aromas of morning toast, strawberries. Very restrained on the palate. Not giving much. A bit soft and lacking acidity for my taste. $33/bottle.

Chanin Wine Company
2013 Chanin Chardonnay 'Bien Nacido' Santa Maria Valley - Light greenish-gold color. Slightly grassy nose. Classic BN chardonnay typicity. A bit unfocused. Slight acidity on the finish. $30/bottle. 325 cases made.
2013 Chanin Pinot Noir 'Los Alamos' Santa Barbara County - Light pinkish-red color. Transparent. Nice nose, showing pepper and green notes typical of some stem-inclusion although Gavin Chanin says there was none in this wine. Some tannins. Per my notes, this wine was a bit "loose". I was underwhelmed. $40. 275 cases made.

Domaine de la Cote
Domaine de la Cote is a project of winemaker Sashi Moorman (Stolpman, Piedreassi, etc.),Michael Mina Group Wine Director Raj Parr, and and unnamed partner (possibly former Screaming Eagle and Jonata co-owner and current Mayacamas owner Charles Banks?). They are using fruit from six hillside vineyards (elev. 700') that was previously part of Evening Land, located at the western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Farmed by Chris King.
2012 Domaine de la Cote Pinot Noir 'Bloom's Field' Sta. Rita Hills - Slight pinkish-red color. Mostly transparent. 100% whole cluster. Nose has stemmy/peppery notes interlaced with exotic spices. Gravel/minerality and beaming acidity surround the fruit. As Burg-like as I've had from a domestic PN. Amazing the vines were only planted in 2007. I'm a huge fan of this wine, and look forward to tasting other Dom. de la Cote wines in the future and seeing this one evolve over time. $53. 500 cases made.

Goodland is a project of wine folks including Dave Potter (Municipal Winemakers), Matt Dees (Jonata), Chris Snowden (Snowden Vineyards in Napa) and Ruben Solorzano (Stolpman's Vineyard Manager). Dave was in attendance to pour Goodland's offering.
2012 Goodland Happy Canyon Red - Cabernet Sauvignon from Happy Canyon AVA. Medium-dark ruby red color. Opaque. Green peppercorn aromas on the nose. Young, somewhat closed/restrained at this point. Medium body. Hint of mint or similar herbs with dark cherry fruit. A good dose of tannins present. Nice. Some bottle age will aid it's development. $36. 52 cases made.

Habit is the wine project of actor Jeff Fischer, who happens to voice the animated character Jeff Fischer in American Dad that was based on Jeff. He was on hand to pour two wines.
2013 Habit Chenin Blanc 'Jurassic Park' Santa Ynez Valley - From the Jurassic Park Vineyard at the top of the Firestone property, this was a great example of Chenin Blanc. Only the slightest tint of color. Nice aromas of grass, lime blossoms and herbs. Lovely crisp minerality, some salinity with a beam of acidity throughout. Under 13% ABV. $26. 527 cases made.
2013 Habit Pinot Noir 'La Encantada Vineyard' Sta. Rita Hills - Light pinkish-red. Destemmed fruit. Very primary at this stage. Restrained high-toned berries, some herbs. $44. 185 cases made.

Jaffurs is the premier producer based in downtown Santa Barbara, with purchased fruit from several of the best blocks from the best vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley. Matt Brady and Dave Yates were pouring two single-vineyard designated Syrahs from Los Alamos vineyard sites.
2012 Jaffurs Syrah 'Thompson Vineyard' Santa Barbara County - Slightly pinkish-red. Opaque. Unbelievable nose of ripe dark fruit, pepper and a hint of violet. Beautiful round mouthfeel, velvety texture. A tiny bit "hot" and primary at this stage, but great bones. As is typical with Jaffurs syrahs, a few years aging and this will be a beauty. $42. 175 cases made.
2012 Jaffurs Syrah 'Verna's Vineyard' Santa Barbara County - Similar in color and weight to the Thompson, this wine has more earthy and savory qualities due to partial whole-cluster inclusion. Pepper, herbs, black olive tapanade. Perhaps even a bit more approachable than the Thompson at this point? A long, sumptuous finish. $42. 175 cases made.

La Fenetre
La Fenetre was pouring a Rose and a Pinot Noir from their 'A Cote' label, intended to be for "everyday consumption". I did not taste the Rose.
2013 La Fenetre A Cote Pinot Noir Central Coast - Pinkish-red. Bright red berry nose. On the palate this wine was very candy-sweet. If you're a fan of that style Pinot, this wine is for you. $18. 3000 cases made.

Lieu Dit
Lieu Dit is a project of Les Marchands co-owner Eric Railsback and Tyler winemaker Justin Willett. They were pouring a Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Unfortunately I did not get to taste the Cab Franc.
2013 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley - OK acid lovers, this is the wine for you! There are elements of minerality, grass and citrus present, but to me these were overshadowed but the blaring acidity of this wine. My notes said "acid is your friend". $21. 2000 cases made.

Lutum is a owned by entrepreneur Bill Price (Classic Wines, Price Family Vineyards). The wines are made by Gavin Chanin. Two Pinot Noirs were poured, but I only tasted one of them.
2013 Lutum Pinot Noir 'Bien Nacido' Santa Maria Valley - Light pinkish-red. Somewhat "steely" aroma on the nose. Very light body. High-toned berry fruit. Underwhelmed, especially for the price point. $42.

Mes Amis
Mes Amis is the product of Jaffurs Assistant Winemaker Matt Brady (also of Grandaddy Grenache fame) and Drake Whitcraft (Whitcraft Winery). According to Matt, they're goal is to make wines they like to drink. Matt and Drake were pouring their Albarino. They also make a Dry Riesling which was not poured.
2013 Mes Amis Albarino Santa Ynez Valley - Fruit is from Clover Creek vineyard. Light straw/hay color. Aromas of minerals with a hint of grass/herbs. Somewhat restrained at this point. Nice acidity throughout. More gravel/minerality and a touch of cheese rind on the finish. Nice effort! At $21/bottle, I'll be drinking some of these with shellfish or white pizza. 50 cases made.

Municipal Winemakers
Ex-Fess Parker alum Dave Potter's primary project is Municipal Winemakers. Dave was in attendance to pour his Grenache.
2013 Municipal Grenache 'Fox Family Vineyard' Santa Ynez Valley - Light ruby-red. 25% whole-cluster inclusion. Very primary at this stage, perhaps a bit disjointed and "hot". One would hope it would tighten up and coalesce with some age. $33. 50 cases made.

The Ojai Vineyard's multitude of wines are made by the legendary Adam Tolmach, with help from assistant winemaker Fabien Castel.
2012 Ojai Vineyard 'Puerta del Mar' Chardonnay Santa Barbara County - Light gold color. Cheese rind, citrus oil aromoas. This is a mid-weight wine that leans toward the more rich, round style of chardonnay, with hints of vanilla oak. As with most Ojai wines, they are meant to age a bit and this is no exception. $28. 102 cases made.

One of the "rock star" winemakers of the Santa Ynez Valley is Sashi Moorman (Stolpman, Dom. de la Cote, Sandhi). His own label is Piedrasassi, which is dedicated to production of Rhone wines in the classic French style. Two wines were poured by Sashi's assistant winemaker, whose name I did not log. Unfortunately I only tasted the white.
2011 Piedrasassi White Central Coast - [Ignore the incorrect catalog description]. This is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Roussanne. Light orange color. Somewhat opaque/cloudy. For this wine, fruit was de-stemmed and individual berries were dropped into the fermenter. 18-months of skin contact gives the wine it's orange coloration. Unique aromas, difficult to characterize. Complex flavors of spices, grass. Interesting and intriguing wine. I liked it, but can't say specifically why. One of those wines I'm interested in trying to check-in a few times as it develops. 13.3% ABV. $32. 100 cases made.

Qupe is another SYV stalwart, with Bob Lindquist making amazing wines for over 30 years. Qupe was pouring a white and a red. Once again I only tasted the white.
2012 Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Santa Maria Valley - Light to medium golden straw color. Medium body. Has a bit of viscous "look" to it. From hillside block Bien Nacido fruit. Young and tight at this point. Nose not giving much. Flavors of almond/nut flour, perhaps grain (wheat?), some marzipan. Stellar mouthfeel. Opulent. Has all the right "stuffing" to become a beautiful wine with some aging. Roussanne can be polarizing, but I'm in the "love it" camp, and this is going to be a good one. $36. 307 cases made.

Another project from Sashi Moorman, Raj Parr and Charles Banks, focusing on prominent Sta. Rita Hills vineyard sites including Rita's Crown, Sanford & Benedict, Bentrock, Wenzlau, Mt. Carmel, Rinconada, etc. For this event they were pouring two wines from Sanford & Benedict vineyard.
2013 Sandhi Chardonnay 'Sanford & Benedict' Sta. Rita Hills - Light-yellow tint. Transparent. Steely, minerally, saline nose. Light, lifted mouthfeel, with restrained fruit, minerality, and acidity. Very un-chard like. Nice. $49. 350 cases made.
2012 Sandhi Pinot Noir 'Sanford & Benedict' Sta. Rita Hills - Light pinkish-red color. Slightly cloudy. 100% whole-cluster, showing stemmy, pepperiness and minerals on the nose. Somewhat dry and Burg-like, with hints of baking spices. Another excellent effort. Great "food" wine. Will only improve with age. $54. 330 cases made.

Blake Sillix (Beckman, Tyler) is making Rhone varieties on his Sillix label. An off-list Grenache Blanc and two reds were poured. I only took notes for the Grenache.
2012 Sillix Grenache Santa Ynez Valley - Fruit from Camp 4 vineyard. Light pinkish-red. Transparent. Almost a Rose in appearance. 100% whole cluster. Stemmy nose. Rustic. Definitely old world leaning, dry, some earthy/savory notes. Looking forward to it's continued evolution over time. $32. 75 cases made.

Mentored by Justin Willet at Tyler, and not to be confused with Ernst Storm, Ryan Stirm is a newcomer with his first releases produced under his own Stirm label. He has made two Rieslings from Kick-On Ranch, with identical treatment, save the yeast. If his first wines are indicative of his capabilities, I look forward to great things from this guy!
2013 Stirm Riesling 'Kick-On Ranch' Santa Barbara County - From the wind-blown, cool Kick-On Ranch site near Los Alamos. Bright, dry and crisp with a hint of effervescence, this is a beautiful inaugural effort that continues to reinforce the emergence of great Riesling and Gruner Veltliner from Santa Barbara County.
2013 Stirm Riesling 'Kick-On Ranch' Santa Barbara County (Indigenous) - Exactly the same fruit and winemaking methods/treatment as the other (innoculated) Riesling, this wine was left to nature and wild yeast for fermentation. Amazing contrast is apparent on both the nose and palate. I can't specifically describe the differences other than to state they are both unique wines, and I look forward to popping and comparing them in the future. $26. 25 cases made.

Tom and Marilyn Stolpman have been producing great, mostly Rhone variety wines from their estate in what is now the Ballard Canyon AVA since 1990. Son Peter is now involved in the day-to-day operations of the winery, and Sashi Moorman is their winemaker. Stolpman was pouring one wine.
2012 Stolpman Estate Roussanne "L'Avion" Santa Ynez Valley - Light yellow hay color. Clear. Nose of marzipan, hints of grapefruit and minerals. Medium-full body. Dense and opulent. Mouth-coating and round, for me this wine is all about texture at this point, with a lovely amount of acid to keep it honest. Patience is the key with this wine, as it will reward some proper aging. $33. 500 cases made.

Storm is the label of South African fastidious winemaker Ernst Storm. Ernst was pouring three wines, including one off-list Chenin Blanc called "Steen".
2013 Storm "Steen" Santa Ynez Valley - Chenin Blanc from Jurassic Park vineyard, planted in 1982. Very slight straw-colored tint. Crystal clear. Beautiful nose of grassy-grapefruit, herb and a touch of "steeliness". Compact, focused band of herbs, grass and grapefruit. Very nicely done.
2013 Storm Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley - Basically clear, with little coloration. Grapefruit, lime and grass aromas. Like Steen, this wine is also compact and focused, with lifted notes of grapefruit, lime peel and crushed seashells. Well-balanced. 13.1% ABV. Beautiful effort, and great QPR at $18/bottle. 620 cases made.
2013 Storm Pinot Noir 'John Sebastiano Vineyard' Sta. Rita Hills - Light red with slight pink tinge. Definitely some stem inclusion, as the nose gives aromas of stems, with baking spices. Nicely dry and somewhat Burg-like, with muted fruit, savory notes from the stems, and herbs. Very nice. $36. 175 cases made.

Graham Tatomer is the vanguard of the effort to produce German and Austrian-style wines in Santa Barbara County. He was mentored in the Wachau at Knoll and Hirtzberger. To fill his spare time, he has recently taken over winemaking duties at Martian Ranch & Vineyard near Los Alamos. Graham's team was pouring a Gruner Veltliner and a Riesling.
2013 Tatomer Gruner Veltliner Meeresboden Santa Barbara County - Light straw color. Transparent. Flinty, steely nose. Crisp. Dry as a bone. Bitter grapefruit peel, orange pith, minerality and salinity. Amazingly vibrant acidity. Fantastic wine. $22. 450 cases made.
2012 Tatomer Riesling 'Kick-On Ranch' Santa Barbara County - Light straw color. Clear. Nose includes chalk, some herbs. Dry and minerally, with hints of lemon peel, stone fruit lifted by a core of acidity. Great effort. $26. 100 cases made.

Tyler is the Chardonnay and Pinot project of Justin Willett, former assistant winemaker at Arcadian. He was pouring two wines. I only tasted the chardonnay.
2013 Tyler Chardonnay 'Dierberg' Santa Maria Valley - Very light straw color. Clear. Nice nose with some floral hints. Light body, with a nice beam of acidity. Flavors of wet stone, steel. $38. 170 cases made.

Vallin is the house label of Les Marchands owners and master sommeliers Eric and Brian. They focus on Rhone-style wines. Two wines were poured - a Rose and a Syrah. I only tasted the Syrah.
2013 Vallin Syrah "Sans Soufre" - Sans Soufre translates to without sulfur. Light red, mostly transparent. Still very primary at this stage, with a hint of effervescence like it's still undergoing some sort of fermentation? I didn't "get" this wine. $30. 600 cases made.

The Wenzlau family started making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their organically-farmed Sta. Rita Hills property in 2011. In addition to pouring the 2013 vintage of each, Bill and Cindy Wenzlau poured an off-list 2011 Pinot for comparative purposes to the 2013. Bill tells me they're preparing to make a Cremant-style sparkler in the near future.
2013 Wenzlau Estate Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills - Light yellow color. Clear. Light body, slight yeasty note on the nose. Very classic SRH chardonnay, showing the area's true terroir, with plenty of minerality and acid in a restrained style. 25% new oak. 12.9% ABV. $39. 260 cases made.
2013 Wenzlau Estate Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills - [Barrel Sample.] 20% whole cluster inclusion. Light pinkish-red color. Mostly clear. Nose somewhat closed at this time, but hints of dry leaves, pepper, stems peek through. Somewhat rustic with a good dose of acidity and some tannins present at this point. Based on the 2011 poured for comparison, this wine should develop more berry-fruit prominence in the future. 12.4% ABV. $50. 1000 cases made.

Since starting production in 1985, a lot has changed at Whitcraft. Drake, the son of founders Chris and Kathleen is now in charge of winemaking operations, and is pushing the wines toward the old world stylistically. Drake was on hand to pour two pinot noirs (in addition his side project Mes Amis with Matt Brady).
2013 Whitcraft Pinot Noir 'Pence Vineyard' Santa Ynez Valley - From the Pence property just outside the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Light pinkish-red. Mostly clear. Pomerol clone. Rustic, with high acidity and moderate tannins at this stage of its evolution. Should integrate and smooth out with some age. 13.3% ABV. $60. 66 cases made.
2013 Whitcraft Pinot Noir 'Kick-On Ranch' Santa Barbara County - Clone 115. Light pinkish-red. Somewhat cloudy. Stemmy nose. Definitely old-world. Savory flavors include herbs and even a hint of roasted meat drippings. At this stage, I prefer this to the Pence. 12.4% ABV. 45 cases made.

Other Random Thoughts...

Overall, I'm happy that Eric and Brian determined to revive the Santa Barbara County Wine Futures event. For many years, during the time Doug Margerum owned the Wine Cask restaurant, he coordinated the event and it was hands down the best way to experience the brilliance, diversity and evolution of Santa Barbara County wines. I hope Eric and Brian continue coordinating the event. Perhaps it can even expand and improve in future years. With this in mind, I'd like to offer a few pieces of constructive criticism for consideration by the organizers.

The event was held in an asphalt parking lot that was quite reflective of the midday sun and heat. There were a few umbrellas relocated from the outside area of Lark or Les Marchands, but it would have been nice to perhaps have more shaded areas (maybe a pop-up tent?), and/or some high tables under the umbrellas to get a break from the sun, and write notes more comfortably.

There was only one small table of food, which was basically an assortment of cheese, some salumi and a few grapes. It was in full-sun all day. I assume Eric and Brian were trying to "incentivize" guests to go to Lark, Lucky Penny or Les Marchands to order "real food" at extra expense, but for the many years the Santa Barbara Wine Futures was hosted at Wine Cask, for roughly the same $70/ticket price, a full variety of great food items were provided. In fact, many attended largely in part to the great food that was served. From my perspective, Eric and Brian may want to re-think their current approach and either lower the ticket prices or provide more food. Les Marchands has an awesome chef (Weston Richards) who was present and cooking the day of the event, just not for the event. ;)

SBWT board favorite and perhaps the leading ambassador of Santa Barbara County wines within the local wine community, Mr. Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines was not in attendance, and not for lack of effort. Larry inquired a few times about being able to pour at the event, but was pretty much blown-off by the owners. This was too bad, because I heard a few different people (both attendees and winemakers) asking where Larry was, wondering why he wasn't there. I could understand limiting participation if there are truly space considerations, but there were a few vacant tables, and one that was selling some kind of African "artisan" jewelry. More than a few folks thought that was odd, especially as it was placed in a prominent location. :?:

Thanks for your patience with this long post. I hope some of you find it helpful. Please feel free to ask questions if you have them.

I can certainly see that you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn't know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret.
John Cleese (Basil Fawlty)

Jim Salvito
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Re: Santa Barbara Wine Futures Event

Postby sbfireman » Mon Apr 28, 2014 5:25 pm

Jim -

Thanks for the notes. More than a few pearls there!

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Re: Santa Barbara Wine Futures Event

Postby Steve Anderson » Wed Apr 30, 2014 10:28 pm


Thanks. Excellent notes! I was excited when I got the email that the Futures Event was making a comeback. I also enjoyed the previous iteration and attended the LA version put on by Wine House LA in conjunction with Wine Cask in 2009 and 2010. A great opportunity to taste a broad range of wines with a nice purchase discount to boot. For someone who was still getting in to wine at the time, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to taste wines from Paul Lato and Sanguis before they became hard to get. Also fun to meet the then still up and comers like Tercero and Dragonette.

Hope the event continues, improves, and branches out to SoCal again.


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Re: Santa Barbara Wine Futures Event

Postby larryschaffer » Sun May 04, 2014 3:48 pm

Great notes, Jim. Certainly lots of great wines there and lots to choose from . . .

Bummed that I was not invited - guess I'm not 'cool' enough :roll:

Would be great to have folks like Kaessler Hawk, Bonacorsi, Larner, Kaena there . . . .

Oh well - perhaps next year . . . .

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