Sunday, March 19, 2000
Report on the 11th annual futures offering sponsored by the Wine Cask restaurant and wine store in Santa Barbara. This event is a tasting of locally grown and/or produced wines from soon-to-be-released vintages. It is usually presented twice during the Spring in order to accommodate all those interested. The tasting notes compiled below are from the first of this year's tastings. 105 wines from 33 labels were being poured to a sizable crowd at the University Club in downtown SB. This year's event was $35, up from $25 last year, but still a bargain considering the array of wines
Obviously, it wasn't possible to taste everything being poured. So, I concentrated on the reds, and did manage to taste the majority of them. My scores are an alpha rating, based on an overall opinion of the wine's qualities. All prices listed are Futures prices from the Wine Cask, and are generally good through either 4/30 or 5/15/00.
ARCADIAN: pouring 2 wines
1998 Pinot Noir "Pisoni". $39.99. Big complex nose of black cherry, toast, and cola. Chewy mouthfeel, with lots of fruit and toast and long finish. A-Overall Comments: very nice job with the Pisoni Pinot here. Probably the most refined Pisoni I've ever tasted. Who are these guys?
BABCOCK: pouring 2 wines
1998 Pinot Noir "Grand Cuvee ". $39.99. Very nice nose of strawberry, black cherry, with a touch of meat. Medium mouthfeel, long finish. B+Overall Comments: solid effort, but a bit overpriced.
1998 Atelier . $15.99. Stemmy nose, with cassis and blueberry notes. Full mouthfeel of sweet fleshy fruit, and very long finish. 68/32% CF/Merlot from Stolpman Vnyd. B+
1998 harmonie "Santa Barbara County". $23.99. Spicy and stemmy blackberry and blueberry fruit. Big chewy mouthfeel, long finish. 80% CS, with small amounts of Cab Franc, merlot, and Petite Verdot. B+
CALLE CIELO: pouring 2 wines
1998 Pinot Noir "Santa Maria Valley". $25.99. Stemmy ripe strawberry nose, medium mouthfeel, good balance, with a nice bite on the finish. B+Overall Comments: by Foley wineaker Alan Philips. Nice work, and right on target.
COSTA DE ORO: pouring 2 wines.
1998 Pinot Noir "Reserva Oro Rojo". $31.99. Bright strawberry/cherry nose. Very tight and acidic mouthfeel, long finish. BOverall Comments: the proverbial "food wine" with its acid bent, but also a bit overpriced.
DI BRUNO: pouring 2 wines
1998 Sangiovese "Stolpman Vineyard". $14.99. Smoky and lush nose of sweet dried cherry and toast. Toasted cherry taste, medium mouthfeel, very long finish. 10% Nebbiolo. A-Overall Comments: a very nice Calif Sangiovese, and a repeat of last year's success, with a touch more refinement.
FOLEY: pouring 1 wine
1999 Pinot Noir "Crown Vineyard Reserve". $31.99. Slightly dense shoe-polishy and black fruit nose. Big mouthfeel, lots of fruit, long finish. This is a Pinot dressed in a Syrah suit. Sure, it doesn't really fit, but it looks so good! A-Overall Comments: very nice fully extracted effort. Smells like a Syrah, and pulls the freight in mouthfeel. When you just gotta have a big Pinot....
FOXEN: pouring 3 wines
1998 Merlot "Carhartt". $22.49. Fleshy and stemmy cherry nose. Full mouthfeel, smooth texture, bit of menthol on long finish. A-
GAINEY: pouring 1 wine
1997 Merlot "Limited Selection". $22.99. Fleshy and stemmy nose, with a dense and slight herbal quality. Big mouthfeel, very extracted, stemmy and somewhat herbal taste, long finish. BOverall Comments: this has been a fairly dependable offering each year, and is suited for those who like full-throttle fully extracted Merlots.
HARTLEY-OSTINI: pouring 5 wines
1998 Pinot Noir "Riverbench-Julia's". $19.99. Strawberry/cherry nose. Medium mouthfeel, smooth texture on nearly soft fruit, long finish. B+
JAFFURS WINE CELLAR: pouring 2 wines
1999 Syrah "Stolpman Vineyard". $23.99. Nose of blackberry and spice. Medium mouthfeel of young blackberry fruit, long finish. B+
KUNIN: pouring 2 wines.
1999 Syrah "French Camp". $22.99. Big sweet blackberry nose. Full mouthfeel, chewy fruit, has a slight tang to the long finish. A-Overall Comments: very nice work here, from a former Wine Cask employee.
LINCOURT: pouring 1 wine.
1999 Pinot Noir "Reserve". $18.99. Huge black cherry/strawberry nose. Very chewy mouthfeel, with slightly tart finish. B+Overall Comments: I've found this winery to produce hit or miss Pinots. This one's a hit.
MAKOR: pouring 3 wines.
1999 Carignane "Cuvee Forets Diverses". $11.99. Woody and varnishy nose. Tannic mouthfeel with mocha and dark cherry fruit. Tannic and austere finish. B-
ANDREW MURRAY VINEYARDS: pouring 3 wines
1998 Syrah "South Slope". $23.99. Sweet jammy blackberry nose. Big mouthfeel of slightly tart fruit. Long finish. B+Overall Comments: nice offering from a tough vintage.
OJAI VINEYARD: pouring 6 wines
1998 Pinot Noir "Bien Nacido". $29.99. B+
PALMINA: pouring 3 wines
1998 Sangiovese. $28.99. Smoky, dried cherry old vine nose. Medium mouthfeel, seems a bit thin on fruit, dry long finish. B
IL PODERE DELL' OLIVOS: pouring 2 wines
1998 Barbera "Riserva". $15.99. Smoky vinyl nose with vague hint of dried fruits. Moderate mouthfeel of thin dried fruit, long finish. Where's the beef? B-Overall Comments: bah! This bore too much of a resemblance to a carafe of Chianti at the local deli.
QUPE: pouring 5 wines
1998 Syrah "Bien Nacido Reserve". $19.99. Relatively dense nose of blackberry and spice. Full mouthfeel of blackberry fruit, spice, and toast, with long semi-sweet finish. B+
SANFORD: pouring 3 wines
1998 Pinot Noir "Barrel Select". $34.99. Classic Sanford nose of stemmy cherry, spice, and cola. Moderate mouthfeel, somewhat tart cranberry fruit, long finish. BOverall Comments: wow. The normally dependable "Barrel Select" just didn't seem to have enough un-tart (is that a word?) fruit to make it appealing.
STOLPMAN: pouring 3 wines
1997 Merlot "Reserve". $21.99. Feshy stemmy and spicy nose. Moderate mouthfeel, very good concentration of fruit, with just a trace of stemminess, on long finish. B+
1999 Syrah "Thompson". $21.99. Very dark color. Huge jammy nose of blackberry, herbs, spice, and toast. Jammy mouthfeel, very chewy consistency, massive fruit lasts and lasts through long finish. A-
VITA NOVA: pouring 3 wines
1998 Sangiovese "Alisos". $14.99. Dark dried cherry nose. Thin smoky mouthfeel, long finish. B
1999 Mourvedre. Stunning nose of sweet gamey blackberry/boysenberry, tar, and mocha. Huge mouthfeel, somewhat tight and tart fruit, very long finish. Tablas clone used for 1/2 the fruit in the final blend. A-Overall Comments: Benjamin Silver is knocking out some of the most never-seen fabulous Rhone wines that I've never seen. (Huh?) All you'll find at the winery is the regular stuff. You'll need to get in on the Cellar Program to latch onto the really good stuff. isn't this how Tom Dehlinger got started?
Unable to taste and review:
AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 15 wines.
Final comments: as usual, the wines and the food are great, and there's always a feeling of excitement among the participants and attendees. There is usually a good-sized crowd at these tastings, which makes negotiating the various pouring stations within the rooms a real challenge. This year, in order to spread out the crowd and open up the venue a bit more, the organizers moved many of the tables outside under a tent. Great idea!
Among my stars of this event were an array of Syrahs from Tensley, Jaffurs, Ojai, Foxen, and Beckmen. Other notable Syrahs came from Kunin and Blackjack Ranch, plus there was a Grenache or two and a Mourvedre from Zaca Mesa that was beautiful. The Di Bruno Sangiovese was once again a winner. Most of the Syrahs I tasted were very excellent, but I didn't feel the Pinots fared as well with the vintage. One of the most standout things at the tasting, was the debut of several Rhone varietals made from the Tablas clone vines. It would seem that we may be on the threshold of Rhone variety excellence on the Central Coast.
(For more on the Tablas clone (from Tablas Creek Vnyds) , see the writeup on a visit to Tablas Creek.)
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