2001 Santa Barbara Wine Futures Tasting -

the 1999-'00 Vintage Releases

photos courtesy of: A. David Chan

Report on the 12th 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. 77 wines from 32 labels were being poured to a sizable crowd at the Wine Cask restaurant in downtown SB. This year's event was $45, up from $35 last year, but still a bargain considering the array of wines, and they will credit $15 on purchases to attendees. I did manage to try a couple of whites, but definitely concentrated on the reds, and managed 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 4/28.

Overall Impressions : as usual, the wines and the food were great. There is usually a good-sized crowd at these tastings, which makes negotiating the various pouring stations within the rooms at the University Club a real challenge. This year, however, they moved the venue to the Wine Cask, spreading themselves between the restaurant, the wine bar, and the patio in between. They also sold tickets in advance, which was a great idea! Any initial worry I had that the Wine Cask would be too small for the crowd proved not to be true. Admittedly, it was a crowded at the usual bottlenecks and popular tables, but the tasters seemed to spread out with time.

Among my stars of this event were an array of Syrahs from Beckmen, Tensley, Jaffurs, Garretson, Foxen and Ojai. Other notable Syrahs came from Andrew Murray and Qupe, plus there was a Grenache from Beckmen that was beautiful. Most of the Pinots I tasted were very good-to-excellent. Some of the standouts at the tasting were from Melville, Sanford, ABC, Foxen and Brewer-Clifton. Several of the Rhone varietals made at this tasting were made from the Tablas clone vines, which arguably produced some of the more complex wines.

(For more on the Tablas clone (from Tablas Creek Vnyds) , see the writeup on a recent visit to Tablas Creek.)

Individual Tasting Notes:

AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 10 wines

1999 Pinot Noir "Rincon & Rosemary's Vnyds". $32.95. Complex nose of black cherry, toast, and a touch of cola. Nearly mouthfeel, with lots of somewhat subtle fruit and a long finish. Overall score: A-

1999 Pinot Noir "Knox Alexander". $35.95. Sweet spicy nose and mouthfeel. Nice body, excellent balance, long finish. Overall score: A-

1999 Pinot Noir "Isabelle". $44.95. Complex nose, excellent body and balance, long fruit-filled finish. Overall score: A-

Comments: the Rincon & Rosemary's was already sold out by tasting time. But, I found the more gutsy style of the Knox Alexander and the Burgundian qualities of the Isabelle a little more impressive.

BABCOCK: pouring 2 wines

1999 Fathom $27.95. Slightly sharp and veggie in the nose. A little high-strung on its acids right now, with obvious fruit, but also a backbone of the greener side of Cab Franc. Bordeaux-style blend of 45%CF, 45%Merlot, 10%Cab Sauv. Overall score: B

1999 Pinot Noir "Black label ". $39.95. Very nice nose of strawberry, black cherry, with a touch of meat. Medium mouthfeel, long finish. Overall score: B+ 

Comments: the Black Label was another sold out wine, and it showed a lot of refinement. The Fathom seemed like a lost effort to me - while the acids may quell a bit over time, I'm more worried that the CF may make it come across as a can of green beans.

BECKMEN: pouring 2 wines

2000 Grenache "Purisima Vnyd". $19.99. Very nice sweet raspberry with some floral components. Full mouthfeel, tannic and dry, with a somewhat sweet finish, long finish, and nice aftertaste. Tablas clone. Overall score: A-

2000 Syrah "Purisima Vnyd". $25.95. Major extraction here, black and purple color. Huge nose of blueberry and blackberry fruit, with a touch of game/leather. Massively jammy mouthfeel of blueberry and blackberry fruit, and very long finish. Extra points for its ability to substitute for Rit dye. Tablas clone. Overall score: A 

Comments: both of these reds are excellent, with the Syrah being my favorite, as well as my nomination for President of the Purple Gang.

BREWER-CLIFTON: pouring 4 wines

2000 Pinot Noir "Julia's Vnyd". $33.99. Beautiful nose of black cherry, cinnamon, and cola. Medium-full mouthfeel, very nice fruit, long finish. Overall score: B+

2000 Pinot Noir "Melville Vnyd, Carrie's Block". $39.99. Effusive nose that almost had more sweet Syrah qualities than Pinot. Young mouthfeel, good concentration, lots of fruit, very long finish. Nice stuff. Overall score: A-

Comments: both of these wines by Greg Brewer are very nice. And, even though I've never met a Julia's I didn't like, I prefered the abundant fruit and concentration of the Carrie's Block.

DI BRUNO: pouring 1 wine

1999 Sangiovese "Stolpman Vineyard". $14.95. Slight smoky nose of dried cherries and toast. Somewhat acidic in mouthfeel, with off-sweet fruit and a long finish. Long finish. Overall score: B+ 

Comments: a very nice, if more old world (read: acidic) kind of Sangiovese, at least, more than previous year's renditions. 


2000 Cabernet-Syrah. $23.95. Sweet floral nose with cassis and blackberry/blueberry notes. Moderate mouthfeel, with lighter-than-expected fruit across the palate, and none of the punch expected, given the nose. Overall score: B
Comments: an interesting wine that might be appealing if it weren't a little over-priced.

FOLEY: pouring 1 wine

2000 Pinot Noir "Dierberg Vnyd, Lot 13". $35.99. Some opaqueness to the color, indicating probable recent bottling. Moderate nose of slightly spicy fruit. A bit angular, green and bitter in mouthfeel, with a slight peppery streak through medium-long finish. Maybe this will work itself out in time, but for now... Overall score: B
Comments: a disappointment, considering the Foxen version from this Vnyd. Admittedly, the Foxen is a '99 and has had the benefit of some age. Might be worth a try in 6 mos to see if it improves -- but not at this price.

FOXEN: pouring 3 wines

1999 Pinot Noir "Dierberg Vnyd". $23.95. Fleshy and stemmy cherry nose with what seems like a dollop of blueberry. Full mouthfeel, smooth chewy texture, lots of fruit and toast on long finish. Overall score: A-

1999 Syrah "Carhartt Vnyd". $ 31.95. Dense, slightly gamey blackberry nose, with background aromas of tar, licorice, and black pepper. Full and chewy mouthfeel, spicy blackberry fruit, with a slight licorice flavor to the long finish. Overall score: A-

1999 Reserve SYV. $31.95. Huge fleshy cassis and earthy nose. Big juicy mouthfeel, with lots of flesh and fruit, with a dab of that SYV earthy/herbaceousness as well. Seems a bit pricey. Overall score: B+ 

Comments: the Syrah was apparently sold out, but was being poured. On the other hand, the Ma Mere was sold out, and wasn't being poured. But that's okay, both the Pinot and Syrah were dynamite, and the Reserve SYV was not slouch either. 

GAINEY: pouring 1 wine

1998 Merlot "Limited Select". $35.95. Fleshy and stemmy nose, with an interesting licorice and tar component. Big mouthfeel, very extracted, stemmy with a somewhat earthy taste, very long finish. Overall score: B+
Comments: this has been a fairly dependable offering each year, and is suited for those who like full-throttle fully extracted Merlots. This one's surprisingly better than the '97.

GARRETSON: pouring 2 wines

1999 Syrah "Alban Vnyd, 'The Finne'". $35.99. Big extraction, and dense nose with lots of blueberry/blackberry aromas, and hints of leather and game in the background. Chewy mouthfeel, big on blackberry fruit, still very tight, long finish. Overall score: A- 
Comments: the Syrah is an excellent, maybe fabulous wine. I just don't know if it's a $60 wine -- which is probably why it got snapped up immediately at this pre-release price. Luckily for the rest of us, it was being poured, so we did get a chance to taste it. I didn't try the Berwyn, a late harvest Roussanne (or maybe it's Viognier - who knows anymore?), in order to move on to other reds. Both of these wines had the dubious distinction of having the biggest disparity between the futures price and release price, with a difference of $12 on the Berwyn, and a whopping $24 on the Finne.

HARTLEY-OSTINI: pouring 2 wines

1999 Pinot Noir "Santa Maria Hills". $n/a. Stemmy floral and fruity nose. Moderate mouthfeel and fruit, long finish. Overall score: B

1999 Pinot Noir "Highliner". $31.99. Nose of cherry/strawberry and cola. Big mouthfeel, off-sweet fruit, long finish that shows a bit of heat. Overall score: B+

Comments: they were sold out of the Julia's PN and didn't pour it, substituting instead tastes of the Santa Maria Hills PN.

JAFFURS WINE CELLAR: pouring 2 wines

2000 Syrah "Stolpman Vineyard". $25.99. Nose of blackberry and mocha, with floral and spice notes. Medium-full mouthfeel of smooth blackberry fruit and mocha, with a nice long smooth finish. Overall score: B+

2000 Syrah "Thompson Vineyard". $26.99. Nicely concentrated jammy blackberry and toasted chocolate nose. Jammy mouthfeel, thick fruit that coats the palate, very long full finish. Overall score: A-

Comments: Craig was pouring from magnums - nice touch. The Stolpman has refinement as its most obvious quality; but the Thompson gets the nod for its extracted jamminess. Interesting and appealing chocolate/mocha components in both wines - almost a Carignane or Mouvedre quality to the aroma/taste.

KUNIN: pouring 2 wines.

2000 Syrah "Gainey Vnyds/Santa Rosa Hills". $27.95. Big sweet blackberry nose. Full mouthfeel, off-sweet chewy fruit, that has a slight tang and tartness to its long finish. Very nice nose on this Syrah, but the mouth doesn't deliver what the nose promises. Overall score: B
Comments: was also pouring a Viognier that I didn't try.

LINCOURT: pouring 1 wine.

2000 Pinot Noir "Santa Maria Hills Vnyd, Lot 6". $21.99. Light-medium black cherry/strawberry nose. Only moderate mouthfeel, with light flavors and moderate finish. Overall score: B 
Overall Comments: I've found this winery produces some lower-priced dependable Pinots. This one's a quaffer. 

LONGORIA: pouring 1 wine.

1999 Lusso $22.95. Big full fruity nose. Substantial mouthfeel, slightly stemmy and chewy fruit, with good balance and acids and just a bit of tartness to its long finish. Interesting wine. An Italian blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. Overall score: B+ 
Comments: don't know if his Pinot or Cab Franc was considered for inclusion, but this is an interesting diversion.



Some of My Favorites:


1999 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir "Knox Alexander"
2000 Brewer-Clifton "Melville Vnyd, Carrie's Block"
1999 Foxen "Dierberg Vnyd"
2000 Melville "Clone 115 - Indigene"
1999 Sanford "La Rinconada Vnyd"

2000 Wine Cask "Bien Nacido Vnyd, Lot 2"


2000 Beckmen "Purisima Vnyd"
1999 Foxen "Carhartt Vnyd"
1999 Garretson "Alban Vnyd, 'The Finne'"
2000 Jaffurs "Thompson Vineyard"
1999 Ojai "Roll Ranch"
1999 Qupe "Hillside Estate"
2000 Tensley "Thompson"
2000 Tensley "Purisima Mtn"


2000 Beckmen Grenache "Purisima Vnyd"
1998 Gainey Merlot "Limited Select"
1999 Ojai Chardonnay "Clos Pepe Vnyd"

MELVILLE: pouring 2 wines.

2000 Chardonnay "Clone 76 - Inox". $19.95. Very clean, pure fruit aromas in the nose, with a background of something swampy. Clean crisp taste shows-off the stainless steel fermentation. Fruity across the palate, slightly off-sweet finish. Overall score: B

2000 Pinot Noir "Clone 115 - Indigene". $27.95. Fabulous somewhat sweet fruity floral nose of cherry, strawberry, cinnamon and rose petal. Full mouthfeel, nearly chewy fruit, excellent balance, very long finish. Overall score: A 

Overall Comments: first time here for Melville, and the Pinot made a stunning debut. I tasted this wine in barrel a few months back and was impressed -- but now it's even better. Obviously more New World and gutsy than something like the ABC Isabelle, this one gets my vote for #1 Pinot of the day. The Chard ...well, it just isn't my style ...or maybe it needs more time.


2000 Mourvedre "Clautiere Vnyd". $17.95. Slightly sweet raspberry/blackberry nose, with a background note of chocolate and herb. Sweet moderate mouthfeel of chocolate-infused fruit leads to medium-long finish. Not a lot of punch here, but there's almost more of an old-vine smoothness that makes it interesting and tasty. Overall score: B+

1999 Syrah "South Slope". $23.95. Sweet blackberry and mocha nose. Full and smooth mouthfeel, with blackberry fruit and a mocha quality that lasts through the long finish. Overall score: B+

Overall Comments: I was told the Mourvedre fruit was from a phyloxera-infested vnyd in Paso Robles, and that it probably has another 3-yrs on it before replanting is necessary. For the life of me, I can't figure out how that's considered a selling point for a wine -- unless of course the resultant stress on the vine produces something magic in the fruit. The South Slope this year was good, but seemed a bit more tame than usual.

OJAI VINEYARD: pouring 5 wines

1999 Chardonnay "Clos Pepe Vnyd". $23.95. Lovely fruit, with a clean crisp apple/citrus nose with a hint of some smoked wood tones. Full clean mouthfeel, nice integration of flavors, excellent balance, very nice long and slightly toasty finish. Overall score: B+

1999 Pinot Noir "Bien Nacido". $29.95. Nose of strawberry, cinnamon, and floral tones. Moderate-to-full mouthfeel, slightly candied strawberry fruit with a bit of hamburger, fruity and spicy flavors last through the long finish. Overall score: B+

1999 Syrah "Roll Ranch". $35.95. Blackberry, with some blueberry and licorice in the nose. Full mouthfeel, very smooth and chewy, with blackberry and licorice flavors, and a very long finish. Overall score: A-

Overall Comments: the Roll Ranch was sold out, but was poured for tasting. Very nice stuff. I was pleased with the Clos Pepe Chard as well.

PALMINA: pouring 2 wines

2000 Sangiovese "Stolpman Vnyd". $28.95. Smoky, somewhat tart/sour burnished cherry nose. Medium mouthfeel, fruit seems a bit thin and sour, with a long finish. Overall score: B 
Overall Comments: seems like this just duplicated last year's the effort. And, it seems overpriced ...again. When I can get the Stolpman fruit in the DiBruno Sangiovese for $14 less, what's the selling point here?

QUPE: pouring 5 wines

1999 Syrah "Bien Nacido Reserve". $19.95. Nose of crushed floral aromas, blackberry, spice, and a bit of bacon. Full mouthfeel of blackberry fruit, and spice, with a nice toasty, if a bit tart, finish. The nose is terrific; the mouth is having a hard time keeping up. Overall score: B+

1999 Syrah "Hillside Estate". $31.95. Bright dense nose of blueberry/blackberry fruit, with a hint of game or leather. Big mouthfeel, chewy black nearly jammy fruit, long smooth finish. Overall score: A-

Overall Comments: very nice well-made Syrahs - the both of them. In the past, I've enjoyed the more forward aspects of the regular B/N bottling. This time I preferred the Hillside, but the Bien Nacido is great wine for the price.

SANFORD: pouring 3 wines

1999 Pinot Noir "Sanford & Benedict Vnyd". $37.95. Classic Sanford nose of stemmy cherry, spice, and cola. Moderate mouthfeel, somewhat tart stemmy cranberry fruit, long finish. Overall score: B+

1999 Pinot Noir "La Rinconada Vnyd". $44.95. Beautiful nose of slightly stemmy strawberry, cinnamon, and cola. Full mouthfeel, somewhat chewy off-sweet strawberry/cherry fruit, very long finish. Overall score: A

Overall Comments: the "Barrel Select" seemed just a little green and stemmy right now, and contrasted heavily with the big effusive and sweet Rinconada. On heck of a wine, that, and my #2 Pinot of the day. Spend the extra $7-8, because this blows the doors off the S&B.

STOLPMAN: pouring 2 wines

1999 Grenache / Syrah / Mourvedre. $19.95. Lots raspberry, tar and licorice in the nose. Slightly sweet fruit in on the palate, with a chewy consistency and a long finish. Overall score: B+ 
Overall Comments: the second year for Tom Stolpman's own label, and another solid offering. The other wine poured was a Sangiovese "Riserva," which I didn't try. Should have though, since everybody else is using his fruit for their Sangiovese.

TENSLEY: pouring 2 wines

2000 Syrah "Thompson". $23.95. Very dark color. Huge wheaty/toasty nose of blackberry, herbs, and spice. Jammy mouthfeel, chewy and smooth consistency, the fruit stays constant through the long finish. Overall score: A-

2000 Syrah "Purisima Mtn". $23.95. Nearly black-purple in color. Very jammy nose of blackberry, spice, and toast. Huge mouthfeel, jammy blackberry fruit and tar/licorice, huge long finish. Tablas clone. Overall score: A-

Overall Comments: in his second effort here, Joey Tensley has knocked out another pair of fabulous Syrahs. The Thompson has some fabulous toasty/hoppy notes -- almost with a beer-brewing quality -- that accentuate the toast in the nose. The Purisima is pure black and blue fruit. This is a brooding wine that that is still a bit shy right now, but will undoubtedly be a winner when it comes out of its shell. Dark as this one is, the Beckmen rendition edged this out for darkest wine of the day. Oughta be a category. 

VITA NOVA: pouring 2 wines

1998 Reservatum. $17.95. Somewhat tart/sour nose, with a pinch of herbaceousness thrown in. Slightly singed fruit, fleshy mouthfeel, long finish. Might develop into something, but for now... Overall score: B

1999 Sangiovese "Stolpman". $15.95. Sweet and spicy dried cherry nose. Moderate mouthfeel, lots of fruit, though it seems a bit tart or green, and a smooth long finish. Overall score: B 

Overall Comments: I recall they used to make a Cab Franc under this label that seemed very nice. Wish they'd go back to it.

WESTERLY: pouring 1 wine:

1999 "W". $29.95. A bit vegetal in the nose, with thankfully higher amounts of sweet cassis, and black cherry. Very full mouthfeel and chewy consistency, the local Cab Franc seems to gain control of the blend around mid-palate, with more "real" fruit showing up through the long finish. 60/40 CF/Merlot blend. Overall score: B 
Overall Comments: impressive with it's chewiness, the light Cab Franc-induced vegetal streak is a distraction from the wine's obvious fruit.  

WINE CASK: pouring 5 wines:

2000 Pinot Noir "Bien Nacido Vnyd, Lot 2". $13.95. Both in nose and mouth, this a junior version of most of the Bien Nacido Pinots at the tasting. Very nice, and a steal at this price! Overall score: B+

2000 Super Deluxe Red. $7.95. A bit swampy and slightly veggie in the nose, the fruit seems to come on much better on the palate, and the wine finishes with a nice balance and aftertaste. Overall score: B

2000 Merlot "Reserve". $10.95. Initially bit funky and stinky in the nose, more of a steely cherry aroma takes over with some swirling. Crisp backbone to the mouthfeel, with slightly fleshy fruit lasting through long finish. Overall score: B

Overall Comments: this is the label to look for to find a few diamonds in the rough. Sure enough, the Bien Nacido Pinot is the bargain of the tasting for someone looking for a solid PN for little $$.

Unable to taste and review:

BRANDER: pouring 3 wines
Cold Heaven: pouring 2 wines
COSTA DE ORO: pouring 2 wines
ICI/LA-BAS: pouring 2 wines
MAKOR: pouring 2 wines
IL PODERE DELL'OLIVOS: pouring 2 wines

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