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Au Bon Climat


Clendenen Family

Costa de Oro
Happy Cyn
Holus Bolus
Jelly Roll

Paul Lato


Report on the 17th annual futures offering sponsored by the Wine Cask restaurant and wine store in Santa Barbara, Saturday, March 11, 2006. This annual event covers locally grown and/or produced wines from soon-to-be-released vintages. The tasting is normally presented twice during the Spring to accommodate all those interested. Some 50 labels were represented, pouring 125 wines. Admission to the tasting was $50, with the Wine Cask applying a credit back toward any purchases. The credit is based on a sliding scale. But basically, purchases over $500 will receive from 2% to 6% rebate in the form of an in-store coupon.

Some Favorites


2004 Au Bon Climat "Knox Alexander"
2003 Arcadian "Fiddlestix"

2004 Paul Lato "Gold Coast"
2004 Ampelos "Alpha"
2005 Samsara "Ampelos"
2005 Drew "Ashley's"
2005 Pali "Turner"


2005 Beckmen Syrah"Block 6"
2005 Beckmen Grenache
2004 Carhartt Syrah
2005 Dara "Colson Cyn"
2004 Kenneth-Crawford Syrah "Blue Fin"
2005 Tensley "OGT"
2004 Alondra "Alondra de los Prados"


2003 Rusack "Anacapa"
2004 Happy Canyon "Barrack Ten-Goal"

The 51 tasting notes below were compiled from the first of this year's events. My scores reflect an overall estimation of the wine's current qualities using an alpha rating. You may compare this to numerical scoring by referencing the following conversion chart. With a few exceptions, these wines are generally pulled from barrel samples and bottled especially for this tasting - sometimes on the same day. As such, it's important to remember they represent a 'work in progress,' rather than a finished wine. Therefore, the final wine may differ slightly in composition or blend - all of which means that you're speculating a bit on the outcome. On the other hand, I find it instructive to try and predict how a wine will develop. All prices listed are Futures prices from the Wine Cask, and are generally good through April 30, 2006. Finally, I've listed the production levels for each wine. These numbers represent the winery's FULL production amount; the amount actually allocated to the Futures Program could be substantially less.

Overall impressions: as expected, the wines were largely excellent. The 2004 vintage has been referred to as "challenging" by many, and I was interested to see (and taste) if these wines came across as riper than usual - one of the fears about the heat spikes of the vintage. Thankfully, none of the wines seemed over-the-top, and in fact all were quite balanced. Unfortunately, due to the rain again this year, the Wine Cask was prevented from utilizing the outside patio area for wine tasting. This meant that an additional 15 or so producers had to be squeezed into the main pouring rooms, which then crowded the floor space and jammed things up in the aisles. The upshot of this was a significantly reduced opportunity to sample the wines -- nobody's fault, just an unfortunate situation.

It was nice to see a number of new or re-named labels represented in this tasting - which meant many new Syrahs, Pinots, and blends in the lineup. Many excellent Pinots were available, and Syrahs were not in short supply. Very nice Rhone wines are/were available from many of the 'usual suspects,' such as: Beckmen, Kenneth-Crawford, Samsara, Jelly Roll, and Core. On the Pinot Noir side of things, kudos again to Paul Lato, as well as to Kenneth-Crawford, and Rusack, and to some very nice entries from Costa de Oro.

  • Santa Rita Hills' Ampelos Vnyd debuts its inaugural estate Pinot Noir
  • newcomer Pali Wine Co debuts its first Pinot, made by Brian Loring
  • is this the first event without a Sanford Pinot Noir?
  • think the focus on "clones" seems to be diminishing? Not yet - one of the offerings is named "777"
  • vineyard-designated wines continue to be the more popular offerings, but multi-vineyard blends are starting to show up more and more
  • overheard: "Is there some sort of tradition to only hold this tasting on rainy days?"
  • Petite Verdot? Who would bottle a varietal Petite Verdot from Santa Barbara County?
Paul Lato and Adam Tolmach - probably discussing Adam's allocation of Paul Lato wines
Selected Tasting Notes
AMPELOS CELLARS: pouring 2 wines

2004 Pinot Noir "Alpha" $25.95.
Lots of bing and black cherry in the nose. Excellent balance, bright, slightly hi-toned. Fantastic 1st effort. 310 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2004 "Syrache" - SBC $22.95.
This nearly 75/25 blend of Syrah and Grenache has lots of dark berry, with just a dollop of raspberry in nose and mouth. Excellent balance, long finish. 210 cases produced. Overall score: B+

Comments: Peter and Rebecca Work's 1st release from their SRH vnyd is terrific. They're off and running now, and the line will form soon for the fruit.

ARCADIAN: pouring 2 wines

2003 Pinot Noir "Fiddlestix" - SRH. $39.95.
Earthy nuances of big fruit and spice, with beautiful balance, and a grippy yet smooth mouthfeel. Very nice! 176 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2003 Syrah "Dierberg" - SMV. $39.95. Lovely nose of ripe red fruit, this bottling has classic Santa Maria Valley ripe cherry fruit, excellent balance and long finish. Drinking beautifully now. 722 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: Joe Davis continues to deliver Pinots that are so different from each other, that it's like being on a tour of California.

AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 5 wines

2004 Pinot Noir "Sanford & Benedict" - SRH. $39.95. A bit tight aromatically, with nice cherry fruit and spice, very well balanced between fruit and acids, and long finish. 150 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2004 Pinot Noir "Knox Alexander" $35.95. Usually one of my favorite bottlings, it too seemed a bit shy and Sourced mostly from Bien Nacido fruit. 500 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2004 Pinot Noir "Isabelle Morgan" $44.95. Lovely nose of perfume, spice and dark cherry. Nice weight and balance on the palate, very tasty finish. Sourced mostly from S&B fruit. 300 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: this year's offerings seem more elegant than the '03s - which is a bit surprising, considering the vintage. The "Isabelle" however seems to pack a lot more fruit on its frame.

BADGE: pouring 1 wine

2004 Pinot Noir "Santa Rita Hills" $29.95.
The '04 marks the second release for this label, and is brimming with cherry and strawberry mingled with juicy acids. Mostly Ashley's fruit, with a bit from Ampelos, this is some really tasty Pinot. Overall score: B+

Comments: former Sanford winemaker Bruno D'Alfonso's "Badge" label will be reserved for Pinot, to augment his Di Bruno Sangiovese.

BECKMEN: pouring 4 wines

2005 Grenache "Purisima Mountain Vineyard" $28.95. Lots of depth to this nose of espresso, raspberry jam and gingerbread. Rich and smooth, with a chewy gripping mouthfeel, and a long tasty finish. Beautiful! 550 cases produced. Overall score: A

2005 Syrah "Purisima Mountain Vineyard Clone 1" $31.95. Huge billowy nose of coffee-laced blackberry. Very chewy mouthfeel, lots of fruit, smooth long finish. 600 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2005 Syrah "Purisima Mountain Vineyard Block Six" $33.95. Imagine the Clone 1 with more herb and earthy nuances, and yo uhave this monster. Espresso-infused black fruit, big and chewy, but beautifully balanced. 300 cases produced. Overall score: A

Comments: the Grenache just gets better and better. The Clone 1 Syrah is excellent, but the Block 6 is outstanding...again!

CARGASACCHI: pouring 2 wines

2005 Pinot Noir "Pt. Concepcion - Salsipuedes" $35.95. Well balanced and almost elegant in nose and texture, the fruit doesn't seem as firmly packed as the Cargasacchi Vnyd offering. 250 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2005 Pinot Noir "Cargasacchi Vnyd" $35.95. Nice earthy scent to the dark fruit. Full bodied, chewy mouthfeel, almost silky finish. 250 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: interesting differences here, with the Pt Concepcion bottling a bit lighter in mouthfeel, yet seemingly more balanced. The Cargasacchi fruit is more structured and a bit bigger on fruit.

CARHARTT: pouring 2 wines

2004 Merlot "Estate" $26.95. Deep and dark nose of dark berry and spice. Dense rich and chewy on the palate, with sweet tannins and huge finish, this is one big concentrated Merlot. 300 cases produced.
Overall score: B+

2004 Syrah "Estate" $26.95. Lovely dried floral and blackberry nose. Big and chewy on the palate, smooth and nicely balanced through the long finish. 280 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: this Merlot could put a lot of Cabs to shame. Where's the beef? Right here - with both of these wines.

CLENDENEN FAMILY: pouring 2 wines

2002 Petite Verdot "Bien Nacido" $23.95. Slightly restrained nose of black and blueberry. Big mouthfeel, loaded with dense chewy fruit, tannic and grippy on the palate, with a massively long finish. 100 cases produced. Overall score: B+

Comments: here's a wine I was dying to try. Given the concentration, this could easily be mistaken for a Petite Sirah, were it not for the distinctive blueberry nose and relatively tight palate.

CORE: pouring 2 wines

2005 Grenache "Alta Mesa Vnyd" $27.95. Nice rich red fruit in the nose. Lovely wild raspberry flavors, ripe and rich, with delicious long finish. 24 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2004 Elevation Sensation - "Alta Mesa Vnyd" $31.95. Nice blend of Mourvedre and Grenache creates a smoky, slightly game-infused wine. Very nice on the palate, and long smooth finish. 150 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: Dave Corey is still knocking out some of best Rhones from SBC. His Alta Mesa Vnyd is way out on the outskirts of the appellation, and the dryness and heat seem to influence the wilder aspects of the fruit.

COSTA DE ORO: pouring 2 wines

2005 Pinot Noir "777" - SMV $23.95. Really nice floral-scented sweet ripe fruit. Ripe dark cherry, with touches of spice and vanilla, and a long smooth finish. This might push the sweet-ripe boundary for some, and it's not overly complex (hey, it's only one clone), but I thought it very tasty -at a really nice price. 25 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2004 Pinot Noir "Reserve Oro Rojo" - SMV. $31.95. Lightly sweet black cherry nose, with a nice grilled toast note. More concentrated and slightly richer that the "777", but seems a bit closed on the palate right now. 125 cases produced. Overall score: B+

Comments: I've not tried a lot of Gary Burk's wines lately, but based on these two - he's definitely someone to keep an eye on.

DARA: pouring 3 wines

2005 Grenache "Larner"- SYV $19.95. Nose of raspberry compote with a bit of cake spice. Smooth, if slightly soft on the palate with good balance and a long lingering finish. 100 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2005 Syrah "Colson Cyn" - SBC $19.95. Lots of blackberry in the nose, with additional tarry aromas. Chewy and rich, with a gripping long finish. 100 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: the winery formerly known as "Duo" has knocked out some fabulous Rhones - at some incredible prices.

DREW FAMILY: pouring 2 wines

2005 Pinot Noir "Gatekeepers"- SRH $27.95. Nose of dark cherry, spice and a hint of toast. Lots of dark cherry fruit on the palate, lovely balance and texture, long tapered finish. 480 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2005 Pinot Noir "Ashley's" - SRH $31.95. Somewhat earthier than the Gatekeepers, with lots of black cherry and a touch of cola. Excellent balance, juicy acids, lively fruit and long finish. 200 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: the "Gatekeepers" keeps getting better, and has become a regular release for Jason Drew, based on blending the fruit from two vineyards from opposite ends of the Santa Rita Hills - Ashley's and Rio Vista.

FIDDLEHEAD: pouring 3wines

2003 Pinot Noir "Lollapalooza" $39.95.
Nose of dark fruit, spice and a touch of earthiness. Rich and full mouthfeel, delicious spiced flavors and finish. 400 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: always one of the more earth-driven vineyards in the SRH, this '03 seems more accessible than previous versions.

HAPPY CANYON: pouring 2 wines

2004 Barrack Merlot "Brand" $31.95. Nose of ripe dark fruit in the nose, this Merlot-based blend seems to pack a big punch from mid-palate onward through the smooth finish. 125 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2004 Barrack Merlot "Ten Goal" $47.95. This is another Merlot-based blend, but the bigger slug of Cab Franc here makes all the difference. Darker, richer and chewier. 125 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: these wines are made by Doug Margerum, and this shows a deft hand with Bordeaux varietals as well as Rhone varietals.

HOLUS BOLUS: pouring 1 wine

2004 Syrah "SBC" $23.95. Striking nose of light tarry dark berry. Moderately rich on the palate, this Syrah is all about balance throughout. 550 cases produced. Overall score: B+

Comments: Sashi Moorman, Peter Hunken, Jim Knight and Chad Melville combined their talents and their separate wines for this label.

HUBER: pouring 1 wine

2005 Pinot Noir "Estate" - SRH $28.95. Lovely bright and slightly sappy dark fruit in the nose. Full and chewy on the palate, but with a nice elegance from mid to later palate. 250 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: the Hubers property is located just across Hwy 246 from Clos Pepe. There are several flower fields nearby, and though it seems crazy, this wine does seem to have an unmistakably difference in aromatics, tending more to the floral side of Pinot Noir.

JELLY ROLL: pouring 1 wine

2005 Syrah "Larner and Stolpman" $27.95
This wine was still going through ML, yet the big sweet dark berry scents were pushing through. Sweet in mouthfeel (even discounting the ML), with plenty of body and chew, and a very long finish. 200 cases produced. Overall score: A-

KENNETH-CRAWFORD: pouring 3 wines.

2004 Pinot Noir "Clos Pepe" $35.95. Nose of black and bing cherry, with a nice touch of spice. Nicely balanced, slightly hi-toned dark cherry through the long finish. 75 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2004 Syrah "Blue Fin" $26.49. A blend of Larner, Purisima and Stolpman fruit, the nose has a nicely integrated dark berry-chocolate-licorice scent. Smooth and delicious, with excellent balance and finish. 300 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2004 Syrah "Purisima Mtn" $29.49.
Slightly more tarry and roasted than the Blue Fin, this wine also seems a bit brighter in fruit profile. Chewy on the palate, with black fruit, excellent balance and long finish. 90 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: Kenneth "Joey" Gummere, and Mark Horvath have produced a lovely trio of wines this time out. The Pinot is very nice - probably more akin to the CP Estate-style, the Blue Fin Syrah is lovely blend of vineyards. The Purisima will take some time, but promises to be killer.



MWC: pouring 1 wine

2005 Pinot Noir "PNO" - SBC. $15.95. This one slayed me: an easy drinking tasty ready-to-go Pinot for $16? Color me skeptical. Yet, nice cherry aromas and flavors, good body and balance, and nice medium-long finish. 1000 cases produced. Overall score: B+

Comments: What! Santa Barbara Pinot Noir for $16? What the.... How the...?

MARGERUM WINE COMPANY: pouring 3 wines

2005 Sauvignon Blanc "Volgelzang" Nose of gooseberry, with light citrusy notes. Round on the palate, with nice acids and terrific balance. $19.95. 175 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2005 M5 $19.95. Nose ofspicy black and red fruit, with a touch of herb. Nice and chewy on the palate, nice fruit-driven flavors, nice balance and smooth long finish. Blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Cinsault from 10 different vineyards. 1200 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2004 Syrah "Alondra de Los Prados" $31.95. Ripe nose of blackberry compote and light herbs. Big mouthfull of wine, with a ton of dark fruit, chewy mouthfeel, and smooth long finish. 50 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: all of these wines are excellent, with the M5 being the no-brainer buy of the bunch. Smooth, silky and ready to please, tis is quite a wine for $20. The Alondra is bigger and a little riper than last year's version.

OJAI: pouring 6 wines

2005 Sauvignon Blanc "Westerly" $22.95. Nose of light citrusy notes, and a touch of clover. Excellent balance, very nice flavors and finish. 550 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2004 Chardonnay "Clos Pepe" $31.95. Nose of ripe pear and lemon. Terrific mouthfeel, excellent balance, very nice flavors through the long finish. 175 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2003 Pinot Noir "Fe Ciega" $51.95.
Deep black cherry, with a bit of earth and spice. Lively palate, with zippy acids, excellent balance, plenty of dark fruit, and long spicy finish. 135 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2004 Syrah "Roll Ranch" $44.95. Dense ripe dark fruit in the nose, with nice notes of spice and herb. Big, no huge in mouthfeel, with massively chewy fruit, very good balance and huge long finish. 550 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2003 Grenache "Purisima Mtn" $34.95. Nose of roasted herb, raspberry, and cake spices. Delicious mouthfeel, nice textures and balance, and long fruit-driven finish.
130 cases produced. Overall score: B+

Comments: very nice lineup from Ojai, with something for everyone. The Fe Ciega PN was excellent, and the Roll Ranch is a behemoth.

PALI: pouring 1 wine

2005 Pinot Noir "Turner Vnyd" - SRH. $28.95. Nose of cherry and black cherry fruit, plenty of spice alonmg with a hint of toast. Seems packed with dark fruit on the palate, excellent balance, very juicy acids, nice long almost crisp finish. 125 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: a Pinot from a new vnyd and a new producer. Is it really that good? Well, do you like the Loring stuff?

RUSACK: pouring 3 wines

2004 Pinot Noir Reserve "Santa Rita Hills" $30.95. 50% Fiddlestix; 25% Rancho Santa Rosa, and 25% Huber. Nice ripe red and black fruit, with touches of earth and spice. Sweet dark cherry fruit, very nice balance and long finish. 300 cases produced. Overall score: B+

2004 "Anacapa" $28.95. 75% Cab Franc, 13% Merlot and 12% Cab Sauv. Beautiful nose of herb-laced cassis, with a light touch of toast. Full mouthfeel, delicious fruit, excellent balance, chewy long finish. 350 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: this '04 Anacapa is a gorgeous Cab Franc-based blend, with more CF and CS in the blend this year. A 10% reduction of Fiddlestix in the pinot seemed to make this offering more round.

SAMSARA: pouring 2 wines

2005 Pinot Noir "Ampelos Vnyd" - SRH $31.95. Bright and slightly hi-toned dark cherry, with a light citrus touch. Lovely mouthfeel, excellent balance and long silky finish. 80 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2005 Syrah "Verna's Vnyd" $31.95. Nose of blackberry, bacon, and herb, with the faintest touch of gardenia. Chewy mouthfeel, lots of black fruit spice and herb, very good balance, and long smooth finish. 80 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: Chad Melville has a couple of beauties here. The Syrah has a small % of Malvasia, giving the nose those floral qualities.

TENSLEY: pouring 3 wines

2005 Syrah "Terra Alta - Clone 99" - SYV $23.95. Dark and a bit peppery in the nose, with slightly brooding fruit, excellent balance, and a very nice underlying texture that gives this wine a very - dare I say it, French quality. 200 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2005 Syrah "Colson Cyn" $23.95. Earthy and a bit meaty, the black fruit here is very smooth on the palate, through the long nicely balanced finish. 800 cases produced. Overall score: A-

2005 Syrah "OGT" $47.95 (magnum). Beautiful nose of black berry compote, with light spice meat and herb notes. Rich mouthfeel, excellent balance, and long smooth chewy finish. 100 cases produced. Overall score: A-

Comments: still some of the most well-balanced, jammiest Syrahs in California - and, at what seem like crazy prices.

Unable to taste and review:

: pouring 2 wines
: pouring 2 wines
CARINA: pouring 2 wines
COLD HAVEN: pouring 1 wine
CURRAN: pouring 1 wine
CURTIS: pouring 2 wines
DI BRUNO: pouring 1 wine
DIERBERG: pouring 2 wines
DOM. DES DEUX MONDES: pouring 1 wine
FLYING GOAT: pouring 2 wines
FOLEY: pouring 2 wines
FOXEN: pouring 4 wines

HITCHING POST: pouring 4 wines
JAFFURS : pouring 2 wines
KAENA : pouring 2 wines
KUNIN: pouring 3 wines
ETHAN LINDQUIST : pouring 2 wines

QUPE: pouring 3 wines
ROCK HOLLOW : pouring 1 wine
SEA SMOKE : pouring 3 wines
VERDAD : pouring 2 wines
WESTERLY : pouring 2 wines
WINE CASK : pouring 2 wines

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