1997 Santa Barbara Wine Futures Tasting
Saturday, April 5, 1997
Report on the 8th annual futures offering sponsored by the Wine
Cask restaurant and wine store in Santa Barbara. This event presents
tasting of locally grown and/or produced wines from soon-to-be-released
vintages. The event is usually presented twice in the Spring to accommodate
all those interested. The tasting notes compiled below are from the second
of this year's tastings. 93 wines from 25 labels were being poured to
a fairly sizable crowd at the University Club in downtown SB. Unfortunately,
it just wasn't possible to taste everything, what with a limited amount
of time, other patrons, etc. (most notably missing all those ABC Chards).
However, I tried to concentrate on the reds, and managed to nail quite
a few of them - most of which were pretty darn fine, I might add. So,
on with the show. Scores are an alpha rating (just like in school). Listed
in order tasted.
WINE CASK: pouring 7 wines; tasted 2:
1987 Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine. Light yellow color.
Very yeasty nose and mouthfeel. Long smooth finish. A discussin' kind
of wine. B+
1987 Rosé Sparkling Wine. Fairly deep and dark rose color.
Somewhat odd and funky nose, with both feral and dank earthy qualities.
Similar notes found in mouthfeel and finish. I could probably warm up
to this with time, but for now...B-
Overall Comments: this was the 1st table inside the
door, and instead of digging right in with the reds as I'd promised
myself, I dallied with a couple of sparklers. In retrospect, I'm remorseful
to have not tried their very affordable reds: a Mélange, a Claret,
and a Reserve Pinot as well.
MARGERUM NEGOCIANTS: pouring 2 wines; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: served at the Wine Cask table. Didn't try
either of the two.
ANDREW MURRAY VINEYARDS: pouring 4 wines; tasted 4.
1996 Roussanne. Light touch of peaches and melon in nose;
ditto in mouth. Seemed a bit restrained on general mouthfeel. B+
1996 Viognier. Light flavors of peach and apricot. Good medium
body. Nice enough I suppose, but I still can't warm up to the varietal.
What's all the fuss? B
1995 Syrah. Deep, rich black fruits apparent in both nose and
taste. Nice extraction and mouthfeel. Wanting just a bit at finish.
1996 Esperance. The floral qualities and Grenaché nose
just blast out of the glass. Reminiscent of many of the Phelps Vin du
- Overall Comments: I'm probably not the best person to judge
the Rhone whites (they're just not my bag). But, on the other hand,
I think Murray does some very elegant reds. That being said, I'd like
to see a little more extraction on the Syrah, though. I wanna paint
the barn, rather than just stain it.
HARTLEY-OSTINI: pouring 4 wines; tasted 4.
1995 "Santa Maria Valley" Pinot Noir. Very smooth and
quite accessible now. Full flavors of strawberry, cola, and cinnamon.
Nice juice. A-
1995 "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Pinot Noir. This has a knockout
nose, but the current mouthfeel and flavors fall a little short. B+
...at least for now.
1995 "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard" Pinot Noir. Still a bit
young and tight. As with most of the S/B Vnyd Pinots, some bottle aging
is necessary to smooth out the bumps and stretch out the flavors. B+
1995 "California" Zinfandel. Very nice spicy raspberry. Succulent
fruit and nice full mouthfeel. Nice job, guys.B+
- Overall Comments: Solid Pinots as always. Pound for pound,
they turn out a fabulous product. With good weight and balance, yet
with elegant nuances, they seem more Burgundian than their Russian
River siblings. I find the more accessible "Santa Maria" bottling
to be my favorite -- at least for now.
BABCOCK: pouring 4 wines; tasted
- Overall Comments: only pouring whites, and having dedicated
myself to all that is red, I passed. Wish they'd have brought the
JAFFURS WINE CELLAR: pouring 1 wine; tasted 1.
1996 Syrah "Thompson Vineyard". The fruit for this bottling
is from the Los Alamos area, and they've apparently done a blending of
wine from both new and old barrels. The effect is quite nice on all counts,
but I'd sure like to have tasted the two lots side-by-side. B+
- Overall Comments: First time I've had this label, which is
appears to be earning a name for itself by word of mouth. Having had
this Syrah, I've heard the word, and the word is good.
FOXEN: pouring 3 wines; tasted 2.
1996 Mourvédre "Rothberg Vineyard". Fabulously
fleshy fruit (yes, this is unabashed alliteration), combined with a rather
decent backbone. Many times this varietal comes out a little too vague.
Not this time. A-
1995 Cabernet Sauvignon "Ma Mére Vineyard". Hmmm. The
program notes on this wine make mention of "...little, no--make that
none, of the herbal, green pepper component...." to be found. True enough.
However, it seems that they've unintentionally substituted green beans
in its place. Ma says, eat your vegetables kids.
- Overall Comments: yeah, maybe one can trash Mourvédre
as pedestrian or as just a blending grape. But, anyone who makes a
"serious" Chenin Blanc, like Foxen,would surely due this grape justice
-- and they did! The Cab is serious as well -- serious green bean!
However, this is an acquired taste, and I'm afraid I've been drinking
too many No. Calif. Reds lately to have this Green Mack truck slip
through the checkpoint unnoticed.
CAMBRIA: pouring 4 wines; tasted 3
1996 Pinot Noir "Reserve Clone-Lot T". Fabulous nose
and mouthfeel. Very light extraction, but nothing is missing in flavors
or components. Sleek stuff. A-
1996 Pinot Noir "Reserve Clone-Lot L". Though somewhat closed
to the nose, this appears to be the most Burgundian of the trio on the
palate, with meat and strawberry and cola flavors apparent. B+
1996 Pinot Noir "Reserve Clone-Lot V". Seems a touch cold and
maybe green to the nose at present. Good extraction, even slightly chewy
on the palate. B+
- Overall Comments: Very interesting trio of Pinots. Once again,
I was more enamored with the immediately accessible wine from a group
of Pinots. Shame on me.
TALLEY: pouring 4 wines; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: Apparently they had run out of the "Rincon"
Pinot earlier, thus all that was left was great Chardonnay. But...wait...(whining)
I'm not doing Chardonnay.
SANFORD: pouring 3 wines; tasted 1.
1995 "Barrel Select" Pinot Noir. Young, with just a hint
of stern backbone. Yet, the whole package is quite elegant and friendly.
Small spike of heat at the finish of this otherwise beautiful wine. A-
- Overall Comments: poured both the Estate and Barrel Select
Chards, but not the Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, I seem to recall that
the source for the SB fruit will not be available sometime in the
future. Pity. The Sanford Sauvignon Blanc is/was excellent.
DI BRUNO: pouring 1 wines; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: this entry was a Pinot Grigio made by the
Sanford winemaker and was handled by the Sanford table. Under other
circumstances I'd have loved to have tried this wine. But, not now.
AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 11 wines; tasted 1:
1995 Pinot Noir "Mistral Vnyd - Selected Dijon Clones"
Light ruby-cherry color. Fabulous nose of raspberry and cherry, spice,
and a Burgundian meatiness in the nose. On the palate, very fat with expansive
fruit and a long finish. A-
- Overall Comments: undoubtedly, this was a major bungle. ABC
was pouring a Pinot Gris, a Pinot Blanc, 5 Chardonnays, and 4 Pinot
Noirs. Quite a range. Unfortunately, I neglected to notice this (or
even remember it from the program announcement), so by the time I
got to the table, it looked as though only one Pinot was left. This
should be a lesson to me. But, it probably won't be.
ICI/LA-BAS: pouring 1 wine; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: missed this Pinot also. Major bungle, part
BREWER-CLIFTON: pouring 4 wines; tasted 2
1996 Pinot Noir "Gold Coast". From a Los Alamos area
vnyd, this wine was very smoky and floral. Burnished cherries on the palate.
1996 Pinot Noir "Santa Maria Hills". Nice. Black cherry, cola,
and spice. Very seductive and lush. B+
- Overall Comments: I think these guys, ex-winemakers from
Rancho Sisquoc and Sunstone, have combined to be a very formidable
Pinot force in the area. Time will tell. Extremely low production
of 24 and 50 cases respectively.
SANTA BARBARA WINERY: pouring 2 wines; tasted 1.
1995 Cabernet Franc. Nice boysenberry and black raspberry
fruit, combined with a touch too much of green tobacco, or possibly under
ripe fruit. Full mouthfeel and good balance. B
- Overall Comments: I haven't tried this varietal from SBW
before. Considering the local talent in this varietal arena (Bedford-Thompson,
Foxen), they'll have to do some growing to measure up to the big boys.
BRANDER: pouring 4; tasted 2.
1995 Bouchet. Slight amount of veggie coming through,
probably due to the increase in Cabernet Sauvignon at the expense of Cab
Franc in this particular vintage. Nice nose; a little thin and bitter
on the palate, though. I wish he'd used more Cab Franc in the final blend.
1994 High-Density Vineyard Cabernet. Hmmm. Not sure what to
make of this very mouth filling wine. It seems very backward at this
point, which may or may not improve (duh!). B-
- Overall Comments: The "green" qualities that generally permeate
the SB/SY Cabs are, once again, an acquired taste (for some people,
a distaste). I particularly like the green olive and green pea; but,
particularly dislike the green bean. In Brander's case, this veggie
quality was only a minor background issue.
DOMAINE SANTA BARBARA: pouring 4 wines; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: pouring one Pinot, but I never got there.
COSTA DE ORO: pouring 2 wines; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: pouring one Pinot, but I didn't seem to
run across this label; sorry to have missed it. I've just got
to pay closer attention.
Cold Heaven: pouring 1 wine; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: pouring one Viognier, I didn't seem to
run across this label either. Not sure I'd have been interested anyway.
ZACA MESA: pouring 0 wines; tasted none.
- Overall Comments: a no-show. The sign-in table didn't offer
any reason for their absence, either. They weren't scheduled to pour
their Syrahs, but i was looking forward to the Mourvédre. Maybe
they don't need the press.
OJAI VINEYARD: pouring 8 wines; tasted 3.
1995 "Bien Nacido" Syrah. Absolutely lovely color and
nose. Plums, spices, and some bacon fat make for a very smooth and amiable
mid palate. Lingering finish. Just flat out delicious now, and sure to
improve for awhile. A-
1995 "Roll Ranch" Syrah. Nice dark fruits and touch more floral
in the nose. Flavors of spice, oak, and blackberry. Medium-long finish.
1995 "California" Syrah. The weaker fruit of the trio. The wine
hasn't a great deal of complex elements in either nose or mouthfeel.
And yet, it's very quaffable. B
- Overall Comments: as always, Ojai does a great job with its
Syrahs. It this flight, the "Bien Nacido" just knocks my socks off.
IL PODERE DELL' OLIVOS: pouring 5 wines; tasted 1.
1996 Barbera Riserva "Ragazzo Legnoso". This was a medium-bodied
Barbera, with a hint of smoky fruit on nose and palate. B
- Overall Comments: I've had better (Rabbit Ridge), and I've
had worse (Mastanuano). I'd rank this one closer to some of the best..
QUPE: pouring 7 wines; tasted 2
1995 Los Olivos Cuvée. Though the nose is very
seductive, this Rhone blend (50/50 Syrah and Mourvédre) comes across
as a touch thin on the palate. Light and elegant finish. B
1995 Syrah "Bien Nacido Reserve". Very nice color and nose.
Some floral qualities, in addition to the ample fruit. Slightly less
body than the Ojai B/N. B+
- Overall Comments: This version of the '95 "Bien Nacido" Syrah
comes in 2nd when paired against the Ojai version. But, just by a
small margin. They were apparently pouring a "Hillside Estate" Syrah
(which was supposed to be a killer), but I didn't see it table side.
Guess I should've asked.
VITA NOVA: pouring 2 wines; tasted 2.
1994 Reservatum. Not quite as forward or succulent as
I 'd hoped for, this medium-full bodied wine seems to want more age. B
1995 Sangiovese-Merlot. Now this is fabulous stuff. The 2/3
Sangiovese delivers lots of strawberry-plum flavors in nose and mouth,
with the Merlot fleshing out the middle of the wine. Wow! A-
- Overall Comments: One of my favorite Vita Nova wines has
been their Cab Franc. I may have to revise my overall scorecard considering
this great Sangiovese-Merlot. Kudos.
MAKOR: pouring 2 wines; tasted none.
1996 Zinfandel. Sort of an old-fashioned style Zin, this
comes off a bit heavy or plodding. Since this is a '96 (?), I've got to
think that we're not seeing the wine at its best. I didn't ask, but I
think it's fair to assume that more time in cask is required here, and
suspect that after that and some bottle age, a much different wine will
emerge. B (for now.)
- Overall Comments: Pouring a Pinot Blanc and a Zin, I haven't
been overly impressed in previous tastings of this label's wines,
so I wanted to give them another try. No news to report.
Final comments: The Wine Cask produced an expertly organized and
conducted tasting in a perfect setting. It was especially nice both to
see and to have many of the winery principals, such as Jim Clendenen and
Andrew Murray, pouring their wines. The Wine Cask-supplied catering gets
an A+. Empty, or nearly empty, trays of hors d'oeuvres were wisked away,
and immediately replaced by newly filled ones. A new benchmark in tastings.
All I really needed was a battle plan...oh, and more time.
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