1998 Santa Barbara Wine Futures Tasting


Saturday, March 14, 1998

Report on the 9th 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 first of this year's tastings. 86 wines from 24 labels were being poured to a sizable crowd at the University Club in downtown SB.

Unfortunately, it just wasn't possible to taste everything (though I definitely tried). Considering the limited amount of time, other patrons, etc., one can only accomplish so much. I tried to concentrate on the reds, and managed to taste the majority of them - nearly all of which were pretty darn fine. Scores are an alpha rating, based on my overall opinion of the wine's nose and taste.

Wines listed in order tasted.

AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 13 wines; tasted 9:

1996 Chardonnay "Arroyo Grande - Reserve Talley". Nose of toasty smoky lemon. Clean and crisp, if not big and effusive. Lovely mouthfeel with smoky nuance to the fruit. A-

1997 Chardonnay "Alban Vnyd ". Nose of oak, lemon and meat. Very sweet fruit in the mouth; nearly a residual sugar component. Excellent acids, and a very meaty, chewy and long finish. A

1996 Chardonnay "Le Bauge d'a-cote". Nose of mint, lees, lime and toast. Mouthfilling creamy sauce texture of wild mushrooms and lemony fruit. This was some decadent stuff. A-

1996 Chardonnay "Sanford & Benedict Vnyd". Yong, crisp and nearly puckery nose. Full mouthfeel of citrus and light oak. Very long, slightly puckery finish. This was just a little too highly strung for my blood. B+

1996 Pinot Noir "La Bauges au-dessus". Nose of raspberry, black cherry, and boysenberry. The mouth is a mass of jammy raspberry; slightly stemmy and lush fruit. Meaty and very nice, with a long finiah. A

1996 Pinot Noir "Arroyo Grande - Piccho-Rincon Vnyd". Strawberry, cinnamon, and black cherry. Nearly candied nose. Raspberry fruit, with a full meaty taste. Very seamless fruit. A

1996 Pinot Noir "Sanford & Benedict Vnyd". Strawberry, raspberry, and meaty nose. Young and slightly meaty mouthfeel, with big fruit and excellent acids. A-

1996 Pinot Noir "Isabelle". Raspberry and mint. Warm and meaty flavors, with a stiff backbone of acid. A

1996 Pinot Noir "Talley - Rosemary's Vnyd". Meaty raspberry nose. Good fleshy mouthfeel, with virtually no stemmy quality to it. A

Overall Comments: I had really only intended to taste the Pinot Noirs, but after starting with one Chard…well, let's just say oink, oink.

ICI/LA-BAS: pouring 1 wine; tasted 1.

1996 Pinot Noir "Les Reveles". Floral, and nearly a candied-sweet nose. Young mouthfeel, with almost a Kool-Aid grainess to its texture and somewhat flabby and bitter fruit, at least when compared to the ABC lineup. B+
Overall Comments: the ICI/La-Bas line are the Oregon Pinots from ABC. To me, the Oregon fruit can be somewhat heavier and arguably jammier that many Calif Pinots. Also, with generally less acids, the Oregon siblings seem to lack a crisp punch. That being said, when you just gotta have the jam....

TALLEY: pouring 5 wines; tasted 3.

1996 Pinot Noir "Estate". Very nice nose of raspberry, and just a hint of cranberry. Quite accessible, with slightly bitter fruit, full mouthfeel, and long finish. B+

1996 Pinot Noir "Rincon". Restrained nose of light raspberry. Fleshy and stemmy in the mouth, this is a nice wine, but not particularly distinctive. B+

1996 Pinot Noir "Rosemary's Vnyd". Restrained nose of strawberry and cinnamon. Meaty mouthfeel, with strawberry flavors. A-

Overall Comments: this may just be a stylistic difference between the two, but I definitely prefer the wines that ABC produces using Talley's fruit (Rincon, Rosemary's).

OJAI VINEYARD: pouring 9 wines; tasted 5.

1996 Pinot Noir "Pisoni Vnyd". Stunning violet purple color. A very syrah-like nose of blackberry and raspberry, with a wild cherry thread. Huge, extra ripe fruit on the palate, along with a healthy dose of rosewater and other floral qualities. This tastes like some kind of wild hybrid. I frankly don't know how to rate such a wine. So, for now…B+

1996 Pinot Noir "Bien Nacido". Floral and raspberry nose. Wide band of fruit in mouth. Surprisingly big mouthfeel. Floral and beautiful. A-

1996 Syrah "Stolpman Vnyd". Shoe polish, strawberry, blackberry. Sweet smelling, but not the least Porty. A stunner! Very fruity, with big mouthfeel. A-

1996 Syrah "Bien Nacido". Dense purple color. Nose of shoe polish, raspberry, boysenberry, and cinnamon. Big chewy mouthfeel, with flavors of raspberry and blackberry. A

1996 Syrah "Roll Ranch". Purple and inky color. Nose of shoe polish and blackberry. A bit backward in the mouth, but major blackberry, raspberry flavors. Smooth, with silky tannins. Yeow! A

Overall Comments: and now, into Syrah country. Once again, Ojai has come up with a trio of fantastic Syrahs. In times past, I've been slightly more enamored of the Bien Nacido, but this time the Roll Ranch came in as my favorite. The Pisoni Pinot has to get my vote for the most unusual wine of the show. Tastes and smells like 1/3 Pinot, 1/3 Syrah, and 1/3 American Beauty rose, making it some kind of mad scientist wine. Pour me some more!

ZACA MESA: pouring 2 wines; tasted 2.

1997 Mourvedre "Chapel Vnyd". Garnet purple color. Sweet blackberry nose. Very warm fruit mouthfeel, with blackberry, chocolate, cinnamon, and a hint of game. B+

1996 Syrah "Mesa Block". Young looking, very dark and purple. Nose of boysenberry, blackberry, shoe polish, and floral notes. Ripe, yet young mouthfeel. Solid core of fruit; very smooth. Nice stuff. Has 5% Viognier. A-

Overall Comments: a very nice job on both wines. The Chapel Vnyd has always been a dependable source of fruit, but the biggest treat was this Syrah, which was from an older block of vines.

QUPE: pouring 6 wines; tasted 2.

1996 Syrah "Bien Nacido Reserve". Medium extract. Nose of Raspberry, boysenberry, and floral qualities. Nice mouthfeel, if slightly soft on the palate. B+

1996 Syrah "Hillside Estate". Deep, dark and purple. Solid and stunningly rich nose of black cherry, blackberry, and boysenberry. Big, fleshy mouthfeel; a real lip-smacker. A-

Overall Comments: the Hillside is certainly the best of the two. But, in any event, I think the Ojai is better.

HARTLEY-OSTINI: pouring 6 wines; tasted 6.

1996 Pinot Noir "Santa Maria Valley". Nose of black cherry and cinnamon - nearly candied. Sweet fruit initially, the mouthfeel gets fleshy and soft. Crisp medium-long finish, that imparts a little bitter and stemmy quality. B+

1996 Pinot Noir "Bien Nacido". Garnet purple color. Nose of black cherry, meat, smoked wood, and cinnamon. Very young mouthfeel, yet plenty of chewy sweet fruit. A-

1996 Pinot Noir "Sanford & Benedict". Garnet color. Smoky, cherry, and meaty nose. Fleshy and slightly stemmy in the mouth. Full long finish. A-

1996 Pinot Noir "Highliner". Medium extraction. Fascinating nose of wild mushroom, blackberry, and a meaty feral quality. Wow! Warm fruits and a mature mouthfeel that are simply killer. A blend of 40% Bien Nacido, 40% Riverbench, and 20% Sanford & Benedict. A

1996 Syrah. Slightly soft nose of black raspberry and floral notes. Fleshy and fruity mouthfeel. Very nice and elegant rendition. Fruit from Fess Parker's property. B+

1996 Petite Sirah. Inky dark color. Massive, nearly impenetrable nose of black fruits. Fabulously chewy. Fleshy and big. A-

Overall Comments: always with dependable Pinots, Hartley-Ostini (aka Hitching Post), has done a very nice Syrah, and a stand-up-a-spoon-up-in-it Petite Sirah.

ANDREW MURRAY VINEYARDS: pouring 4 wines; tasted 4.

1996 Syrah "South Slope". Nice nose of blackberry and black cherry. Big, concentrated mouthfeel, with ample tannins. The new French oak really shows. What a lip-sticking monster! A

1996 Syrah "Hillside Reserve". Attractive blackraspberry, cinnamon and floral notes. Very big mouthfeel, with soft tannins and a nice refinement. A-

Overall Comments: both these wines are new, with the Hillside likely to remain part of the AM stable. The South Slope was a real beast though, consisting of one barrel selected by the Wine Cask from a single vineyard just for this futures event. I'd sure like to see this become a regular part of the cast as well.

FOXEN: pouring 3 wines; tasted 3.

1997 Mourvédre "Rothberg Vineyard". Warm leathery and fleshy nose. Warm and fleshy mouthfeel, with raspberry, and chocolate notes. B+

1996 "Cuvée Jeanne Marie". Nose of raspberry, blackberry, and leather. Nice medium mouthfeel, with raspberry and blackberry fruit. Medium long finish. 50% Syrah, 50% Mourvédre. B+

1996 Cabernet "Ma Mere". Cassis and just the vaguest hint of green bean. Full, young mouthfeel, with very nice fruit. B+

Overall Comments: I felt last year's Mourvédre was a bit better than this year's. The Cuvée is quite interesting. Refined and fruity, I would compare it to a Phelps Le Mistral if it had more floral nuances.

BABCOCK: pouring 3 wines; tasted 2.

1996 Sangiovese "Eleven Oaks". Nose of cherry, strawberry, and spices. Full, spicy mouthfeel, and good finish. B+

1996 "Fathom Claret". Rich nose of cassis and raspberry. Fleshy and stemmy mouthfeel, but has a slight Kool-Aid graininess to the finish. 72% Cab Franc, 28% Cab. B+

Overall Comments: nice effort on the Sangiovese.

JAFFURS WINE CELLAR: pouring 2 wine; tasted 2.

1997 Syrah "Bien Nacido". Nose of blackraspberry and cedar. Very full and rich mouthfeel, with flavors of raspberry and boysenberry. Long finish. A-

1997 Syrah "Thompson Vineyard". Nose of raspberry and matchstick. Very fat and fleshy mouthfeel, and a big chewy consistency. A-

Overall Comments: nice job on both wines. This label's coming along very quickly. I liked the Bien Nacido nose the best, but the mouthfeel of the Thompson was great. Hopefully, the "matchstick" will turn out to be nothing at all.

IL PODERE DELL' OLIVOS: pouring 4 wines; tasted 1.

1996 Barbera Riserva "Ragazzo Legnoso". Medium-bodied Barbera. Nose of smoky fruit. Good mouthfeel, but slightly sour and acidic finish. Blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo. B
Overall Comments: a quaffer with the right pasta.

SANFORD: pouring 3 wines; tasted 1.

1996 Pinot Noir "Barrel Select". Black cherry, shoe polish, and strawberry nose. Young, full and smooth mouthfeel. Long finish. A-
Overall Comments: could the Barrel Select Pinot ever be anything but good?

VITA NOVA: pouring 2 wines; tasted 2.

1996 Sangiovese-Merlot. Now this is fabulous stuff…again! This year's version is 50/50 Merlot and Sangiovese, higher in Merlot than last year's edition. The difference comes through both in its slightly fleshier nose and in its chewiness. Great! A-

1995 Reservatum. Cassis and spice nose. Firm and juicy mouthfeel. Long finish. 75% Cab, 25% Sangiovese. B+

Overall Comments: once again this year, these Vita Nova blends are really something. Fine effort.


Unable to taste and review:

BRANDER: pouring 4 wines.
BREWER-CLIFTON: pouring 5 wines.
Cold Heaven: pouring 1 wine.
COSTA DE ORO: pouring 1 wine.
DI BRUNO: pouring 1 wine.
DOMAINE SANTA BARBARA: pouring 4 wines.
MAKOR: pouring 2 wines.
WINE CASK: pouring 7 wines:
MARGERUM NEGOCIANTS: pouring 2 wines.


Final comments: The Wine Cask does a fabulous job on this annual event. The wines and the food are great, and there's a feeling of camaraderie among all the participants and attendees. At $25, it is a veritable bargain for any tasting.

Most of the Syrahs I tasted were fabulous. I would stack these up against any New World offering for flavor and complexity. Many of the Rhone and Tuscan blends were excellent as well. ABC seems to be at the top of their game with these '96 Pinots, and the Pinots from Hartley-Ostini were winners as well. The Ojai Pinot from Pisoni Vnyd has to go down as the most memorable (unusual) wine at the tasting.

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