Saturday, March 13, 1999
Report on the 10th annual futures offering sponsored by the Wine Cask restaurant and wine store in Santa Barbara. The event presents tasting of locally grown and/or produced wines from soon-to-be-released vintages, and is usually presented twice during the Spring to accommodate all those interested. The tasting notes compiled below are from the first of this year's tastings. 80 wines from 25 labels were being poured to a sizable crowd at the University Club in downtown SB.
As usual, it just wasn't possible to taste everything being poured (you do know I tried). Considering the limited amount of time, other patrons, etc., one can only accomplish so much. 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 are Futures prices from the Wine Cask, and are generally good through either 4/30 or 5/15/99.
AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 12 wines
1997 Pinot Noir "La Bauges Au-dessus". $44.99. Nose of floral qualities, raspberry, and boysenberry, but with a dishwater aroma in the background. The mouth has decent off-sweet raspberry fruit, but is also stemmy and a bit leafy leading to a somewhat bitter finish. Seems disjointed. B
BABCOCK: pouring 3 wines
1997 Pinot Noir "Grand Cuvee ". $31.99. Fleshy-smelling nose of strawberry and spices, with a bit of stem. Slightly tart, but very full, fleshy, and young mouthfeel. Nice long finish. A-
BLACKJACK RANCH: pouring 1 wine
1997 Cabernet Sauvignon "Wilkening Vnyd". $23.99. Nose of cassis and ink well, with a somewhat lean and leafy quality. Good core of fruit, fleshy mouthfeel, with lots of tar, anise, and ...yep, ink. B+Overall Comments: the first offering [that I'm aware of] from Roger Wisted. Program notes state that the fruit was sourced from the Wilkening Vnyd in Los Olivos, while his own vnyd matures. Also, the name is a play on his invention of a CA legal blackjack game (sorry, this is about wine - I'm not going there).
BREWER-CLIFTON: pouring 4 wines
1998 Pinot Noir "Julia's Vnyd". $23.99. Decidedly floral nose, with notes of strawberry, plus a bit of weed and stem. Good concentration of fruit, fleshy and stemmy mouthfeel. B+
DI BRUNO: pouring 2 wines
1997 Sangiovese "Stolpman Vineyard". $14.99. Nose of spicy strawberry, black cherry, and pomegranate. Big mouthfeel and sweet chewy fruit. Excellent tannins and acids for a nice dry grip, and a long spicy finish. A-Overall Comments: caution! This is not your dad's Chianti Classico! A lot is written about Cal-Itals as a group not being varietally correct. But, that's all a lot of hooey. Good wine is good wine! The mouthfeel on this Sangiovese was terrific, and the nose was no slouch, either. Yeah! Bru-no...Bru-no...Bru-no!
FOXEN: pouring 4 wines
1998 Mourvédre "Rothberg Vineyard". $20.75. Fleshy nose, with hits of beet, leaf, and lots of floral components (nearly a Cab Franc quality). Cool and fleshy mouthfeel, with raspberry, perfume and leafy notes. B+
GAINEY: pouring 1 wine
1996 Merlot "Limited Selection". $19.99. Nose of cassis, black cherry, major floral qualities, and spice. Stemmy and a bit herbal/veggie as well. Big, tannic and oaky mouthfeel of what appears to be slightly underripe fruit. The wine does feel fleshy and stemmy in the mouth, and the "green" fruit may likely wear off. Very nice finish, if still a bit leafy. B ...for nowOverall Comments: nice to see Gainey here again. This selection had a huge mouthfeel, but the fruit was just a little too green tasting to make the wine a contender.
HARTLEY-OSTINI: pouring 4 wines
1997 Pinot Noir "Santa Maria Valley". $19.99. Nose of strawberry and a bit of clove and cinnamon. Light-medium body, and very floral and meaty tasting. Medium-long finish. B+
JAFFURS WINE CELLAR: pouring 1 wine
1998 Syrah "Stolpman Vineyard". $21.99. Very meaty and fleshy nose of blackberry and briar aromas. Slightly sweet mouthfeel of raspberry and boysenberry fruit. Bit of fizz noted. Long finish. A-Overall Comments: another nice job from Craig Jaffurs. Just about everything that comes out of the Stolpman Vnyd is aces.
ANDREW MURRAY VINEYARDS: pouring 2 wines
1997 Syrah "Roasted Slope". $14.99. Nose of blackberry, black cherry, briar, stems, honey, and some floral aspects. Very, very fleshy mouthfeel of young wine. Flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and a touch of shoe polishy stuff. This sample was still a bit spritzy. About 5% Viognier. B+
PALMINA: pouring 1 wine
1998 Nebbiolo. $27.99. Light extraction. Very floral, dried cherry, dried flower nose. Big dose of stern acids, sweet but dried fruits, and a bit hot through long finish. BOverall Comments: yeah, I know what you're thinking...oh no, not another one of those flabby Cal-Itals. Well, yes and no. Poured from a huge Ultra decanter, the nose was positively full, fleshy and grabbing. But, the mouthfeel immediately addresses the usual charge that these Cal renditions don't have any backbone. Okay, it's not a real Nebbiolo, but it is a real attempt at the style, and I'm interested to see where this wine goes in future vintages. The fruit is sourced from the [fast becoming famous] Stolpman Vnyd.
OJAI VINEYARD: pouring 5 wines
1997 Pinot Noir "Pisoni Vnyd". $44.99. Lovely nose of strawberry and wild cherry. Big, but very fleshy and silky in mouthfeel. Bit of heat noted on sweet long finish. B+
QUPE: pouring 4 wines
1997 Los Olivos Cuvée. $14.99. Medium nose of raspberry, boysenberry, and some floral qualities. Pleasant mouthfeel, if slightly soft on the palate. B
SANFORD: pouring 3 wines
1997 Pinot Noir "Barrel Select". $33.99. Black cherry, shoe polish, and strawberry nose. Good fleshy and stemmy mouthfeel, if seemingly a bit thin on fruit. Long, slightly bitter finish. B+Overall Comments: here's possibly another case where I think the vintage conditions thinned out the apparent fruit in the mouthfeel.
TALLEY: pouring 5 wines
1997 Pinot Noir "Estate". $21.99. Very nice nose of strawberry and candied apple, and just a hint of stems. Fleshy, off-sweet fruit, full mouthfeel, and long slightly tart finish. A-
VITA NOVA: pouring 2 wines
1997 Sangiovese "Austin Vnyd". $14.99. Lots of green bean here, with just a hint of red fruit. Very good mouthfeel, slightly sweet fruit, and residual tannins through medium long finish. B
ZACA MESA: pouring 1 wine
1998 Mourvedre. Garnet purple color, quite dark and opaque. Sweet blackberry nose. Big and smooth mouthfeel. Weighty and very chewy on the palate, with soft tannins and a long finish. B+Overall Comments: nice effort from Zaca, once again. I liked this a little better than the Foxen rendition.
Unable to taste and review:
BRANDER: pouring 3 wines.
Final comments: The Wine Cask continues to do a fabulous job on this annual event. The wines and the food are great, and there's always a feeling of excitement among the participants and attendees. At $25, it is a bargain for any tasting. The attendance at this first tasting seemed a little lighter this year, which made negotiating the rooms a lot easier than in previous years.
Among the stars of this event were the Jaffurs, Babcock, and Ojai Roll Ranch Syrahs. And, the Talley Rosemary and Rincon bottlings were some beautiful Pinots. Babcock delivered a trio of very good wines, and Di Bruno's Sangiovese was a nice surprise. Most of the Syrahs I tasted were very good, as were many of the Pinots. But, others just didn't seem to live up to their potential.
Unfortunately, 1997 was not kind to the crop. And when the grapes can't deliver the extraction or flavors, the winemakers just can't work their usual magic. ABC turned out to be my biggest disappointment. And, largely thin fruit seemed to be the culprit.
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