Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Drink What You Like for NYE

Drink what you love. That seems simple enough. But especially around this time of year, it's easy to believe we deserve to indulge in special potable treats, and it's easy to look to professionals on how to indulge in those treats. So we read up and assume high scores are the highway to nirvana. If that fails, we might pay a whole heck of a lot on a bottle as that must mean something, and then assume we're drinking an amazing wine.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sip This: Acinum Valpolicella Ripasso

Acinum Valpolicella Ripasso DOP 2014: If people know valpolicella, a red grape from the Veneto in northern Italy, it’s usually the “standard” version, a pleasing, fruit-forward light wine. But when it’s a ripasso, or “repassed,” version, things change quite a bit. In the case of this Acinum, that means there’s a second fermentation with the marc, which are the leftover skins, stems, and so forth from the production of the dried-grape-wine style called amarone.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Indy's site.

Winemaker Aaron Watty Play Chef

Aaron Watty, the man behind Big Tar Wines, can seem to contain multitudes. A bear of a man at well over six feet, he’s a waiter at bouchon, was a wine buyer at Wine Cask, served as assistant winemaker for Longoria Wines, and even once worked as a model. But all that doesn’t negate his dramatically failed first attempt to pass a UCSB communications course.

Want ot read the rest then do so at the Indy's site.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pascale Beale Roots for Fruit

In the introduction to her latest lovely cookbook, Pascale Beale writes, “What could be more tempting than a perfectly ripe fruit?” Turns out the answer is to have that fruit in one of the recipes from this mouth-watering book, Les Fruits, photographed by Mike Verbois and published by Santa Barbara’s own M27 Editions.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Indy's site.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sip This: Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto

Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto: It’s finally that time of year to stand beside a roaring fire and pretend we live somewhere really cold. You need something fitting to drink to help create that fantasy, and port is an apropos choice. But this fortified (that is, enhanced with distilled alcohol) wine from Portugal can often either seem out-of-date or out of one’s price comfort level.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Indy's site.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Strong Spirits for the Holidays

Santa has it hard, children. If you believe he visits all the houses around the world in one night, realize that it's a task as tricky as completing the torturous drive west on the 10 freeway from Santa Monica to downtown on a Friday night under 20 minutes. Even if you just believe he's Mom or Dad, "Santa" still has to buy the presents, wrap them up, and place them under the tree without waking you.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sip This: Jose Cuervo’s Reserva de la Familia

Jose Cuervo’s Reserva de la Familia The Rolling Stones Collectors’ Edition: It turns out Mick, Keith, and the guys like to drink. Who knew?

The packaging of this bottle commemorates The Rolling Stones’ longstanding love of tequila, but it’s what’s inside the bottle that makes this a true find for the agave lover on your holiday gift list.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Indy's site.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gunpowder, Feathers, and Poets--Oh, My!

Lisa Osborn was kind enough to do this amazing podcast about the state of poetry in Santa Barbara. I read one of my poems at 11:54, but you should listen to the whole thing, with the history of Gunpowder Press and a host of fine writers reading their work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Mile High Wine Club: An Interview with an Airline Sommelier

When L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti claims, "LAX will be the busiest Thanksgiving airport in the country for a third year in a row," you assume that he says that with a unique mix of pride and worry. For many of us, this weekend kicks off a stretch of air travel, whether jetting off to somewhere fun or somewhere obligatory.

So that makes it time to look at how airlines choose how you arrive properly lubricated. American Airlines has spent a lot of time and money ($2 billion "to enhance the entire customer travel experience") of late, and one part of that is upgrading their wine service, particularly for Business and First Classes. For its inaugural flight to and from Los Angeles to Sydney on December 17th, you can savor pours from a rare $850 bottle of 2010 Penfolds Grange, one of Australia's most esteemed wines.

American Airlines has also been working with wine consultant Ken Chase to update its lists. SoCal Spirits interviewed Chase recently about his work with American.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Sip This: Habit Red Blend

2012 Habit Wine Company Red: Jeff Fischer started out as a garagiste and still makes a small amount of wine to which he pays very keen attention.

Want to read the rest, then do so at the Independent's site.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Five & a 1/4: New Wine Bar Goes Old World

(Photo courtesy/"borrowed" from Five & a 1/4's website.)

From the mouths of babes come names of wine bars. That was the case for business partners Jeremy Bohrer (of Still, the cocktail supply store on Ortega Street) and Sayward Rebhal (healthy lifestyle blogger at when they were trying to name their new spot, an afternoon-to-evening collaboration inside Pacific Crêpes, which is Still’s Anacapa Street neighbor.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Outside the Box Drinking for Thanksgiving

Perhaps no holiday can seem as traditional as Thanksgiving. It's easy to feel as if the proscribed menu leaves its deep rings on us just like the ones on the canned cranberry sauce Aunt Emmaline plops out into an heirloom dish each year. So while it's not my place to suggest you shake up your meal, I can certainly offer you a bunch of out-of-the-box options for potent potables. You don't have to fall back on chardonnay as the only white wine to go with a bird (although many certainly do), or pinot noir as the only red (ibid), or worse yet, fall for the marketing scam that is Beaujolais Nouveau.

Want to read more then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Sip This: Center of Effort Pinot Noir

Center of Effort Pinot Noir 2012: Coming from a Sustainable in Practice, or SIP, certified estate vineyard in the heart of the Edna Valley, Center of Effort’s eponymous pinot noir features up to 40 small lots fermented separately with native yeasts and then aged separately for 20 months in French oak, too.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sip This: Alpine Beer Company's Nelson

Alpine Beer Company’s Nelson: Long a favorite of hopheads, the brews from Alpine in the picturesque mountain hamlet of the same name east of San Diego are at last seeing wider distribution thanks to a partnership between Alpine and Green Flash (the Alpine beers even come in Green Flash 22 oz. bombers).

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It's Time to Move Fast on SLO Wine

It's not everyday you get to sit in a historic lighthouse accessed by a particularly winding, cliff-hugging road offering eye-popping vistas, so why not taste a pinot noir while you sit staring out the window at the glittering Pacific? It's a wine made from grapes all grown within five miles of the Pacific, too. But that's the way things roll in San Luis Obispo wine country.

They like to call it SLO Wine Country, but the acronym reverberates in both positive and negative ways for the 30 or so wineries in the region. The laid-back charm of the slightly sleepier beach towns of Pismo and Avila is hard to deny -- wonderful restaurants are taking off (try Ember in Arroyo Grande and The Spoon Trade in Grover Beach); the idyllic drives through the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys match more acclaimed California wine regions but with far less bustle and traffic, and it's easier to have more personal chats with winemakers in this region.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No Dumb Fire Pun Can Do Ember Justice

(Image purloined from the restaurant's website.)

Having eaten chef Brian Collins' food at the Lido Restaurant in Pismo Beach and Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos, and having thoroughly enjoyed both, and having not eaten at Chez Panisse, where he also worked for six years, but of course knowing of Alice Waters' famed spot that more or less launched a cuisine, my expectations ran high as we entered Ember, his spot in Arroyo Grande everyone's raved about since it opened two years ago. That kind of grand set-up can lead to disappointment, of course.

Somehow Ember exceeded even my hopeful yearnings. That started simply with the clever layout, with the large, open kitchen right next to you as you walk through the door. Heck, if you're going to cook with lots of open flame--both a tiled pizza oven and a glowing brazier--you might as well make it a hearth, too. Of course, there's more than warming heat, then; there's a wondrous waft of whatever dishes are about to emerge, enough to make anyone hungry. Plus the cooks all seem cool despite the fire, sure to say hello and goodbye to each passerby. Quite a welcome.

We came expecting to wait--they don't take reservations--but we got a Thursday night table quickly. Then came the tricky part, limiting what to order from the menu that changes monthly (we were there for the new Nov-EMBER menu). Yes, Ember is all about the local and seasonal, but it takes a peasant's look at things, that old "simple isn't always best best the best is always simple" view. So a salad featuring Jerusalem artichokes and pickled persimmons has them both sliced paper fine, like tasty translucent panes to view the rest of the salad--arugula, toasted hazelnuts, some slivers of sublime cheese--through.

Then a roasted cauliflower (how nice this humble crucifer is hip in kitchens again) got star treatment atop a crunchy farro and pine nut pilaf itself atop some baby lettuces softened by the dish's warmth. You dip that into a yogurt that's surprisingly rich, redolent of Italian peppers crushed to give it a tinge of rosiness, and that just enough mint to say mint and not Doublemint. Collins has the medley magic down--everything blends and the flavors do better than add up, they multiply together into a humming seamless yum.

Of course we had to have a pizza. (Recall your own pleasure-inducing groan for a Full of Life flatbread moment here.) It seemed pretty impossible to pass on the wild mushroom one (chanterelles, and where are they getting them?, lobster, and black trumpet), with a smoked leek cream sauce (that tastes even better than it reads), and Truffle Tremor cheese. Indulgent, sure, but it was an evening that at least felt like fall and needed something to keep us warm for the rest of the evening.

Don't skip dessert, whatever you do. Ember offers a seared pumpkin spice cake that will ruin you for that flavor forever, so rich, real, deep. It certainly doesn't hurt the plate also offers a brown butter ice cream (a brilliant idea, well executed), pepita brittle, and little luscious dollops of maple bourbon custard. Again, the tones of the dish all sang, sweet but not saccharine, salt but not salty, some crunch, some cream.

Plus lots of local beer and wine they'll give you tastes of, and not just the usual suspects--I particularly enjoyed a robust Tannat from Paso Robles Le Vigne, for instance.

Plus plus fine service, knowledgeable, watchful, wry.

My only complaint with Ember is it's over an hour away.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Rhone Rangers Offer Up All of Grenache's Guises

 (photo courtesy Larry Schaffer)

You might not trick anybody if you ask him or her what's the most commonly grown wine grape in the world. Most people would guess or know it's cabernet sauvignon. But you could win quite a few bar bets asking people what's the second most commonly grown wine grape globally.

Meet Grenache. A work horse in the Rhone region of France, a favorite in Australia, a cornerstone of the Spanish wine industry (some think it originated there, where it's called Garnacha), Grenache has a checkered history in the U.S. Because as much as the varietal can make delicious wines -- think Châteauneuf-du-Pape -- it also can grow prodigiously, and for years was crucial to filling millions of jugs of wine coming out of California's Central Valley. And you know how it is when you're cheap and loved by everybody -- you don't get the best of reputations.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Sip This: Campo Viejo Tempranillo

Campo Viejo 2013 Tempranillo: At right around $10 retail, it’s easy to think of this Spanish charmer as “Tempt-ranillo.” Even easier is the common quandary of, how do European winemakers make and ship us such tasty values when it’s so hard to get a tasty bargain from California?

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sip This: Hangar 1 Vodka

Hangar 1 Straight Vodka Yes, it’s a new Hangar 1. The backstory: Originally created by St. George Spirits in Alameda, the brand was such a success the artisanal makers sold it to the bigger Proximo Spirits (makers of 1800 Tequila, The Kraken rum, etc.) in 2010, producing it for them until 2014.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fall Brews to Choose

It's that wonderful time of year when we wake to a chill in the air, and the leaves turn magnificent. Wait, this is Southern California. So to celebrate fall, we do things like brew special potent potables to commemorate the season -- deeper, darker, and spicier. Here's a rundown of some of the fun stuff out there now, with two wild cards -- a new cider from a cherished longtime producer and a beer from New York that's too cleverly marketed to ignore.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sip This: Qupe Syrah

Qupé Santa Barbara County Syrah 2012: Anyone who doesn’t know Bob Lindquist makes killer syrah simply hasn’t been paying attention for the last 30 years. This release is no exception.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On Golden Bud: InBev Beer Giant Purchases Golden Road Brewing

The announcement in late September that Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased L.A.'s Golden Road Brewing, followed by the news InBev finally figured out terms to acquire SABMiller (for $106 billion -- it's the fifth largest corporate takeover bid ever) left me thinking of the once over-heated satire, now sad prophecy, Network. For this isn't a tale about the future of craft beer. It's about, as Ned Beatty's character Arthur Jensen puts it in a fervid speech, "One holistic system of systems, one vast interwoven...multinational dominion of dollars."

Taste or not, craft or not (and has any term been sold to us more than "craft" in the last decade?), both parties have put up a good front about the sale. While Golden Road didn't respond to KCET's request for an interview, there is a video both parties released, featuring Andy Goeler, CEO of Craft, AB, chatting with Meg Gill, CEO and co-founder of Golden Road.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sip This: Margerum Rapporte Pinot Noir

Margerum Rapporte Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2014: Doug Margerum’s desire to honor his recently deceased dog, Patches, and create a project to help all animals led to this young, tasty pinot noir. 
Sourced from primo Sta. Rita Hills vineyards, including Radian, La Encantada, and Sanford & Benedict, and blended with the help of Whole Foods wine specialist Gina Cook, the wine has a bit of bite on first opening the bottle, but how fitting is that?

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Babak Shokrian: Buying A Vineyard for the Long Haul

It's not unusual for people from the film industry to wind up involved with wine -- it's a cool thing to blow money on -- but Babak Shokrian's got a more complex back story than that. Born in Teheran, Iran, he moved with his family to the U.S. at an early age, got a degree in anthropology from UCLA, and began work in film.

While he just released the film Shah Bob on the festival circuit (where his previous one America So Beautiful met much success) he's also got a burgeoning project in Santa Barbara County, the Shokrian Vineyard -- what used to be known as Verna's and owned by the Melvilles.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sip This: Standing Sun Sky Rocket Syrah

Standing Sun Wine Art Music Sky Rocket Syrah 2012: Welcome to a special project — a select syrah from Rodney’s Vineyard chosen by Standing Sun winemaker John Wright, artist Felipe Molina, and Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz — that you can purchase in a new special place: The Bodega, the original wine cellar of Casa de la Guerra in the historic heart of downtown Santa Barbara.

Want to read the rest then so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Life: One Is the Phone-iest Number

 Here's a little shift for you--a random FB post led for Indy editor Matt Kettmann to ask me to expand that into an essay for the "My Life" column. So, here's one part of my life:

The world can get alien even before the end of your arms. Let’s say you’ve been standing and talking to one person long enough that you suddenly get hyper aware about what to do with your hands, appendages suddenly useless and greater than life-size. Do you ease them into pockets? Jut them onto hips? Latch the left hand on upper right arm? Knead fingers in front of you like you’re hiding something? Don’t tell me you haven’t had that moment.

Want to  read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

La Paulée: A Wonderful Way to Celebrate Wine Harvest

Sometimes seemingly fancy words can hide serious fun. That's often an issue with wine and French -- if you don't speak the language, it can quickly feel like they're not snobbing with you, but snobbing at you. So let's demystify this word as it's the time of year you hear it the most -- la paulée. Heck, it's even got an accent. In its simplest form, it's a harvest dinner where winemakers and guests all bring a special bottle of wine as a way to delight in the season's bounty.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to share wine that you love with others and to meet new people in a more casual environment than at a traditional wine dinner," said Morgen McLaughlin, Executive Director of Santa Barbara Vintners. "The dinner is served family-style and guests are encouraged to try other guests' wines."

That's definitely what will happen at la paulée on Friday, October 9 as part of a Celebration of Harvest Weekend in Santa Barbara.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Foodie Awards 2015: The Santa Barbara Independent’s Sixth Annual Ode to Our Edible Culture

Though we love the outdoors, Santa Barbarans are quick to sacrifice sunshine time to head inside for a great bite of food. And we’ve never enjoyed more ways to fill our bellies than today, with options ranging from inventively creative to inspiringly authentic.

In 2010, The Santa Barbara Independent started celebrating this bounty of cuisine by launching the Foodie Awards, which shine a light every fall on the people and places cultivating this culture. This week’s issue also kicks off the month-long ode to Santa Barbara’s dining and drinking scene known as Epicure.SB. See for a full list of events.

[This story co-written with Matt Kettmann.]

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Sip This: Morgan Cotes du Crow's

Morgan Cotes du Crow's Syrah/Grenache Monterey 2014: This 53 percent grenache and 47 percent syrah blend is from vineyards in central and south Monterey, where it does get hot enough to grow fine Rhône grapes. Morgan’s owner, Dan Lee, who is a pioneer of Monterey’s pinot-pumping Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, has been on the board of the Rhone Rangers for a dozen years, so he knows his way around this delicious fruit.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Morgan Makes the Most of Monterey

It's a chilly morning, even in early September, but that's just the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) showing off, modestly in a cloak of fog. People grow grapes here for the great swings of temperature, and the surge of marine layer that barrels down the Salinas Valley from Monterey Bay. That cool-in-the-morning-warm-into-the-day pattern leads to a long growing season. That's a lot of hang time for fruit, and the flavor just builds.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sip This: Balletto Chardonnay

Balletto Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2013: Sonoma’s Balletto sells most of its fruit, so the top 10 percent of its 600 acres that it usually keeps makes lovely estate wines.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In The Ghetto with Lompoc Wines and Moretti

It's not every day the word "ghetto" gets used affectionately, but the wines that come from Lompoc in Santa Barbara County are far from ordinary too. As the closest town to the famed growing area of the Sta. Rita Hills, Lompoc has the honor of being the site of numerous winemaking facilities hidden away in affordable warehouses. Hence, the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

One of the Ghetto's biggest boosters is Moretti Wines, run by Jeni and Antonio Moretti. In fact it was Jeni's "dumb or bright idea," as she calls it, "to start an association that was long overdue. We just added a new winery so are up to 31."

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Paso's JUSTIN Winery Nominated for Winery of the Year

When winemaker Scott Shirley says, "I think this is the appellation for luxury and ultra-premium cabernet sauvignon in the United States," it really means something that he's referring to Paso Robles. Sure, he's been the winemaker at JUSTIN Winery since 2012, so you might think he has to say it. But given he moved to Paso to take the JUSTIN job, leaving Napa Valley after working at both the Hess Collection and Opus One, that claim bears a lot of weight.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sip This: Refugio Ranch Ineseño

Refugio Ranch Ineseño 2012: As summer winds down, or warms up, as it tends to in Santa Barbara, it’s good to have a different white to enjoy.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Grape Harvest 2015: Early, Tasty, Very Small

That I'm writing my harvest column a month earlier than last year, which featured winemakers talking about the surprisingly early 2014 harvest, is a hint something historic is afoot. Welcome to Drought Does California, 2015 edition.

Up in the Santa Lucia Highlands, long-time grape-grower Rich Smith (a veteran of 42 harvests) said a week ago, "We've already got hang-time. We've got color in syrah which is usually still green. That means low yield and smaller berries, so the skin-to-volume ratio goes up, which makes winemakers happy and growers not so much."

Want ot read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sip This: Arnaldo Caprai “Collepiano” Sagrantino di Montefalco

Arnaldo Caprai “Collepiano” Sagrantino di Montefalco 2009 There’s a reason this 2009 is a current release: Sagrantino is one of the most tannic grapes. That means, yes, this is a big chewy wine, but a delight with roasted meats, roasted vegetables, or the richest of cheeses. The varietal helped put Umbria on the Italian wine map, earning its DOCG status in 1992.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hahn's Got Monterey on the Wine Map

Hahn Family Wines has something to crow about, and not just because "Hahn" means rooster in German. The sneakily large outfit (producing about 400,000 cases annually) that builds its top wines from small lots is one of the stars in the blossoming Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) Appellation. That's a still-under-the-radar spot you might have viewed while flying up the 101 from Gonzales on your way to San Francisco.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sip This: Crawford Family Pinot Noir

Crawford Family Wines Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2012: If you like your pinot noir on the bigger, brawnier side — rich on the palate, plush on the tongue — this is the wine for you.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bryan Babcock's Revolutionary Farming is Making Some Fine Pinot

It's mighty easy to go along doing things the way people before you did things. After all, you figure they knew something. Plus if you do something differently and it doesn't work, everyone's going to say, "Why didn't you do it the way we all did?"

Add it all up and innovation doesn't come easy. But that hasn't stopped Bryan Babcock. Not to take all the thunder out of the story, but as the owner of Babcock Winery & Vineyards in Santa Barbara's premium Sta. Rita Hills appellation, he was on a James Beard Foundation list of Top Ten Small Production Winemakers in the World.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sip This: Firestone Walker Opal

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Opal Farmhouse Ale: This beer is as multifaceted and attractive as the gem it’s named after. Officially a Wallonian (that’s the French-speaking part of Belgium) Saison (originally brewed in winter for the summer, hence seasonal), it’s got some slightly funky Belgian yeast at the heart of its brew, giving it a classic rustic under-flavor. Unlike some saisons, though, the result is more wine-like than barnyard.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Paul Lato: Good Story, Great Pinot Noir

Paul Lato is one winemaker whose own story is almost as good as his amazing wines. His highly acclaimed pinot noirs -- always rich and site-specific -- perhaps come from an approach that thinks of wine as food and not drink. Born in Poland, having worked as a sommelier in Toronto, he was drawn to California's Central Coast in 2002.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sip This: Westland Peated Whiskey

Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey: For those who relish the rich, smoky flavor peat brings to whiskey, the magic spot is Islay in Scotland, home to the likes of Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A New Santa Barbara Highlight: Dave Potter's Potek Winery

Potek's label might seem inscrutable at first glance, but this is a wine that deserves contemplation. It turns out the lettering is based on traditional Romanian rug stitch patterning. The winery is named in honor of the winemaker's great grandfather, Berl Potek. The story is that his name seemed inscrutable to immigration agents at Ellis Island in the early 20th century, and thus they changed it to Benjamin Potter.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Craft Distillers Push to Overturn Prohibition-Era Sales Laws

While Ian Cutler, the man behind Cutler's Artisan Spirits based in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone, started his business "to revive a long family history in the California spirits industry" -- his grandfather ran a moonshine operation in Oakdale -- he wishes history didn't hold such a strong grip on his current operation.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Sip This: Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé If you like your champagne celebratory, it’s hard to beat this bottle. Gorgeous packaging? Check: an elegant box reveals the unique, rounded bottle. Lovely looking wine? Indeed, from its salmon color to its very persistent bubbles (at first pour they tornado in the flute spectacularly). Fine tasting? But of course, made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, mostly grand crus. Think bright berry/cherry fruit that dances on the tongue and a silky finish.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Looking to Lodi for Wine Values

Lodi has a reputation problem. (I'm not going to quote Credence Clearwater Revival, I'm not going to quote Credence Clearwater Revival.) Think of it as the breadbasket of the California wine industry. It leads among the state's winegrowing districts in the production of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petite sirah, syrah, chradonnay, pinot grigio, and sauvignon blanc. But the bulk of those grapes historically have gone to make bulk wine, California wine, supermarket wine, wine sold before its time, and wines that fed the white zinfandel boom.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sip This: Trinity Hill Pinot Noir

Trinity Hill Pinot Noir 2013: While New Zealand is still best known for sauvignon blanc, and Trinity Hill makes that, too, this winery in Hawkes Bay is hoping to make a case for NZ pinot noir.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sip This: Michael David Cinsault

Michael David Winery Ancient Vine Cinsault 2013: In 1885, the Statue of Liberty just arrived in America, and Joseph Spenker planted the Bechtold Vineyard in Lodi. Turns out both are still going. That 25-acre vineyard is divvied up to stars like Turley and Scholium Project, but most of it goes to owners The Phillips Family, aka Michael and David.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Sensational Six Pack of Summer Beers

Sure, come summer you can drink up beers with blonde or light or even worse lite in their names, or you can pour yourself something with some flavor that still won't weigh you down or heat you up. It really is a blessed time of beer plenty right now, so enjoy, even while sweating in the sun. Here are six California brews that will please in very distinct and delicious ways, from German classic styles to wheat-based beers to saisons - a variation adapted from the farmhouse style of Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium - to, yes, even an IPA that with its higher alcohol level and heady does of hops still seems perfect for the backyard, or even a dark bar watching the Dodgers (as if they were on TV) or Angels.

Want to read the rest then do so at KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sip This: Tablas Creek Vermentino

Tablas Creek Vermentino 2014: While it’s hard to beat sipping a rosé on a fine summer’s day, this unusual white is a fine alternative. There are about a 100 acres of it planted in the U.S., but this grape is well-established in Corsica, Sardinia, and Italy.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Should the Local Food Movement Include Wine? The Restaurants Weigh In

Last week we looked at the titular question from the viewpoint of three fine wineries in Santa Barbara County (Brander Vineyards, Kunin Wines, Tercero Wines). There was a mixed response to the issue raised by Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator, who wrote a recent column asking, "Do wine directors and sommeliers have any obligation to champion nearby wineries?" Since he focused on Northern California and Oregon, I thought it might be illuminating to examine the issue in Southern California.

This week we turn to three L.A. restaurants -- AKASHA, Faith & Flower, and Valentino -- all not only esteemed for their cuisine, but adored for their wine lists. How do they feel about the "local" wine issue? It should be noted that the first two establishments have held wine dinners with Larry Schaffer's Tercero, so that might be a hint.

Want to read the rest then go to KCET's Food Blog.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Santa Barbara Passport to Drinking Pleasure

Discounts are a dime a dozen these days, often just to get a nickel back. To rise above that pack, the Santa Barbara Passport is making their deal book about community and opportunity as much as saving cash. “We do lots of giveaways and launch parties with alcohol distributors or breweries,” explained Passport rep Jane Pimcomrie. So for $20, you get discounts at 28 bars — from Alcazar to Whiskey Richards, Goleta to Carpinteria — but will also join a group of like-minded fun seekers.

Want to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.