Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sip This: Ed's Red

Ed’s Red 2012 AD California: Turns out winemakers are a lot like us — they don’t want to spend a mint drinking, either. To fix that problem of high-priced wine, Edwin Richards, one of the owners of Adastra Wines in Napa, developed Ed’s Red, a blend that they joke “pairs well with mammoth or its vegetarian equivalent.”

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bree-osh Is Deleesh’osh

There’s more to going from a banker to a baker than losing that “n.” That’s particularly the case for Pierre Henry, who, with his wife, Nelly Henry, opened Bree’osh Café on Coast Village Road last October, the culmination of a circuitous route from Paris to Montecito.

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Wide World of Santa Barbara Wine White Now

Not to be one of those people who say, "Boy, you sure missed a good party," but if you didn't make it to the Grand Tasting on April 23 for the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, well, you sure missed....

My joke, as I tasted and was repeatedly wowed, was saying, "_______ is the best winemaker in Santa Barbara!" only to say "No, _____ is the best winemaker!" after having the next superlative taste. Doing a wrap up of all the fine pours and tasty tastes would seem like rubbing it in, so instead, I want to focus on just one crucial thing I'm not sure people get about Santa Barbara wine--it contains multitudes. We all hear about how our positioning on the crook of the coast means the mountains aim east-west, not north-south, and what that means for growing regions and the ranges of temperatures our vines get to experience. But it's really really true, and not just some pleasing marketing come on (if there is such a thing as a pleasing marketing come on, and I say that as a person who does marketing for a living). As we begin to AVA-out, that, too, is not just wine geekery but a reflection that Ballard Canyon isn't Happy Canyon even if you'll end up happy drinking the wines from either spot.

A moment in the Connoisseurs Club tent crystallized the inspiring range SB offers right now. Dustin Wilson, Raj Parr, and Eric Railsback led a tasting (yeah, you could do a lot worse for presenters), finding wonderful pairs. One of those featured the Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc and Stolpman L'Avion. The Lieu Diet is acid and precision and lean and lively--invigorating citrus and stone. The L'Avion is lush and oily and rich--ingratiating tropical fruit and flowers. While heading away from each other at practically the speed of light in their styles, both remain balanced at the extremes, where balance becomes all the more important. That Chenin Blanc with Industrial Eats barbecued Morro Bay oysters was perfect, almost a mignonette on its own. Industrial Eats also offered the perfect bites for the Stolpman, too--lobster pasta, rich, unctuous, both hearty and the sea at once.

All this and Chardonnay too.

For, after all, Chenin Blanc was almost done as a varietal in California, except for what the Central Valley made for bulk wine. And Roussanne, so picky it often gets hand-turned so each angle of the grapes gets the sun it needs and no more than that, well, there's all of 324 acres of it in California (basically 1/3 of the UCSB campus, which might be a better use for much of campus, now that I think about it). But these grapes from the Loire and the Rhone, they grow in our county, and mighty well. Now that's something to toast to.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Rosé Cocktail Will Drink as Sweet

Trying to do things with one hand behind your back is tricky, sure, but sometimes it means you get awfully clever with your free hand and do something wonderful. That’s the way to consider the challenges facing The Good Lion as they develop cocktails for the Vintners Festival Grand Tasting on Saturday, April 23. The Good Lion will be serving up drinks in the Connoisseurs Club section of the event (where Industrial Eats will be too, as if you need more incentive).

But these won’t be just any drinks. First, the event only has a beer and wine license, so they can’t use any hard alcohol. Second, while the previous three times they’ve had this gig they worked with Santa Barbara area bubbly – a relatively common ingredient for many cocktails – this time it was suggested they try to make drinks with rosé.

In a recent phone call Brandon Ristaino, owner of The Good Lion, began by saying he’d just finished reading Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, and “I was all juiced up on aperitif cocktails. We’ve always liked using sherry, for example. But this was challenging: do you stir it or shake it or float it? We decided to shake it. We’ll use short shakes; it takes up some of the room ice would, so we consider it a flavored dilutant.”

The two cocktails, then, will be the Papaya King, made with papaya, Santa Barbara county rosé, Cochi Americano, orange bitters, lemon, and black pepper and the Strawberry Fields Forever, made with strawberry, Santa Barbara county rosé reduction, Lillet rosé aperitif, lime, vanilla, and soda.

Ristaino talks about the involved research process coming up with new drinks, including running through flavor bibles well before any liquids get mixed together. In this case, “the melon notes in rosé pair well with tropical fruits, so that’s how we got to papaya.”

He’s also had papaya on the brain, for he’s working on a new project he hopes will open early summer in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone that will have a more tropical/Caribbean flavor to it than The Good Lion. “That was tricky, as we like to source locally,” he explains, “but then we found these dudes in Carpinteria with a big greenhouse growing passion fruit and papaya and soon bananas.”

The strawberry-centered drink was even easier, as rosés often have strawberry notes. Do be prepared for some interesting possible variations if you try one of the drinks twice. “We’re going to be working with a mix-and-match case of rosés,” he points out. So while he and his team will try to decide as they open which wine profile – and remember Santa Barbara rosés are made from varietals ranging from Pinot noir to Mourvedre – matches best for which drink (the Strawberry Fields will tend to get the richer rosés), consistency might not be easy.

Ristaino is looking forward to the event, as such appearances are The Good Lion’s marketing. “Rather than spend thousands on PR I’d rather do something more organic and get drinks in people’s hands and meet them,” he insists. So stop by and do just that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Squashing Wine-Food Pairings at the SB Vintners Grand Tasting

(photo courtesy Santa Barbara Vintners, credit Bob Dickey)

When the Santa Barbara Vintners call their April 23rd event a Grand Tasting, it’s far from marketing puffery. After all, River View Park in Buellton will contain over 100 wineries and 30 food purveyors, more than even the most ambitious, bottomless festival-goer could ever partake in. That said, a 3 to 1 ratio of wine to food tastes should do a pretty good job of giving anyone a lay of the Santa Barbara bounty and keep the person more sober than not (remember, spit! or at least sip-sip-dump! or share with a partner!).

That food runs the gamut, from Cowboy Ike’s Wine Jelly to the Hitching Post II, but this spring one of the features will be a crop in surprising early abundance (thank you, rain!), namely zucchini. Zucchini, however, isn’t the first food most winemakers turn to when looking for a pairing. “Zucchini, and most vegetables, are not super wine-friendly, especially when raw,” Dave Potter from Municipal Winemakers and Potek points out. “I’d be grilling the zucchini on the bbq with some olive oil and garlic and then drinking it along with all the other stuff I’ve put on the grill with a chilled red. I love chilled, lighter-bodied grenache with bbq’ed veggies.”

Indeed, this Grand Tasting might be he chance to fall in love with grenache, if you haven’t (and if not, why haven’t you? it’s the place where syrah and pinot noir make lazy passionate love). Larry Schaffer of tercero wines, who has been baking bread almost as good as the wines he makes of late, says, “I make a pretty killer zucchini bread with cinnamon, apple sauce, and a touch of sour cream. A lighter red actually goes wonderfully with this – perhaps my Verbiage Rouge, which is a grenache-based blend.” Meanwhile Drake Whitcraft of Whitcraft Winery was so flummoxed about the zucchini question he “asked a somm friend and he said my grenache because it’s light and floral and will play off the lavender and subtle herbaceous character of the wine while still allowing the fruit to show through.” Perhaps Mikael Sigouin of Kaena summed it up best, “Grenache is a natural pairing. Whether it be fried or any other combo, grenache works incredible with veggies because of its feminine nature. Aloha!”

Of course, there are almost as many ways to prepare zucchini as they are varietals you can turn into rosé. “As far as zucchini goes, I'm a huge fan and love to use it with the spiralizer to make a really great pasta with it. It’s a great way to save calories and it tastes just like pasta but without all the carbs,” says Katie Grassini from Grassini Family Vineyards. “I've made a great turkey carbonara with spiralized zucchini which would be great with our Articondo Bordeaux Blend.”

That Bourdeaux blend, just one of the many featured from hot spot (pun intended) Happy Canyon, helps prove there’s practically no varietal you can’t grow in Santa Barbara somewhere. Just from the winemakers quoted in this article, a mere 5% of those pouring on Saturday, there will be Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone white and red blends, Gewürztraminer, pinot noir, chardonnay, and sometimes surprises under the table (talk your pourer up, especially if he or she is the winemaker).

It all gets summed up well by Larry Schaffer, the loquacious man who aptly named his blends Verbiage, “I love Vintners' Weekend because I can meet so many wonderful wine-loving people who make the trek from both near and far to enjoy the wines of the county I’ve chosen to call home. It’s a celebration of part of what makes this county special – the wines, the food, the people.”

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sip This: Balvenie Caribbean Cask

The Balvenie 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask So people actually market “summer whiskeys” now. You can sort of see why with this pour, an odd but far from ugly duckling that gives you a Speyside single malt that seems to have swam via the Caribbean — it has been finished in American oak rum casks.

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