Show 418, March 27, 2021: Victor Gallegos, Vice President & General Manager, Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard Part Two

Victor Gallegos of Sea Smoke

“For years, vintners have coveted a stretch of land in the western end of Santa Barbara’s Santa Rita Hills AVA known to have the perfect microclimate, soils, and exposure to grow world-class Pinot Noir. In 1999, fulfilling a long-held dream of owner Bob Davids, this sought-after stretch of land became Sea Smoke Vineyard.”

“At Sea Smoke, our objective is to produce the best Pinot Noir possible from our unique vineyard site. Located on south-facing hillside bluffs, our estate vineyard benefits from excellent sun exposure – producing grapes with optimum flavor, color and tannin development. The heat generated during the day is moderated each evening by a marine fog layer (sea “smoke”), which travels up the Santa Ynez River canyon, cooling the vines and resulting in a longer ripening period. This extended ‘hangtime’ allows the grape tannins to fully ripen prior to harvest, creating wines that are rich and supple.”

“Every growing season, our winemaking team works to determine the optimum timing for the harvest of each block. After hand harvesting, grapes are brought to the winery for destemming and table sorting. During this process each lot is carefully studied, taking into consideration parameters such as fruit integrity, clonal characteristics and soil profile, before proceeding with fermentation. Each block and clone combination is kept separate throughout the winemaking process, enabling us to develop an intimate knowledge of how they respond to specific barrels in our cellar. These individual lots form the basis of a complex flavor palette from which final blending decisions are made by our team.”

“To ensure our loyal customers access to these limited-production wines, we have created The List. Simple and fair, The List is an uncomplicated allocation system offering members the opportunity to purchase our wines. Although production of Sea Smoke is limited and they can be difficult to find, joining The List guarantees your allocation. Unlike wine clubs, there is absolutely no purchase commitment and no cost to join.” The supply of Sea Smoke wines is naturally limited because it’s all estate fruit. No outside fruit is ever purchased to increase capacity.

When you log on to the Sea Smoke website the first introductory image is a short video featuring a sweeping aerial panorama of this magnificent vineyard estate.

Victor Gallegos, Sea Smoke’s long-time Vice President and General Manager, gently pops the cork on 2015 Sea Smoke “Sea Spray” Blanc de Noirs, pours a celebratory toast and rejoins for us.

Play

Show 415, March 6, 2021: Belden Barns Winery and Farmstead with Nate and Lauren Belden Part One

Lauren and Nate Belden

“Perched atop Sonoma Mountain, Belden Barns celebrates the totality of farmstead agriculture with a surprising range of exceptional, cool-climate estate bottlings for such a boutique property.  In addition to delicious, terroir-driven wines, they rely on resident farmers Vince and Jenny Trotter for their sustainably grown estate fruit and produce.” 

“Tastings normally take place in a charming old barn — a throwback to an earlier time in Sonoma County farm life. (Currently, all tastings are conducted outside due to COVID 19 restrictions).  Visitors to the (kid-friendly) winery are encouraged to meander around the vines or head downhill to the orchards/produce where they can also hang a wish on the “wishing tree.””

Belden Barns has a program of Spring Virtual Tastings including the launch of their Apple Cider. Nate and Lauren also offer custom virtual tastings for special friends and family celebrations and business gatherings.

“Belden Barns was recently voted one of USA Today’s Top Ten Winery Tours.  Proprietors Nate and Lauren Belden are an amiable couple and their wines (including some highly regarded Pinots, Sparkling Wine, Grenache and what may be the only commercially available Gruner Veltliner in Sonoma County, among other bottlings) are noteworthy.”

Play

Show 415, March 6, 2021: Belden Barns Winery and Farmstead with Nate and Lauren Belden Part Two

Lauren and Nate Belden

“Perched atop Sonoma Mountain, Belden Barns celebrates the totality of farmstead agriculture with a surprising range of exceptional, cool-climate estate bottlings for such a boutique property.  In addition to delicious, terroir-driven wines, they rely on resident farmers Vince and Jenny Trotter for their sustainably grown estate fruit and produce.” 

“Tastings normally take place in a charming old barn — a throwback to an earlier time in Sonoma County farm life. (Currently, all tastings are conducted outside due to COVID 19 restrictions).  Visitors to the (kid-friendly) winery are encouraged to meander around the vines or head downhill to the orchards/produce where they can also hang a wish on the “wishing tree.””

Belden Barns has a diverse program of Spring Virtual Tastings including the launch of their Apple Cider. Nate and Lauren also offer customizable virtual tastings for special friends and family celebrations and business gatherings.

“Belden Barns was recently voted one of USA Today’s Top Ten Winery Tours.  Proprietors Nate and Lauren Belden are an amiable couple and their wines (including some highly regarded Pinots, Sparkling Wine, Grenache and what may be the only commercially available Gruner Veltliner in Sonoma County, among other bottlings) are noteworthy.”

Play

Show 396, October 24, 2020: Dan Kessler, Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines, Lompoc Part One

Dan Kessler of Kessler-Hawk Vineyard and WinesThe Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines vineyard is located on Hwy 246, 11 miles west of Buellton in the cooler northwestern section of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Fog graces the vineyard most mornings; followed by cool Pacific ocean breezes and bright sunny afternoons. These conditions nurture gentle ripening of Kessler-Haak’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at lower sugars with crisp acidity and the higher levels of spice commonly seen in cool climate viticulture. There is also a sparkling wine program.

At Kessler-Haak the approach is that “great wine is produced in the vineyard.” Consequently, they feel “the best winemaking approach is a minimalistic one, relying on traditional methods and techniques.”

“The quality of the fruit directly impacts the quality of the wine produced from it. At Kessler-Haak, they believe winemaking begins in the vineyard and that they are wine growers first and foremost and winemakers second. Winegrower & Winemaker Dan and Owner/Partner Ellen Haak-Kessler live on and work in the vineyard. Coaxing the best fruit from each vine requires an integral involvement with the grape growing process; being there each day, touching the vines and soil and being hands-on in all aspects of the farming.”

The welcoming Lompoc Tasting Room is open Thursday through Sunday. No appointment needed. Check Website for hours.

Grower and Winemaker Dan Kessler pulls the cork on Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines for us.

 

Play

Show 396, October 24, 2020: Dan Kessler, Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines, Lompoc Part Two

Dan Kessler of Kessler-Hawk Vineyard and WinesThe Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines vineyard is located on Hwy 246, 11 miles west of Buellton in the cooler northwestern section of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Fog graces the vineyard most mornings; followed by cool Pacific ocean breezes and bright sunny afternoons. These conditions nurture gentle ripening of Kessler-Haak’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at lower sugars with crisp acidity and the higher levels of spice commonly seen in cool climate viticulture. There is also a sparkling wine program.

At Kessler-Haak the approach is that “great wine is produced in the vineyard.” Consequently, they feel “the best winemaking approach is a minimalistic one, relying on traditional methods and techniques.”

“As winemakers, the goal at Kessler-Haak is to craft great food friendly wines that speak of place and time. The single most important factor influencing this goal is the decision of when to harvest. They base this decision on a combination of factors including: sugar levels, pH, flavors, visual appearance of the fruit and vines, seed ripeness and the style of wine we are striving to create. Ripeness in a given year, which ultimately reflects time and place, is the optimal confluence of these factors.”

The welcoming Lompoc Tasting Room is open Thursday through Sunday. No appointment needed. Check Website for hours.

Grower and Winemaker Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines in Lompoc continues with us.

Play

Show 343, October 5, 2019: Gruet’s Winery’s 30th Anniversary with Assistant Winemaker Sofian Himeur Part Two

Sofian Himeur of Gruet WineryProducing outstanding, award-winning American sparkling wines that adhere to strict Methode Champenoise guidelines, Gruet Winery was founded on the vision and passion of French winemaker and patriarch Gilbert Gruet, making sparkling wine in the U.S. that most resembles French champagne. This esteemed American sparkling wine producer currently makes approximately 275,000 cases annually, including 15 sparkling wines that retail from $15 to $46.

For the 30th Anniversary of Gruet Winery’s first sparkling wine release winemaker Laurent Gruet (with the able assistance of Sofian) created two special limited- edition sparkling wines. They are a Barrel Aged Brut (75 per cent Chardonnay and 25 per cent Pinot Noir) aged in oak for 6 months and a Sparkling Pinot Meunier (using hand-harvested grapes from the Tamaya Vineyard in partnership with the Santa Ana Pueblo.).

Gruet wines are sold in 49 states, Asia and the Caribbean and can be found in the country’s finest restaurants, retail outlets, online and through its destination tasting room and winery located at 8400 Pan American Freeway NE, Albuquerque, NM and its tasting room in the historic Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe. The Gruet family’s passion for winemaking over the past 30 years has given people around the world a quality, luxury product at a great value.

Play

Show 311, February 16, 2019: Sommelier Matthew Kaner, Cavas Codorniu, “Creating Cava” Masterclass

Matthew KanerSommelier Matthew Kaner is a partner in some of the best wine bars (Good Measure) in Southern California. He also represents Codorniu-Raventos, the producer of some of Spain’s most respected sparkling wines including the Ars Collecta Cavas. Matthew recently conducted a masterclass on Cavas Codorniu for somms and wine retailers in West Hollywood.

Three of the Ars Collecta wines were among the first 12 single-estate Cavas designated by the Spanish Minister for Agriculture for the Cava de Paraje Calificado designation. The Cava de Paraje Calificado designation is, as of July 2017, a new distinction which sets requirements, characteristics and quality control standards that certify the excellence of Spain’s best premium Cavas.

The ambitious Ars Collecta project also created the 457 – the world’s most expensive Cava. 457, the masterpiece of the Ars Collecta collection is a cava that pays homage to the 457 harvests completed by the Codorníu Estate.

“The Codorníu Raventós Group is the oldest family business in Spain and one of the oldest of the world, in addition to being the business group which created cava. With vineyards in our property since 1551, we are proud to say that we have more than 450 years of experience in the manufacture of quality wines and cavas. We currently have ten wineries, eight of which are in Spain (Bilbaínas, Legaris, Scala Dei, Raimat, Bach, Nuviana, Abadía de Poblet, and Codorníu Wineries), one in Napa Valley in California (Artesa) and another in Mendoza, Argentina (Séptima).”

We’ll artfully pop the bubbly cork with him.

Play

Show 252, December 16, 2017: Cary Hardwick, Co-Founder, Spaghettini Seal Beach

Cary Hardwick of SpaghettiniNext year Spaghettini in Seal Beach celebrates its 30th anniversary of success. It’s a big establishment. Unusually it’s part fine-dining and also a popular entertainment venue. It’s famous for its long-running, 5-hour Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch.

Since 1988, this visionary partnership has created a unique blend of taste and entertainment in Southern California. Leading Southern California restaurateurs Laurie Sisneros and Cary Hardwick have realized a meeting place for L..A and Orange counties in their award-winning restaurant – Spaghettini Fine Dining and Entertainment.

Located just off the 405 Freeway at Seal Beach Blvd., Spaghettini features exceptional Northern Italian cuisine and top name entertainment.

Serving up the tasty history along with a Spaghettini Sparkling Wine toast is Co-Founder & Managing Partner Cary Hardwick.

Play

Show 147, November 21, 2015: Kyle Meyer, Co-Proprietor, Wine Exchange, Santa Ana

Kyle Meyer of Wine ExchangeWine selections for the Thanksgiving turkey can always be a source of great anxiety. To the rescue is our resident wine expert, Kyle Meyer, Co-Proprietor of Wine Exchange in Santa Ana. As you’ll hear he makes Thanksgiving wine pairings a simple pull of the cork! Also his suggestions are happily affordable.

“We have no agenda for what you choose, only that you buy it from us. Pursuant to that, we’d like to toss out a few guidelines and ideas for you to evaluate to make your selections for that Thanksgiving turkey, the idea being that you are comfortable with the reasons for making the selections. We’ll start by saying the politically correct thing which is whatever you choose will be fine, you should serve what you like. Nothing wrong with that in theory, except that we don’t honestly believe it ourselves.

We would shy away from big, powerful, tannic wines that would overwhelm the turkey meat and not be versatile enough to play with the variety of other things that can appear on the holiday table. Things like big Cabs, Zins, and Syrahs are great with red meats.  Such wines would bludgeon the delicate bird and be further complicated in the wake of stuffing, yams, and other such themed delicacies. They might play alright if you are doing more exotic preparations like smoking or deep frying your bird, but even that’s a little bit of a stretch.

Our ‘keys to the game’, as they would say in a sport pregame show, are as follows:

  1. Turkey is a more delicate meat. There is a wide range of things that will work well, from moderate weight reds, to demi-sec whites, to crisp, dry whites.  Heavy reds and oaky whites would definitely not be our first choice, and acidity is key to mixing it up with such a wide range of foods.
  2. Your choices have as much to do with the type of accompanying dishes as they do with the bird itself. A sweet or savory bent as to a majority of dishes should definitely be a factor in the decisions. For example if its yams, corn soufflé, cranberry, etc, a lighter, slightly fruity choice (Demi Sec Vouvray, German Kabinett) would make a better ‘match’. If the leanings are more earthy (mushrooms, brussel sprouts, spinach/gizzard stuffing), lighter reds like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Blaufrankish, and Rioja make a whole lot of sense.
  3. The crowd. Yeah, there, we said it. Probably not politically correct, but it’s true.  Who’s coming to your house? A bunch of your friends that are serious wine drinkers?  A bunch of marginal relatives that will drink up anything you put out there and maybe drop ice cubes in it? While it sounds snobby, these are common issues that some of you face.  A lot of people end up spending the holidays with folks they wouldn’t necessarily choose to. So the key is to put something on the table that you can enjoy, but also plays to the level of the folks you are with.
  4. The weather. Choices for a ‘feast’ might well be different if the outside temperature is 35 degrees and rainy or 75 and sunny.

All of that out of the way, let’s get a little more specific. We’ve laid out some basic ground rules, so let’s make a few varietal and genre suggestions. If we’re looking for a hint of sweetness and some bright acidity, to us one of the easy calls especially for a mixed group, our personal choices would be German Riesling, either Kabinett or Spatlese, a Vouvray demi sec, and a Pinot Gris from Alsace.

Yeah, we know there are folks that will serve Chardonnay no matter what. Our problem with Chardonnay from California is the lack of sufficient acidity to play with the varied dishes. French versions play better with the food, but can have trouble with certain dishes.  Same with Sauvignon Blanc in general, because, while it might work superbly with certain dishes, it could be terrible with others. In other words, you’ll have a lot of stuff on your plate (literally), so our thinking is to choose wines that can work with the widest variety of flavors.  In the dry category we like Pinot Blanc, white Rhones, northern Italian whites (Pinot Grigio, Soave, Friulano, etc.), white Bordeaux, and Spanish whites from the northwest (Albarino, Godello). Dry pinks are beautiful foils as well, though there will be those that think rose is like white shoes, only for the summer.

As to reds, the key is good acidity and no heavy tannins. Gamay (Beaujolais, Cru Beaujolais, not nouveau necessarily), Burgundy (Kiwi or American Pinot Noir, as well), Rioja, Chinon, and Austrian reds. If you want to kick it up a notch weight-wise, Grenache-centric wines from the Rhone or Spain have more punch but still fit the lower tannin profile

And the last rule of thumb is, if all else fails choose…sparkling! Yes you read that right. The market is swelling with amazing producers of everything from grower Champagne to humble Pétillant Naturel (or as the kids call ‘em ‘Pet-Nats’). We know it seems a bit avant–garde to adorn your holiday table with bubbles, but the key is to remember that sparkling wines and Champagne in particular pair tremendously well with just about anything you can throw at it (that includes the big clashing flavors on the Thanksgiving table). When making your choice of sparkling, consider going pink. The pink color in sparkling rosé comes from red grapes and more often than not it’s Pinot Noir. This will lend a slightly more vinous texture and weight to the wine and will help stand up to the mix of dishes much better than say your Chardonnay based Blanc de Blancs.

So there it is, our cheat sheet for Thanksgiving wine pairing.“

Thanks, Wine Exchange!

Play

Show 102, December 20, 2014: Kyle Meyer, Best Wines

Kyle Meyer of Best WiinesAre you in overdrive contemplating just the right wines to match with that festive holiday food celebration?

You’re on the spot…What’s a compliment-worthy match with potato pancakes, brisket, goose or spiral glazed ham? You also need to be a hero with the perfect bubbly for New Year’s Eve that’s also affordable. Should that celebratory libation be sparkling wine or Champagne?

Fear not…Our new resident wine expert, Kyle Meyer, President and Director of Purchasing for Best Wines in Santa Ana, gives us some inspired suggestions that should provide the proper inspiration without a hangover.

Remember, especially at the Holidays, wine should be fun!

Play