WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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California’s Central Coast (3) – Santa Barbara County

Vines were first planted here in the 1700s by Spanish missionaries who travelled up  from Mexico and set up missions along the Californian coast. Prohibition set things back and it took until the 1960s for grape growing to take hold. The Santa Maria valley produced the most grapes for the likes of Gallo. Santa Ynez valley remained more boutique and reached global attention after the blockbuster film ‘Sideways’ in 2004. We discovered on this tour many wineries have chosen to have their tasting rooms in towns such as Los Olivos, Buellton and Santa Barbara. Whilst this is clearly a good commercial and practical option for the individual business, it takes away the interest and romance of tasting on site and getting the full experience terroir and all.

Downtown Santa Barbara, Anacapa St

Au Bon Climat

Established by the famed Jim Clenenden in 1982 Au Bon Climat (a well exposed vineyard) is renowned as one of the best producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California.They use sites from various areas of central coast including Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria and their own Au Bon Climat Vineyard in Santa Maria ValleyThe wines tasted had great purity and exposed typical Pinot Noir characteristics and also showed the variation in styles depending on site selection.

Wines tasted

Hildegard 2015
Pinot Gris Pinot Blanc and Aligoté, aged 2 years in French oak
Lemon, lime nose subtle with good balance and acidity no major oak influence  nice texture

Los Alamos Pinot Noir 2015
Red fruits medium intensity lively

Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir 2014
From parcels in Santa Rita Hills, bright red  berry fruit, spice and mineral notes

Runway Pinot Noir 2015
From a site near Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria. My favourite of the tasting intense rich red fruits with an earthiness and spice  long length. Classic Pinot with great balance that I’m sure will age for years if you can keep your hand off it.

Isabelle Pinot Noir 2015 Composed of the best barrels of the vintage limited release dark rich complex beautiful balance and finish.

Great wines, I’d like to take a case of this and Runway home!

 

 

Santa Barbara County – Santa Ynez Valley

Margerum Wine Company

Founded by Doug Margerum restauranteur who worked with Jim Clenenden and Bob Linquist before starting up Margerum and now focuses more on Rhone varietals. Their winery is in Buellton 1 hours scenic drive on route 9  up the valley from Santa Barabara. We were lucky enough to arrive as the harvest was in full swing. Julia Weinberg gave us a fantastic tour of the busy winery including a traditional punching down caps of the grenache, smelling the yeasty, sulphurous, Carbon dioxide emitting from the open top fermenters and tasting fresh chilled  Marsanne juice. We were lucky to meet the congenial Doug. They seemed to have an excellent team spirit and have a mandatory stop for lunch every day catered by their in house chef.

Wines tasted

Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Restraint white flower jasmine great balance and texture.

M5 Los Olivos District 2017   Grenache Blanc, Viognier,Marsanne, Roussane and Vermentinto
Nice texture hint of nuttiness lovely mouthfeel white flower delicious

Barden Santa Rita Hills. 2016
12months sur lié French oak, Butter toast vanilla subtle nose lovely toasty notes

Barden Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills 2015
Red and darker fruits strawberries also baking spices clove long finish spiciness
Minerality. Cold soak free run 10% whole cluster.

M5 2016 Santa Barbara county Mourvèdre counoise Grenache Shiraz cinsault. Lovely front of blueberry with savouriness. Amazing balance 14.6% but don’t feel the alcohol as concentration tannin acid fruit is such balance. Brilliantly integrated wine length +

 

Uber Syrah 2016 Santa Barabara county

Co ferment of lots of parcels, Subtle blue fruits some spice Great concentration.

Margerum wines were some of the most outstanding of my tour. It was the incredible balance of the wines. I feel Doug’s skills and prior intimate knowledge of the food and restaurant industry helps in the  complex process of blending  five grape  varietals in the M5’s with superb results. The benefits of working cohesively as a team is invaluable.

 

 

Bien Nacido Vineyards & Solomon Hills Estates – Santa Maria Valley.

This visit was very kindly arranged at late notice  by  Master Sommelier Will Costello who works as the Estate Ambassador. He told me afterwards the only way to arrange the visit at this very busy winemaking time was to say we were interns who had come to help. They must have been disappointed when we arrived! We drove North East from Buellton  to  Santa Maria Valley and Bien Nacido Vineyards. It is one of the major viticultural nurseries, much of the Chardonnay in California came from BN cuttings. Fruit from Bien Nacido is used for Jim Clenendens and Bob Linquist wines. Assistant wine maker Anthony hosted us with a tasting table right in the middle of the working winery.

Wines tasted

The wines displayed a great purity and balance with a real sense of place and I shall be seeking them out from our main supplier, Armit Wines in London

Bien Nacido Chardonnay 2016

Solomon Hills. Santa Maria Valley 2016

Solomon Hills Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 2014

Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 2013

Bien Nacido Syrah 2014 x block

 

 

 

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California Central Coast (1) – Santa Cruz Mountains


This much overdue return to California with my longstanding Kiwi mates took us  south of San Francisco. A decade earlier we had indulged in the well known excesses of Napa, Sonoma and Russian River. The plan this time was to explore the main Central Coast wine regions including Santa Cruz Mountains, Carmel Valley, Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles. What better place to start than Ridge Vineyards, Monte bello.

Ridge Vineyards, 17100 Monte Bello Road, Cupertino

 

In with the vines which produced the famous 1971 Ridge Monte Bello.

Not far from the town of Santa Cruz over the Santa Cruz mountain range and overlooking Silicon Valley we arrived at the iconic Ridge Montebello Vineyards at 2,300 feet altitude. Dr Osea Perrone first planted vines here in 1885 but the vines were abandoned during prohibition. Famed for the Ridge Monte Bello 1971 which was one of the top wines at the famous 1976 ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting organised by Stephen Spurrier.
Since then they are known as producing some of the best wines in California.
In a re run of the competition to mark it’s 40th anniversary in 2006, Ridge Monte Bello 1971 came top. Ridge also has an estate in Sonoma, Lytton springs.

Wines tasted

Monte Bello Chardonnay 2015
Sourced from the lower altitude Klein Vineyards
Very Burgundian in style nicely balanced with good acidity, malolactic with lees contact generating lovely texture and clear minerality. Delicious Chardonnay.
Limestone and greenstone subsoil with sandy loam

Geyserville 2016                                                                                                                                                            Zinfandel Carignan Petit Verdot Alicante Bouchet spice, herbs, good acid

Lytton Springs 2016
Zinfandel Carignan Petit Verdot Mataro, Black fruits savoury concentrated

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Green pepper cool climate feel, restrained.

Ridge Monte Bello 2015
77% Cab sav 11% Merlot 7% Petit Verdot 5% Cabernet Franc
Cedar mint good structure blackcurrant long finish smooth tannins

Ridge Monte Bello 2006
Left bank Bordeaux style with some tertiary developments, would be hard to tell from a classed Bordeaux in a Blind tasting.

Ridge Monte Bello 2007
More complex than 2006
Cedar liquorice spice cocoa good structure and long  finish

The wines whet our appetites and we headed down the mountain  to San Jose’s Western suburb of Cupertino to the impressive ‘Counter Burger’. Here you can tailor make your own burger. Highly recommend the Half pound Bison burger with gouda.

 

 

 

 

Beauregard Vineyards

It’s a  Scenic drive along West Cliff road onto Route 1 from Santa Cruz followed by a climb up into the Ben Lomond mountains parallel to Santa Cruz Mountain range. Our oversized Cadillac SUV led us comfortably to the beautiful Beauregard Vineyards in the coastal redwood forests of Bonny Doon.
This winery was Started in 1945 they possess 65 acres in this area on mainly sandy loamy soils. We took a leisurely  stroll in their redwood forest and picnic gardens.

Wines tasted

Beauregard Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Very sharp acidic lacking florality, some minerality lees aged

Beauregard Sauvignon Blanc 2017                                                                                                                                    hints of tangerine less tart nice texture

Beauregard Pinot Noir rose 2017
Touch of colour raspberry cherry aftertaste good acidity

Beauregard Pinot Noir 2013 Santa Cruz Mountains
Red fruit sharp oak coconut stands out

Beauregard Pinot Noir 2015 Beauregard Ranch Ben Lomond Mountains
Red fruit forest floor savoury more complex perfume

Beauregard Zinfandel 2016 Beauregard Ranch Ben Lomond Mountains
Dark raisins dry fruit prunes oak chocolate coffee peppery

Beauregard Syrah 2014 Zayante Vineyards Santa Cruz mountain range
Dry farm organic Syrah
VA dark fruit pepper violet