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Brief notes from the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association tasting, held Wednesday, March 24, 2004, in Newport Beach, CA. One of several tastings conducted throughout the state, the SBCVA conduct a road show throughout the year. The Pelican Hill Golf Course was the site for this tasting, and the setting and view were spectacular. On to the wines.

Overall Impressions

Au Bon Climat -
In the ABC lineup, the '01 Knox Pinot was my favorite, with the '00 Hildegard Pinot not far behind.

Buttonwood Farm -
The wines here seemed a little atypical - at least in terms of varietal leanings. I tried a '02 Syrah Rose (astringent), '01 Syrah (smelled like a Pinot), '00 Cab Franc, '00 Merlot (interesting dose of jalapeno pepper in the nose), and '00 Cab Sauv (peppery mouthfeel). I keep trying these folks, expecting a break-through.

Clos Pepe Estate -
Another nice set of wines here from vigneron Wes Hagen. The two '02 Chardonnay (stainless steel fermented), and the '01Chard (barrel fermented) were both delicious. The two Pinots were
also excellent: the '02 Estate, and the '01 Vingeron Select. The VS had a lot more earthy notes, and more viscosity to boot.

Cold Heaven -
Both Cold Heaven wines ('02 Viognier,'01 Pinot Noir) were very good-excellent, with the Viognier (Sanford & Benedict Vnyd) being a nice surprise. Probably the best Cold Heaven wines I've had.

Flying Goat Cellars -
Norm Yost is on a roll. As winemaker for Foley Winery he produced some very nice wines. But, I especially like what he is doing with his own label, Flying Goat. The '02s poured here were excellent. The Santa Maria Valley was intense and concentrated, with lots of candied cherry aromas and flavors. But, the Dierberg was just gorgeous, with layers of earth and fruit.

Foley Estates -
Pouring an '01 Pinot from Santa Maria Valley, and an '00 Merlot from La Cuesta. A good Pinot was expected, but the very tasty Merlot was a nice surprise. Foley will be growing and producing Santa Rita Hills Pinot from its new Estate vineyards, just east of Melville. Meanwhile, Merlot and any other Bordeaux varietal will continue to come from its La Cuesta Vnyd.

Foxen -
Proprietor, Dick Dore was pouring four wines. The '00 Bien Nacido Pinot seemed to be showing a little age, which was surprising. The '00 SBC Syrah was good, but the '01 Morehouse Syrah was much better - just loaded with spice, clove and floral notes. The final wine was a Bordeaux blend of 70% Merlot, 30% Cab Franc called "Foothills Ranch." Very chewy and rich on the palate, this is a wine to seek out.

Hitching Post -
Gray Hartley was pouring four of the HP wines: '01 Bien Nacido Pinot (very good), '01 Highliner Pinot (even better), '01 Generation Red (a rotating blend that in '01 included Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Syrah), and the '01 Syrah (nice minty streak). My favorite here was the Highliner.

Jaffurs -
General Manager Dave Yates was pouring five wines today: the '01 Stolpman Grenache (very nice; lots of raspberry); the '01 SBC Syrah (sweet and succulent, floral); the '01 Thompson Syrah (lots of pepper, bittersweet chocolate); the '01 Bien Nacido Syrah (slightly floral, very smooth); and the '01 Melville Syrah (dark berry, light herbs and floral notes). Craig Jaffurs just keeps knocking out excellent Syrahs year after year.

Koehler -

New winemaker Michael Roth was pouring four wines: '01 Monterey County Pinot (quite nice, from 35 yr.old vines); '01 Bien Nacido Pinot (nice floral nose); '01 Syrah (very nice); and '00 Cabernet (very nice as well). The wines are all well made, and despite the revolving winemaker situation (including Kris Curran), continue to be nice. Hopefully, Roth will stay longer than the last couple of winemakers - at least long enough to establish a legacy.

Lafond -
Pouring a bunch of their wines, but getting to the table - which was tucked into a corner, proved to be too much. Managed to try an '01 Pinot that was surprisingly Syrah-like in intensity and flavor. It was a very tasty Pinot -even if on steroids.

Melville -
Pouring one Chard and three Pinots, Ron Melville must be proud. In four short years, the Melville name has become well known for both Pinot and Syrah. Ron was pouring was pouring: '02 Chardonnay (beautiful floral and sweet grapefruit); '02 Estate Pinot (very nice balance, off-sweet taste); the '02 "Terraces" Pinot (spicy dark cherry and clove); and the '02 "Carrie's" Pinot (wow!).

Qupe -
Bob Lindquist was pouring five wines - three of them white, which was okay with me. The '02 Bien Nacido Cuvee is a delicious blend of Chard and Viognier (seems blasphemous - but it's delicious); a very nice '01 Bien Nacido Chardonnay; and an '01 Roussanne from the Alban Vnyd (toasty and crisp). Also poured the '02 Cental Coast Syrah (very floral and fruit-driven); and the '01 Los Olivos Cuvee (mostly Syrah, with lesser amounts of Mourvedre and Grenache) which had a fascinatingly musky nose.

Sanford -
General manager Tom Prendiville was pouring both the current Pinot releases: the '01 Sanford and Benedict and the '01 La Rinconada. The S&B leans a little more toward bing cherry and forest floor, while the La Rinconada was plusher and sweeter with more dark fruit.

Stolpman -
Peter Hunken was pouring three wines: '02 Rosato (nice and fleshy); the '01 Rhone Ridge (a GSM blend) which was quite big and chewy; and the '01 Sangiovese (nice balance, spiced cherry flavors). Pity they didn't bring along the Angeli, La Croce, or L'Avion.

Taz -
I've been interested in trying some of these wines, given their affiliation with the Fiddlestix Vineyard (Fiddlehead's Kathy Joseph went into partnership with Beringer Blass on the vineyard - (Taz is named after winegrower Bob "Taz" Steinhauer of Beringer; the wines are made by Jon Priest in Santa Maria). Considering the price points ($15-25), these are terrific wines. The '02 Pinot (90% Fiddlestix Vnyd) was juicy very well-balanced and tasty. The '01 Merlot came from a north-south canyon up near Byron, and wes delicious as well. The '01 Syrah was loaded with dark fruit and chocolate.

Zaca Mesa -
Still one the best kept secrets in the Santa Ynez Valley, ZM is continuing to fine tune their lineup. The '01 Chardonnay was loaded with chewy tropical fruit. The '02 Viognier (SS fermented) was beautiful. The '01 'Z Cuvee' is the best yet, with lots of fruit, and interesting floral-feral scents. The '01 Syrah has lots of tar and anise accents - dare I say, it smells French. The '01 Bear Block Syrah was smooth and seductive.

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