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Andrew Murray

Report on the 13th annual futures offering sponsored by the Wine Cask restaurant and wine store in Santa Barbara, Saturday, March 16, 2002. This year's tasting was $45, a bargain considering the array of wines, and the Wine Cask will credit $15 back toward purchases. Impressions of the aroma and taste profiles are expressed in an alpha format, and may be approximately compared to numerical scores by referencing my conversion chart.

This annual event covers locally grown and/or produced wines from soon-to-be-released vintages. It is usually presented twice during the Spring in order to accommodate all those interested. A sizable crowd attended this event in order to sample some of the 115 wines being poured by the 39 labels represented.

The tasting notes compiled below are from the first of this year's events. My scores have an alpha rating, based on an overall opinion of the wine's qualities. With a few exceptions, these wines are generally all pulled from barrel samples and bottled especially for this tasting. And as such, it's important to remember they represent a 'work in progress.' Thus, the final wine may differ slightly in composition or blend - all of which means that you're speculating a bit on the outcome. On the other hand, I find it very instructive as well as fun to try and predict how a wine will develop. All prices listed are Futures prices from the Wine Cask, and are generally good through April 27, 2002.

Overall impressions: as always, the wines were fabulous and the food was superb. Apparently, the doors had been opened a little prior to the scheduled Noon starting time. And, it didn't take long for the historically large crowd to fill all of the space, including the restaurant, the wine bar, and the patio. Ordinarily, it's more crowded at certain bottlenecks or people converge at the more popular tables (ABC, Brewer-Clifton). But this time, it got downright packed throughout the entire venue.

Among my favorites this year were several Syrahs from the many of the "usual suspects," Beckmen, Jaffurs, Garretson, Tensley and Ojai. However, there were also a couple of really nice surprises in the Syrahs from both Kenneth-Crawford and Kunin. This may be a first and a last for the Kenneth-Crawford, because the winemakers say they want to concentrate on Pinot Noir. Speaking of which, most of the Pinots I tasted were again very good-to-excellent. Most impressive were the Carrie's Block from Melville and the Melville Indigene from Brewer-Clifton.

Interestingly, there were no Thompson Vnyd Syrah bottlings in this year's tasting. Nobody seemed to know why this was, except that many of each producer's bottlings are now being being sold through their respective distributors, thus increasing the potential for some sales conflict by offering it during this event. However, to take up the slack there did seem to be a slew of new vineyard designates, including a few Melville Vnyd bottlings, now that this nifty vineyard has gotten to 3rd leaf. Also, making a debut this year were eagerly awaited bottlings from the Rozet, Vogelzang, and White Hawk vineyards.

  • several new Central Coast vineyards have now come "on-line"
  • the combination of new vineyards, wineries, and winemakers will put pressure on the "old guard"
  • Syrah is gaining more and more favor in this Pinot Noir stronghold
  • Grenache could have an excellent future in S.B. Co.
  • these offerings appear to be going more for balance and finesse
  • the '01s generally had more extraction and complexity than the '00s
  • attendance seemed to be at an all-time high, with the venue getting packed early-on
  • really? You say there were white wines at this tasting?
Selected Tasting Notes

BABCOCK: pouring 3 wines

2000 Syrah "Black label ". $32.95. Big lush nose of anise and blackberry, with a touch of toasted grain that carries through the long finish. Overall score: B+ 

Comments: I think Bryan could just about dial this one in from now on. Once again, he's turned out a very nice syrah, and although maybe a bit less racy than some of the others, was certainly among the best Syrahs of the day.

BECKMEN: pouring 4 wines

2001 Grenache "Purisima Mountain". $23.99. Effusive nose of sweet raspberry with some floral and spice notes. Full almost chewy mouthfeel, nice concentration, with a semi-sweet long fruit-filled finish, and delicious aftertaste. Tablas clone. Overall score: A-

2001 Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache "Purisima Mountain". $24.95. Very fruity nose of raspberry and blackberry fruit. Fruit-filled andjammy mouthfeel, with lots of raspberry and blackberry flavors, and a long finish. A ramped-up version of the Cuvee Le Bec. Overall score: B+ 

What kind of cheese is this?

2001 Syrah "Purisima Mountain". $27.95. Big nose of blueberry and blackberry fruit on this wine. Very jammy mouthfeel, with lots of blueberry and blackberry fruit, and very long finish. Trading a little weight for touches of refinement, I found this more accessible than last year's version. Tablas clone. Overall score: A-

2001 Cabernet "Purisima Mountain". $32.95. Lots of herbaceous black and red fruit as well as oak on the nose. Huge and chewy mouthfeel, with flavors of sage and olive, and very long finish. Overall score: B+

Comments: each of Steve Beckmen's wines were excellent, with the Syrah just edging out the Grenache as my favorite. And, speaking of Grenache, the Beckmen just keeps getting better and better. This is the first Cab from the Purisima Vnyd, and won't be released until next year.

Fred Brander

BRANDER: pouring 4 wines

2000 Tempranillo. $18.95. Very nice nose of black cherry, smoke and a touch of anise. Substantial mouthfeel, with chewy semi-sweet fruit, spicy flavors, and a long finish. Overall score: B+

Comments: darn interesting Tempranillo. Is it true to its 'Old World' roots? No, not really. However, it's jucier and more flavorful.


BREWER-CLIFTON: pouring 4 wines

2001 Pinot Noir "Rozak Ranch". $34.99. Beautiful nose of black cherry, floral and cinnamon-spiced aromas. Medium-full

Greg Brewer
mouthfeel, balanced to the acid side, with very nice somewhat hi-toned fruit, and a long silky finish. Overall score: B+

2001 Pinot Noir "Melville Vnyd". $45.99. Effusive nose that almost had more sweet Syrah qualities than Pinot. Young mouthfeel, good concentration, lots of stemmy strawberry and black cherry fruit, very long finish. Wow. Overall score: A-

Comments: both of these wines by Greg Brewer are quite nice. The Rozak seems the least concentrated of the pair. Plus, I like the stemmy qualities in the Melville.

...oops, excuse me... sorry, I beg your pardon

FOXEN: pouring 5 wines

2000 Syrah/Mourvedre "Cuvee Jean Marie". $23.95. Fleshy, fruity, and meaty nose and mouthfeel, with smooth chewy texture, lots of fruit and a touch of toast on the long finish. Overall score: B+

2000 Syrah "Tinaquaic". $27.95. Dense, slightly fleshy, spicy and earthy nose. Moderately full mouthfeel, with lightly spicy blackberry fruit, and a slight licorice flavor to the long finish. Overall score: B

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon "Ma Mere". $59.95. Quite herbaceous, with a green bean, earthy and cedar-infused nose. Moderate mouthfeel, lean and slightly austere flavors, and long finish. The price of this wine reflects the limited production of this vineyard. Overall score: B 

Comments: slightly disappointing not to have a Foxen Pinot in the lineup this year.  But as a consolation, the Syrah/Mourvedre was drinking very nicely.

GAINEY: pouring 3 wines

2000 Syrah "Clone 99". $19.95. Nose of blackberry and tar, with a touch of leather. Moderately full mouthfeel, nice structure, long finish. A nice wine, relying more on finese than brute power. Overall score: B+

Comments: here was a pleasant surprise. Previously only offering a Merlot, Gainey has come through with a nice Syrah from a fairly new 4th leaf Estate vineyard.

GARRETSON: pouring 2 wines

2001 Syrah "Fione Cisteog". $23.99. Nose is filled with floral notes and boysenberry and raspberry fruit. Full mouthfeel, plenty of grip on the palate, and a long fruity finish. Overall score: B+

Comments: Mat makes a beautiful $45 Rozet Vnyd Syrah. Want a junior version? Here you go. This blend of Rozet and Halter fruit has more of a red fruit profile.

Amie Garretson

HARTLEY-OSTINI: pouring 3 wines

2000 Syrah "Purisima Mountain". $19.95. Nice floral and blackberry nose. Full mouthfeel, fruity flavors, decent structure, long finish. Overall score: B

Comments: juicy and flavorful, moderate complexity.

JAFFURS WINE CELLARS: pouring 3 wines

2001 Syrah "Stolpman Vineyard". $26.99. Nose of blackberry, bacon, and toast. Toasty mouthfeel, nice and silky on the palate, with a nice long fruity finish. Overall score: B+

2001 Syrah "Melville Vineyard". $26.99. Big spicy blackberry nose. Moderately toasty mouthfeel, chewy fruit, with a definite cinnamon-spiced quality to the finish. Overall score: A-

Comments: Craig was pouring the recently-bottled barrel samples from magnums. Always a nice touch.

KENNETH-CRAWFORD: pouring 2 wines.

2001 Syrah "Lafond/Melville". $19.95. Big ripe and fleshy nose, with slightly floral blackberry and blueberry fruit. Very chewy on the palate, smooth mouthfeel, very fruity from mid to back palate, and long finish. Overall score: B+

Comments: one of the bigger, if not biggest surprises of the tasting, this Syrah was huge, yet very approachable, owing to its fleshy and forward style. This will drink best over the next five years.

KUNIN: pouring 2 wines.

2001 Syrah "Barrel Selection". $27.95. Fabulous nose of floral, blackberry-blueberry fruit, anise, and toast. Full and chewy on the palate, with excellent integration of fruit, toast, and spice, with long seamless finish. Overall score: A-

Comments: the best Syrah I've tasted from Seth Kunin. 

LONGORIA: pouring 2 wines.

2000 Pinot Noir "Mt. Carmel" $42.50. Floral, smoky and fruity nose. Substantial mouthfeel, slightly stemmy and chewy fruit, with a touch of cola and cinnamon spice to the long finish. Overall score: B+ 

Comments: this is a very nice Pinot by Rick Longoria, somewhat bigger in style than some of his previous offerings.

MARGERUM: pouring 3 wines.

2001 Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache . $19.95. Lots of fruity aromas in the nose, with a lightly spicy and floral quality. Nice structure on the palate, plenty of fruit, touch of smoke, stems and toast, and a long spicy finish. Overall score: B+

2001 Syrah/Mourvedre. $31.95. Beautiful slightly gamey blackberry nose.

Brad Harrington, Doug Margerum
Full mouthfeel, very fleshy and forward, with a long peppery finish. Overall score: A-

Comments: debut release for the Margerum label (from Wine Cask owner Doug Margerum), and there's some really nice wines here.

MELVILLE: pouring 4 wines.

2001 Pinot Noir "Clone 115 - Indigene". $27.95. Beautiful lightly sweet and floral nose, with bing cherry, strawberry, cinnamon and rose petal. Full mouthfeel, very tasty fruit, excellent balance, and long finish. Overall score: A -

2001 Pinot Noir "Carrie's Block". $34.95. Fabulous sweet fruity and floral nose, with aromas of cherry, strawberry, and roses, with just a hint of stem. Full mouthfeel, chewy fruit, some obvious new oak, excellent balance, very long finish. Overall score: A

Comments: both of these Pinots are very nice. I preferred the Carrie's, which exhibits more dark fruits and bolder profile.


Andrew Murray

2001 Syrah "White Hawk". $23.95. Nose here is higher toned and more to the red fruit side of Syrah, with a touch of oak and orange zest. Mouthfeel is mostly somewhat sharper, with plenty of acidity, ample fruit and a long finish. Overall score: B

2000 Syrah "South Slope". $23.95. Dense and very ripe nose - seems somewhat reduced. Plenty of blackberry-blueberry fruit onthe palate, and long toasty finish. Overall score: B+

Comments: for 2000, the South Slope seemed to return to its old form - big, ripe and gutsy.


A Few Favorites


2001 Melville, Carrie's Block
2001 Brewer & Clifton, Melville Vnyd
2000 Richard Longoria, Mt. Carmel


2001 Beckmen Purisima
2001 Garretson, Fion Cisteog
2001 Jaffurs Melville
2001 Kunin Barrel Selection
2001 Kenneth-Crawford, Lafond/Melville
2000 Ojai, Melville
2000 Ojai, Roll Ranch
2001 Andrew Murray, South Slope
2001 Tensley, Purisima


2001 Beckmen Grenache
2001 Brander Tempranillo
2000 Foxen Syrah/Mourvedre - Cuvee Jean Marie
2001 Foxen Cabernet, Vogelzang
2001 Margerum Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache

OJAI VINEYARD: pouring 5 wines

2000 Syrah "Roll Ranch". $38.95. Exceptionally jammy nose of blueberry, blueberry and licorice. Big off-sweet mouthfeel, smooth and chewy from front to back palate, with spicy blackberry flavors, and a very long finish. Overall score: A-

2000 Syrah "Melville". $31.95. Nose of blueberry, pepper, and blackberry, with wth a touch of licorice. Mostly chewy mouthfeel, great blueberry fruit, and a fabulous very long finish. Overall score: A-

Comments: of these two, I slightly preferred the Melville for its 'Blue Suede' mouthfeel and taste.

QUPE: pouring 6 wines

2000 Syrah "Colson". $19.95. Nice inky and licorice-infused nose. Nice flavor profile, but somewhat less gutsy than than many of the other Syrahs here today. The nose seems real nice, but the mouthfeel more so-so. Overall score: B

2000 Syrah "White Hawk". $19.95. Big blackberry and inky nose - almost Petite Sirah-like. A bit monolithic on the palate, with a dense chewy consistency, and very long finish. Overall score: B

Another of the many Hors d'oeuvres tables
2000 Syrah "Bien Nacido Reserve". $31.95. Nose of rich blackberry, spice, and a touch of bacon. Medium-full mouthfeel of spicy blackberry fruit, very smooth and toasty across the palate, with a long finish.
Nicely made wine, and the nose here is terrific -as always. But, somehow, the mouth seems to lack some punch. Overall score: B+

Comments: well-made Syrahs. This is a smoother B/N than I've seen in the past - maybe too smooth. The White Hawk will take some time to resolve, and the Colson may just be the best for food paring.

SANFORD: pouring 3 wines

2000 Pinot Noir "La Rinconada Vnyd". $46.95. Rich slightly floral nose of stemmy strawberry, bing cherry, cinnamon, and cola. Full mouthfeel, chewy off-sweet strawberry/cherry fruit, very long finish. Overall score: A-

Comments: the Stone Killer from last year is back. And, I'd say this time it's built a little more for aging.

TENSLEY: pouring 3 wines

2001 Syrah "Larner". $23.95. Fascinating nose of blackberry, boysenberry, and a touch of citron. Full, but not massive mouthfeel, with good

Joey Tensley
concentration of flavors, and a long finish. Overall score: B+

2001 Syrah "Colson Cyn". $23.95. Very dark color. Huge wheaty/toasty nose of blackberry, herbs, and spice. Jammy mouthfeel, chewy and smooth consistency, the fruit stays constant through the long finish. Overall score: B+

2001 Syrah "Purisima Mtn". $23.95. Nearly black-purple in color. Very jammy nose of blackberry, spice, and toast. Huge mouthfeel, jammy blackberry fruit and tar/licorice, huge long finish. Tablas clone. Overall score: A-

Comments: I thought this year's Tensley wines were less massive instructure, exhibiting less density across the palate than in past offerings. Are these getting classier, or have I just become desensitized?

WESTERLY: pouring 1 wine:

2000 "W". $35.95. Somewhat herbaceous, with cassis and stemmy qualities. Very Bordeaux-like on the palate, with cassis, shoepolish, oak, and a fleshy stemminess to the long finish. 60/40 CF/Merlot blend. Overall score: B+ 

Comments: impressive tasting blend.

Unable to taste and review:

AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 10 wines
BARHAM-MENDELSOHN: pouring 1 wine
Cold Heaven: pouring 2 wines
COSTA DE ORO: pouring 2 wines
DI BRUNO: pouring 2 wines
FOLEY: pouring 1 wine
DANIEL GEHRS: pouring 2 wines
ICI/LA-BAS: pouring 2 wines
MAKOR: pouring 2 wines
IL PODERE DELL'OLIVOS: pouring 2 wines
STOLPMAN: pouring 2 wines
VITA NOVA: pouring 2 wines
ZACA MESA: pouring 2 wines


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