Monthly Archive for April, 2012

Petit Verdot

Recently in the winery we bottled our second ever release of Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot is an interesting grape. It is historically one of the red varieties of Bordeaux. It is added to the Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blends of the Left Bank in order to enhance their color, depth and exotic perfume.

Like Cabernet Sauvignon it is rot resistant, thick-skinned, and tannic. It is the inkiest of the Bordeaux reds, and in warm years it produces full-bodied, age-worthy wines with a hint of spice that make an invaluable endowment to the stars of the Médoc.

Petit Verdot, however, is the last of the Bordeaux grapes to ripen. Its need a for warm, long harvest season explains why it is used so little in France yet thrives and is increasingly popular as a varietal wine in New World regions such as Australia, Chile and California.

Australia leads the pack with nearly twice the acreage planted as Bordeaux, roughly three times that of California and sixteen times that of Chile. It should be noted that the ‘Verdot’ of Argentina’s Mendoza region (in which there is very little planted) is believed to actually be Gros Verdot, an unrelated grape with far less character.

In 2008 we had a surprise opportunity to get our hands on some Petit Verdot from Grassini Vineyard in the Happy Canyon AVA on the east end of the Santa Ynez Valley. It was a huge hit but we never expected we would make it a regular on our wine list. However, in 2010 Curtis Vineyard in Foxen Canyon had some Petit Verdot available that was too good to pass up.

So here we are with our second vintage of a remarkable wine that we never planned on making in the first place, and we couldn’t be happier. You can expect to find the 2010 Petit Verdot on our shelves as early as this fall.

Carlos Mascherin, Santa Barbara Winery

Chardonnay Block April 28, 2012

These are fairly young vines, planted 7 or 8 years ago. The block is probably our sandiest and growth has been very slow.

Vines that are not vigorous usually produce excellent wine and our experience, so far, certainly confirms this. This year the vines look very healthy with many double clusters promising a good harvest.
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2011 Santa Barbara Winery Rosé of Syrah

When Bruce first identified a section of Hilltop Ranch Vineyard as being particularly well suited to making rosé, we were becoming aware of a re-energized interest in these wines produced in a dry style with serious winemaking techniques.

A dry rose is a prized complement to food and company, particularly well suited for warm summer days outside as an apertif or to accompany a meal. The 2011 Rosé of Syrah is composed of Syrah fruit from Hilltop Ranch Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, on an adjoining property to Lafond Vineyard.

A terrific wine with ample weight to enjoy with all but the heartiest of foods. Delightfully refreshing with a simple lunch of cheese, cured meats, olives and bread on a warm day.

Winemaker’s Comments: The grapes were destemmed and hand sorted, followed by an overnight cold soak on the skins prior to pressing for proper color intensity. A cool fermentation took place entirely in stainless steel tanks.

Suggested Retail: 15.00
To purchase: Santa Barbara Winery

Filling Kegs

Filling kegs of Sauvignon Blanc during a brief interruption of bottling. Each stainless steel keg holds the equivalent of 6 1/2 cases. The Sauvignon Blanc kegs, along with a few other varieties, are used in our Wine Bistro Restaurants.

The image shows Bruce and his assistants filling the kegs. The wine, as in the case of bottles, passes through two micro filters, seen on the wall. Since we save on bottles, corks, labels and capsules it allows the restaurants to offer wine by the glass at a reduced price as well as being environmentally friendly.

Emily Johnston, La Sommeliera Italiana

Santa Barbara Winery proudly welcomes sommelier Emily Johnston back home after her studies in Italy. Emily studied with ALMA: Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana which is run by its founder, Gualtiero Marchesi, a celebrity chef best known for pioneering Nouvelle Cuisine, and considered by many to be the father of modern Italian cuisine.

The program included an intensive theoretical classroom portion followed by a practical internship. Students attended daily classes in wine service, winemaking, wine and food pairing and bartending. The classes also included field trips to exotic destinations such as Franciacorta, Tuscany, Umbria, and Slovenia to visit winemakers in their natural habitat. All of these classes were of course taught in Italian which Johnston speaks fluently.

For her practical internship, Emily was sent to Aosta in the Italian Alps to work at a wine bar that specializes in Italian and French wines with an emphasis on Champagne and wines from small producers and biodynamic wineries.

Johnston wrote her thesis on the strong ties of local wine and cheese to local traditions, history and terroir. She focussed specifically on Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle (a wine which is grown at the highest elevation in Italy and is composed exclusively of the Prie Blanc grape) and Petit Arvine from neighboring Vallais, Switzerland.

Emily earned her certificate with honors achieving the highest grade in her class and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

Come in to the tasting room at 202 Anacapa Street this weekend to practice your Italian and enjoy a flight guided by our very own Sommeliera Italiana.

Carlos Mascherin, Santa Barbara Winery

Wedding at the Vineyard April 21, 2012


All our Chardonnay is on a plateau 70 or 80 feet above the main vineyard. The Chardonnay escaped unharmed from the frost, what was mauled is the Riesling and much of the Pinot Noir below. We were expecting a very large crop of Pinot Noir and now we will have to be satisfied with something a little more modest.

The Chardonnay, however, is thriving with many double clusters. These are 5 year old vines which we have had to carefully nurse because of the very sandy soil and the lack of nutrients. David and Enrique, for the last three years, have carefully monitored them to a point where they will now be rewarding us with some great wines. As the image shows it looks pretty good but the frost season is not quite over yet.

David’s 1960 Jeep

This historical machine which originally came in pink made its debut in a Walt Disney movie with Elvis Presley which, thankfully, I don’t remember the name. This jeep did not actually participate in the movie but Walt Disney created a big demand for pink jeeps. The jeep runs fine but there are still a few minor improvements necessary starting with the windshield.

We cruised the vineyard determining the damage caused by a frost 2 weeks ago, how to better place our giant fans and additional temporary walls we might need to direct the cold air coming down the canyons.

Turning over compost

We compost all the pressed grapes and stems along with straw and tree trimmings, regularly turning them over, and by summer we have enough that we can apply to the weaker areas of the vineyard. It seems to help. We place it down the line of the vines, it supplies nutrients but it also manages to keep the sandy soil moist.

New Release 2009 Lafond Vineyard Chardonnay

The Santa Rita Hills is a small appellation at the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley that has gained national recognition for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. The Valley runs west to east permitting the late afternoon ocean fog to roll into the Santa Rita Hills, where it lingers until early morning.

The surrounding hills trap the fog before it is dissipated in the wider Santa Ynez Valley. In the spring when frost is our biggest concern a layer of fog over the vineyard can provide protection. In the summer the fog moderates the normally warm days of the valley, cooling the grapes at night.

Warm days and cool nights are essential for the making of fine Chardonnay. ‘Good wine is a skill, fine wine is an art.’ The grapes, which are picked at night, are pressed as whole clusters, stems and all. The stems create channels for the juice to escape, otherwise, the skins would quickly block the openings.

The juice is then fermented in barrels. After fermentation the wine is left on its lees, a combination of yeast cells and sediment, periodically stirred, allowed to go through malolactic fermention, racked and bottled almost a year later. The oak barrels, the yeast cells, the sediment all add complexity to the wine.

Winemaker Comments: Our oldest Block of Chardonnay planted in 1976. This 33 year old block of Wente Clone Chardonnay produces our most intense, concentrated wine. Cropped at 1.1 tons per acre the quality offsets the small yeild.
Production: 137 cases
Suggested Retail Price: 38.00 / 750ml
To Order: Lafond Winery & Vineyards

New Release Lafond Winery 2010 SRH Syrah

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The Santa Rita Hills is a small appellation at the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley that has gained national recognition for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. The Valley runs west to east permitting the late afternoon ocean fog to roll into the Santa Rita Hills, where it lingers until early morning. The surrounding hills trap the fog before it is dissipated in the wider Santa Ynez Valley. In the spring when frost is our biggest concern a layer of fog over the vineyard can provide protection.

In the summer the fog moderates the normally warm days of the valley, cooling the grapes at night. Warm days and cool nights are what gives our Santa Rita Hills Syrah its spicy rich complex flavors. Our grapes are picked at night so that when they are processed in the morning the temperature in the fermenters can be quickly dropped allowing the maximum extraction of flavor. The grapes are first sorted to remove bunches that are green or otherwise damaged.

They then go through the most gentle stemmer we could find and finally the grapes are hand sorted to remove jacks and stems that may have made their way past the stemmer. Although we have gentle compressed air pumps the grapes are never pumped during the processing or during fermentation so as not to damage the skins.

Winemaker Comments: 2010 was a very cool Spring and Summer. Once Fall arrived so did the heat. Cool climate spicy aromatics with full ripe grape flavors.
Production: 1,708 cases
Suggested Retail Price: 23.00 / 750ml

To purchase: Lafond Winery & Vineyards

2009 Santa Barbara Winery Riesling

Riesling is easily Germany’s most important grape and possibly the world’s finest white thanks to its ability to develop in bottle for decades as well as showcase the unique characteristics of a region without losing its own distinct personality, regardless of alcohol strength or residual sugar.

is made at all levels of sweetness and in a wide range of styles from bone-dry dinner wine, such as that from France’s famous Alsace region, to ultra-sweet dessert wine, such as Germany’s Eiswein, and botrytized Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese. Part of what allows Riesling to be so versatile is its naturally high levels of tartaric acid-which counterbalances its sweetness-and its seductive, almost intoxicating perfume-like aromatics.

These characteristics often make Riesling the perfect companion for spicy foods such as Indian and Thai cuisine, especially when it’s sweet, but also for salty meats and pungent blue-marbled cheeses. Our 2009 Riesling has a residual sugar content of 2.3 percent making it just slightly sweet or “off-dry” in fancy wine lingo.

It pairs fabulously with fatty poultry such as goose or duck. I had it the other day at Pierre Lafond’s Montecito Wine Bistro along with award-winning Chef Nathan Heil’s Grilled Duck Breast and Confit Duck Leg which came with walnut sauce, yam purée, and Savoy cabbage, roasted mushrooms and caramelized pearl onions. The two were a match made in heaven.

For a glance at Heil’s inspired menu and a peek inside the Wine Bistro.

Carlos Mascherin, Santa Barbara Winery

Bottling Time

We are in for another spell of bottling – this time small lots both of Santa Barbara Winery and Lafond Winery. Some of the lots are over 500 cases but the majority are under 250. For Santa Barbara Winery Lagrein, Primitivo, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and I am sure I have missed some.

For the Lafond Winery Pinot Noir and Syrah identified by clone and/or vineyard. These are all red wines, none have been filtered, they have been cold stabilized and gently racked after they have settled. Filtering, forcing wine through pads or a filtration medium tends to strip the wine.

The key person in the bottling line is the one who places the capsule as the bottles whiz by. Carlos has magic hands and rarely misses a beat.
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Pinot Noir 4.03.12

Not that much change from a week ago but we are seeing green almost everywhere on the cordons. This is a close-up of a budding vine clearly showing a double cluster. It is too early to tell how many or what percentage are carrying a double cluster, but it is a good sign.
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The Ceanothus are beautiful this time of year. We have several around the winery but this one in front, as you drive up, is especially beautiful. Wikipedia has a good article on this plant native to the Pacific coastal ranges.
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