Tonight’s occasion we are checking in on this 2008 Merlot by ParaVi (formerly Primus) from the Sierra Foothills. This was one of my all-time favorite winemakers until they closed several years ago. Their top end flagship was a Merlot, very unusual and a testament to the winemakers skill and craft. This Merlot has lots of character, mild, subdued fruit, good oak, nice pepper and a finish with boat loads of tannin. My cellar is full of hidden gems like this that I’ve collected over the years, never to be seen again. Every sip bittersweet. Thanks to Coravin I’m able to save these gems and open them when they are peaking.
Tonight’s occasion is a 2016 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills (Gravity Flow) by Sanford of the legendary Sanford and Sanford and Benedict Vineyard.
You know, it wasn’t until I visited this vineyard on my first visit to Santa Barbara wine country that I realized there is more than the popular “Big California Pinot”. If you aren’t familiar with it, this is the vineyard that showed California and the wine world at large that growing and making a delicate and exquisite Burgundian style Pinot in this region is possible. This one is no exception. The notes are so subtle, you probably should taste it before eating or drinking anything as they can easily be overwhelmed by anything else on your palate. I highly recommend their wines. They serve as a great benchmark for this region and California at large. What’s your occasion tonight?
Tonight’s occasion we’re going back to Italy with this 2012 Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco. I have a bit of a bittersweet relationship with Barbaresco. I’m obsessed with Nebbiolo but I find that the way it’s made in this region typically leaves me wanting more. Unlike a Barolo or a Langhe Rosso which pack a big heavy mouthfeel and long finish, the Barbaresco tends to be more delicate. I think it’s fascinating nonetheless. I feel fortunate to be able to contemplate such nuances from around the world. Have you tried any of the Italian wines? What’s your favorite?
Tonight’s occasion: In honor of MLK. 2006 Barolo, Lo Zoccolaio. This wine is the embodiment of a big wine. Huge earthy nose, mineral attack with very subtle hints of caramel and berries, smooth body and long majestic gripping tannic finish that lasts all night. I am trying to build a vertical but they are rare and hard to find out here. I sometimes get lucky at Total Wine.
This wine means business. Another reminder why I am absolutely obsessed with the Nebbiolo grape and what the Italians have done with it. What’s your latest occasion?
There are some great wineries tucked away in these hills. Were it not for a very helpful tip from my friend and Sonoma Vintner Roger Roessler of (rogerroesslerwines.com), I would have otherwise driven by and missed this gem.
Dierberg is a must if you are in the region. Their wines are exemplary, well built showcases. Their multi-vineyard estate spanning the greater region from Santa Rita Hills (AVA) to Santa Maria Valley (AVA) to Happy Canyon (AVA).
The winery had a certain modern contemporary minimalist, uncluttered feel that I think helped enhance the wine tasting experience. I found the staff to be very knowledgeable about the wines, estate and history as a whole. Presenting wines from both Dierberg and sister winery Star Lane Vineyard which offers some very interesting and exclusive art in a bottle.
Even though I’m not much of a white wine enthusiast, I thought their whites were very approachable, really well made and with a refreshing amount of creativity too. All their reds were exemplary, really well built wines very much in line with the wines I had tasted so far on this trip. I left with half a case of their Pinot Noir. I will be posting my thoughts whenever I open one of them. I will most definitely be visiting Dierberg next time I’m in the region.
In case you’re wondering, I already ordered mine, so I don’t mind if they sell out. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with another sweet deal from one of my all-time favorite vintners Roger Roessler (rogerroesslerwines.com).
One of the things I like most about this winemaker is he puts together these monthly case deals aimed squarely at folks like myself who love building verticals and following their craft over time. These case deals present a unique opportunity to pick up enough of his signature wines at an attractive price.
While these wines are very drinkable right now believe me when I say, they will only get even better over time. I like to pick up a case, enjoy one or two bottles now with friends and fellow wine snobs, make notes on when to open the next bottle, and lay the rest of the bottles down for a long nap.
This is Roger’s flagship Pinot Noir. It is an exemplary Pinot. Well built with good complexity. I have not tasted the 2017 vintage yet, but I have at least half a case of each vintage of this wine in my cellar dating back to the 2010 vintage. As a matter of fact I opened a 2010 a couple weeks ago and it was – to put it simply – Perfect! It’s even more fascinating when I taste verticals across 3-4 vintages at a time. It’s quite enlightening to taste the subtle nuances from one vintage to another and see how the winemaker managed the various challenges each harvest presented.
Now that Black Pine has got your attention, you can then begin exploring Roger’s wide selection of Signature Pinot Noirs. These are much smaller batches. They are fine-art in a bottle. Passion projects. Red Birds is one of the older lines of his signature wines. When you visit, be sure to ask Roger or the amazing staff to explain their inspiration. I have one 2008 Red Birds left in my cellar. It breaks my heart every time I look at it. I once did a side-by-side with the 2008 and the 2015 vintages and they were astonishingly similar despite the 7 year age gap. This is a big and bold Pinot – a recurring theme with Roessler wines. They lend themselves really well to the aging process. The oldest I’ve opened was a 14 year old vintage which was still coming out of the bottle swinging. A testament to the vintner, his vision and craft.
This post is my independent opinion and in not way sponsored by Roessler Wines. Over time I will post unique opportunities that I feel are worth your consideration. If you do decide to try these wines, please share your thoughts with me or better yet, let’s meet-up at the tasting room.
Another gem from my weekend exploring Santa Barbara County wineries was Rusack. I was first introduced to their wines by a fellow wine snob Dr. G at one of my wine summits. She brought a bottle of their Syrah. I can’t remember what vintage it was but I do remember enjoying it. I usually like my wines big, bold and full of character. I like my wines demanding my full attention. Pairing is nice from time-to-time, but for me a wine worth noting, is a wine that stands on it’s own. The Rusack selection did not disappoint.
So naturally I had to pay them a visit. After Sanford and Benedict Vineyards, this was next on my list of musts. The grounds were understated, neat, and homely. The patio/deck in the front, nestled under old growth California oak afforded a perfect place to setup your picnic (which they encourage) and enjoy a good vintage while immersing yourself in what it must feel like to be a gape vine on this estate. Clear warm sunlight cutting through a never ending cool crisp breeze. The climate in this region is amazing. I never wanted to leave. In fact, the tour came to an abrupt end at Rusack as I wondered if I really wanted to gamble the rest of my afternoon wandering aimlessly around the area.
But what about their wines?
Oh yeah. That! Well, I spent at least and hour in their tasting room sampling everything they had to offer. They poured and All-Star lineup. From some very creative whites typical to this region, to some big beautiful reds. The Tasting Room Manager was one of the best hosts I had yet. He was very knowledgeable and only too happy to geek-out about their wines and the region as a whole. He was gracious enough to explore wines off the beaten path and showcase some of their more creative endeavors. It felt more like a field trip.
I’m more of a Red wine drinker but I must say I enjoyed every one of their Whites. I found them more pleasant than expected for a California White. Buttery, complex, fruity noses and not too acidic. My favorites were their Pinot Noir and Syrah. These wine were big, bold but not overbearing. They drank well but I could tell they would be even more amazing if laid down for another 5 or more years. This is exactly what I look for in my wines. I love following a wine through it’s life, patiently waiting for that moment it is peaking and at it’s fullest expression.
The most interesting wine they were pouring was their Zinfandel. This varietal is native to the Northern California region where the climate is much more harsh, hot and dry. This makes for really hard sometimes unbearable wines with big raisin-y fruit, very high alcohol and peppery finish. We typically call them fruit bombs. I really don’t like them. So when presented with their Estate Zinfandel, I was only too curious to see how the more mild, gentle climate and rich terroir here would be expressed through the grape. I have to say it was some of the best most tame Zinfandel I’ve had yet. I love what they’ve done with it. I did not encounter any other Zinfandel on this trip. It was a nice surprise.
I big part of how I gauge value in a winery’s offering is not just a good well-built wine, but also at a compelling price point that permits me to collect at least half a case of my favorites without having to break the bank. I’m not really into buying one bottle here and there. I want to be able to follow the wine. I have to say Rusack’s offerings presented good value for the wine snob. I was also delighted to discover a separate menu of their Library Wines. These were an assortment of Reds from the 2007 vintage most of which were priced pretty much same as their new releases. This is exactly what gets my attention! When a winery caters to those who are interested in exploring their wine even further by tasting verticals and comparing vintages while contemplating the nuances and how that affected the wines.
I settled out on the patio/deck with a 2007 Pinot Noir. It was their last bottle. It was perfect. I also tried a 2007 Syrah. These two are what I left with. Several bottles of each, from both vintages. I look forward to posting about them in the near future.
If you’d like to learn more about them, visit their web site below:
My trip to Santa Barbara wine country this past weekend had been a long time coming. I had never visited the region before this weekend. Occasionally, a friend or guest to one of my wine summits would bring a bottle from this region to share. I was always intrigued by the fact that I had yet to sample a mediocre wine from this region and the central coast at large. Perhaps my friends just have good taste. Either way I was poised to answer this and many questions on this trip.
There is no shortage of interesting wine country to explore here in California (especially Northern California). Enough to keep the most curious Oenophile thoroughly occupied. My interest in the greater Santa Barbara wine region was really sparked by long time Sonoma vintner extraordiaire, Roger Roessler (rogerroesslerwines.com). I have been following/collecting/savoring his creations for well over a decade now. You will be seeing quite a few posts about his wines. What drew me in was his passion for Pinot Noir and the sometimes overwhelming variety of Pinot he would put out not just from Sonoma, but from all up and down the West Coast. His selection reads like a compendium of California Pinot Noirs. Each one strikingly different, unique in it’s own right. An expression of what he liked most about that region.
One of Roessler’s Pinots I have enjoyed over the years is his S&B Pinot. The S&B stands for Sanford and Benedict. Initially I did not quite appreciate the significance of the name. I assumed it had personal significance to Roger. Over the years as my appreciation grew and after many discussions with him about his various wines and their inspirations, I realized the true meaning of the label. As Roger shared his thoughts on the region I realized it carried profound significance.
As my visit to this region neared, I began researching and learning more about the region and it’s history. In one evening of casual reading, I realized the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard was more than just another California winery. It was a cornerstone establishment in the larger region with a storied history, started by true pioneers (and purists) Roger Sanford and Michael Benedict. They paved the way for the region by showing what was truly possible – growing and making truly exceptional Pinot Noir.
My first stop was Sanford and Benedict Vineyards. Now owned by the Terlato Family. I left with the impression that they have done a terrific job of preserving not just it’s name and identity, but the legacy that brought it’s Pinot Noir and the region at large to notoriety. As It still felt somewhat understated. The grounds were clean and free of clutter. The buildings had a bit of a subdued presence with more of an quiet established feel. The wine list was very straight forward and to the point, all small production Estate wines. One signature Pinot, two single block Pinots and one reserve blend of a couple blocks.
All it took for me was my taste of the signature Pinot – the 2014 Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir. It was one of the most delicate and complex California Pinot Noirs I have had and certainly deserves a post all its own. As the tasting progressed, our host was gracious enough to take us outside, show us the vines, grounds and tell us about what makes it all truly special. I also couldn’t help but notice how perfectly trimmed/pruned the vines were. I haven’t quite seen vines and grounds this immaculately maintained before. As my visit progressed it became obvious why their grapes are so sought after far an wide. I began to realize their estate wines served as a thesis, a guide and reference on how to grow and make a Pinot Noir. Sanford and Benedict set a very high bar for all wines in the region. I spent the rest of my weekend looking back at Sanford and Benedict every time I tasted wines. A tough act to follow. A tall legacy to beat. A few came close. I finally understood why a winemaker would come this far for grapes.
If you are even anywhere remotely close to this region, Sanford and Benedict is an absolute must! It alone is worth making the trip.
I found a great write-up on their history here:
For more information, please visit their website here:
“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
~Paulo Coelho, Brida
Welcome my fellow Oenophiles!
This blog has been a long time coming. It’s inception dates back to over 10 years ago, over many exquisite vintages. My resolve obliviously not strong enough to see this project through to launch. Granted, in my defense the past 10 years have been perhaps the most transformative, exhilarating and all-consuming in every respect. That did not however keep me from my journey to becoming a self confessed wine-snob. As such I have over a decade of back-posting and cataloguing to do.
My goal with this blog is to share with all, my exploits, adventures, discoveries about all things wine. I plan on posting for the most part under three broad categories:
- Reserve Wines – Over the years I have amassed and maintained a sizeable collection of wines in my reserve. Occasionally I will open or sample one of these vintages and discuss my thoughts. I am also continuously searching for new and little-known wines/winemakers to follow and add to my long term reserve. These are well-built artisan wines I feel offer(ed) great value at the time, are often seldom known and lend themselves really well to the aging process.
- EDC Wines – Ahhh… of course. You will see quite a few posts about EDC Wines. EDC stands for Every Day Consumption. One of the keys to successfully maintaining an aging a long-term reserve is maintaining and equally interesting supply of EDC wines. These are typically less complex, mass produced wines that offer a great value for a comparatively low price. They act as a buffer for those special wines in your reserve. These are two-to-three dimensional wines for those days you just need a decent wine or you need a good second bottle to follow the reserve wine you just opened to share with friends. Without a good EDC selection, you risk completely depleting your reserve before it has had a chance to fully mature.
- Lifestyle – This category will cover everything else from wine storage and management to accessories; from trips through wine country to musings on various regions and what I like (or dislike) most about them. I will talk about all that goes into my pursuit of good wine – which might sometimes feel overwhelming but keep in mind that it has been a gradual process over many years of appreciation, refinement, trial and error, discovery and mostly little investments of time and resources here-and-there.
So without further ado. I will dive into the thick of it with my next blog post. Please stop by from time-to-time and share your experience with me. Hopefully it doesn’t take me another 10 years to write my next post!