SB Vintner’s Fest Quick Hits

Some fast takes on yesterday’s Santa Barbara Wine Country’s VINTNER’S FEST at Rancho Sisquoc … Weather was beautiful and the venue is outstanding. Not to claim favorites but I liked the location a lot better than last year. There HAD to have been 75 wineries–there’s no way to include everyone–but they were scattered out over the hillside and grass in a way that never felt crowded. Even the BUBBLE TENT–yes, you read that right–had easy access at this sold-out event and probably THE premiere Santa Barbara County tasting event of the year.

Started off the sunny day properly with melon & carbonic malbec from Lieu Dit Winery because Gabe and his crew always are always a good visit and have it goin on. I need some of this muscadet. I need to figure out where to buy it, because it’s just GORGEOUS stuff. I didn’t even get into any of the Tyler Winery stuff yesterday… I’ve tasted them all, and there were SO MANY bright young fresh summer wines around, I didn’t want to get bogged down in Pinot too hard.

TWO MOAR beautiful chilled reds I got to experience were Sandhi Wines & Raj Parr Wine Club’s CANDYFLOSS and Stolpman Vineyards’ LOVE YOU BUNCHES. Find these 2 wines, people: don’t let their playfulness dissuade you. I had rolled my eyes hard at BOTH of these labels, but didn’t let them block an open mind. This is going to be the summer of chilled reds, I predict. It all started off with the Combe Trousseau and everything’s uphill from there.

I’ve been a little hard on Tatomer Wines’ whites in the past, and those who understand my palate know I often have trouble with the austerity of what is considered above-average examples of this variety. (KNOW YOUR CRITIC. KNOW YOUR CRITIC. KNOW YOUR CRITIC. I can’t emphasize this enough). But his 2017 Kick-On Riesling is easily the best one I’ve ever had from him. Tropical & lush, vibrant & biting. Almost Gewurztraminer-ish–which regular readers will ALSO know is my preference. Graham was also pouring some of his tiny-production weingut pinots, which I have had MANY times on the blog. I’m kinda sad to see the price of them has almost doubled from the first couple vintages, but that’s economy I suppose…

Whitcraft Winery brought out the Pence Ranch twins chard & pinot manned by the @drakewhitcraft himself. These are gorgeous, as usual, and it was funny: I tasted three pinots in this order: Tatomer-Tolosa Solomon Hills-Whitcraft and the difference in style between the bookends and the meat in the middle was astonishing. Those Tolosa single-vineyards are lovely–don’t get me wrong (Hollister is my favorite)–but oh boy are they CALIFORNIA (and $$$$).

Speaking of expensive Pinots, Tantara Wines were pouring a beautiful cross section of their exclusive pinots and @the_labyrinth_winemaker had a few select stashes under the table including the ridiculous DOMAINE TANTARA cab franc I reviewed on here a month ago. As exclusive as this winery may appear, a tasting reservation is a painless thing to get, and you will be treated to HOURS of pinot and education.

Two other labels I’ve been following closely–a little more seriouser than the fuzzy reds–but haven’t had an opportunity to try: Zinke Wines had EASILY the rosé of the day with their direct-intention pigeage & concrete Grenache. The blanc & rouge completed this outstanding lineup. I was EXTREMELY impressed, and you know… that’s kinda rare. These are MUST-HAVE wines.

Finally met up with Metrick Wines, who is pulling tiny amounts of fruit from all over California and turning them into fabulous little low-intervention, low-alcohol beauties, in addition to planting strange Spanish varieties all over Santa Barbara county (mencia anyone???) That El Dorado Mourvedre just SLAYS it and his Paragon (Edna, of course) Albarino is something any fan of the variety should get their hands on. Smart guy. Cool labels. Great wines. win-win-win. He also imports a full line of sherries under the alexander-jules label which I really want to taste soon–just didn’t have the time at this event. I have gone on record many times saying the older I get, the less I like Vintage Port and the more I like Tawnies, Sherries, & Madeira.

If you’re looking for a solid keg program, the growler twins from Carr Winery are serious serious wines. Not some fluffy, fizzy bullshit all-too-often seen in BTG programmes, that red is 80/20 GR/SY and a barrel-aged beauty of impressive chops. They have  locations in Santa Barbara County–Santa Ynez and downtown SB–where they will fill your jugs, and you industry folks check out these kegs.

Oh yeah and a quick mention of the night before, where I attended the grand opening of the brand new Liquid Farm tasting room in Los Olivos, so there is ANOTHER reason to visit there. If you’re a loyal reader of this blog, I don’t have to tell you what a huge fan I am of these Chardonnays–and boy were they flowing at the opening of this huge tasting room and decor boutique which could easily double as an event center. Young White Hill’s, Old Golden Slope’s, and the pinot of course. I think this is right across the street from the above-mentioned Zinke, so there TWO stops on one block.

I’ve left out SOOOO many people I saw and wines I tasted, OMG Dusty Nabor and Flying Goat and Scott Sampler and Kenneth Volk and Lane Tanner and Spear and Hitching Post and Solminer and Sanford and Alma Rosa and on and on and on but that’s enough for here. If you follow me on Instagram @wine1er, you would have got the WHOLE THING play-by-play in stories.

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