Tuesday, December 18, 2007

tastes great!

I've said before that one of the real joys of living in Santa Barbara is the availability of wonderful, local wines. On Friday we're going to a friend's house to do a tasting of Cabernet's at a variety of price points and I decided to go across the mountains yesterday to pick up a bottle from our favorite winery - Beckmen. Since we're members there, that means a free tasting. So, Cheryl and I along with Alexis and her significant other, Christian, drove to Los Olivos, got lunch at a little cafe and then off to Beckmen's to taste some wonderful red wines. We bought the cab and a bottle of their top of the line blend, jumped in the car and off for some more tastings.

Tastings are a wonderful social event... the pourers are all wonderfully social and informed people and it is great fun to taste some wines, learn about them, and meet some fun people. It is also interesting to feel the different atmospheres of the different wineries and to see the different clientele that is attracted. It was a gray and drizzly day but what better way to spend that than tasting some great wines and laughing with fun people?

We didn't feel like driving around a lot so we went to Solvang where we could visit a number of tasting rooms that we hadn't visited before, walk around a bit, and then head home.

Our first visit was Mandolina. One of the trends here is known as CalItal - growing Italian grapes and making Italian style wines and this little winery is one of the ones devoted to that trend. We tasted some very nice Italian varietals and ended up purchasing a bottle of their version of a super Tuscan - a blend of Italian and Bordeaux varieties of grapes. Yummy. It was a small tasting room and we were the only ones there for most of the time. We enjoyed talking with the pourer.

A short walk around the corner brought us to our next stop - Stolpman Vineyards. Stolpman is known more as a grower than a vintner and it isn't unusual to see other wineries with bottles labeled that the grapes came from Stolpman. I had drunk other vintners wines made from Stolpman grapes, but hadn't tasted their own wines before. When we got to the reds, we were struck by the huge tannins in their wines. I'm told that the vast majority of wines sold in the US are drunk within 3 days and most US wines are produced with that in mind. It would be a shame to drink these wines in 3 days. These puppies need to sit for a few years... and then they'll be amazing. The tasting room was a little larger than Mandolina and David, the pourer, obviously knew their wines. There were a few other people there. This winery is tempting me to join another wine club... but Cheryl says it is more than she wants to commit to spending on wines... I'll be working on her.

Around the corner and down the street and we stopped at Lucas and Lewellen, who also own Mandolina. I have wanted to taste their wines for some time as I pass some of their vineyards on 101 everytime I drive to Santa Maria for my clergy group meetings. This tasting room was full. Beth, the pourer, was a lot of fun. She obviously enjoys her job and the clientele enjoyed her. She described one wine to me as being so wonderful that one drink and the heavens opened and the angels sang... but that wine was sold out. Her second favorite, she told us was almost as good... the heavens still opened and the angels were there but no Baptist choir. You can imagine the look on her face when I told her that I am a Baptist pastor. We bought a bottle of Petit Syrah (her 2nd favorite).

I hate to sound like I represent the chamber of commerce or the visitor's bureau, but if you find yourself anywhere near the California central coast, do plan to do some tastings... and maybe encourage your favorite restaurant or local wine merchant to add some Santa Barbara wines to their wine list.

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