SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CA—The 34th annual Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Grand Tasting returns to Buellton, California on Saturday April 23, 2016 from 1-4 p.m. This is one of my favorite California wine festivals as attendees can often meet and kibitz with local winemakers and winery owners. It’s decidedly a casual affair. After all, this is Southern California where cut-offs and flip-flops are considered haute couture. And I should know — as this neighborhood of the Golden State was a big part of my youthful stomping grounds. If you go, be sure to taste and be on the lookout for some of my favorite local wineries, namely --
WHO TO TASTE AT THE FESTIVAL — MINI PROFILE: Grassini Family Vineyards
Grassini Family Vineyards is famed for its flavor-packed grapes. The family-run company sells about half to select local winemakers and retains the remainder to make wines for its own label. Wines are made in very limited quantities (most under five hundred cases). They will be pouring many new releases at the festival. According to General Manager Katie Grassini, “The vintners festival is a wonderful opportunity to introduce our newest releases to the wine-loving public. We're really excited about the release of our 2015 Estate Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc. It's crisp and clean and has all of the tropical fruit characteristics that folks have come to look for in Happy Canyon Sauv Blancs. We will also be pouring our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and our 2013 Articondo Bordeaux blend. They're both being released just a few days before the vintners festival, and we're really excited to share them with the consumers. For folks who are looking for Cabernet from Santa Barbara County, I believe that Happy Canyon is the go-to AVA, and I can't wait for them to try our wines on Saturday!”
Katie Grassini with winemaker Bradley Long in the vineyard.
The Grassini Family Vineyards tasting room is in downtown Santa Barbara in the historic El Paseo, a shopping and dining complex built in the early 1920s to resemble a Spanish village. Their specialties: Estate-grown Bordeaux varietals and “Articondo” a Bordeaux blend. Highly recommended. —TS
Blair Fox - Winemaker for Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
WHO TO TASTE AT THE FESTIVAL — MINI PROFILE: Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
Driving north along the pastoral Foxen Canyon Wine Trail feels like traveling back to California’s early days. Rolling hills frame vast meadows, deer and other wildlife roam free, and pristine landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see. This peaceful environment enticed Texas-born actor Fess Parker, who played the television roles of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and 1960s, into buying a 714-acre ranch here back in 1988.
Today Eli Parker and his sister, Ashley Parker Snider own and operate Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard. Blair Fox assumed the role of head winemaker in 2005. In recent years, the winery has sharpened its focus to produce more small-lot, single-vineyard-designated wines made from high-quality Rhone and Burgundian varietals, which have won awards in national wine competitions.
Winery President Tim Snider says: “Vintner’s Festival is, and has been for years, one of the best venues to reconnect with interested wine consumers. It is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our wines, what’s new and exciting, and the overall quality and style of the Santa Barbara region in general.”
Here’s what they’ll be pouring this Saturday at the Grand Tasting:
2013 SB Viognier (3791 Cases produced)
COMPOSITION: 97% Viognier & 3% Grenache Blanc.
WINERY TASTING NOTES:84% barrel fermented & aged for 9 months in 1-year & older French Oak barrels, 16% stainless steel fermented.
2014 Marcella’s White Wine
WINERY TASTING NOTES: A white Rhone blend that's quintessential Santa Barbara with bright, fresh acidity backing generous peach and apricot fruit flavors and enticing spice and mineral notes for complexity.
2015 SB Riesling (8117 cases produced)
COMPOSITION: 100% Riesling
VINEYARD SOURCE: Santa Ynez Valley
2013 STA. Rita Hills Pinot Noir (8359 Cases Produced)
COMPOSITION: 100% Pinot Noir
WINERY TASTING NOTES: Ruby garnet in color, this wine exhibits aromas of cherry, pomegranate, graham cracker, wild strawberry, baking spices, light toast, vanilla, sage and fennel on the nose. Flavors of Bing cherry, cranberry, sage, black currant, black raspberry, green peppercorn and a touch of vanilla can be savored. Pair this wine with a nice cheese plate, grilled salmon or braised short ribs.
2013 Big Easy (3530 Cases Produced)
COMPOSITION: 66% Syrah, 18% Petite Sirah & 16% Grenache
WINERY TASTING NOTES: Blackberry, blueberry, pepper, bbq spices, herb de provence, floral/violet, sage and vanilla are found on the nose along with flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, black plum, dark chocolate, grilled meat with a touch of oak on the palate. Enjoy this meaty, well-structured blend to a long finish with its round/soft tannins.
Experience more than 100 wineries, 30 food purveyors and chefs, regional artists, and more at this Saturday’s event. Tickets are all-inclusive and include parking, all wine tastings, food sampling, and live music.
For more information & tickets visit: http://www.sbvintnersweekend.com/festival.html.
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