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Santa Barbara Wine Futures Tasting presented by The Wine House

May 22, 2011

Combine many of the top names in Santa Barbara County with an opportunity to get exclusive tastings of unreleased wines, and we knew this was one event not to miss. The whole idea here is to get tastes of pre-released, often limited allocation wines, and not only taste before you buy, but buy before it’s released and gone! With over thirty producers pouring wine, The Wine House had assembled an admirable selection and diversity of top-notch wine makers from the best little wine region in Tex… er Southern California.

Peter Cargasacchi

Not only were many of our favorite labels pouring, but as is always the case at events featuring SBC wines, the winemakers themselves were in abundance, including Greg Brewer representing Melville, Joshua Klapper of La Fenetre, Peter Cargasacchi of Cargasacchi  and Point Concepción, Paul Lato of his namesake label, and Norm Yost of Flying Goat. Having the opportunity to speak with the winemakers themselves about what they’re looking for when making wines, and why they take the approach that they do is, for us wine geeks, very cool and interesting.

One big takeaway from the event – watch out for the 2009 vintage! Several winemakers all said the same thing – definitely the the best growing season out of the last few years, and may top 2007, which was an outstanding vintage. The longer, cooler growing season coupled with small yields showed off intense, but well balanced wines that represented a majority of our tasting, although some ‘08s and ‘10s were outstanding as well (read on…).

Of course there are always some wines that are just that bit more delightful than the rest at events like this. Here’s our picks for the standouts:

Paul Lato – This represented a long-awaited opportunity to try these wines, mostly because the ultra-limited production (most releases are about 100 cases) are either sold out through his mailing list, or quickly gobbled up by restaurants and high-end wine shops. For a winemaker who’s only been around a few years, this guy has certainly received a lot of hype. So would the wines live up to the hype? Most definitively – Yes!

The 2010 “le Souvenir” Sierra Madre vineyard Chardonnay from the Santa Maria Valley reminded me more of a Sonoma wine than SBC, with a floral, carmelized pear nose that led to bright apple and pear flavors, a bit of minerality, citrus and touch of vanilla. This was a beautiful wine with a refreshing fruit profile, unencumbered with heavy oak influence. At $55, this better be good, and it truly delivered. Outstanding!

The 2010 John Sebastiano vineyard Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills had a nose of ripe raspberry and strawberry with a light spice background, but on the palate had a deeply charactered, classic black cherry and wild strawberry base with the perfect touch of fine-grained tannins that, while distinct today will only become more beautifully integrated with time. Elegant structure, silky texture, and gorgeous fruit all combine to make this wine one of the best Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noirs I’ve had in a long time. $65.


Jonata – It’s a bit unfortunate that many of my favorites of the day also represented some of the most expensive wines at the event, but I think in the end, the quality of wines will justify the high prices. Jonata has been another wine label on the rise, and I was quite fairly stunned by what I tasted from this Ballard Canyon estate winery.

The 2008 La Sangre do Jonata Santa Ynez is a Syrah with a touch of (2%) Viognier à la my personal favorite Syrahs of France – Côte Rôtie. Intensely aromatic nose of green spices, violet and blackberry. Bold, but precisely cut blackberry and boysenberry fruit, with fine-grained white pepper tannin and a medium finish. This is a delightful wine with deep character and refinement. The sharp edges of this wine will certainly become more beautifully integrated with age. At $125, this is definitely at the very high end of the  price spectrum for SBC wines. Clearly, Jonata is looking to differentiate themselves from the pack. Wines like this make the case that they’ve succeeded.

The 2008 El Desafio de Jonata Cabernet Sauvignon is actually a Bordeaux blend which I found to be beautifully balanced with a freshness and acidity that provided a solid foundation from which to carry a rich combination of ripe red plum, raspberry, dark chocolate and licorice, with cedar and smoke notes and a light but firm tannin structure. The nose was complexly layered with floral, spice, leather and blackberry – seemingly something different with each smell. I generally find Cabernet Sauvignons of SBC to be a bit of a struggle to enjoy, but not this one. Complex and rich, with layers of aroma and flavor that is very satisfying. Another $125 wine that may be hard to justify for many, but for those who take the leap, this will not disappoint.

Greg Brewer - Melville

Melville – As always, Melville was showing very well, although I was so late to the table that winemaker Greg Brewer was down to one wine – but what a great one at that – the ’09 Donna’s Syrah. While most Syrahs in SBC come from the hotter regions to the East, Donna’s is a block on the estate vineyard of Melville in the heart of Sta. Rita Hills. This cool climate Syrah is consistently a lighter expression of fruit than many of the big bomb, spicy and smoky Syrahs from the east.

Two trademarks of Melville wine play an important role here – stem inclusion and neutral oak. The decision to go with all neutral oak brings out a freshness and simplicity to the fruit expression, with nothing to get in the way. This is also a bold choice to make as a winemaker, as the expression of the wine is most truly an expression of the work in the vineyard. The decision to go with whole cluster fermentation (stem inclusion) has sometimes been derided as a practice for its tendency to bring a green tannin to the wines, but I found this Syrah to have a distinct buoyancy brought on by the light tannin structure. When I asked Greg about this, he confirmed that he felt the stem inclusion actually lightens, lifts and brightens the fruit flavor profiles of the wines. All-in-all a very pretty, fruit forward expression of Syrah that may surprise some, but will most certainly delight the palates of a wide variety of wine drinkers. $38.

Joshua Klapper - La Fenêtre

La Fenêtre – The 2009 Bien Nacido Chardonnay from Joshua Klapper was a nicely balanced Chardonnay, with crisp apple and pear fruit profile with a light stone background that was offset by just the right amount of posh oak influence. Acidity was also clearly present in this wine, which brought a vibrancy that’s often missing from Chardonnay. Great example of a SBC Chardonnay that relies on a sun-kissed fruit profile for its backbone, but brings a sexy combination of playfulness and sophistication to the wines as well. Excellent stuff! $60.


The 2009 Le Bon Climat Pinot Noir carried gorgeous, silky black cherry fruit on top of a spicy, mineral backbone. The light color of this wine does not transfer into the flavor profile, as it is a pleasantly rich, nuanced and balanced Pinot Noir. $60.



Other excellent wines from the event to watch out for (in no particular order):

2009 Jaffurs Upslope Syrah

2009 Flying Goat Salomon Hills Pinot Noir

2009 Flying Goat Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir

2009 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir

2009 Cimarone Estate 3 Creek Syrah Reserve

2009 Margerum M5


Where: The Wine House

2311 Cotner Avenue

Los Angeles, CA 90064





The Wine House
2311 Cotner Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90064 United States