Posts belonging to Category Santa Barbara County



Wine Talk with the Ultimate Cognoscentus: Mr. David Russell

 

We have an exclusive interview with David Russell who is the Senior Wine Advisor at Woodland Hills Wine Company which is tBoW’s home store. A truncated set of questions and answers follow [ed. that means there are others on the shelf]. Suffice it to say David has wasted most of his life chasing a wine dream. Something with which tBoW and readers are familiar. There are worse things to pursue like going into politics. He has worked at prestigious wine shops along the Coastal Premium Wine Shop Trail which runs from Seattle thru Portland then the Bay Area to Santa Barbara, LA and Orange County. In case he looks familiar his personal tracks cover the Bay Area and Santa Barbara, and now Woodland Hills. There are maybe a dozen or so premium wine shops where one can count on great wine for a fair price sold by folks who know their shit. And away we go.

David wears glasses and is often fighting a chill.

1. tBoW: You are from SB and almost the right age. Did you riot in IV? DR: I’m definitely the right age, however I was in Hong Kong dodging the draft serving a Mormon mission (seriously!) when the really heavy shit went down in about 1970. Also I went to UC Berkeley, not UCSB (although most of my friends did go to UCSB and did participate in, uh, acts of civil disobedience.

2. tBoW: Spumante or prosecco? DR: I can tolerate a decent Prosecco. 

3. tBoW: what was the last wine you drank – not tasted – that was higher than 15%? DR: Though it doesn’t taste like it’s 15%, the 2014 Passopisciaro from Etna is labeled as such, and I definitely enjoyed it.

4. tBoW: Compare these wines for relative quality: Rochioli and Williams Selyem (Burt years). DR: I haven’t had nearly the experience with either that many have, but the W-S during the Burt years that I have tasted were not only frighteningly Burgundian, but I’d go even further and say that some were even Jayer-like.

5. tBoW: What Burg region would you recommend TODAY for value? What is your personal fave Burg region? Producers: choose Leroy/DRC vs, Armand Rousseau?

the wine that inspired this post was sold to us by David Russell!

DR: Probably the Côte Chalonnaise. Or Marsannay and/or Fixin. I likely have more favorite producers in the Côte de Nuits than in the Côte de Beaune, simply because the former is so much bigger and has so many more growers. I’d give DRC the nod over Leroy (though we’re splitting hairs here), as I’ve had more older bottles that truly delivered (’62 La Tâche being a case in point). Remember: Domaine Leroy has only been existence since 1988. As much as I adore Rousseau, it’s only their top three wines that really perform at the level they ought to; the Charmes-Chambertin, Mazy-Chambertin, and Clos de la Roche routinely under-deliver. There also other producers among the very elite: Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, Mugneret-Gibourg, Mugnier; Lafon, Raveneau, and Roulot in white.

7. tBoW: How long have you known Marsanne is not south of Beaune? DR: But Marsanne is south of Beaune, unless you mean Marsannay.

8. tBoW: We support the Price/Quality ratio and NOT the 100 point system which is only 13 points. Is Shanken a prick? DR: He strikes me more a buffoon than a prick.

9. tBoW: Port or Sauternes? DR: Sauternes.

10. tBoW: Is Santa Barbara suitable for Pinot Noir? Didn’t Richard Sanford have it right (how to make SB Pinot) from the start? DR: Yes, although I think Santa Maria is undervalued and Sta. Rita Hills overrated. Richard Sanford may indeed have had it right, to a degree at least, but the most compelling SB pinots for me have come from Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat).

11. tBoW: Can Calif produce great wines? Does it? Who are SOME of the GREAT producers? DR: Yes. It does, at least it did…pre-Parker. Ridge Monte Bello is still great. But none of the Big Bucks Cult Cabs are even worthy of mention in the same sentence with ’68-’70 Heitz Martha’s, ’68 or ’70 BV Private Reserve, ’74 Conn Creek, etc.

12. tBoW: What is it about Lodi that makes it the most dependable and best growing region in CA. DR: Who says Lodi is the best growing region in CA? Certainly not I.

13. tBoW: What can u say about Riesling in less than 10 words? DR: Rivals pinot in its ability to express terroir.

Many many thanks to David for sharing some time with tBoW readers. When in Woodland Hills drop into Woodland Hills Wine Company. As you can see, if you love wine then you always end up at some point with Burgundy. Maus will tell you to hunt down white Rhones and KrisB will expound on Riesling values. IGTY will ask is this all you got? tBoW Jr wants to know what we are drinking tonight. We value winemakers like Jim Moore and wine retailers like David Russell. Christ. I’m getting moist eyes.

Here. Try some Ron Burgundy with your wine Burgundy…

The Paul Lato Origin Story

The King of Santa Rita

This was going to a more ambitious tale of how amateur wine know-it-alls and cognoscenti – aka Dotore and tBoW – discovered Paul Lato at the 2004 Santa Barbara Wine Festival where he was tucked in a corner with just about the worst table possible at a premier tasting where tasters/buyers thronged like a Killer Whales pod on the hunt. Before looking – NSFWL!

There are dozens of links to reviews of Mr. Lato that fawn over his wines; even after he lost his focus on low alcohol and restrained fruit and went B-I-G in a very Santa Maria way. Here are a couple of links fyi with tBoW’s quickie evals.

“We’ve heard there is an epidemic outbreak on Clavius.”

2018 Santa Maria Sun “Ingratiating recycled history, writer’s creative tie-in how 911 (twin towers) influenced Paul’s reassessment, dated 2018 but obviously dates closer to 2005.” There goes my timeline.

2014 wakahawka wine reviews (online) “He’s a terrific cook, young life in Communist bloc countries, nice photo where his resemblance to Paul Giamatti in Sideways is evident; origin of Spanish word Duende which is difficult to translate but best pairs with “dream” and is what he named his early wines.”

2015 KCET coverage “Lato is anointed by Parker, Paul’s preferred vineyards,an upcoming dinner (long gone), Santa Barbara is home.” Thud.

“I’m sorry I am not at liberty to discuss that.”

FRESH POV FROM TBOW: The scene is the 2004 Santa Barbara Futures Wine Fest located in Santa Barbara’s magnificent El Paseo. Great place to get stoned. This is our third go-round where winemakers can only show if they agree to cut the market price by 20% for the “futures” sale. The Pinot Noir market is steaming in the Central Coast, especially Santa Rita Hills. All the Big Names are represented: Sea Smoke (6 deep at tiny pouring table), Clendenen, Tolmach plus Santa Rita wannnabes like Jaffurs, Babcock, Melville and many many more.

We are already tired of the high alcohol overbearing fruit style that plagues the region. Curse of Parkerism. We wander into the rear room where access to shrimp and mussels and cheese is only 1 or 2 slackers deep. At the eastern end of the buffet, next to the kitchen entry/exit, waiters and busboys moving in and out like a late night ride to Vegas – vroom, whoosh, scuze mee – is a single table where a balding guy with a slight paunch stands patiently. No crowd here. Did he sneak in? Was there one table left?

“All we know is it was buried here 4 million years ago.”

Paul pours his 2003 Duende Pinot Noir. Nice. Thirteen percent. Radical. Delicious. So not Santa Rita. Fruit is clear as a mountain spring filled with fairies. We head to the buyers table and grab half a case each. That’s the story. Next year Dotore and I had to get past Clendenen and Tolmach to snag a pour. WORD. Alcohol was already creeping up past 14%.

Last time tBoW purchased Lato Wine it was half a case out of Paul’s trunk in Calabasas; the 2006 Cinematique Syrah at $60. 15%. Thick and ornery as Trump’s White House staff. Undrinkable early on and over several years. Saved one to see if it would come around. We cracked it recently. Past a decade this wine is lovely. Clearly New World but not clearly Santa Rita. And it tasted pretty good. Color rich, flavors in balance. Just needed some time. Paul will always be cool. Even when faced with a bottle of Merlot.

Wine Profiling. Hands In The Air. Don’t Pull That Cork.

waiting is half the fun!

waiting is half the fun!

Do you really know what’s in the bottle you’re holding? Sure you do. You know a lot about it. You bought it because you know it’s from a region you like. Or, for the incognoscenti, the label is pretty. It speaks to you. Perhaps you have insider information. A source of outstanding obscure wine knowledge, a de Gama like explorer of vinous worlds, has told you what to expect from bottles like these. Grab it right now. Buy it. Put it in your cellar.

What do we really need to know about wine to enjoy it? An older person once said youth is wasted on the young. The new axiom adhered to by underground weisenheimers is simple. Drink wine now. Buy enough to enjoy over the next 18 months.

Profile your wines.

tBoW has wines he wants to open and taste. But when? With whom? Planning is so hard Papa. Must we open to enjoy? No. We can enjoy wine without pulling the cork. Amend that statement. We always enjoy wine without pulling the cork.

tBoW introduces the newest form of wine tasting. Enjoying wine without pulling the cork. Think of it as pre-season. The joy of anticipation. You know, Elvis loved to cuddle. He rarely pulled the cork.

Here are a few wines we look forward to tasting. We are already enjoying them.

BlairReisling12WEB2012 Blair Vineyards Riesling $14: The first of two Blair Vineyards wines we are covering [ed. do not confuse with the Santa Lucia Highlands winery named Blair]. This wine was sent to tBoW by the HouseMouse. The wine is from Blair Vineyards in Pennsylvania. Mr. HM swears this is fine wine. We love the label. We love the story how +HM discovered this wine doing pre-college touring with his oldest child. Mostly we love HM’s enthusiasm for what is taking place in Blair Vineyard. Go Big Ben! Riesling must have high acid to make it palatable. Did the 2011 Blair make it happen? Are the Pennsylvania highlands the new Okanagan Valley only 3500 miles south and east and not at the northern tip of the Sonoran desert? We are excited to try. We have clearance to pull this cork on Turkey Day. This ain’t our first go-round with Blair.

duvelWEBDuvel Golden Belgian Ale $8 (Trader Joes): TJs is back. It has been at least 20 years by our clock since TJs had decent stuff on its shelves. This is a premium if MOR product for beer drinkers. Golden color as advertised on the label. Nice gluey flavor with a frothy head. At $8 it is 40% below what Whole Wallet gets. Where ya been Trader Giotto?

sangiotwinsWEB2011 Bibi Graetz Casamatta Toscana $12 and 2008 La Manella Rosso di Montalcino $15: We can’t wait to try these wines. Consider the pedigree. The Bibi Graetz is the entry level from one our favorite Sangiovese wines, the Testamatta, which goes for $30 when you can find it. The La Manella Rosso is the half-as-costly entry wine for the La Manella Brunello. Bibi Graetz Testamatta needs years to come around then it is beautiful. So you have to be it already aged. Like the 2006. We actually tasted the 2007 upper end La Manella a couple weeks ago and it was not near ready. See our point? This 2008 will be made from younger vines and should be ready to go today. At half the cost. How great is that? Just knowing we have these wines in hand is enough to sleep softly my love.

Here is a wine we have not tasted but we can still enjoy because a trusted wine snob – Mr HouseMouse – opened it. Here is what he would like to share.

sandhi_SRH_pinotnoirWEB2011 Sandhi SRH Pinot Noir $32 (Lincoln Wine 8/13): This offering lives solely off reputation, as it’s crafted by the acclaimed Sashi Moorman, who rose to fame via Stolpman Vineyards. Maybe he’s better suited to sangiovese and syrah [ed. not in combo we hope?!?]. This is a rare SRH Pinot Noir that won’t pummel your tastebuds with overextracted fruit. Too bad. It was lean and peppery, like a red Gruner Veltliner. [ed. hahaha, a red Gruner. Well played HM. Well played.]. Perhaps they were going for a cotes de nuits style. It didn’t work. 2011 wasn’t California’s best, and this is no exception. Save your cheese. No mice.

Major Kong pulls the cork on his government issue (GI) survival kit.

Unnatural Sports R So Not Like Natural Wines

batter's POV

batter’s POV

There are only three natural sports left in the professional world: futbol (soccer to us), baseball and hockey. If natural wines are unencumbered with artifice [ed. nice phraseologizing tBoW!] then these three sports likewise remain fairly true to their earliest paradigm. Baseball has Instant Replay which is the landmark of a corrupted game and the DH. Otherwise the game is pretty much same as it ever was. Hockey is barely a sport so it is theoretically difficult to stray far from the source. Besides what was the singular technological advance in hockey – the TV highlighted puck – has been thrown to the heap of “hated it.” Soccer is the purest game. Our cultural chauvinism makes it difficult to accept.

Which brings us to the NFL. How I hate it. Let me count the ways. But wait. Natural wines provide the perfect reference point for everything WRONG with the NFL. Natural wines eschew sulfur and commercial yeasts used to inoculate wines in monstrous batches that must fit into a production schedule that optimizes the timely release of overpriced monochromatic drink masquerading as something exciting. The NFL gives the viewing public a product easy to recognize yet nameless in distinction (“parity”) that is even easier to consume than a 100 point Speculator wine, not worth comprehending (the technical machinations of endless substitutions), and so overdone in “coverage” to render “live” viewing irrelevant (instant replay O-U-T of control). Then we have the “analysts.” From Boomer to Primetime to the Mooch, NFL analysis is much closer to a supermarket tabloid than it is to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Excuse me. I must evacuate.

When will Manziel start? The suspense builds with every sports chat segment.

Back to the base. Thank God the end of the baseball season is here. Hooray for the Orioles. Best unis in sports, AL East Division Champs. They will not make the World Series. Neither will Los Doyers. It’s a red year and the Angels will win it all. hspiscedebeaueSP2007This is good for baseball and sports fans. Attempts to replicate this model in wine is fruitless. Hooray for natural wines! Yahoo for playoffs baseball. Like the harvest after the long and dull growing season.

Some recent fine wines worth your attention… or not…

2007 Scott Paul Hospices de Beaune $50: Third time we have tasted this wine purchased from the Scott Paul tasting room. Still not ready! So tight. Will it ever open? At least it smells like a Burgundy. We had a 1985 DRC La Tache like this. Lynne is right. Only buy wines ready to drink. Done. Finito. Nuff said. 13%

Lato-Duende-04WEB2004 Paul Lato Duende Pinot Noir $TAFI: The legend of Paul Lato has been documented on this blog several times. HE has achieved “old guard” stature in Santa Barbara wine country. He has a loyal following. His wines no longer suit our palate however this third vintage retains some of his original restraint in winemaking. At ten years Dotore’s summation of the Lato bottle is “nice Syrah.” But then Dotore is a snob, and he is right. This was the first vintage when Paul moved towards the big blowsy style that pretty much ruined SB wines for the tBoW tasting crew. Still a nice wine if you like a lighter domestic Syrah. 14.5%

Bill Belichick is the most same person in the NFL. His postgame interviews are by far the most compelling reasons to tune in to the No Fun League. Here the Patriots coach weighs in on technology. Hut! Hut Hut!!

Kicking It with Kokopelli

IndianCountryroadWEBKokepelli plays flute in the windy rock washes near the Four Corners. Mr. and Mrs. tBoW wonder if the powerful Navajo deity can make it rain wine, or will they wait another week before tasting the sacrament of their ancestors. On a road trip in the Navajo Nation where the state lines that separate Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico have no meaning; where the Navajo Nation is the largest among all other Indian nations; and the Navajo Nation is dry. Not that we would expect to find wines similar to those reviewed below; at least not until we hit Santa Fe, the outpost of cultures rooted in art, native traditions and Southwestern themed interior decorators.

Tony Hillerman’s Navajo crime fictions are a terrific contrivance for sinking one’s mind into the mysterious cultures of North America’s aboriginal peoples. There are 140,000 Navajos living on reservations in their home country northwest of Albuquerque, all throughout and within the high desert expanse known as the Four Corners. chassey_champWEBColossal landscapes dwarf everything human so it has to be magic. A drive through Monument Valley is medicine for eternity.

Wines reviewed somehow reminded us of the land and people of this region in which we have been auto-immersed.

NV Guy de Chassey Brut Carte Noire $50: Non-vintage blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay packs tight bubbles, high acid flavors without being astringent. The sparkler choice for greeting guests with bright eyes and a brisk airiness. We prefer Pinot-based champagne. Somewhat challenging like the first stretch of road that leads down into Monument Valley… but much friendlier! 12%

cowan_roseWEB2012 Cowan Cellars North Coast Rosé $18: Cowan makes natural wines sourced throughout the state. This wine is saignée from several premium Pinot Noir producers. Clever fella. For a higher alcohol wine this does not give off any alcohol burn.MerckButte-2WEB In fact, the wine also shows high acid and lean flavors, balanced and appealing. Pretty special like the Merrick Butte at sunset. U20 winner. 13.9%

garganelaWEB2012 Buglioni Il Disperato Bianco delle Venezie IGT $20: Italian natural wine made from a varietal – Garganega – that commonly goes into dessert style wines. From the Veneto, middle weight, recommended by

not any Neb

not any Neb

the somm at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica [ed. we would return] who sold it as a fleshier Vermentino. Worked! This is like seeing The Cube; each time you look, it is more distinctive [ed. it’s sitting on some kind of stand?]. A surprise pleasure. 12.5%

RPPgrumelloo-06WEB2006 Valtellina Superioire Grumello Riserva ‘Rocca de Piro,’ Ar.Pe.Pe. $45: I guess every Piemonte Nebbiolo needs at least 30 minutes to open. This beautiful ruby red wine with the raspberry nose was so muted when the cork was pulled we thought it was too delicate for the steak strips. Rare and unusual to see this wine. Much like it is rare and unusual and special to hear Kokopelli the Watersprinkler’s flute. This rare Grumello delivers Nebbiolo of the most luscious order. The definition of elegant. Very satisfying. If you love Old World Nebbiolo this is worth the dough; like Monument Valley is worth the 6 hour ride from Albuquerque. 13%

“His humpbacked figure supported by stick legs. Stick arms hold a straight line to his tiny round head, making him seem to be playing a clarinet. The flute might be pointed down or ahead. “A Thief of Time” by Tony Hillerman.