Posts belonging to Category Santa Rita Hills



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.

Dom 85!! Who knew?? Harvey Kurtzman knew.

cosmic comic juice for a young mind

cosmic comic juice for a young mind

This post is being written in a downpour of potrzebie popup ads. Not good. We have wines and events of import to review so let’s plunge ahead with another furshlugginer post.

First things first. Happy Birthday to Dotoré. OK. That is taken care of. The venerable and toothsome reporter and hopeless Dodger fiend owes tBoW $20. We will have to pull some corks.

Hurricane Iselle blew itself into a Tropical Storm. Family living on the Big Island survived the tempest on Mauna Kea.

Happy birthday to Peewee, loyal Young’un and bad MoFo, who enthusiastically hosts her Payola Show at Paolis Pizza joint Tuesday nights. Congrats to original Young’uns Sawa M and REL now gainfully employed so they will soon be popping their own corks with tBoW and The Geezer Troop.

Favorite Somm Jen Carter is no longer at Saddle Peak Lodge which means that wonderful place with all the potential that she was able to realize, will fall from its roost as the go-to spot in the Calabasas boonies. Jen did a fab job there and we will miss her. Until we find out where she takes up hosting and toasting in a new venue! Please let us know Jen!

In the midst of all, we have had some notable wines to present.

dom85WEB1985 Dom Perignon $300 (TAFI wine): No need to say champagne right? This is THE champagne. Imagine Bond calling for 1952 Dom Perignon, chilled, in From Russian With Love. This wine came serendipitously to the tBoW clan as a random raffle prize. I know huh? Provenance unknown which is to say who knows how it was stored. We popped the cork and poured. Perfect bubbles, tight and abundant. But the flavor was revelation. Every Dom we have ever had has been steely bordering on austere. This was no fat big boy Krug but it did show golden color, apple flavors and it was delicious! Sometimes the world tilts ever so slightly and something falls into your lap. Truly memorable. Spectacular. 13%melville-1-WEB

melvillPN02WEB The review to the left is not the work of popup ads or even an overzealous editor. It is tBoW’s policy to try and not say anything directly unkind, uncaring or unfriendly when it comes to bad wine. The harshest term we will is PLONK. However, we could not help expressing the 180 degree turnabout in our wine palate since 2001. The Melville wines represent that switch. The general movement in the direction of food friendly, natural, under or even unoaked wines had something to do with our redirect. Mostly, tBoW has always wanted to apply Harvey Kurtzman’s humor from the Mad magazines of his yoof in a wine blog.

TCPano05WEB2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie $80: The highest end selection from the greatest Central Coast winery. Still not ready! This is the top selection and it tastes that way… all the way. Dense dark red blood robed liquid. More like a Southern Italian Negro Amaro. Only bigger. TC wines are never about heavy tannins. However, the reds are very long aging. Had it with steak and the beef had to put up a fight. Stick with the whites… long as they are seven years post bottling. Blows by the Melville monster. 15%.coston10WEB

2010 Domaine Coston Terrasses du Larzac Languedoc $20: One of the last of the Great Garagiste selections in the cellar. A wine that can do the tango. Sophisticated in a very local way. Imagine an Argentine man in his 50s stepping through the porteño ritual dance. Light on its feet with the gravitas only a country defeated in in every war it ever fought could understand. Outstanding.

Bond is unable to turn down Dom Perignon 1959, from You Only Live Twice.

If Bill Belichick Rated Wines…

chick-grapes2WEBIf you have any interest left in the NFL playoffs raise your hand. The one without the remote control. Sorry if we woke you. Yup. tBoW is NOT a fan of the NFL. He prefers Homeland reruns to another commercial festival. And college hoops. However, there is one clown prince of the NFL who can take the starch out of any reporter, whether on the sideline or at the postgame podium. That would be the reigning genius of pro football; Bill Belichick. (more…)