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Zaca Mesa – Contending with Nature

Zaca Mesa – Contending with Nature

Chess, the beloved ancient game for the opulent and the humble masses. Played by both Kings and noblemen, and millions from the working class. Chess is a human heritage with its foundations in ancient India, before coming to Europe where it evolved and spread around the world. It has inspired us to create international champions and produce numerous books and films dissecting its every part.

Like chess wine is a global obsession. It has found favor with the opulent few and with millions of modest means. It has enticed men to lose vast fortunes and has even revived the moral of men at war. Wine is a part of our collective human inheritance; passed down through the ages.

As there is in Chess, wine has two contenders, the Winemaker and Mother Nature. Each has their pieces in which they utilize in attack against or in defense from their adversary. Nature, has her heat, wind, rain, and frost. The Winemaker, has his land, his winery, and his vineyard and cellar team that he uses to outplay and outthink Mother Nature. In this battle between adversaries there can be only a single outcome: success for one and failure for the other. … Continue Reading

“The Birth of an American Viticultural Area” By: Wes Hagen

“The Birth of an American Viticultural Area” By: Wes Hagen

Let’s take a slightly different view of the wine world this week.  I’d like to leave the nuts and bolts of vineyard management for a few moments and discuss the descriptive system of wine appellations in the United States, a Federal program overseen by the TTB, or Tax and Trade Bureau.  But before you start to think that this is going to be a boring blog full of bellicose bureaucracy, let me guarantee that I will be injecting the subject with enough interesting anecdote and incisive commentary to keep it interesting and entertaining (although pouring a tall glass of pinot noir makes any of my blogs more palatable).

First, a quick vineyard update.  The weather has taken another cool, foggy and windy turn as low pressure trofs continue to move over the Central Coast, keeping us in the high 60’s.  While most folks don’t think about June in California as sweater weather, it really has been.  There have been some warm days, as well, but the nights have been in the high 40’s and the vines are growing slowly, methodically, and finishing their fruit set and marching toward bunch closure in a very patient and easy manner.  Cool weather means we’ll turn off the irrigation for a few weeks until we see a warm up and an increase in evapotranspiration, which is a measurement of how much water is both being used by a plant and how much is evaporating out of the soil. … Continue Reading

Clos Pepe – Battle For the Soul of Pinot

April 14, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 6 Comments
Clos Pepe – Battle For the Soul of Pinot

Wes Hagen makes it easy for one to get excited about visiting him at the Sta. Rita Hills vineyard he manages. “Put your thinking cap on,” he told me, “this place may blow your mind,” Sta. Rita Hills has certainly blown his.

The guy is nuts about his little slice of pinot paradise called Clos Pepe, and rightfully so. The Sta. Rita Hills is a special part of the Central Coast, and Wes appreciates the piece of land he farms maybe more than any other winemaker I have met. He talks fast and colorfully often using wild hand gestures, like a magician crafting an illusion.

When we first spoke over email, he encouraged me to visit him at Clos Pepe (pronounced clo, with a long O and no S, and peppy), because as he said, “you have to kick the dirt and breathe the air to get this place.” Wes gets it. … Continue Reading

Dierberg & Star Lane – The Knight of Happy Canyon

Dierberg & Star Lane – The Knight of Happy Canyon

“For what it’s worth, we call our place the “Wine Castle.” Complete with secret passages, orcs, and knights in shining armor (well, rain suits, actually).”

Two weeks ago I wrote about Dave Potter of Municipal Winemakers. A day after I published it, I got the above email from Dave’s friend and fellow winemaker Nick de Luca of Dierberg & Star Lane. He went on to write, “I’m going to have to work really hard to elevate myself from the traditional “marble-halled-chateau” look that Dave so deridingly speaks of.”

Originally, I was scheduled to meet with Nick two weeks earlier, but he had to reschedule on account of the birth of his new baby girl. Her name is Gracie and she is an angel! I know, because the proud father sent me pictures of her, adorable pictures! Gracie is not Nick’s first daughter, just the first human one. The award of the de Luca’s firstborn goes to an eight-year old Coonhound named Bella, who although incredibly lick-happy, recently fought a coyote to the death. Seriously, she did. … Continue Reading

Santa Barbara Winery, The Fight For A Name

Santa Barbara Winery, The Fight For A Name

For the first time in 16 years, sales of California wine were down in 2009. It would be easy to assume the economic downturn was to blame, but sales of wine across the US were up 2.1%. On the other hand, sales of wines produced in California were down 4%. There have been similar trends in liquor sales across the US, with bargain brands up and luxury brands down in sales. The furloughed and unemployed masses are reaching for a different kind of stimulus package, and a cheaper one at that. In California, many wines at the high end suffered losses while bargain brands and cheap imports soared. Americans are drinking more wine, just not more of their own.

In wine shops all over the world, the rally cry is “bargain, Bargain, BARGAIN”! Consumers are demanding more for less and getting it. It could be argued that many California wineries have backed themselves into a corner, enjoying year after year of success selling the kingly-wines of Napa Valley and elsewhere for kingly-prices. February’s Wine Spectator offered their annual overview of wine pricing. The average price of a California Cabernet sampled in 2009 out of some 585 was $119.00, even though 66% of those wines scored 89 points or less (just over a quarter scored 84 points or less) on the Wine Spectator 100 point scale. The market is adjusting itself as other industries like housing have. Personally, I would say: serves them right. … Continue Reading

Carr Winery

Carr Winery

The exterior of Carr Winery is similar to that of its owner’s: surprising. The building has more in common with an old airplane hanger than a winery. Located in an industrial section of downtown Santa Barbara, the white domed building sits amongst auto shops, industrial warehouses, and even a brewery. However, what you find inside is unexpected and beautiful. The dim lighting of the tasting bar provides an atmosphere reminiscent of a neighborhood tavern, and in many ways it is, as it plays host regularly to live bands and parties. In the back, stacks of barrels rise dramatically towards the high curved ceilings. A large stainless steel winepress sits in the corner.

In a similar way, Ryan Carr caught me off-guard. He towered over me (OK, at 5’8″ that’s not that hard to do, but still) as he came out to greet me. But Ryan, the man who owns his own label and manages several vineyards for others is also a young man. Now, while I am not going to say that, Ryan is also unexpected and beautiful; because that just sounds wrong and like I said, he is way bigger than me, I will say his deep knowledge of vineyard management, wine production, and marketing was very impressive. I get this reaction a lot myself, being the gentlemen scholar I am at such a tender age. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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