Wines of Santa Barbara Star at Ian Blackburn Event
DeathbedFood® was recently invited to attend the 10th Annual STARS of Santa Barbara, an Ian Blackburn Learn About Wine event, held at The Peninsula Beverly Hills. Just for the record, I was a fan of the wines of Santa Barbara long before “Sideways“. Really, I swear. In any case, as much as any of us may know about that wine region, there’s always more to learn. And that’s why I like Ian’s events so much. Tons of winemakers and wine samples make for a great opportunity to find new gems.
But before we get to the wines, let’s talk about the ambiance. In addition to the lovely venue, we were also greeted with live piano music courtesy of composer/musician Mark Governor. Bravo Mark!
OK, so now we can get to the wine. Below are just a few fun finds:
Kessler-Haak. A husband and wife team, Dan Kessler and Ellen Haak specialize in producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They have a great story: John earned a BSEE/MSEE from MIT in 1981 and spent his early career developing state of the art semiconductor fabrication technologies for HP (as Bill Maher would say, “My old job“). He moved to a high tech startup in California where he began to appreciate wine (as his website says, drinking wine –> learning about wine –> studying wine making from UC Davis classes online –> making wine in his backyard –> Voila! Now owning 30 acres near Buelton with his wife Ellen and producing some really nice wine.
We enjoyed three of their wines very much:
- 2009 Chardonnay (not too oakey, my own personal preference). $29.
- 2011 Dry Riesling, Lafond Vineyard (great for spicy food). $29.
- 2011 Rose of Pinot Noir (I’m in love with Rose these days; theirs is more full bodied and am told it will go well with smoked meats, burgers or even tuna tartare). $22.
Flying Goat Cellars. Winemaker/Owner Norm Yost was a really cool guy. I often wonder how people decide to become winemakers. In his case, he was a beer drinking, football playing student at UC Davis whose buddy was studying viticulture. One day, his friend asked him to do a brown bag tasting and Boom! His fate was set – and now his ’09 Pinot rocks. I love how Flying Goat encourages everyone to join them in their “Mission of Merriment” and how they refuse to get into the “snobbishness” of wine.
Buttonwood Farm Winery is a farm which happens to have 39 acres of vineyards, with wine being their largest product. Like many of the folks we met this night, . Karen has a degree in Business Management and spent 20 years in High Tech in Southern California. One day she realized she wanted to get out of her high-rise office and into a physical job – and one with fresh air. Being a wine lover, she ventured to Santa Barbara wine country and began asking for entry-level jobs. One of the people she asked was Norm Yost (then of Foley, now of Flying Goat) who gave her a Harvest job for $7/hour. She took it and never looked back. Wow. There’s some passion there.
Byron. Located in Los Olivos, Byron is one of the biggest names in the region. We sampled two wonderful wines:
- 2011 Pinot from Santa Maria Valley. Available at high-end wine stores such as Wally’s or K&L for roughly $25; and
- 2009 Monument Hill made with 1964 vines. Only available through their Byron’s Circa ’64 Wine Club for $60.
And last, but certainly not least, Zaca Mesa – a “Power” brand from the region and one of the most recognized wineries at the event. I became familiar with them several years back when I had a lovely tour of their winery and enjoyed a picnic lunch accompanied by a selection of the wines. Among them, one stood out from all the rest: . Sure, I love the name (BMW M3-esque). But more than that, I loved the thought behind it … they used Chateaneuf du pape as inspiration to create a Rhone-like fiesta. So, for many years, I’ve been wondering, “Where is my Z Three?“. Well, I finally got my answer: only on their online shop. So, there you go … love CDP? Then you may enjoy ordering a Z Three.
So, while this event has come and gone, don’t despair. Ian has lots of new ones coming up, including:
- Feb. 7th – a Trip to Napa! Spaces still available
- Feb. 15th & 16th – Wine, Cheese and Chocolate – DTLA
- Feb. 23rd – Top Wines of 2012 – Manhattan Beach
- Feb. 24th – Top Wines of 2012 – Santa Monica
And that’s just February! More on his website here. Thanks Ian for putting on such fun and informative wine events. Cheers!