This year's harvest in Santa Barbara County started in the third week of July, the earliest ever for some, and mostly for sparkling wine. Over the next few months we will be sharing stories from the frontline; stories from the vineyards and stories for the cellars.
Bob Lindquist of Qupe, is best known for making cool-climate syrah from some of the best vineyards in California including the famed Bien Nacido Vineyards. This vineyard, situated in the Santa Maria Valley, is also home to his production facility that he shares with long-time friend Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.
Insider tip: The Qupe and Au Bon Climat production facility is not open to the public (though each winery has its own off-site tasting room. Find the Qupe tasting room in Los Olivos and Au Bon Climat in downtown Santa Barbara.) However twice a year, including the Celebration of Harvest Weekend, both friends host a joint open house on the Sunday after the Festival. Special wines are opened, Jim cooks an amazing lunch, and a fantastic time is had.
On Wednesday Bob shared a few photos (as captured by Theo, his 14 year old son) from this year's first day of harvest, his 33rd under the Qupe label.
What is your favorite food dish pairing with wine? Syrah and Dodger Dogs!
What is this year’s harvest looking like? Way too early.
How long have you been with Qupe? 1982
Where is your favorite place in town to grab a beer? The Hitching Post II
How do you keep your team focused and energized during harvest? We feed them lunch every day and open great wines.
Join Billy and Becky, co-owners of Foxen Winery, for a fabulous evening at the legendary Root 246 in Solvang on Friday, October 11. The backbone of Root 246’s menu is a commitment to American cuisine that is farm-fresh, delightfully simple, and above all...delicious. This mission is made easier by geography. Root 246 is located in the heart of Santa Barbara County, with its thousands of acres of farmland and vineyards, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
Each day, the chefs at Root 246 take full advantage of all the region has to offer. The menu is a daily nod to the growing movement toward sustainable agriculture - a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, and does not harm the environment. With the focus on fresh, inviting, and comfortable cuisine, Root 246’s modern, state-of-the-art design and a knowledgeable and accommodating staff truly complement the menu. Guests will feel like they’re at home, whether they’re eating a burger, or indulging in a prime rib eye steak and a glass of wine.
Seating is limited for the special dinner, so book early. The price is $95 per person plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, please contact Susan Gonzales at 805.686.8637 or Susan.Gonzales@chumashcasino.com.
Bacalao fritter with sauce béarnaise. House-made pepperoni with parmesan salsa
chenin blanc 2012 – ernesto wickenden vineyard
Puree of kabocha squash soup with curried crabapple hash
chardonnay 2012 – block UU, bien nacido vineyard
Mushroom salad with duck confit, blueberries, smoked yogurt, grilled sourdough
cuvee jeanne marie 2010 – williamson dore vineyard
Crispy skin steelhead, asparagus, blue corn gnudi, pomegranate mole
block 8 pinot noir 2011 – bien nacido vineyard
Duo of pork-sous-vide collar and bacon rillet, sage potato, wilted chard, sour cherries and cabernet pork jus
cabernet sauvignon 2010 – volgelzang vineyard
Passion fruit chocolate gateau
late harvest chenin blanc 2012 – ernesto wickenden vineyard
BUELLTON, CA – The Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association (SBCVA) is pleased to announce that Ballard Canyon has been designated by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) as Santa Barbara County’s fifth official American viticultural area (AVA) effective October 30. Ballard Canyon joins the existing AVAs of the region including Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley and the broader Santa Barbara County.
According to the TTB’s press release on September 30, “rule T.D. TTB-116, creates the establishment of the Ballard Canyon Viticultural Area. This final rule establishes the 7,800 acre Ballard Canyon viticultural area in Santa Barbara County, California. The new viticultural area, codified at 27 CFR 9.230, is entirely within the existing Santa Ynez Valley and Central Coast viticultural areas.”
Ballard Canyon, encompassing 7,800 acres, is the second AVA in the Santa Ynez Valley along with Sta. Rita Hills. The region is an integral part of the diversity within the Central Coast and Santa Barbara County designations. Varietal plantings are shared, a preponderance of Rhone varietals can be appreciated, yet Ballard is a specific and distinct sub-region producing authentic ‘terroir’ and unique wines.
According to Michael Larner, president of the Ballard Canyon Winegrowers’ Alliance, “The 18 vintners in the Ballard Canyon AVA have always recognized the unique potential of this site. We see it each year in the high quality of fruit we pick and in the fine wines we craft. We have always known that we occupy a special space at the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County. Our efforts have now been officially recognized. The Ballard Canyon AVA represents uniquely territory-driven wines from one of the most beautiful spots in California. The fact that this good news comes in the middle of harvest, makes this a vintage we will never forget.”
Click here to read more about the other AVAs of Santa Barbara County.
Varieties Planted by Acre (Bearing) in Ballard Canyon, 2010
As reported by the members of the Ballard Canyon Winegrowers
Red wine cultivars: (Rounded to nearest acre)
Syrah: 274 Acres
Cabernet Sauvignon: 29
Cabernet Franc: 20
Petit Verdot: 5
Petite Sirah: 6
Total: 458 reported acres of bearing red wine grapes.
Region of Origin: Rhone Varietals: 76%, Bordeaux: 14%, Italian: 8%, California ‘Heritage’: 2%
White wine cultivars: (Rounded to nearest acre)
Grenache Blanc: 7
Sauvignon Blanc: 31
Malvasia Bianca: 2
Total: 83 reported acres of bearing white wine grapes.
Region of Origin: Rhone Varietals: 57%, Bordeaux: 40%, Italian: 2%
Vintners and Winegrowers of Ballard Canyon
Brownell's Viejo Vineyard
Finkle Family Vineyards
Saarloos and Sons Windmill Ranch
You can't fully tell the Santa Barbara County harvest story without hearing from Wes Hagen, winemaker and grape graper at Clos Pepe. Wes routinely posts an interesting video every Monday and this week he didn't disappoint. Go deep into the harvest story on social media using #sbcharvest on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Follow Clos Pepe on Facebook.
Oak barrels. Many winemakers have a love/hate relationship with them. They are expensive and challenging to maintain. However, the subtle flavors that they impart make wines more relaxed, smoother, and more complex. Of course not all wines receive oak treatment, but many do. We were inspired by this barrel photo our friends at Carhartt Vineyard & Winery posted. Barrels are usually stored inside, so seeing them on display outside got us intrigued, we went to the source for answers.
You can follow the Carhartt Vineyard & Winery harvest story on Facebook. You can also follow the Santa Barbara County harvest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #sbcharvest.
We have seen a lot of grape picking photos this harvest but this is the first one of barrels outside. Tell us more about the setting for this shot and how did you get the barrels outside?
Well, we had to bring the barrels outside because we do not have the room in our barrel cellar to properly organize the lineup. We brought the barrels outside using a pallet jack and a forklift, and then wrote the varietal designation in chalk on all the heads. We are not a big winery by any means, but to have 150 or 200 barrels all outside at once was a pretty cool sight, so we decided to snap some photos.
Oak barrel fermentation and aging are important aspects of winemaking for many different types of wines. What is the barrel program at Carhartt? Where do you source your barrels and how long does a barrel last? What happens to Carhartt barrels when they are retired?
The barrel program at Carhartt is fairly diverse. We use about eight different coopers, blending French, Hungarian, and a bit of American oak on select varietals. Within each of the coopers we use a wide range of air-drying, toast levels, and grain densities. A barrel’s life depends on a couple variables, mainly the air-drying time and the toast, but for the most part our barrels are considered neutral (free of oak flavor) after three years. We still use the barrels after three years, but they are just an aging vessel at that point and are part of a collection of new, one year old, and two year old barrels. When Carhartt barrels are retired we try and re-use them by making barrel furniture that we sell in the tasting room.
Carhartt has probably one of the charming and intimate tasting rooms in California. Where did the design inspiration come from?
The design inspiration came from creating a space that feels like home. The tasting room building itself has served many different purposes in the past, but we think it creates a welcoming vibe as a tasting room, and combined with the back patio, some never want to leave! The whole setup has and always will be a work
in progress. The furniture in the back is basically all barrel furniture now and we are proud of the recycling project.
How did Carhartt Vineyards get started? What is the connection to the Carhartt Outerwear company?
Carhartt Vineyard came to be because of Mike Carhartt’s love of farming the ranch he grew up on, and Brooke Carhartt’s incredible work ethic and drive to create a product that not only they love, but many others as well. It feels good to do something with your hands that in turn puts a smile on the faces of others. Our followers, the Rascals as we like to call them, have with Carhartt a chance to truly know where their wine comes from, how it’s made, and who is making it. That connection is the lifeblood of Carhartt Vineyard. The connection with the clothing brand is purely a familial tie. Mike’s great grandfather Hamilton
started the company in 1889, and today it is still run by family. Carhartt Vineyard has nothing to do with the clothes except for wearing them with pride and continuing a legacy of an honest, hard-working family.
Where does the Carhartt team like to go for a pint of local beer?
After a long day, we usually drink a beer on the crush pad. However, if we all have the energy to venture out into the world, we will head straight to Firestone or Fig Brew in Buellton. We are so lucky to have the best beer right in our back yards.
Dreams, families and wines are all intricately connected. Sometimes the dream of starting a vineyard or winery is shared over a bottle (or two) with the family over a holiday meal. For other families there isn't a specific memory, but just an understanding that the winery or vineyard have always just been there, part of life. Santa Barbara County is blessed with so many family-owned vineyards and wineries. All of which started with a dream. Last week we caught up with Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard. He recently welcomed a new baby and his sister came in from Italy to help with harvest. Family and wine. This is our Santa Barbara County.
You can follow the Larner Vineyard harvest on Facebook and the entire Santa Barbara County harvest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #sbcharvest.
Was this photo taken in the mines or among the vines at Larner Vineyard? (Just kidding.) When and where was the photo taken? Who is in this picture? Is it hard to source the head lamps?
This is our tribute to the Harvest Moon. The photo was taken at 5.30 am on September 19 in the Syrah 3, 101-14 block and represents our first fruit to come off the vine in harvest 2013! Monica Larner, my sister, and Italian Reviewer for the Wine Advocate and eRobertParker, gets a chance to dump her laptop for harvesting sheers and taste what it’s like to be on “the other side.” Up next for my sister? She gets to clean the bladder press.
You (Michael Larner) have been a visible member of the Santa Barbara County wine community on behalf of your family. Tell us more about your mom and sister, Monica, who also happens to be a highly regarded wine writer and how you all came to own this special piece of land.
The Larner family purchased the property in 1997 in the hope of doing exactly what we are doing today. My dad Stevan Larner (who passed away in 2005) brought a culture of wine to the family and my sister and I seamlessly got caught up in wine, albeit on two different ends representing both production and critique. What Stevan Larner practiced was parenthood by passion, and magically it worked.
In addition to making your own wines under the Larner label, several other prominent wineries in the region purchase fruit from your vineyard. What makes the Larner Vineyard and Ballard Canyon a good place for grapes? What grapes do you grow and what do you think the landscape in Santa Barbara County will look like in 10 years?
We have farmed grapes for dozens of excellent, boutique winemakers over the past decade, many of whom use the “Larner Vineyard” designation on their wines. By selling fruit first, we helped establish the vineyard’s reputation and quality. In a sense we did things backwards: We focused on the vineyard first and the winery later. We continue to believe that what sets Larner apart is the strict growers’ philosophy that distinguishes our wines. Larner Vineyard is the first major wine-growing property along the corridor of winding roads and breathless rural landscapes that make up Ballard Canyon. Any day now, we are waiting for official approval of the Ballard AVA (America Viticulture Area) that would recognize this beautiful parcel of the greater Santa Barbara area for its unique grape-growing characteristics. Ballard Canyon is celebrated for its unique soils, microclimates and grape varieties. Another important distinguishing factor is the high level of quality achieved by all the major wineries located in what will soon be America’s newest AVA. We are all extremely excited.
We are firm believers that the future of Santa Barbara County is in the creation of individual sub-zones and territories that together make up the pieces of a greater mosaic. The Santa Rita Hills is known for Burgundian-styled wines like Pinot Noir, Ballard Canyon for Rhône Valley varieties like Syrah and Happy Canyon for Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. Together, these special territories offer more stylistic flexibility and varietal expression to the consumer than any other major wine zone in California. Ultimately, this is what gives Santa Barbara County its competitive edge.
You and your wife recently welcomed a baby daughter into the world. How has it been with harvest and a new baby?
Our baby Sienna was born on born on Sept 3rd, 2014. Sadly, ten days later her other remaining grandfather passed away. It’s been a bittersweet month for our family, further complicated by the fact that harvest came four weeks early. Living amongst the vines, you are constantly reminded of the annual cycles that metaphorically link birth to death. The 2013 harvest will be an especially important one for the Larner family.
What wines and foods are at your family table during the holidays?
My mom Christine (who was born in Krakow) is an inspired cook and Monica always brings a suitcase of Italian ingredients back with her when she visits from Rome. Our holiday meals represent a crazy fusion of four uniquely diverse cuisines: Italian, French, Polish and Californian. We’ve made our own version of pasta alla Gricia with queso and roasted Poblano chili peppers, put hand-kneaded porcini tortellini in red borscht, simmered coq au vin in Chianti Classico and paired poppy seed cake with Recioto di Soave. What we cook is a nod to the culinary traditions that inspire us most. I’d say the Italian theme is probably the strongest because my sister is on the front lines of what’s interesting and new in Italian cooking. It’s no coincidence that the kitchen is by far the biggest room at the Larner residence.
Night harvesting continues in Santa Barbara County. We were struck by the creativity of this picture and wanted to get the story from Peter Stolpman, partner in Stolpman Vineyards. Peter, who recently got married, is a young and dynamic member of the Santa Barbara County wine community. So of course, we had to ask about the wedding, tarantulas, and Stolpman's wine making philosophy.
You can follow the story of the Stolpman Harvest on Facebook and the entire Santa Barbara County harvest using #sbcharvest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Photo credit: Lee Tomkow
This picture has a cool psychedelic feel. Tell us when and where this photo was taken. How many lights do you bring in for night harvesting?
This photo was taken by our 2013 vintage guest photographer Lee Tomkow. He reports that he had to
run to keep up with our full-time vineyard crew, “La Cuadrilla”. The team picked 15 tons of Syrah before dawn yesterday morning, September 19. This photo was taken in Block 1 Syrah.
We utilize custom night-harvesting trailers with bright lights perched above the vine rows. In addition, each member of the 15 person La Cuadrilla wears a personal head lamp. The plentiful light allows us to do specific picks. For instance, we will make up to a dozen passes in our Roussanne blocks, an uneven
ripening varietal. We only pick a few ripe clusters off the vines each night. Nocturnal harvesting allows us to capture a fresh, vibrant fruit profile as the grapes and vines rest in the cool of the night.
You (Peter Stolpman) recently got married at the vineyard. How did you meet your wife Jessica?
Jessica and I met in our corporate training meeting led by Master Sommelier Peter Neptune when we both were hired at Henry Wine Group in early 2007. Jessica had just returned from backpacking through Australia and New Zealand. I was fresh off of working a double-vintage year in 2006, making Shiraz
in Australia for the Southern Hemisphere harvest and then Sangiovese in Italy for the Northern Hemisphere. With two vintages under my belt, I wanted to learn about the wholesale market, and Henry Wine Group had a wonderful international portfolio and offered Peter Neptune’s wine education program. I wasn’t looking forward to an all-day meeting, but when I walked into the room and saw Jessica, being trapped in that conference room for 8 hours didn’t seem so bad. Thanks to the forced captivity that day, Jessica and I soon started dating.
When I moved north to Ballard Canyon in 2009 to take over day-to-day management of Stolpman Vineyards, Jessica landed a job as West Coast Sales Manager for our neighbors to the north, Zaca Mesa Winery. As of our July 27 wedding, Jessica and I have joined families in both marriage and work, and Jessica now devotes her days (and harvest nights) to Stolpman Vineyards.
Because this is your first harvest together as a married couple are you doing anything different this vintage?
This harvest, we wanted to give Jessica a crash course in our unique winemaking methodology, so Jessica spent a week with our Winemaker Sashi Moorman, working crush for our sister Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wineries, Sandhi and Domaine de la Cote. Next, Jessica will handle one of our Syrah lots from night-harvesting through barreling. Guiding the Syrah grapes from picking through native fermentation will give Jessica hands on experience in just how fanatical our pursuit of vineyardcrafted wines really is! In between winemaking training, Jessica is helping me spread the gospel of Stolpman Vineyards wines, leading private tastings and tours. We’re both busy and looking forward to our January honeymoon trip
to Vietnam and Thailand.
How did you get into the wine bs usiness? What is the best advice your dad ever gave you?
My dad founded Stolpman Vineyards in 1990, and its creation has led to the new Ballard Canyon AVA. After attending college at Georgetown, I moved back to Los Angeles in 2004 and began a career in sales management. I felt the vineyard calling me each weekend and would drive up to help out during harvest.
Soon enough, I decided I wanted to quit my day job and become a part of the grand experiment my dad began when I was eight years old. My goal is to ensure the vineyard becomes a multi-generational, sustainable enterprise, and one day watch Sashi’s daughter, Juliet; Ruben’s son Omar; and Jessica and my future children work their butts off growing and making wine!
The best advice Dad has ever given me is to only do what you love, and never let money dictate your career. To this day, I am forever thankful for the opportunity Dad gave me: to run a business purely on passion and make sure that our entire staff feels that drive.
Several Stolpman wines recently received excellent reviews from Antonio Galloni and the Wine Advocate. What is the winemaking philosophy at Stolpman?
Stolpman wines represent “wines of integrity”. Our wines are vineyard crafted by 20 year veteran vineyard manager “grape whisperer” Ruben Solorzano. Sashi Moorman’s job as winemaker is to guide the fruit through to the bottle without manipulating the signature of the land.
Have you seen any tarantulas yet in Ballard Canyon?
Yes! Last weekend there was one big guy crawling across Ballard Canyon Road and another smaller, fury beast on the dirt track across Block 3. I put a picture up on facebook. Tarantulas come out to mate before the cold and rain of winter, so their appearance is a sign to start harvesting, and that we are!
Making red wine is a test of patience and ingenuity. Red wine is not just magically pressed from red grapes. The color and flavors that are essential to these wines need to be gently extracted from the skins, seeds and stems over time. Winemakers will use different tactics in the cellar based on the types of red grapes processed and the desired style of the finished wine. Over the weekend we caught up with Tyler Thomas, the new winemaker at Dierberg and Star Lane, to ask him more about Pinot Noir and why he and his family moved to Santa Barbara County from Sonoma County. You can follow Tyler's new harvest adventures on Instagram at @Dierberg_Starlane. Don't forget the entire Santa Barbara County harvest can be found using #sbcharvest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Many people associate grape stomping with the famous I Love Lucy episode. Who is in this picture and what are they doing? Tell us more.
This is our Enologist Christina Hall stomping some cold Pinot Noir from our Drum Canyon Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills. I have a lot of experience with stem inclusion and enjoy the spice flavor and textural component it adds to wine. We tread the grapes to crush the fruit prior to loading it into the fermenter because I prefer less than 100% whole berry when it comes to stem inclusion.
You recently started as the new winemaker for Dierberg and Star Lane. Where did you move from? Why did you come to Santa Barbara County? How do you think the style of wines at Dierberg/Starlane will evolve under your leadership?
Great questions! Our family of five moved from Sonoma County. I was working for a small boutique winery called Donelan Wines. 11 years ago when I completed my first full harvest in Lompoc with Fiddlehead Cellars I always thought this would be a great place to live and work. Additionally, my experience has been principally with producers interested in evoking great wines from great sites, working to understand what the vines want to produce. Star Lane passed the terroir eye ball test. The opportunity afforded to me by the Dierberg family to bring a voice to their terroir was too good to pass up. I believe great wine must be discovered and the new playground of Star Lane, Dierberg Vineyard, and Drum Canyon vineyard are thrilling opportunities.
It is difficult to point to how the wines might change as I work to truly understand what the wines want to be. I know that sounds vague and mystical, but I truly believe it. I will say that I work to capture and understand the variation that exists within each site so that there is no lost opportunity in learning and subsequently to crafting a truly fine wine: one that brings pleasure, has a unique voice, and whose architecture is structured with energy and litheness.
Successful winemaking requires a committed team. Who else is on your winemaking team and what tactics do you use to keep everyone focused during the grueling harvest season?
After 11 years in the business I have become convinced that great wine is made by having great fruit and great people. Our team is excelling right now led by local product Jeff Connick who worked with Rick Longoria for a number of years. Our Cellar Master Mario Garcia is the longest tenured cellar employee and
brings an enthusiasm for learning and for cracking the whip when necessary. Christina Hall runs our lab ensuring that we carefully monitor our efforts to push risk and quality. That is our core leadership which is complimented by a few permanent cellar rats and excellent interns. I would be remiss not to also mention our vineyard manager Julian Malone of Coastal Vineyard Care who has led the vineyard crews in tending our vines to prepare them for this wonderful time of year.
I keep the team fresh by keeping them in the loop of our progress, helping them understand how their work contributes to making our wines great, providing them homemade bread and enjoying great wine.
How is your harvest going so far?
Quite excellently. Thanks to the team we have in place I can honestly say as a newcomer to the valley that I feel a vintage ahead toward understanding the nuances of the valley. The weather has been so
cooperative. We all have been skipping with excitement as the wines begin to ferment.
As a new member of the Santa Barbara County wine community, where do you recommend to go for a pint of local beer?
Well I have had the good fortune of being able to stay on the Star Lane ranch since I moved to the valley and embarrassingly I have not been in town too much. I did enjoy an evening at Mattei’s Tavern just recently and am excited to find my favorite watering hole. Mostly I’ve been sipping pints on the deck of our cottage overlooking the breathtaking Star Lane Vineyards!
Who doesn't love baby pictures? Especially harvest baby pictures! Many wine projects in Santa Barbara County are family-owned or have second or third generation connections to iconic wine figures. When Tessa Marie Parker posted this picture last week we just had to find out more. Who is this adorable little guy and how does someone with the last name Parker (from the iconic Fess Parker wine family) decide to also make wine? You can follow Tessa and the story of her harvest on her Instagram page @TessaMarieWines.
This photo is adorable! Baby’s first harvest. How hard was it to capture this pose? What fruit is in the bins? How did he get his name?
Foxen (9 months – born last harvest) is the happiest baby I know! He is a natural and LOVES the camera. Vermentino for sparkling is in the bins and this is our first picking of the year. Foxen's name came from a dream, before we knew he was a boy. We thought how fitting! (The family's Fess Parker Winery is located in Foxen Canyon on Foxen Canyon Road.) It's powerful and meaningful. His Full name is Foxen Parker Cody.
Many wineries and vineyards in Santa Barbara County are family-owned. You are from a famous winemaking family and one of the youngest winemakers in Santa Barbara County. Did you always want to be a winemaker? Tell us more.
I fell into this business right out of high school with the intention of working with my dad and making some Sangiovese for fun. I was always a creative person so this was a natural thing for me. Back then I never thought I could do this for a living so this is a dream come true! When my dad called me about a tasting room space in town I was blown away. I remember telling myself “I could do this!”. And honestly, I don’t know what else I would be doing… This job doesn’t get any cooler! I get to have my baby by my side and have fun doing it.
Do you hope your children will someday get into the wine business too?
I would love for Foxen to carry on the family tradition. This is a great business to be in, especially where we live. If anything it will be something he can do for fun or have the knowledge for.
How is your harvest going?
This looks to be a good year (plus, I have a cute lil' assistant!). I am starting a month early compared to the past couple years so I am excited for what this vintage has to offer. Sangiovese is still on the vines and loving this heat! Hopefully I will harvest them in within a couple weeks.
For today's Harvest Story we were inspired by the size of this white grape cluster held by winemaker Seth Kunin of AVA of Santa Barbara and Kunin Wines. Wine grapes are interesting. There are thousands of different grapes varieties and clones throughout the world that can be used to make wine. All these grapes have subtle (and not so subtle) differences from the color of the grape skins to the size of the berries and clusters. Next time you visit a vineyard between veraison (the point at which the clusters start to develop color and accumulate sugar) and harvest, walk up to the clusters in the vines and hold them in your hand. Study the color and texture of the skins. Note the size of each berry. Is the cluster compact or big and open? All these clues will help you make a proper identification and your friends will be impressed! Can you identify the type of grape Seth is holding? (Answer is below.) You can follow the ongoing story of Seth's havest on his Instagram page at @SethKunin.
That is one huge cluster! What variety is this and is this cluster size typical?
It is Grenache Blanc (from Coghlan Vineyards). This size and shape are fairly typical for both Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc, although this particular cluster was quite large (hence the photo)…
People often say winemaking is equal parts science and art. What is your philosophy?
Definitely equal parts science and art. You can’t make great wine without a healthy dose of respect for both, and for their contributions to the finished product. In the 80s, with all of the technological innovations happening in the world of science (and trickling down to winemaking), there were lots of “frankenwines” out there. There are also lots of bizarre and unstable wines that were made just for the “art” of it, without understanding the science of what makes a wine stable and enjoyable.
You look a little like a mad scientist in this picture. How much sleep do you get during harvest?
I’ve actually been doing OK sleep-wise this harvest (the photo notwithstanding), but I do live in Santa Barbara and make wine in Santa Maria, so there are two extra hours in every work day for me…
You are one of the most highly regarded winemakers in California. How did you get into the wine business?
I grew up surrounded by food and cooks in the family, and then found myself in the restaurant business, where I really started to learn and appreciate wine on a different level. After running a few restaurants and making some wine for fun, I decided that I liked the wine business and lifestyle better than the restaurant side (I don’t regret being in the restaurant biz, but I don’t miss it either…). I didn’t go to Davis or Fresno, but just applied what I knew from my pre-med studies at UCLA, my tasting experiences at the Wine Cask and other places that I had worked and the knowledge that I had amassed from visiting the cellars of many winemakers – both here and abroad. My first vintage may have been a bit of a crapshoot, but it is looking like I made a good bet.
You enjoy entertaining. When you have friends over what do you like to serve?
Food-wise, I love to grill. There is no substitute for the sweet, spicy flavors that hot wood gives to a piece of meat (or fish or vegetable). Those same flavors also tend to marry well with the bright, savory qualities in the Old-World style wines that I like to make and serve (both domestic and imported). Not to mention that you don’t really need to fuss with things like sauces and the kitchen doesn’t get too hot from the oven being on for hours…
This picture has not been photoshopped. Many people don't realize that grapes from vineyards in Santa Barbara County and many parts of California are mostly picked in the late evening or early morning. John Hilliard, owner and winemaker, from Hilliard Bruce helps us understand why. You can also follow John's daily harvest updates on Twitter and the entire Santa Barbara County harvest on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #sbcharvest.
This picture appears to be taken at night. What day and time was this photo taken?
This picture was taken at 9pm Sept 7, as we started harvesting Pinot noir. The crew kept picking until 5am. Ouch! 12 Tons. Thank you Juve, Augustine and the crew.
This is our special Block 2, which whispers namaste (in Hindu) to the sun each morning from it's hillside repose. Vineyards really do that in Santa Barbara.
Why do you pick at night or early morning?
The grapes sleep in the fifty degree Sta. Rita Hills night - that protective natural refrigeration protects them through the winemaking process. Grapes come with friends too (native yeasts and bacteria) and keeping those guys chilled prevents off flavors.
Hilliard Bruce is a new producer in Santa Barbara County. Why did you choose Santa Barbara County and the Sta. Rita Hills specifically?
We came to Santa Barbara as escapees from a distant land called Texas, where every other vehicle is a pickup truck, and nobody outside Austin believes in Global Warming. Santa Barbara, however, is harmonious, from Prius driving farmers to innovative and exploratory winemakers. And Sta. Rita Hills is
In addition to being a winemaker and grape grower, you are a Master Gardner and grow some rare and unusual plants and trees on your property. Tell us more about some of the non-grape projects on your property.
Christine and I are plant crazy and Santa Barbara is the place to embrace nature, so we began cultivating and harvesting avocados, apples, blackberries, raspberries, lettuce, artichokes and pine nuts. We even a planted a collection of weird Australian shrubs and some nearly extinct trees. We built an 80 ton stati aerated compost building, a reservoir with floating bioremediation islands, and enough solar panels to power the entire vineyard.
Your beautiful wife, Christine (Bruce), is also a successful gardener and Arabian horse breeder. How did you both meet?
We were next door neighbors as kids. Later, Christine had a career playing keyboards in bands and I was a visual artist who had a day job running a family shipyard. It was love at first sight between two misfits. We work great together: she makes the Chardonnay, tends the gardens and feeds the horses. I make the Pinot noir, keep the remote control on my side of the bed, and try to answer the inevitable questions from God.
Eric Mosheni is the winemaker for Zaca Mesa Winery in the Foxen Canyon area of Santa Barbara County. We were inspired by this picture because people may not realize how involved winemakers are with the growing and picking of the grapes they use for their wines. Eric was kind enough to take some time from his hectic harvest schedule to answer a few questions about the story behind this photo. You can also follow Zaca Mesa's harvest updates on Twitter and the entire Santa Barbara County harvest on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #sbcharvest.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Bloom Photography
What vineyard block was this photo taken in? What day and time?
The Vineyard Block is our Chapel B Chardonnay up on our Mesa. It was taken on Tuesday, September 3rd @ 6:00AM. The name Chapel comes from the early years of the property when there was an actual chapel built on that part of the vineyard. The Chapel at some point was removed, but the name has stuck. The letters following Chapel indicate different sub blocks with different clones, varietals, etc. - We have Chapel A, B, C, D, E, F, G. The fruit from Chapel B will go into our Estate Chardonnay.
It is often said that wine is made in the vineyard. What are your thoughts on this?
Absolutely! Pruning, leafing, irrigation, crop load, etc. all have a direct influence on the quality and sensory of the wine.
Tell us how you work with your vineyard manager in determining when to pick.
Our Vineyard Manager, Ruben Camacho, gathers vineyards samples and we run analysis on them. I like to have base line numbers. I walk the blocks and taste everything. Based on what I taste, the numbers, and the weather forecast, I'll decide my picks.
What specifically are you doing in this photo?
I am sorting fruit... looking for any mildew, leaves, etc.
How long have you been the winemaker at Zaca Mesa? How did you get into the wine industry?
I've been here 13 years and head winemaker for 5 years. I was pre-med in college. Many people told me you better love what you do. I was a home brewer and loved fermentation science. Switched majors to Food Science and Chemistry and got a job at a wine shop. Never looked back!
Once harvest is over and you have a free day, what do you plan to do?
SLEEP! And then go quail hunting when the season starts.
Eric Mosheni's Bio. Winemaker for Zaca Mesa Winery.
Raised in Los Angeles, Eric graduated from California State University at Long Beach with a degree in food science and a minor in chemistry. His career began as a wine buyer at The Wine Country, a noted wine retailer in the Long Beach area. Mohseni aided in managing an extensive collection of wines while developing his knowledge of wine and the wine consumer.
In 1997, Eric took a sabbatical from wine retail, taking a harvest position at Edna Valley Vineyards. There he had his first dose of winemaking. “I will never forget the aromas from barreling down new wine into a new oak barrel. It gave me goose bumps.” In 1999, he furthered his winemaking knowledge by serving as a member of the harvest crew of Esk Valley Estate in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand’s fifth largest vineyard. Eric credits both of these experiences with igniting his passion for hands on winemaking.
In 2001, Eric joined Zaca Mesa as enologist. Over the years, he worked his way up to Assistant Winemaker, then to Associate Winemaker and finally to Winemaker in July 2008. Since joining Zaca Mesa, he has helped fine-tune the wine quality and refined the winery’s style resulting in wines that have character, integrity and a sense of place.
Eric lives in Orcutt with his bulldog Oswald. When Eric is not thinking of wine (which is rare) he enjoys quail hunting, trap and range shooting, cooking, traveling, and collecting a wide variety of music and film.
The 2013 harvest in Santa Barbara County began the third week of August to much anticipation. This year's growing season was hot and dry, pushing the grapes to ripen up to two weeks earlier than normal on some vineyard sites. As we share the story of the Santa Barbara County harvest, we asked our winery and vineyard members to post their harvest pictures and technical updates to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages using #sbcharvest.
The Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association is cultivating these photos from our members to our Facebook, Twitter an Instagram accounts. Look for daily harvest stories from the winemakers and vineyard managers of Santa Barbara County, California on this page beginning on Wednesday, September 11.
Here's to a very successful and tasty 2013 vintage!