Ian Blackburn has been teaching all of us about wine for the last 20 years. First with Learn About Wine and now with Wine LA, he has been teaching classes and putting on events which have been instrumental in turning a lot of wine drinkers into wine lovers.
His “Stars of…” events are legendary and for me the highlight of these is the Stars of California, recently held at the Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills.
Now there are certainly far too many great wineries in California for all of them to be in attendance, but Ian did his usual great job of putting together a selection to highlight what makes California wine so great. The list of wineries reads like a veritable who’s-who of superstars.
Modus Operandi Cellars
Cole Bailey Vineyards
La Rochelle Wines
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
Oakville Ranch Winery
Refugio Ranch Vineyards
RN Estates Winery
Robert Biale Vineyards
Saxon Brown Wines
St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery
Valdez Family Winery
Alma Rosa Winery
Epoch Estate Wines
Hawk and Horse Vineyards
Kosta Browne Winery
What a list!
As with almost any event, you can’t taste everything. Of what my wife Karen and I tried, here’s what we liked the best…
I haven’t written about Jason Moore’s wines in some time. I first tasted this Napa Valley winemaker’s wines when visiting Silenus Cellars a few years ago. I really enjoyed his “Vicarious” blend and Cabernet Sauvignon, both from the 2012 vintage.
Formerly known as JC Cellars, to me this winery does not get nearly enough attention. Jeff is making great wines in the Oakland/Alameda area, sourcing excellent fruit from various outstanding California vineyards. All four wines being poured this evening were delicious: The Imposter Zinfandel Blend, Rockpile Syrah, Botticelli Zinfandel and Misc Stuff [GSM Blend], all also from the 2012 vintage.
What can I say about this Paso Robles winery that I haven’t already said? They came out of the box swinging with their 2010 vintage and really brought it home bigtime with the 2011s. Being poured were the 2011 Intrepid [Syrah] and the Sagacious [Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache], all that is left from the 2011 vintage. The 2012s will be out this fall – don’t miss them!
I was excited to find this new-to-me Napa winery. Although the name may seem nondescript, the wines definitely weren’t. The 2012 Field Blend, 2011 Robert’s Cabernet Franc and 2012 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon are all worth seeking out.
I’ve been a fan [and club member] of this Napa “zin house” for many years. Their Black Chicken Zinfandel and R.W. Moore Zinfandel both tasted great. And lest you think they are only about zin, they are doing what they can to put Petite Sirah back on the map. Being poured was the Royal Punishers Petite Sirah [ask me to explain the name sometime] – always one of my favorite “pets” and this was no exception. All three of these wines were from the 2013 vintage.
Based in Sonoma, this winery not only makes great wine, but there is a wonderful story behind the winery. Owner/winemaker Ulises Valdez came to the U.S. from Mexico to work in the fields and is now a respected vineyard manager as well as an excellent winemaker. The 2011 St. Peter’s Church Zinfandel and the 2009 Silver Eagle Syrah were both excellent.
It amazes me how Guillaume Fabre continues to make such beautiful elegant wines at his small Paso Robles winery. All three wines he was pouring were amazing and worth finding: 2014 Hommage Blanc [blend of Roussanne and Viognier], 2013 Harmonie [Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre] and 2013 Hommage A Nos Pairs [mainly Syrah with a little Grenache and Roussanne].
Continuing the Paso Robles theme, it is hard to find better wines there [or anywhere] than at Epoch. The 2013 Grenache Blanc, 2011 Ingenuity [Syrah blend] and 2012 Veracity [Grenache blend] were all showing very well. And in case you needed another reason to visit, they have finally moved winemaking operations into their new state-of-the-art winery.
Ian Blackburn does more than teach us about wine. His Beekeeper Cellars produces some really tasty zinfandel. Both the 2011 Rockpile Zin and the 2012 Howell Mountain Zin are tasting great, showing delicious bold fruit without being overpowering.
Kosta Browne participated in the pre-event VIP dinner, allowing us to enjoy their wonderful 2013 One Sixteen Chardonnay and 2012 Cirq Treehouse Pinot Noir.
Speaking of the VIP dinner, I highly recommend that, if you are attending an event of this magnitude, you spring for the VIP experience. Great food, special wines and early entrance to the tasting make the extra cost well worth it.
Kudos to Ian and his team for putting on another great event. And the setting at the Peninsula as well as the silent auction raising money for the TJ Martell Foundation just made it that much better.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org