Already aware of LA County wines as have been drinking some for years, some from this seminar, and others, like Golden Star Vineyards and Byron Blatty, due to tasting them at Santa Clarita Valley events. Our class was led by Garagiste co-founder Stewart McLennan and included Patrick Kelley from Cavaletti Vineyard, Jasper Dickson and Amy Luftig Viste from Angeleno Wine Company and Mark and Jenny Blatty from Byron Blatty Wines. (We were also presented with six samples, two from each winery, that we would taste at the close of the discussion.)
We started with a bit of a bio from each or the panelists then Stewart asked about challenges, and to share a bit of history of LA winemaking. I’ve grouped together answers to all of theses questions by each panelist:
Patrick Kelley, Cavaletti Vineyard
BIO: Patrick has a BA in biology, attended business school, lived in San Fernando Valley for 10 years, then moved to Ventura where he started making wine “without plans to make wine” his business. Now he’s up to 600 cases and this is his second time at Garagiste.
CHALLENGES: Finding customers that accept LA County Wines is his biggest challenge as its “unknown brands in unknown region.” So events like Garagiste help to get his “wine in front of customers.”
HISTORY: The climate is dry, water is available, but Phylloxera hit the region just like in Napa. The vineyards that did exist, a few thousand in San Pedro, pretty much shut down in the 1960s.
Amy Luftig Viste, Angeleno Wine Company
BIO: Amy has a degree in public health and continues to work in that field. She fell in love with wine, took some courses at UCLA and found herself most interested in winemaking and the Central Coast where she did some interning. Over a few Mimosas with Jasper the two came up with a plan to start their own winery in LA. This was when she “was the happiest she has ever been.”
CHALLENGES: Opening a winery in downtown Los Angeles has been her biggest challenge. But she “goes until someone says they can’t.” Gaining advocates from city government helped.
Jasper Dickson, Angeleno Wine Company
BIO: Jasper boasted no degrees, was a high school dropout and worked at Silverlake Wine for ten years. Over that decade he met many winemakers at the shop and asked many questions. He started making wine in his garage at home. In 2013 he went commercial and in 2015 he had his Mimosa date with Amy.
CHALLENGES: Jasper echoed Amy’s stand on challenges, with the addition of getting lots of bank rejections in the beginning.
HISTORY: There were Spanish missionaries building missions in California as well as planting grapes. In 1859 Californians were drinking two million bottles per year.
Mark Blatty, Byron Blatty Wines
BIO: “There is a common thread,” Mark began, “and it’s that all of us here love to drink wine.” He and Jenny have a background in television production and now they are also “Executive Producers” of their wine. He’s learned that you don’t have to own it all (a winery and the vineyards) to make wine.
CHALLENGES: Consumers have zero experience or a “bad experience” with LA County wines. But when people discover the wines, and enjoy them, he feels a certain sense of pride as an Angeleno. Another challenge: those writing about wine aren’t writing about LA County Wines, so there is no book educating them.
HISTORY: Prohibition changed a lot of things in California, especially removing all of the grape vines to make room to grow citrus instead.
Jenny Blatty, Byron Blatty Wines
BIO: For Jenny it was a “daydream” and she was “obsessed with wine.” That obsession drove her to take classes and start making wines in 2013. Putting out their first vintage in 2014 – most of the grapes they picked themselves and continue to do so. That first vintage produced less than two barrels.
LA County Wine Tasting
2018 Cavaletti 109 Mile Rose, Swayze Vineyard
The Swayze Vineyard is in the Antelope Valley, next to the poppy preserve, and has very little pest presence.
Peach, grapefruit, Meyer lemon, gravel and some acidity.
2017 Cavaletti Grenache, Swayze Vineyard
Barnyard, herbaceous, olives and some tart.
2017 Angeleno Zanja Madre Grenache/Tempranillo, Alonso Family Vineyards
The name Zanja Madre translates to “Mother Ditch.”
Black fruit, spicy, green notes.
2017 Angeleno Syrah, Alonso Family Vineyards 100% Syrah
Plum, grape jam, cherry candy, balanced.
2017 Byron Blatty Undertake, Zinfandel/Petite Sirah, Merlot, Syrah.
The 5% of Syrah is from Paso fruit. This is a common winemaking theme for them: a four varietal blend of four different vineyards. And this wine – Undertake – was a big undertaking…not a nod to an undertaker.
Big, bold, spicy, red to dark fruit.
2016 Byron Blatty Pragmatic, Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
90% Malbec, 22 months in barrel and from seven different vineyards.
A bit softer and brighter fruit than Undertake, with perfumy notes and hints of black pepper.
Shout Out to Upcoming Byron Blatty Wine Dinner at The Old Town Junction on July 25: 5 courses, 5 wines, tax and tip included for $85
“A Taste of Summer” is what they’re officially calling this remarkable collaboration. Here are the details from Eventbrite:
About this Event
Join us for an unforgettable summer evening at the Old Town Junction, on Main Street in downtown Newhall, as we present: “A Taste of Summer” wine dinner, featuring the Los Angeles wines of Byron Blatty! A Taste of Summer will be an unparalleled food and wine experience, combining the highest quality, locally sourced ingredients, cooked to perfection, and expertly paired with world-class wines grown right here in L.A. County.
Our evening will begin with canapés prepared by Chef Daniel Otto, served with a glass of Byron Blatty’s delightful Rosé from the Antelope Valley, followed by a seated, five course dinner, each paired with one of Blatty’s locally grown wines.
Chef Daniel will take you through each amazing dish, with Mark and Jenny Blatty on hand to walk you through their vision for putting Los Angeles back on the map, as one of California’s premiere wine growing regions. Blatty’s winemakers, Steve Lemley and Nate Hasper (of Newhall’s Pulchella) will also present several of these unique wines, and explain what makes them so special.
Tickets are $85 per person inclusive of tax and gratuity, $70 per person for Byron Blatty Wines Club Members. (Members will be sent a promo code for discounted tickets.)
To inquire about Membership options please email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or see their website: https://byronblatty.com/membership
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.