Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why Do You Buy Wine?

A conversation about group buying got me thinking about the reasons people buy wine and how knowing more about that would shed light on the types of opportunities present within any group of wine buyers.

I'm sure many of you just thought, "to drink it, of course", and that is the obvious reason to buy a beverage like wine. The question I am really asking is what prompts you to determine that you need to head to the wine shop and pick up some wine? I can only answer for myself, and am genuinely hoping for some feedback from others so I can gain perspective on how other people do it.

I buy wine for a purpose. Two things might be useful for context. I make my own wine at home and that does have a relationship to how much commercial wine I buy. I don't collect wine. I have a small cellar that turns over fast. Here are several of the current motivators for me to buy wine:
  • I am cooking a regional dish and need a wine that would typically be paired with the dish. I am doing this to maximize my appreciation for the food and drink of the region I am inspired by.
  • I need a wine from a specific region and of a certain style as an assignment for a Boston Sommelier Society wine tasting.
  • I am looking to explore a type/style of wine, and typically from multiple regions, as inspiration to make a batch of it at home.
  • I am participating in an online event where specific wine(s) will be tasted and reviewed.
I am exposed to a great many more wines through local tastings, travel and an occasional dinner out. Only recently have I begun buying wine and having it shipped home from my travel destinations. This is generally because the wine is not available to be in my local market, and is often a mixed case destined for short-term consumption.

What conclusions do I draw from my own wine buying habits? I am focused and spur of the moment. I don't plan that far ahead and don't buy wine I've never had to have it in my cellar for the future. Price is important, as it is any time I open my wallet, but it is not a significant driver for how I buy wine.  I may not be a good candidate for promotions that would have me considering wines I don't yet have a purpose for.

Why do you buy wine? What motivations for buying new (new or new-to-you) wines do you have? How does price factor in to how and when you buy wine?

Please leave a comment with some feedback about your wine buying habits. I am truly intrigued about this subject and hope that it can help others better identify opportunities that exist to source and market wines from around the world.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Six from Six – Investigating Finger Lakes Wine

At the 2011 WineMaker Magazine Conference the location for the 2012 edition of the conference was announced. Much to my delight it would be in the Finger Lakes region, and specifically Ithaca, New York! The choice of an East Coast location provides a great opportunity for Margot and I to play “host” to our West Coast friends. Unfortunately we only have passing familiarity with wines from the Finger Lakes and have yet to make a visit. With time on our side this will be resolved and we will be able to safely recommend what to try and where to go while in the area next June.

Our initial reconnaissance was done with an order of 6 different styles of Finger Lakes wine from Six Mile Creek Vineyard, thus the post title “Six from Six”. Over the coming months we will increase our knowledge of the area with more wines and a trip in September that will include stops at wineries on both Seneca and Cayuga lakes.

When I searched for wineries in the Ithaca area the first one that came up was Six Mile Creek Vineyard. I looked around at some of the other links and didn’t find anything that resonated as well. A web page might not be the best first impression for wine, but this time it did a pretty good job. I ordered 2 bottles each of the 2006 Pinot Noir, 2008 Cabernet Franc, 2007 Reserve Riesling, 2006 Chardonnay Reserve, 2007 Semi-Sweet Riesling and finally a sweet white blend named Pasa Tiempo. The wine arrived within a few days of ordering it and I promptly got to work tasting and getting to know the region a little more.

Six Mile Creek 2006 Pinot Noir

Very light in color with aromas of cherry and strawberry. Low tannins with healthy but not overbearing acidity. Subtle hints of earth. This wine is lighter than I expected but is made well. This is an example of a red that would do well in the summer heat, however I didn’t find enough character in it for a strong appeal for me. I need to get more experience with this grape as it is grown and vinified in the Finger Lakes.

Six Mile Creek 2008 Cabernet Franc

Oak in the nose with both aromas and flavors of raspberry and cherry. Wet soil notes with a little cheese rind funk mixed in. The tannins were initially mild but became more pronounced on the finish. The acidity also rose up mid-taste and carried through the finish. I enjoyed this wine very much and am looking forward to a well designed pairing with the other bottle yet to be opened.

Six Mile Creek 2007 Reserve Riesling

Minerality and petrol aromas right from the first swirl and sniff. I also picked up white flowers, peach and hints of tropical fruit. The balance of tart and sweet was incredibly refreshing. The finish has a drying effect with citrus notes as it exits. This is a solid example of Riesling done right and why the Finger Lakes is known for Riesling.

Six Mile Creek 2006 Chardonnay Reserve

This wine surprised me with its elegance. The nose is nutty with baking spices and wood. The fruit is there, but is not hugely expressed. I did get some creamy peach flavors. This wine is very well balanced and incredibly smooth. I want to get to know more about Finger Lakes Chardonnay for sure!

Six Mile Creek 2007 Semi-Sweet Riesling

Minerailty and tropical aromas in the nose. The tropical notes with some peach came back on the palate. Medium sweet with acidity to match. This is a solid drinking Riesling, one that will appeal to a range of wine drinkers, except those that don’t like Riesling!

Six Mile Creek Pasa Tiempo

This is a sweet wine blended from several white grapes, although unspecified on the label or the web site. Citrus, honey and white flowers fill the nose. When served cold this wine is sweet enough to masquerade as a dessert wine, but not too sweet as to prevent casual sipping. More of the honey and white grape comes through on the palate. At $8.50 per bottle the price/performance factor of this wine is very high!

I am looking forward to our trip in September to gain more depth in the predominant styles. I can’t make any useful judgment on the Pinot Noir from my one experience so I hope to find others I can spend time with. I did find a 2009 post from the New York Cork Report blog about Finger Lakes Pinot Noir that helped me better understand what I have experienced so far.

When in the region I also plan to seek out wines made from Sevyal, Vidal, Vignoles and any of the hybrid red grapes I can find. I (and more so my wife) are also looking forward to trying the sweeter dessert wine and ice-wine style wines made by some of the wineries in the region. After a tour with those kind of highlights I will feel much more confident to say that I “know” the Finger Lakes wine region well enough to make recommendation for others.



Sunday, June 26, 2011

White Birch Brewing – Hooksett, NH

If you've done any business networking at all you have likely been part of conversations about what makes corporate teams and small businesses successful. I've participated in my share of these conversations and over time I have determined that there are three things that make the difference between success and failure:
  • Passionate people who really know their product or service
  • An ability to focus on practical considerations & achievable goals
  • Leaders & owners who actively integrate contributions from everyone involved
Having a really great and competitive product doesn’t hurt either, but that one isn’t always as straightforward to asses.

I've enjoyed the beers from White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, NH a number of times, but I had yet to visit the brewery and due to harried tasting situations hadn’t really had much interaction with the people behind the beer. That changed this a few weekends ago when Margot and I made a trip out to the brewery. Our timing was incredible, arriving on the first full day they were pouring and selling growlers!

I had already formed the opinion that White Birch had a great product so getting to meet the people behind the beers provided a wonderful opportunity to learn more. Listening to Bill, Dave and Scott talk about what they do and how things have changed in the two years since White Birch opened helped me better understand their success.

We started off with a couple of tastings including two brews that I had yet to have, the Tavern Ale and Camp Travis. The Tavern Ale is a smoky imperial brown ale that was inspired the loggerhead ale made at the Butter’ tavern in Concord back in the 18th century. You can find the full story at Tavern Ale page. The beer is rich and malty with a moderate smokiness that wanders away in the smooth finish.  Camp Travis is beer produced from the Apprentice Program, a unique learning opportunity offered by the brewery, and was the vision of Ben Martin who is the most recent apprentice. Ben chose an American Barley Wine for a style and in a bold move chose Sorachi Ace hops as the only hop to be used in the brew. The thing that struck me about this beer was the taste of dried fruits in the middle of each mouthful. Click to find out more about the Apprentice Program.

The rest of our time at the brewery was spent getting a behind the scenes tour. We took a lot of pictures and struggled to take in details on so many of the special projects going on. The 7 barrel system now in use was made by the company in the adjacent complex, redefining what it means to support local industry!

( Bill admitted a dislike for having his picture taken so I was
very honored he agreed to. Proudly holding a growler and
standing next to a new barrel that will house a barely wine
for late 2011 release he surely looks the part! )

( This mash paddle was hand made by of the 
apprentices. That is serious passion! )

( Custom made fermenters compliment the new brewing
setup also made by Macy Industries right next door. )

( Ever the mad scientist, there are a barrels and carboys
with all sorts of special brews everywhere! )

( Kegs of several sizes awaited filling. There was much excitement 
about several new accounts requesting kegs. I can't wait to order
a White Birch beer off the tap at a local bar. Best in NH! )

If you haven't had brews from White Birch yet I urge you to seek them out. For me they are the best beers being made in NH right now and never fail to make me smile. 

White Birch is hosting the 2011 Southern New Hampshire Brewers Festival on July 23. Click the link for details and to purchase tickets. 



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Flatbread Pizzas for Summer

Weeknight summer eating is always a challenge for us. We want to be outside which means dinner can’t take that long to make and should be lighter, especially if we eat later in the evening.

Margot recently found a recipe for a grilled flatbread pizza with Prosciutto, Arugula and Lemon on page 125 of the June 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine. This definitely fit the bill. She made it even easier by using fresh Naan bread from the bakery instead of a crust made as part of the recipe.

The next week Margot riffed on this idea with her own recipe for Fig Jam, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Arugula flatbread pizzas. Another hit, although the gastronomic effect of these made the first one the winner!

Fig Jam, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Arugula Flatbread Pizzas

2 whole wheat Naan breads from the grocery store bakery
2 oz fig & orange jam (specialty food store item)
2 oz soft goat cheese
1 medium onion, sliced
4 Tbsp butter
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Handful of arugula

Caramelize the onions with the butter. This can be done ahead of time. Warm the Naan in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. Spread the jam evenly on each of the flatbreads. Cover with the onions. Spoon the goat cheese over the top. Heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes to allow everything to warm and the cheese to melt a bit. Remove from the oven and plate. Toss the balsamic vinegar with the arugula. Top each pizza with the vinegar laden greens and serve.

Quick, easy and full of flavor!



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Extra, Extra! Read All About It! - Margot Loves Stout

As we have explored the expanding world of craft beer (going back to the early boom in the mid 1990’s) Margot’s interest in what we were finding has waxed and waned like the cycles of the moon. In college she drank beer like everybody else, but none of us drank anything worthy of a review. More recently Margot has taken an interest in the darker styles we have been trying, and has decided that she is a stout girl. This affirmation doesn’t bother me at all since I too love stout and can envision many days ahead where we both get to enjoy stouts wherever we go.

In honor of Margot taking on the title of “Resident Stout Expert” we bought three different selections (all of which Margot had never had, one I had tried before) to taste, review and share with you.

Rogue Chocolate Stout
(reviewed by Margot)

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle. Dark as night. Profound dark chocolate and espresso aromas. Very thick and creamy, finishing with the bitterness typical of high % cacao dark chocolate. Hints of vanilla almost like the steamed milk or cream in a mocha. The finish is clean and of medium length, making for an easy drinker. Most of the chocolate sensation is coming from the aroma, deeper breaths while drinking it accentuated the perception of the chocolate flavor.
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout
(reviewed by Jason)

I first had this beer at the American Craft Beer Fest in Boston a few weeks back. In that post I listed this beer in my Bad Ass section, cause it is potent (10.5% ABV) and from a 12 oz. can! I picked up aromas of coconut almost immediately (something I am finding I enjoy in juiced up stouts) and as I drank it I couldn’t help but think of flavored coffee. There is an easily perceptible sweetness in this beer, but not the sweet tooth kind so it doesn’t diminish the enjoyment. The roasted flavors and acidity carry through a medium finish. I couldn’t sit down to drink multiple of these at once, but savoring it with dessert like a port wine easily comes to mind.

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout
(reviewed by Margot)

Poured from an 18.7 oz. bottle. Aromas of brown bread and coffee beans. A noticeable bitterness in the taste that translates into a bit of sour in the after taste much like caraway seeds in rye bread. Flavors of baking chocolate and overall a similar profile to barleywines I have tried and not like before. I would have enjoyed this more if it was a bit sweeter and with more pronounced mocha like flavors.

Well, there are three stouts for you to go find and enjoy, that is if stout is your thing. We have a local brewery in NH named White Birch that makes a series of barrel aged stouts (that are only available in limited situations) that never fail to please. Margot hasn’t been lucky enough to try all of them yet, but it would seem like we need to arrange that so we can share more of her “expertise”! We visited White Birch this past weekend and will be sharing our tasting notes, interviews with the staff and pictures this coming week.


Margot & Jason

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grillin' & Chillin' - Photos of Summer Delights from the Grill

( Skirt steak with a Chipotle sauce and cilantro. )

( The people who man the grill make a world of difference. My brother-in-law Bob. )

( Grilled pizza was a big deal for us in 2010. BBQ Pork with Jack cheese and carmerlized onions. )

( This pig was cool, and damn tasty too! )

( My makeshift smoker can handle all sorts of stuff! )

( Curtis working the grill at Curtis' BBQ in VT. )

( More grilled pizza. Chicken pesto and a bacon, onion and banana pepper creation of our friend Melanie. )

( Smoked turkey is my favorite way to use my smoker setup. )

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Comes Alive on the Greenway

This will be my second summer working adjacent to the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. Summer hasn’t officially started yet this year and the difference from last year is already noticeable. There are more food cart/trucks, more seating and the grounds crew has been hard at work planting new decorative plants and expanding the grassy areas.

The Dewey Square farm market is back for Tuesdays and Thursdays, drawing crowds and offering fruit, vegetables, snacks and lunch-worthy items all day. I have enjoyed offerings from all of the vendors at the market and each of the food carts and trucks, except for the cupcake cart. Cupcakes aren’t really my thing but I should buy a couple to bring home to share. There is too much to share, but a few highlights should whet any appetite. Everything from Clover is fresh and tasty, especially the Rosemary Fries. The Jerk Chicken kabobs from Silk Road BBQ are spicy and reminded me of authentic the Jamaican Jerk Chicken I have enjoyed while on the island. Q’s Roasted Nuts has an insane selection of roasted and flavored nuts.

I’ll let the photos and short video tell the rest of the story about what you might find on the Greenway this summer. I walk the Greenway everyday and love the activity and options for snacks to get me through the day.

( Sculpture and artwork are found all along the Greenway, including functional ones like this piece.)

( A truck dedicated to grilled cheese! Powered by Food Truck Nation. )

( You will find flowers everywhere! )

( Lefty's has some original menu items including specials that are worth checking out. )

( Not a day goes by where I don't seem one or more of the crew working to pretty up the Greenway. )

( This location and a tall iced coffee makes for a nice break! )

( A short video from the Dewey Square Farm Market. )

( Cupcakes anyone? )

( Clover was the first food truck on the Greenway and still the most popular! )

( Kids love this fountain! )

( A line at this place is a constant, and with good cause. )

Hopefully you will have a chance to check out the Greenway on a nice summer day. There is plenty of shade for the really hot days to come.



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Julia Child's Beef Bourgogne Rediscovered

Sometimes stuff gets lost in the freezer. And sometimes when that happens it doesn't work out so well. I don't know how many times I have tucked away the leftovers from my kitchen adventures and let them languish in the freezer too long. I hate throwing away freezer-burnt food, especially food I loved creating. This was NOT one of those times.

It was a cold and rainy day in New Hampshire and I had been busy all day bottling beer and tending to my wines. I didn't feel like cooking so I went to the freezer in hopes of finding something to reheat. As I rooted around I came across a container with contents something I couldn't immediately identify. I took it out and let it defrost on the counter.

( And it really did look that good reheated! )

My initial guess was Beef Bourgogne that I had made using Julia Child's recipe, but then I hedged and thought I recalled eating that already. I am glad my initial guess was correct!

The stew heated up nicely on the stove with the aid of a little bit of Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout that I had been enjoying during the beer bottling. Paired with some crusty bread and the rest of the beer I got my easy to prepare, hearty and warming meal I was looking for.

If you have a good story about rediscovering leftovers in your freezer I would love to hear the story in a comment.



Friday, June 10, 2011

American Craft Beer Fest – Boston

You read it everywhere these days. Craft beer is a revolution and it is blowing up. I couldn’t agree more. It has been this way for some time and the heights craft beer has reached are not at maximum yet. The American Craft Beer Fest (check the link for the full list of breweries and beers served) was held in Boston last weekend and the array of producers and styles securely confirms all that I have said.

I have pondered how to share my experience at the fest. I can’t share tasting notes on all 26 beers I tried because nobody is going to read a post that long. I decided to offer some highlights and a few pictures in an attempt to convey my considerable enjoyment and plans to track down many of these beers again, including those I didn’t get the chance to try!

Bad Ass Beers (this is my new category for beers that are just so bad ass good!)

Allagash Curieux – a Triple aged in bourbon barrels. The flavor influence form the barrels was intense and made this beer taste like a spirit.

Dogfish Head Olde School Barelywine – The concentrated flavors of dried fruits made me think of dessert wine instead of beer. This isn’t an everyday drinker, but was bad ass nonetheless.

Oskar Blues Grill Ten Fiddy – Imperial stout in a can. Need I say more?


Cambridge Brewing Citra Tripel – the fruitiness from the hops was incredible and got me thinking of how versatile this beer would be with different foods.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout – this booth had the longest line and it was worth the taste. I liked the beer but could only see myself drinking it like port to finish a gourmet meal. It was very sweet and super nuanced, two things casual beers can’t have to be successful.

Ithaca Beer Apricot Wheat – there is no way you would miss the fruit in this one and the light wheat beer that backed it up was very refreshing.

( Early on it was slow, but it got busy! )


Magic Hat Wacko – Made with beet sugar. It was tasty, but a big draw for me. The color made it stand out!

Narragansett Bock – Say what you will about ‘Gansett but their bock is a very respectable beer that I could see myself picking up to drink.

( Pouring at Sierra Nevada. I had the Weizenbock which was in the spring bock style. )

( When I roll with my camera and notebook people often ask if I am a reporter. These guys were having a great time! )
( I enjoyed my ACBF time with my friend Rob. The friends of the guy taking the photo were making me piss! )

After this fest I look forward to the next one that comes along. There are always new beers to try from new and different places. It never gets old!



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ancient Fire Roundup June 7th, 2011

With my announcement last Monday that I would be shifting gears and that my writing would be showing up in some new places it makes sense that I periodically share where I have been and what you might find around the web. Here are last week’s highlights.

The Unreserved

Review of Craggy Range New Zealand Chardonnay

Review of Valley of the Moon Sonoma Zinfandel

Speaking at the WineMaker Magazine Annual Conference – I had to great honor being able to share my tips for making award winning red wine at the conference.

WineMaker Magazine

Last week saw my first post from WineMaker Magazine’s blog. I recapped my experience at the annual conference held in late May in Santa Barbara, CA. I was introduced with a new bio at their site which might make for a great read for new visitors to the Ancient Fire Wine blog.

Ancient Fire Wine Blog

Strawberry Wine Revisited – I had more requests for tips and the recipe for our award-winning strawberry wine and I love to share!

Santa Barbara Food & Drink Guerilla Style - The first day in Santa Barbara before the WineMaker Magazine Conference was action packed with lots of food & drink!

Happy National Cancer Survivor Day! - The first Sunday in June is a special day for me as a cancer survivor. See how I spent it and am spreading the word about the fight against cancer. Please support Frosting For The Cause.

Tasting in Los Olivos – More food & drink from the Santa Barbara area



Monday, June 6, 2011

Tasting in Los Olivos

In my last post I shared our guerilla mission to enjoy food & drink in downtown Santa Barbara in the one day we(Margot and I ) had set aside for it. We had a second day and planned another round of wine tastings in a similar fashion. It is sort of what we do.

We rented a car (from Hertz in the lobby of the hotel, super convenient!) first thing in the morning and after breakfast headed up to Los Olivos, about 45 minutes to the north. Los Olivos is home to a wide array of tasting rooms for area wineries, making it a great place for us to drive to, park and explore. We certainly could have planned some winery visits, but with the extra travel we would inevitably have needed to spend more time or cut our plans short.

Out first stop was Alexander & Wayne the product of two wine loving gentlemen, hence the name. The sign outside the tasting room suggested Bordeaux and Burgundy styles, which if you think about it long enough doesn’t make a lot of sense since you are in California. I guess advertising to a common denominator and trying to evoke a sensibility from another place is a smart play, I just don’t get it. We saw a lot of that and suspect that the average taste isn’t very educated and needs to be led in this way.

Setting the rant above aside I did enjoy the wines. The blends were my favorite, offering considerable complexity with combinations of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. I liked the Cuvee HM the best although the Cuvee Five was very good, just a little more muscular and rougher. In both cases the tannins were pretty big, but softening; something I would imagine some time would help with. Their varietal Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc didn’t disappoint either. The Cab Franc in particular did exude some stinky cheese rind, which I was very happy to experience. The final wine I tasted here was the RSF, a port style blend of Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. It presented itself with a ruby/tawny color and aromas of dried fruits and raisins. Spices showed up in the middle and through the finish. We took a bottle of this home so we could have some sweet memories on another day.

Our second stop, and the reason why we really chose Los Olivos, was Andrew Murray Vineyards. Sometime in 2010 I noticed a Twitter follow notification for Andrew Murray (@gotrhones) and was curious enough to look up who the person was. If a the proprietor of a small winery in hills north of Santa Barbara thought I was interesting enough to follow I knew we should visit and try the wines. As luck would have it Andrew was out of town during our visit, but was sure to alert the tasting room staff that we would coming around so they could share the story and the wines with us. Stephanie cheerfully greeted us when we arrived, and for the next hour we had her and the tasting room all to ourselves. To be fair Los Olivos wasn’t busy so our exclusive attention was probably a bit of luck as well. I’ll say it right up front, I am so glad we chose to stop by. The Syrahs, all single vineyard designates, were fantastic and worth a leisurely taste.

The story of the wines and the person behind them is actually quite simple. Andrew lived in France with his family for a time when he was a teenager. His family was in the restaurant business and exposed him to wine in the Southern Rhone. He fell in love with the placed and the wines, something I surely know is easy to do. At some point they decided to bring what they loved to California and started a winery using his name.

My favorite was the 2007 McGinley Syrah. I found it to be really well balanced with bold but respectable tannins. The Tous Les Jours Syrah was much spicier with a considerable fruit forward character. The Watch Hill Syrah had some underlying funkiness to it that I couldn’t pin down. It added some allure and made raspberry fruit taste more savory than I would have ever expected. The last Syrah was from the Thompson vineyard and was a pleasurable combination of cherries, berries, spice and wood. We tasted several other styles including some from the “Days Off” label that offer wines designed for casual drinking and no fuss. The most recent Viognier was not yet available so my anticipation for it still stands. I will keep my eye on their online store in hopes I catch it before it sells out! Before we left we put together a mixed case to have shipped home. Sharing the Syrahs with friends is going to be a real treat.

This post would not be complete without a mention of the serendipitous lunch option we took advantage of. It turns out that we had arrived on “Tri-Tip” day, which is a local fascination. The R Country Market sells wood smoked tri-tip sandwiches a few days per week and when it is gone, it is gone and you have to wait until the next week. Margot and I love smoke meat and BBQ so this really was a lucky break for us. The sandwich was one of the best I have ever had and I will say nothing more. Look it up online, and believe me I have given you enough information to find it. New York Times, anyone? You’ll be jealous, and this picture isn’t going to help!

The last tasting room we visited was Byron Estate. I picked this one while had lunch after remembering how much I enjoyed a Chardonnay of theirs that we had had at the Blue Ginger (Ming Tsai’s restaurant) in Wellesley, MA about 10 years ago.

I tasted four Chardonnays and three Pinots. The Chards spanned 2005 to 2009 while the Pinots were all from 2009. The 2008 Santa Maria Chardonnay felt the most familiar and had me connecting the richness I enjoyed with my lobster dish at the Blue Ginger. The 2007 stainless Chard presented an interesting spiciness which grew through the finish. The 2005 selection was one of their library wines (no longer available) from the Nielson vineyard. It was impressive to see how well this wine has held up in the nearly 6 years since it was made. Keeping with the spicy theme I was caught off guard by the spicy (pepper) character of the 2009 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. With cherry and smoke added in this wine was one of the more interesting ones I tried on this trip. The 2009 Nielson Pinot was the most complex of the three I tried. The baking spices and considerable structure of the wine was a great pleasure to taste.

By this point the afternoon was fully upon us and we headed back to Santa Barbara. It is always going to be true that you will need more time to really get to know a place, but the time we did had helped make it much less of a stranger to us.