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October 31st, 2014

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Posts Tagged ‘Ian Blackburn’

LA Magazine Visits a LearnAboutWine Class

Wine 101: Four Benchmark Reds

Sommelier and founder of LearnAboutWine Ian Blackburn talks to us about pinot noir and more

Posted on 3/5/2014 9:31:00 AM by Caroline on Crack

Photography by Caroline on Crack

Do you know your Grenache from your Gewurztraminer? Neither do we. So we’re talking to the pros—master sommeliers, wine shop owners, vintners—to get a better basic understanding of the vine, grape, and that delicious liquid in our glasses. Welcome to Wine 101.

Getting started on the road to wine can be a little intimidating, especially when you’re a newbie like me who is more versed in the ways of cocktails and beer. So many wine regions to memorize! And those wine tastings where people pick up scents like wet stones and a Granny Smith apple? I, uh, smell grape?

But the best way to learn is to familiarize yourself with the basic red and white wines first. Nothing crazy yet like Nebbiolo and Gewurztraminer. Do a wine tasting in the privacy of your own home among friends where you feel free to share your tasting observations like “It smells like cat pee” without any judgment. It really is fun stuff.

For suggestions on some good red wines to begin with (I’ll cover whites in a future post), I went to L.A. wine expert Ian Blackburn, founder of, a wine education and event site that hosts palate building classes and wine tastings.

Ian picked benchmark reds that are perfect examples of the grapes they represent and easy to find in your local wine shop.

2009 La Fenêtre À Côté Pinot Noir: “A good wine for the money would be À Côté made in Santa Barbara by Joshua Klapper…one of the good guys. It’s ready to drink, very varietal, very pretty and doesn’t require any aging but it is not overripe or ends up tasting like a different grape.”  Also try: Riverbench, Bonaccorsi, Brewer Clifton, D’Alfonso Curren and Crawford Family

2010 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot: “In terms of classic references for Merlot, in my class I use Duckhorn. They are just spot-on with style and character for the Merlot grape. They’re not trying to turn it into Cabernet and play off the “chocolate covered cherry” references. There’s so many good Merlots right now and at cheap prices…. this is more expensive but a very strong offering.” Also try: Swanson, Cakebread, Peju, and Gentleman Farmer

2009 Silverado Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: “I really like Silverado as a readily available brand. Napa Valley 2009 is current in the market right now. It’s a really good Cabernet that tastes like good Napa quality Cabernet should. Hints of eucalyptus/mint on the nose (think Vicks Vapor Rub) and then cassis fruit in both the nose and palate. All of these are expensive enough that they have the proper production techniques, but a good value from Napa Valley (cheaper wines may have too much manipulation to be correct).” Also try: BV Rutherford, St. Supery, Peju, and Joseph Phelps

2010 Mauritson Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel: “It’s a really good representation/character of Zin as Clay’s family is a specialist. They are focused on Zin, it tends to be nice, chewy fruit from berry to plum skin, slightly elevated alcohol, lots of bite and not too jammy. Zinfandel from Dry Creek is really classic and delicious and probably as close to an international wine as this varietal produces.” Also try: Dry Creek Vineyards, Bedrock, Ridge and Biale

Now get to tasting! If you feel like trying your hand at those descriptors, here’s a wine tasting grid.

This weekend, check out LearnAboutWine’s “Exploring Pinot Noir.”

Wine Weirdos recommend you attend our April 7th Bordeaux tasting

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Now & Zin reviews 2014 STARS of Santa Barbara

 Wine Event: STARS Of Santa Barbara

By. Randy Fuller

The Peninsula hotel Beverly Hills was once again the site of a wine event I eagerly await each January.  The 2014 edition of STARS of Santa Barbara presented a great cross section of wine from Santa Barbara County, with plenty of examples showing what makes the SBC a great wine region.

Put on by Ian Blackburn‘s Learn About Wine, the ballroom was so full of tasting tables they had to make room on the outdoor veranda for more.  Outdoors in January?  It’s one of the perks of living in Southern California.  Our close proximity to Santa Barbara is also a perk, arguably an even better one than the weather.

The best of Santa Barbara County was poured, and here are my favorites from the event.

Riverbench Mesa Pinot Noir 2010 $45 – From the Mesa block of their estate vineyard, the earthy influence of the clay soils on the 41-year-old vines shows strongly.  50% new French oak for one year.  Winemaker Clarissa Nagy (right) is understandably proud of this one.

Zaca Mesa Roussanne 2009 $25 – Nice minerals, spice and tangerine.

Clos Pepe Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2011 $24 – Wes Hagen is known for his Pinot Noir, but this Chardonnay shows he has a lighter side.  90% new French oak, melon on the nose, great savory palate.

Larner Grenache 2009 $40 – Cherry spice, tobacco and great acidity are the stars of this Mike Larner (left) creation.

Kenneth Volk Albariño 2012 $24 – Santa Maria Valley grapes, floral counterpoint to the savory palate and a great acidity level.quite the food-friendly wine.

Shai Cellars Grenache 2009 $24 – Topping a lovely array of reds, this varietal wine shows some amazing dark smoke characteristics.

La Fenêtre Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir  2011 $30 – A great expression of Santa Maria Valley Pinot.  Winemaker Joshua Klapper (right, with his distributor) told me a dyed-in-the-wool Burgundy fellow bought four cases of it.

Foxen Cuvée Jeanne Marie 2011 $44 – Grenache/Mourvèdre blend that shows terrific acidity, nice tannic structure and beautiful fruit.

Sunstone Estate Cabernet Franc 2010 $40 – Great spice notes augment wonderful acidity and fruit.

Buttonwood Sauvignon Blanc Signature Blend 2012 $15 – This steel-fermented wine is grassy, yes, but softened by seven percent Semillon fermented in oak.  Winemaker Karen Steinwachs (left) loves how the Semillon tempers this one.

Curran Santa Ynez Valley Tempranillo 2008 $28 – Lovely, savory fruit and great acidity.  I do keep writing that, do I not?

The Hilt by Jonata $40 – Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, so dark I would have guessed Santa Maria.  Nice funky edge.

Gypsy Canyon Ancient Vine Angelica $150 (375ml) – Boutique producer Deborah Hall told me about this dessert wine over lunch once, and this was my first chance to try it.  100% Mission grapes from a small collection of 131-year-old vines.  She claims it’s the only Mission vineyard left in California, and the oldest vineyard in Santa Barbara County.  At 9% residual sugar and 18% abv, it’s a heady quaff of raisins, caramel and brown sugar.

Refugio Ranch Barbareno 2010 $42 – This blend of Syrah and Petite Syrah has dark fruit and a hint of funk.  The PS shows up nicely.

 Tercero Roussanne 2012 $25 – 100% Camp Four Roussanne, it’s Larry Schaffer‘s (left) savory, nutty wine with razor sharp acidity.

                                                                   click here for website

STARS of Santa Barbara – Creating A Buzz By Eve Hammond

Instead of attending as media during the day, this time I opted to dress up, bring my hubby, and see what it’s like to attend’s STARS of Santa Barbara wine tasting event at night, like normal people.

I quickly discovered that the crowd didn’t walk around with notepads or cameras, so I easily got to work.  The  crowd was also more relaxed and less hurried, as no one was on a mission to taste everything, tweet and then get home and write about it.  The one thing the guests had in common with the media is that within an hour they shared their favorites.

A story in photos can be found here, whether you are on Facebook or not:



2014 Participating Wineries

Zaca Mesa
Viognier 2012
Roussanne 2009
Z Blanc 2011
Z Three 2010 – Loved this blend of 15% Grenache, 50% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre.
Syrah 2009

Chardonnay Cadence 2011
Pinot Noir Solomon Hills 2011
Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Old Vine 2011
Pinot Noir Lindsay’s 2010
Syrah Bien Nacido 2010

Alma Rosa
Pinot Gris, La Encantada 2011
Pinot Blanc, La Encantada 2011
Chardonnay, El Jabali 2011
Pinot Noir, Clone 667, La Encantada 2011 – My husband Eddie’s pick.

Bedrock Chardonnay 2012 – Great floral aromas, one of the few Chards I dug.
Estate Chardonnay 2012
Estate Pinot Noir 2011
Mesa Pinot Noir 2010 – A standout Pinot.

Fiddlestix 2010
Cargasacchi 2010
Bentrock 2010
Bien Nacido Syrah 2009

SMV Pinot Noir 2011
Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2011
HAKA SBC Chardonnay 2011

Larner – A new discovery for me, in Ballard Canyon.
Reserve Syrah 2009
Syrah 2009
Grenache 2009
Elemental Blend 2009 – Excellent w/65% Grenache, 23% Syrah and 12% Mourvedre.
Added: Viognier 2011

El Ojo Blanco Cuvee Uno 2010
Chardonnay Sierra Madre Vineyard 2009
Trentotto Fiel Syrah 2008
Fifty Cask NV (dessert wine)

Bien Nacido
Chardonnay 2011
Pinot Noir 2010
Syrah 2010

Solomon Hills
Pinot Noir 2010

Clos Pepe

Added: 07 and 08 Pinot – Classic Wes Hagen.
Estate Pinot Noir 2011
BF Chardonnay 2011
Axis Mundi Grenache/Syrah Blend 2011

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

La Fenêtre
A Cote Chardonnay 2012
Bien Nacido Chardonnay 2010
A Cote Pinot Noir 2012
LF Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2011
LF Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 2010
Dr Klapper Riesling 2012

Sauvignon Blanc, Signature Blend 2012
Rosé 2013
Merlot 2009
Cabernet Franc 2010
Trevin, Bordeaux blend 2009 – Winemaker Karen Steinwachs poured this, their latest in bottle – delish.

Fess Parker – Liked the reds the best, they also pour at Rhone Rangers.
Ashley’s Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills 2012
Ashley’s Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2010
Syrah, Santa Barbara County 2011
Epiphany Grenache Blanc, Camp Four Vineyard 2012
Epiphany Revelation, red Rhone blend, Santa Barbara County 2010 – Awesome.

Cielo Rubio 2011 – A well-done Sangiovese blend with Petit Verdot, Cabernet.
Estelle Bianco 2011

Lafond & Santa Barbara Winery
Santa Barbara Winery Chardonnay 2012
Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2011
Santa Barbara Winery Syrah Santa Ynez Valley 2011
Chardonnay SRH Sta. Rita Hills 2012
Pinot Noir SRH Sta. Rita Hills 2011
Syrah SHR Sta. Rita Hills 2011

Shai Cellars – All well done by winemaker Shawn Halahmy.  Always love his Adome.
Adome – 65% Syrah 35% Cab 2009 – My fave of Shawn’s current line-up.
Grenache 2009
Adome 65% Syrah 35% Grenache 2010
Syrah 2010

Pence Ranch
Estate Pinot Noir 2010
Uplands Pinot Noir 2010
Westslope Pinot Noir 2010
Estate Pinot Noir 2011

Foxen Winery
Chardonnay, Bien Nacido, Block UU 2012
Chardonnay, Tinaquaic Vyd 2012
Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley 2012
Cuvee Jeanne Marie 2011 – An outstanding Grenache Mourvedre (no Syrah) blend.
“foxen 7200” Cabernet Sauvignon, Vogelzang Vyd 2010 – Must visit 7200 location.

Westerly Wines
Happy Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Fletcher’s Red 2009
Fletcher’s White 2012
Merlot 2010
Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Bridlewood Estate
Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2012
Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2010
Happy Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Pinot Noir 2010
Pinot Noir-Clone 2A 2010
Chardonnay 2010
Syrah 2011
Sparkling Brut 2012 – Fun, both tart and sweet.

Viognier 2012
Grenache Blanc 2012
Grenache 2010
Syrah 2011 – They make 7 different Syrahs, this was great, want the other 6.
Petite Sirah 2012 – A definite standout, may have been the only Petite Sirah.

Curran Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez 2012
D-C Chardonnay, Santa Barbara 2008
Curran Grenache Rose, Santa Ynez 2012
Curran Tempranillo, Santa Ynez 2008
BADGE Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2009
D-C Pinot Noir, Rancho La Vina 2007

Paring by Jonata
Paring GS Red Blend2010
Paring Red 2010

The Hilt by Jonata
Hilt Vanguard Chardonnay 2011
Vanguard Pinot Noir 2010

Proprietor’s Reserve Pinot Noir Theresa-Noelle Vineyard 2011
Proprietor’s Reserve 50/50 2011
Chardonnay Sierra Madre Vineyard 2012
Trio Rhone Blend 2012
Petite Sirah Wolff Vineyard 2012

The Outlier 2012
Grenache Blanc 2012
Viognier 2012
Mourvedre 2010
Grenache – Larner Vineyad 2009
Cuvee Christie 2009
Petite Sirah 2009

Tocai Friulano 2012
Malvasia Bianca 2011
Alisos (Sangiovese & Merlot blend) 2010
Nebbiolo “Santa Barbara County” 2008

Consilience Syrah 2011
Consilience Petite Sirah 2011

Solminer – Winery owner is Austrian – and a huge influence on these low-alcohol refreshing wines.
Dry Riesling – Rancho Sisquoc – Santa Maria 2012
Grüner Veltliner – John Sebastiano Vineyard – Santa Ynez 2012
Linus Rosé – deLanda Vineyard – Santa Ynez 2012
Rubellite Syrah – deLand Vineyard – Santa Ynez 2012

Gypsy Canyon
Estate Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2011
Ancient Vine Angelica

Chardonnay SBC – Goodchild Vineyard 2012
Viognier – Paso Robles 2012
Cab Franc, Estate 2010
Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate 2010

Demetria Estate
Eighteen Chardonnay 2011
Cuvee Papou 2012
Cuvee Constantine 2011
Pantheon 2011

Crawford – Tasting room in Buellton, off of 2nd St, and part of a new 3-winery ghetto on the horizon.
Chardonnay, Tin Shack, Sta. Rita Hills 2012 – Another great Chard.
Pinot Noir, Zotovich Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 2012
Pinot Noir, “22?, Sta. Rita Hills 2012

Estate Pinot Noir 2011
Estate Chardonnay 2011

Refugio Ranch
Tiradora (Sauvignon Blanc) 2011
Ineseno (Roussanne/Viognier) 2011
Escondrijo (Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah) 2011
Barbareno (Syrah, Petite Sirah) 2010
Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Petite Sirah 2011
Viognier 2011

“Sierra Madre Vineyard” Chardonnay 2011
“La Lomita Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2011

Pali Wine Co.
“Huntington” Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012
“Summit” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2011
Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011
Cargasacchi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011
Rancho la Vina Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011

Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2011
Watch Hill Syrah 2009


Dedicated to keeping the populous current on the great wines coming out of Santa Barbara, this Annual Tasting Event features the namesakes, owners, winemakers pouring some of the best wine made in California. Long before Sideways, LearnAboutWine was bullish about the quality of Santa Barbara wine.

Today, with number of brands doubling in the past 10 years, the story is continuing to evolve. Tasting areas like THE FUNK ZONE continue to elevate the Santa Barbara tasting experience. New Appellations like Happy Canyon, Buellton, Los Alamos and further refinements coming, Santa Barbara is remaining topical and improving with each and every vintage. Come see the story first hand at Stars of Santa Barbara.

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PREVIEW: Jan 23?s Stars of Santa Barbara pours Wealth of Wines in Beverly Hills

Written by Joe Wehinger


Learn About Wine’s Annual Stars of Santa Barbara wine tasting event takes place Thursday January 23 2014 at The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Consumer portion opens at 7pm and will have access to over a hundred wines for your tasting experience. The event is a Southern California mainstay known for bringing out the best wines of veteran wineries and new discoveries from younger brands. Whether an accomplished wine enthusiast or new to the world of tasty grapes, this is an event that compels your attention.


So why Santa Barbara? Location-location-location. Being just over an hour north of Los Angeles, it’s prime for a weekend visit, tour the vineyard, meet with the winemaker and learn more about their process, history and tastes (and go home with a few souvenir bottles). From the winemaker’s point of view, it’s the fruit sourcing. Winemaker Larry Schaffer explains: “I source fruit from the Los Alamos area, from Happy Canyon in the east, from Ballard Canyon, and from the Santa Ynez Valley proper. I [...] try to express the nuances that site and sub-region bring to the grapes that I receive.”

larry-schaffer-Tercero-Wines    Larry Schaffer’s Tercero Wines will be featured at January 23?s Stars of Santa Barbara and Larry will be pouring in-person to answer questions and introduce his wines. Like many others, he will offer a wide selection to tempt your palette. For curious wine drinkers, his booth will be a must-visit. Not only does he deliver some of the tastiest, but his personality pulls you in. He loves wine; and it shows. As he pours you down his flight, ask him about his wines, about food pairings, about the blends and learn his brand’s story.

Tercero Wines tout artistic Rhone red and whites. As of now, Larry will be pouring: 2012 Grenache Blanc, 2012 Viognier, 2012 Roussanne, 2009 Cuvee Christie (Grenache / Mourvedre / Syrah / Petite Sirah), 2010 Mourvedre, 2009 Cuvee Loco (Grenache / Syrah from the Larner Vineyard), 2009 Petite Sirah. But he warns, as always, that his list is subject to last-minute changes.

Other wineries showcasing their goods include: Lindley Wines, Montemar Wines, Refugio Ranch, Pali Wine Company, and dozens more.

Ian-Blackburn-LearnAboutWine  Ian Blackburn, the owner of Learn About Wine, and the host of this event, is known for creating lavish excellence that elicits an upscale crowd. He tours throughout the year looking for wineries that match his vision of specific events and invites them into his world. One attending winemaker smiles: “You can always expect a level of professionalism that you don’t always find at other wine events.” The wineries look forward to dazzling the crowd with their most selective varietals  as well as debuting their newest goodies. The attendees dress to impress and enjoy the sensational selection.

Stars of Santa Barbara takes place at the Peninsula Hotel on Thursday January 23, 2014 with General Admission doors opening at 7pm.  Tickets start at $69.  Click here for more information and to purchase.


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LAW Facts

Napa Produces 3% of the total wine in the state of California – but it also produces approximately 30% of the total dollars.
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