In the underappreciated movie, The Hudsucker Proxy, the theme of the film is: the future is now. Well, the future has arrived in Santa Barbara at the 18th Annual Wine Futures Tasting, held March 10. (There will be an additional Wine Futures Tasting on April 28.)
Each year, futures (wines still in barrel or about to be released to the public) are available to taste for the first time. The Wine Cask has become the defacto stop for winemakers according to Wendy Van Horn, director of the Wine Cask. This offering presented 118 wines “produced in the county that will be released in the next 12 months,” Van Horn said. A full 15 of those were less than $20.
For $55, anyone can attend the tasting, complete with winemakers on hand and foods like mini-quiches, sausages, Brie and chicken wraps, strawberries, watermelon and a variety of cheeses to mitigate the effects of the wine. Wine isn’t meant to be consumed in a vacuum, and the foods add a layer of dimension to the wines and balance out the inherent acidity, not to mention the alcohol.
The national press takes notice of this event, as do people from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The hip, the un-hip and those who don’t know the difference were out in force last Saturday to sample wines available at a discount, usually about 20-30 percent, before they are released. Winemaker camaraderie was evident as hugs were happening everywhere. On the lighter side, anytime someone dropped their Reidel glass, the crowd yelled out, “Opah!”
Standout wines from established and ingénue winemakers were present. Steve Beckman of Beckman Vineyards was pouring a Grenache and three different Syrahs. His 2006 Syrah Purisima Mountain Clone #1 ($32) is outstanding. It’s tightly tannic, smooth and sexy, with loads of blueberry fruit, violets and, yes the unmistakable smell of bacon fat. We all recall the scent of bacon frying in a pan. Well, this wine has a hint of that beautiful aroma.
The Jaffurs 2006 Petite Sirah ($28) is a lush, hefty wine so dark and inky that it will stain your teeth. For sheer value, the Kunin 2006 Pape Star, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre at $16 is a killer everyday wine that will match up with pizza, beef and even pasta dishes.
The Wine Cask’s own 2006 chardonnay ($12) is a streamlined white laced with pear and honeysuckle flavors that will make any summer day feel special. The Domaine Des Due Mondes is a collaboration between Morgan Clendennen and French winemaker Yves Cuilleron. The resulting viognier ($20) is a delicate balance of opulence, soft floral flavors and sweet spices.
Happy Canyon Vineyard
If you prefer the traditional approach to your reds, get the 2005 Barrack Brand from Happy Canyon Vineyard ($32), a muscular merlot with added touches of cabernet sauvignion and cabernet franc. The nose is overflowing with mocha, mild raspberry and plum.
Nearly all the wines represented are less than 1,000 cases, some even smaller. This is a great opportunity to get while the getting is good.