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JULY 2009 – Social Networking in Santa Barbara
– Meeting My Winemaking Tweeps

SB_losolivos.jpgIf you had told me 3 months ago that I'd be totally addicted to Twitter, I'd have said a snowball had a better chance surviving in hell before I'd join the social networking revolution. I currently work maintaining three websites and don't have time for FaceBook and am too old for MySpace. Plus, I sort of like my anonymity. I'm friends with everyone I want to be...or so I thought. Because of this site, my boss told me I should join Twitter and get in on the conversation, get myself out there. I was wary at first, but once I got the gist of it, I fell hard. What does this have to do with wine tasting? Well, in the information age, everything. You follow whoever you want to on Twitter and I jumped on the bandwagon of almost every winery listed. When I began this experiment the number of them using Twitter was nominal, it has since at least tripled with new ones coming on everyday. If you want to learn what the wine community is up to, this is the place to be.

For wineries, it's a way to reach not only their club members and fans, but wine lovers who may never have heard of them. Like three of the places I visited on my recent trip through Santa Barbara. Would I have learned about them otherwise. Perhaps. I'm a voracious researcher, but what you won't find on a website is personality or a personal connection, which Twitter delivers in spades, if you use it right. For me, meeting the people behind the label is almost as important as the wine in the bottle. Can you enjoy wine made by an asshole? Certainly, but you probably won't go out of your way to buy more, recommend them to friends or join their club, which is what keeps them alive. Is Twitter time consuming? Sure. In the end, like all things, you get out of it what you put into it. Sometimes that's new friends, free tastings and killer wine deals. Perhaps not the place for the casual wine drinker, but it's paradise for the confessed junkie.

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: Technology isn't all bad. Twitter may be "too much information" but it's also a great way to meet and stay in touch with your favorite wineries, as well as find new ones.


COQUELICOT WINERY: Tasting Fee: $12/8 pours
SB_coquelicot.jpgI noticed that this tasting room was finally open when we came through town in April, but we had an agenda and just didn't have the time to stop. I did grab a copy of their list and was intrigued enough to place them on the schedule this time around. Heather, the tasting room manager, was a real treat to talk to, giving us the lowdown on this relative newbie to the region. Their list has more whites than reds, with the Chardonnays (both oaked and stainless) showing the best. I know, it was a surprise to me, too. Unfortunately, the Viognier and Sangiovese (two of my favorite varietals) were sold out, so I'll have to pop back in when the next vintages are released. All of their grapes are estate grown and organically farmed, except for some they source for their high-end Syrah, which is from the Black Oak Vineyard. Besides that Syrah, the other red we loved and had to have was the 06 Mon Amour Bordeaux blend, which includes all 5 classic grape varieties. The rest of the 06s were just too young yet to see whether they're going to be worth their price tag ($40+). Will be interesting to see how their wines develop.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

SCOTT CELLARS: Tasting Fee: $7
SB_scottcellars.jpgI've been wanting to try these wines since the tasting room opened about a year ago, but just never got around to it. Heather at Coquelicot recommended we stop in and meet Peter Fraser, the owner and winemaker. We're glad we did. He is not only enthusiastic about his wines, but the process and the region as well. He sources all his grapes from some of the best vineyards in the area and the quality is apparent. He's as hands-on as one has to be with a small venture like his and eager to share his knowledge. The Cuveé J is his signature blend (Zin and Syrah) that he blends with the help of his wife. The rest of his line-up includes Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, a Sangiovese (from the Stolpman Vineyard), a Pinot Noir (Sierra Madre Vineyard) and Syrah (from the Black Oak Vineyard). We left with bottles of the Cuvee, Pinot and Syrah. A nice touch: on each label he features the leaf shape of the grape found within. Located off the main strip in Los Olivos, it's worth the block walk to taste these wines.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

SB_saarloos1.jpgAll I can say about our experience here is that it was one of the most fun tasting room visits we've ever had. Keith Saarloos and company are in the wine business to have a good time, so if you like your tastings quiet and classy you might want to walk on by. In fact, if you're too stuffy they might throw you out themselves. At least, that's what Keith told me. He's also a giant tech whore, as is my husband, so they were thrilled to chat with each other. As enjoyable as the venue (their tasting room is lovely) and as friendly as the employees are, their wines are the reason we came and a part of why we'll be back. The family started as growers and began a few years ago making a bit of wine for themselves and their friends. When said friends asked for more, they knew they were on to somethimg.

SB_enjoycupcakes.jpgTheir wines are all estate grown, made in limited quantities and named after members of their family, who helped them get where they are today. Priced in the $25-$65 range, which is on the high side for the region, but well-crafted enough to justify. Their list includes a Chardonnay, two Syrahs – the Purper Heart and the 0 and 2 (we left with a bottle of both) – and several blends, one of which 194Five The Union, also found it's way into our car. Sharing the space is a local company called Enjoy Cupcakes and believe me their name is not a lie. They put together a 6-pack tasting that goes with the wine, that didn't always work for me (4 out of 6 isn't bad), but was a real delight. Loved the Chocolate Blackberry Syrah, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, Rocky Road and Key Lime Coconut. It rarely gets more fun than this.
Twitter Handle: saarloosandsons
– For more information CLICK HERE.

SB_stocwines.jpgSORT THIS OUT CELLARS: Tasting Fee – Free
Since they aren't listed on the main Santa Barbara Wine Association website, it would probably have been awhile before I found these guys if it weren't for Twitter. They are located in Buellton, sort of away from the bulk of the other wineries in the region, making a random drive by unlikely. They began their venture in 2007 using the internet to direct sell their small batch wines and opened their tasting room about a year ago. Their focus is on promoting wine as a fun, adult beverage, as their labels of sexy pinups clearly show. Drawing on the Vegas/Rat Pack era, these guys don't take themselves too seriously, except where their wines are concerned. Sourcing grapes from up and down the California coast, their wines reflect their locale and include both Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. Unfortunately, both of my Twitter buddies were out of town the day we stopped in, but their replacement Sandy was more than helpful. The four owners have vast experience in marketing and it really shows in the details from the labels to the decor to the music playing in the background. (Sinatra and friends, of course.) As for the wines, we really liked the 08 Suited Sauvignon Blanc, 08 Suited Muscat and the 05 Ante Up Rollers Reserve Syrah. Want to return when the weather is cooler to retry their wines. It was over 100 degrees, which made tasting heavy reds a bit challenging. Twitter Handle: STOC
– For more information CLICK HERE.

SB_tercero_Cuvee.jpgAs a winemaker without an official tasting room, I would never had the chance to try Larry Schaffer's wines if I hadn't found him on Twitter. He makes Rhone wines – single vineyard Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Grenache Blanc to be exact – sourcing grapes from the Santa Barbara region. His day job is as the Enologist at the Fess Parker Winery, where he's clearly honing his skills. Because he only makes about 500-700 cases these aren't easy wines to find. So if you want to try them you have to track Larry down, which isn't that hard to do. He's passionate about his wines and the region and more than willing to meet with you to give you a taste of his creations. Tercero's first vintage was 2006 and the wines are showing really well right now. We loved the 08 Rosé, Camp 4 Vineyard Grenache and Cuveé Christie, a GSM blend named after his wife. (That seemed to be a theme amongst the winemakers we met this trip. I guess if you keep the ladies happy...) I'm a sucker for Mourvedre, so I purchased a bottle of his as well...untasted. Based on the other wines, I think it was a safe bet. All the reds are $28 a bottle, which is a good price for the wine you'll find inside. Am excited to taste his 07s. An up-and-coming winery to keep an eye out for. Twitter Handle: tercerowines
– For more information CLICK HERE.

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