The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation held their annual black tie charity event, the Santa Barbara Wine Auction at the classy venue of the Bacara Resort which benefits Direct Relief.
We were invited to join a table purchased by my dear friend, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, along with many wonderful friends, mostly local and great winemakers.
Two at our table were being honored with the Vintner of the Year Award, Bob & Louisa Lindquist of Qupe. Also on this evening, the Pioneer Award was given to Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict who founded the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1970.
There were an estimated 60 tables seating 12 people at each. The 3 course menu was prepared by Michael Mina with help from Bacara`s Vincent Lesage and numerous staff.
Earlier in the evening a silent auction was held and during dinner, the live auction took place with Chris Harrison of the Bachelor and Dawnmarie Kotsonis, The Gavel Girl, handling the lots.
Pastrami cured salmon tartare, brown butter brioche, dill cream fraiche, fine herbs
Slowly braised Wagyu short ribs, morel mushrooms, Anson Mills faro, spring onionagro dolce
Vanilla and luxardo cherry panna cotta, toasted almonds, tangerines and basil
Our table was graced with numerous magnums of incredible library wines mostly coming from ABC and Qupe. Two neighboring tables were sponsored by dear friends, Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini with other close friends joining them. We shared wines back and forth compounding the pleasure. I missed some bottles, but the mag-nificent wines I did have included:
NV BILLECART SALMON BRUT ROSE- magnum; just another usual stellar bottle of this fine bubbly with fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors accented with a touch of spice; so refreshing and palate pleasing, this just consistently continues to be a treat for most rose lovers of which I am one; the fruit profile lends itself to being a beautiful entrée into a fine Pinot Noir/ red Burg, in this case, not so much as we moved into a few white wines.
1995 AU BON CLIMAT BIEN NACIDO VINEYARD RESERVE PINOT BLANC- magnum; exquisite Pinot Blanc showing so well with vibrancy and balance; the aromatics had a lot of flint, minerals and citrus followed by a taste of especially lemon grass and kiwi highlighting the bright acidity; it seemed fully mature and ready to give up its treasures on the spot.
2011 SANDHI BENT ROCK SANTA RITA HILLS CHARDONNAY- magnum; 100% Chardonnay; very nice and inviting nose with some spicy, minerality and a fruit profile that continued on carrying peach, apricot and pear flavors served up in a creamy, luscious texture and holding on for a long finish.
2004 QUPE HILLSIDE ESTATE BIEN NACIDO VINEYARDS SANTA MARIA VALLEY ROUSSANNE- magnum; metallic nose with caramel and butterscotch coming in and being delivered in a medium body with some depth layering that truly pleases with only the least amount of exploration; there`s a buttery component as well that adds to the mix; this is great Roussanne, demonstrating it can age gracefully.
1990 AU BON CLIMAT CHARDONNAY SANTA BARBARA COUNTY- magnum; light gold color with such welcoming aromatics; the taste profile included spicy lemon citrus with pear and peach coming in late along with a hint of chalkiness; this is very pleasant hitting all of the sensory receptors perfectly; and this is JUST the entry level Chardonnay carrying a very modest price tag; no question, a great QPR.
1997 AU BON CLIMAT TALLEY VINEYARD ARROYO GRANDE VALLEY PINOT NOIR- magnum; perhaps this bottle is past its prime with a bit of stewed fruit in the nose and a raisiny taste; still evident and enjoyable is the nice plum and black currant notes which past mid palate lose their sweetness and are more on the dried side; I went back later and some more redeeming character had moved in, suggesting I could have given it much more time, but with a table full of mags, I`d moved on.
2001 AU BON CLIMAT 20TH HARVEST ANNIVERSARY LARMES de GRAPPE SANTA RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR- in magnum with only 700 bottles made; 13.5% abv.; made using whole clusters as the name infers meaning “tears of the whole cluster”; I have had a lot of this wonderful Pinot and feel fortunate to have many bottles left; IMHO, it is the epitome of new world Pinot Noir with old world implications; it`s stunning; it`s got power and finesse; it`s elegant, complex and so tasty with black raspberry and black cherry notes going all the way through to the back end; one of my wines of the night.
1996 HARTLEY-OSTINI HITCHING POST BIEN NACIDO VINEYARDS SANTA MARIA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- magnum; showing a bit of age, this had a lot of earthy character and tertiary fruit with dried plum, blueberry and blackberry all on the dry side; there was a latent appearance of some cinnamon spice that was welcomed adding to a heightened finish.
1982 QUPE PASO ROBLES SYRAH- magnum; really good and tasty with some of my favorite characteristics of Northern Rhone Syrah present in this bottle; bacon and spicy peppery notes accent the blueberry, plum and blackberry fruit; I loved this one more than most on this evening of many great wines.
2011 DOMAINE de la COTE “BLOOMS FIELD” SANTA RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR- magnum; from a collection of 6 vineyards planted over 40 acres in the furthest western end of the SRH appellation, this was bought by 2 of our table mates, Sashi Moorman and Raj Paar along with other investors; it had 90% stem inclusion, bright acidity, fresh fruit forwardness that included plum, black cherry and blueberry and more that was mindful of jujube candy from my childhood days; pretty serious, concentrated Pinot Noir with nothing needed but time to evolve and mature.
1995 HARTLEY-OSTINI HITCHING POST SANFORD & BENEDICT VINEYARD PINOT NOIR- 3L bottle; definitely showing some tertiary flavors, this had many redeeming qualities with nice spice laden dried plum and black currant notes and a great silky mouthfeel; in a large bottle format, this can give continued pleasure for a few more years at least.
1999 AU BON CLIMAT CUVEE ISABELLE PINOT NOIR- magnum; this is one of the perennial top of the echelon wines crafted by Jim, in this case, since the first vintage in 1994; this fine blend of the crème de la crème barrels from choice vineyard sources including Bien Nacido and Sanford & Benedict gave up treasures of joy and bliss with a bounty of aromatics promising to deliver a quality experience which is what followed; the spicy red and black fruit was perfectly balanced with the acidity with black raspberry, cherry and berry notes; the smooth and velvety texture carried all of the treats to the back end and then sustained through the long and welcomed finish; definitely one of my favs on the evening.
2001 QUPE 20TH ANNIVERSARY BIEN NACIDO BLOCK X SANTA MARIA VALLEY SYRAH- magnum; fantastic Syrah with aromas and flavors abounding; this is so concentrated and the dark almost inky color denotes such extraction as well as the full bodied, full throttle flavors which included spicy dark fruit as well as blueberry, plum and black raspberry blending together to make this so splendid; this wine is crafted for the long haul and should be around for decades to offer it treats.
2005 E. GUIGAL HOMMAGE a` ETIENNE GUIGAL COTE ROTIE- 750 ml; this very limited released bottling came from a good friend who is an importer of all things Guigal; the wine is composed of a 2 barrel blend of the best of the top vintages produced; after having a plethora of wines throughout the evening, thankfully my palate remained discerning and open to more exposures; I jumped in with both feet and with all sensory receptors in tact and discovered the epitome of power and elegance, depth and complexity along with grace and charm; perfectly balanced, the pepper and spice seasoning highlighted the dark, vibrant fruit and continued on through a long extended finish; amazing wine and a rare and treasured experience; I found a bottle on line for just under $1,500 in Europe and no, I did not buy it.
2006 E. GUIGAL LA MOULINE COTE ROTIE- 750 ml; seriously tight and not yet ready to give up its treasures, this took some searching to uncover a few of the gems promised from the highly esteemed pedigree this 1 of 3 La Las offers; devoid of spice and pepper, the fruit was very concentrated with mostly bacon laced black raspberry and cherry; the tannins were pretty stiff and stifling and curtailed the continuance of the fruit past mid palate; since another La La was in the other hand, I moved on and look forw2ard to returning to this wine in 10 years or more.
2006 E. GUIGAL LA TURQUE COTE ROTIE- 750 ml; as tight and closed as the La Mouline was, this was the polar opposite; in fact, it was so good it almost deserved a 2nd pour although my liver needed a break in the action after the final bottle of wine on this night, a Krug champagne that followed; I could depend upon having more of this down the road when it is more evolved; it was big, bold and yet elegant; there was some of the pepper and spice notes I love, but only a tease and the licorice, black currant and black cherry notes prevailed; even so, there was a semblance of balance along with depth and complexity and the magnificence of the potential for this wine was so evident; it just needs about 20-30 years or more to reach its peak.
MV KRUG GRANDE CUVEE- I just had to pull this out of the bag to cap off such a grand evening; it definitely served the purposed of doing so; the ID code on the back label revealed this bottle received its cork in the summer of 2012, was blended from 134 wines from 12 different vintages from 1990- 2005; with a mid gold color, the expected goodness was perceived with the requisite lightly toasted brioche first noticeable on the nose followed by ginger, spice, vanilla, honeyed almond, butterscotch and citrus notes all continuing on through the palate pleasing finish; a grand cuvee indeed.
This was such an extra special evening and to share it with some of my closest friends made it all the more so, not to mention the benefactor for the occasion, Direct Relief. I`m forever grateful for these times and shall revere them for the remainder of this wonderful life.
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