Some of my favorite Santa Barbara County chardonnays

We’re less than 30 hours away from the kick-off of the Fourth Annual Chardonnay Symposium, which opens Friday evening with a tribute dinner honoring the work and wine of Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.

The symposium continues Saturday morning with a panel tasting that will target clones of chardonnay, and is followed by the grand tasting.

Yesterday I offered to share a few of my favorite chardonnays from grapes produced throughout Santa Barbara County, and specifically in the Santa Maria Valley, where chardonnay — and pinot noir — rule.

I’ve enjoyed many a chardonnay during my time in Santa Barbara County; I’m sure I cannot list them all.

Following are some producers with chardonnays that please my palate. They may not be your favorites, but remember: Your palate and my palate are different.

Tickling my fancy are the chardonnays from Alta Maria, Au Bon Climat, Bien Nacido Vineyards, Costa de Oro Winery, Dierberg Vineyard, Ken Brown Wines, Kessler-Haak Vineyard & Wines and Sierra Madre.

I have one or two other favorite chardonnay producers among the list of those pouring Saturday afternoon, but they hail from outside of our county.

See you Friday evening!

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Chardonnay is Queen Bee this weekend in the Santa Maria Valley

I started to create an acronym using the word “chardonnay” — you know: “C” is for “chardonnay,” “h” is for “historic” grape, “a” is for “aroma” … but I ran out of descriptors starting with the “r” and the “d.”

No matter. It’s best to speak plain about chardonnay: It’s just good wine.

Chardonnay reigns in popularity across America, both with an older generation of wine drinkers who gravitate toward traditional, oak-infused chardonnay, and those who prefer stainless-steel aged — or a blend of the two styles.

At this weekend’s Fourth Annual Chardonnay Symposium, “America’s Sweetheart” grape is the star of the show.

This will be my fourth symposium in four years, but while looking over the list of participating winemakers earlier today, I found there are still several I have yet to try.

What are some of your favorite California, Central Coast and Santa Barbara County chardonnay producers?

Visit www.centralcoastwinepress.com Thursday and I’ll talk about a few of my favorites.

4th Annual Chardonnay Symposium Returns to Santa Maria Valley JULY 19-21

The Chardonnay Symposium will take place at several locations throughout the Santa Maria Valley Friday through Sunday, July 19-21.

Kicking off the fourth annual symposium is a tribute dinner Friday honoring longtime winemaker Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.

Saturday will offer an educational panel moderated by Steve Heimoff of the Wine Enthusiast followed by the chardonnay tasting. Saturday’s main events will once again take place at Byron Winery, east of Santa Maria.

Chris Slaughter, executive director of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association, which produces the symposium, said the three-day event attracts both hundreds of consumers and industry professionals who specialize in chardonnay.

Details: Jim Clendenen tribute dinner, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, July 19, at the historic adobe on Bien Nacido Vineyard. Sommelier and winemaker Rajat Parr, Bob Lindquist of Qupe Wine Cellars (and Clendenen’s longtime business partner), and winemaker Gavin Chanin will be among those toasting Clendenen. Chef extraordinaire Rick Manson will whip up a four-course dinner to pair with wines selected by the speakers. Tickets are $200 each, or $1,700 for a table of 10 diners.

The chardonnay winemaker panel session begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Byron and will include seven winemakers or industry specialists led by moderator Heimoff.

The session is entitled “Bring in the clones! Chardonnay Clones: Do you care? Should you?”

Participatants: Matt Dees, Jonata Wines; Merry Edwards, Merry Edwards Winery; Eckhard Kaesekamp, Guillaume Grapevine Nursery; Jeff Stewart, Hartford Court Winery; Clarissa Nagy, Riverbench Vineyard & Winery; James Ontiveros, Alta Maria Vineyards and Native 9 Wines; andKarl D. Wente, Wente Vineyards.

The cost of the grand tasting alone is $65 per person; both the panel and tasting together are $150.

From 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday is the grand tasting, and here’s a complete list (as of June 26) of who is pouring: Alta Maria, Au Bon Climat, Baileyana, Bien Nacido Vineyards, Bridlewood Estate Winery, Byron Winery, Cambria Winery, Chamisal Vineyards, Conway Family Wines/Deep Sea, Costa de Oro Winery, Cottonwood Canyon Winery, Deovlet Wines, Dierberg Vineyard, Eberle Vineyard, Edna Valley Vineyard, Falcone Family Vineyards, Fess Parker Winery, Fontes & Phillips Wines, Foxen, Gainey Vineyard, Hartford Family Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, J. Wilkes Wines, Jonata, Ken Brown Wines, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Kessler-Haak Vineyard & Wines, La Fenetre Wines, La Rochelle, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Landmark Vineyards, Lucia’s Wine Co., Merry Edwards Winery, Migration from Duckhorn Wine Company, Niven Family Wine Estates, Old Town Market, Orcutt, Patz & Hall, Presqu’ile Winery, Qupe Wine Cellars, Rancho Sisquoc, Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, Rusack Vineyards, Sanford Winery, Sanguis Wines, Sierra Madre Vineyard, Solomon Hills Vineyards, Talley Vineyards, Thomas Fogerty Winery & Vineyard, Toretti’s Family Vineyard, Wente Vineyards and William James Cellars.

What food might you sample with your chardonnay? Food from Bello Forno Wood-Fired Cuisine, Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, Central City Market, Chef Rick’s Ultimately Fine Foods, the Far Western Tavern, The Garden Room at the Historic Santa Maria Inn, Jessica Foster Confections, Pasion Comida Mexicana, Panera Bread, Rooney’s Irish Pub, Testa’s Bistro & Catering, Trattoria Uliveto and the Vintner’s Bar & Grill.

Just announced are two more events for the Chardonnay Symposium weekend:

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday, July 18 and 19, Foxen Winery will host a special tasting, chardonnay style, for those with tickets to the Chardonnay Symposium.

Foxen will feature a selection of special chardonnays from its wine library; sample and evaluate how chardonnays from the Santa Maria Valley can age gracefully. The $10 cost includes a small charcuterie plate. No reservations required. $10 with tickets to Chardonnay Symposium (regular tasting $20).

From noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 21, Rancho Sisquoc Winery will host a ranch picnic day. The band “Occasional Mustache” will provide music, and Fresh Fire Pizza will offer local pizza for purchase. Information: Rancho Sisquoc Tasting Room, (805) 934-4332, or http://www.freshfirepizza.com. No reservations required.

Information and tickets:
http://www.santamariavalleywinecountry.com/calendar/the-chardonnay-symposium/
http://www.santamariavalleywinecountry.com/tickets/

Keep checking the website for updated details about the schedule of events for Sunday, July 21, Slaughter noted.

Copyright centralcoastwinepress.com

Sold-out Chardonnay Symposium Scores Another Hit with Winemakers, Guests, Chefs

Participants in Saturday’s third-annual Chardonnay Symposium at Byron Vineyard & Winery enjoyed chardonnay from 56 California winemakers during a summer day that showcased both the gentle warmth and gusty winds for which the Santa Maria Valley is famous.

The symposium’s morning panel session and afternoon grand tasting both sold out, said Chris Slaughter, executive director of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association, event sponsor. “We are thrilled to be able to share our Santa Maria Valley hospitality with so many people from throughout the state of California.”

Some of the Central Coasts most popular restaurants and caterers, among them Full of Life Flatbread, the Ballard Inn, Central City Market and Trattoria Uliveto, offered guests some of the freshest fare around, as well as cooking and wine pairing demonstrations.

Eight chardonnay producers from throughout California participated in the symposium’s morning panel: Bob Cabral of Williams Selyem; Joshua Klapper of La Fenetre Wines, (subbing for Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi of Bonaccorsi Wine Company, who had a family emergency); returning 2011 panelist Dieter Cronje, Presqu’ile Wines; James Hall, Patz & Hall; Eric Johnson, Talley Vineyards; Heidi von deer Mehden, Arrowood Vineyards & Winery; Bill Wathan, Foxen Winery; and Graham Weerts of Stonestreet Wines.

Led by moderator Steve Heimoff, each speaker offered a variation of the panel’s theme, “Chardonnay & Terroir.” Heimoff is an editor at “Wine Enthusiast” and wine blogger.

Klapper noted that Byron’s Nielsen Vineyard, one of the Santa Maria Valley’s oldest, produces grapes that are “very much Santa Maria Valley” in that they showcase the balance of acidity and sugar for which the region’s chardonnays and pinot noirs are known.

The cool area leads to vines’ early bud break and a long growing season, one described by panelist Bill Wathen of Foxen Winery as lasting an average of 125 days from bloom to harvest.

While winters are “warm,” and the warmest time each day tends to be around 11 or 11:30 a.m., by noon the winds pick up and the window for the vines’ photosynthesis closes, Wathen said. “There’s a very short growth period during each day.”

At Stonestreet Winery’s Alexander Mountain Estate Vineyard, winemaker Graham Weerts has learned that “cooler climates make better chardonnays — and better wines” in general, he said.

The South African native described how the vineyard that produces Stonestreet’s Broken Road and Bear Point chardonnays ranges between 1,800 and 2,000 feet in elevation. “We grow chardonnay right about at the fog line” on the property, he said.

The Stonestreet 2010 Upper Barn Chardonnay radiates flavors of white peach. To be sure, Weerts noted, some of the best characteristics of chardonnay are “peach pits” and an essence of gravel on the palate.

As California’s most widely planted grape, chardonnay is “even more diverse” than it was 25 years ago when some of the state’s earliest vineyards were created, said panelist Bob Cabral, winemaker for Williams Selyem.

With so many chardonnay styles from which to choose, Cabral urged panel attendees to “find the one that you like, and just drink wine.”

At the panel’s end, Heimoff led panelists in saluting the Wente chardonnay clone, which was imported to California in 1912 by Ernest Wente via cuttings in France and cultivated at the famous Wente Winery in the Livermore Valley.

Local chefs who offered live cooking demonstrations were Budi Kazali of The Ballard Inn; Alfonso Curti of Trattoria Uliveto; and Ryan Gromfin, consulting chef for the Santa Maria Inn.

The weekend event, in its third year, featured a “BYOC (chardonnay) barbecue Friday night at Sierra Madre vineyard, Saturday’s Byron events, a sold-out winemaker dinner Saturday night with longtime area winemaker Kenneth Volk, a seafood-and-chardonnay dinner at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery and a Sunday brunch at Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery.

Copyright centralcoastwinepress.com