Watch for our Guest Wine Bloggers

Wouldn’t you love to hear about Santa Maria Valley wine from someone other than us? Yeah…we thought so. That’s why we’re bringing you 4 new guest bloggers this year! They all have passion and education for wine, love Santa Maria Valley wine (among other AVAs) and can’t stop talking about it. Whether they’ve worked in the wine industry, won wine certificates and awards or just succumbed to an obsession that fills their fridges with wine, these are folks you want to hear from.

Meet our guest wine bloggers:

1WineDude - Joe RobertsJoe Roberts, aka 1 Wine Dude. This guy’s been writing about wine online at his site since 2007, when he noticed a need for wine information from real people that weren’t experts, but were really into wine. Thank goodness for all of us! Since then, he’s studied wine extensively, and received many awards for his writing.

Here he is in his own words: “Dad, hubby, bassist, free-thinker & hiney-shaker. Grand-Poobah of Also Answers.Com & wine columnist (views are dude’s).”

Shawn Burgert, aka Wandering Wino. Shawn’s site,, is the first site where you can plan your wine trip, get reviews of the winery from real people and contribute your own experiences. You can also find area information on picnicking, barrel tasting and more.

Shawn has a weekly radio wine segment and can be heard throughout the “805” on KVTA 1590 AM Saturdays at 7:00 AM.

From Shawn: “805 Favorites, Photographer/Videographer, and wine reviews. Wandering Wino is like Yelp meets Zagat for wine tasting rooms. Freelance writer who is always wanting to learn more!”

LLaurie Jervisaurie Jervis, aka Central Coast Wine Press. This lady writes more about Santa Barbara wine country than anyone! With weekly columns in various local papers, she also writes for local wine programs, events, features and her own blog, she also has extensive experience in wineries, spas and wine events.

From Laurie: “Wordsmith for wine, vineyards and the people behind both. Life is about living, loving, laughing — and good wine.”

Liz DodderLiz Dodder, aka CaliCoastWine. She’s a food & wine blogger, writer, photographer, recipe developer, web designer, self-professed social media maven and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). She’s all over the place.

From Liz: “Lover of food, wine, travel, books, California Coast wine country, orchestras, girlfriends, laughter and cupcakes.”


The Chardonnay Symposium, July 19-21, Named One of Top 10 Wine Events in California by LA Weekly

Chardonnay, the world’s beloved white grape, is once again being celebrated at The Chardonnay Symposium in Santa Maria Valley, July 19-21.  Join us for an entire weekend of Chardonnay-inspired events.


Friday, July 19, 6-10 pm

Jim Clendenen

Santa Maria Valley winemaking pioneer, Jim Clendenen, will be honored by colleagues and guests at the historic Bien Nacido Vineyard Adobe. Over one hundred years old, the Adobe will serve as the dramatic backdrop for this special tribute. Sommelier Rajat Parr, longtime friend and partner Bob Lindquist of Qupe, The Hitching Post’s Chef Frank Ostini, the much-buzzed about winemaker, Gavin Chanin, and others will be on hand to regale the crowd with stories of Clendenen’s influence on the wine industry. A fabulous four course dinner will be prepared by Chef Rick Manson, with each course paired with wines specially selected by the speakers.


Full Day Educational Experience

with Winemaker Panel Session and Grand Chardonnay Tasting

Saturday, July 20, 10:30-4

2012.tcs.panel The Chardonnay Symposium’s premiere, full-day event begins at 10:30 am with a morning educational session featuring a distinguished panel of celebrity and winemaker experts, headed by Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff, at the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel. The relaxed environment will provide an ideal time to sip wine and further discuss the nuances of Chardonnay with some of the wine industry’s most respected personalities. Full day tickets include the morning panel discussion, box lunch, bus transportation to and from Byron Vineyard & Winery and early admission to the Grand Chardonnay Tasting from 12:30 – 4 pm.


Saturday, July 20, 1-4 pm

IMG_4243-EditThe Grand Chardonnay Tasting takes place from 1 – 4 pm at Byron Vineyard & Winery’s beautiful private facility nestled in the heart of the Santa Maria Valley. This expanded tasting will afford guests the opportunity to sample Chardonnays from over 50 wineries and pair them with gourmet foods provided by local restaurants and caterers.  Meet local chef’s on hand to demonstrate Chardonnay food pairing secrets!

Katie Jackson Talks With Steve Heimoff

We just had to share Katie Jackson’s interview with Steve Heimoff in preparation for The Chardonnay Symposium. Thanks Katie for sharing your fun and insightful chat!

Jul 20
A Chardonnay Symposium Interview with Steve Heimoff

Hi everyone! I hope your week has been wonderful so far!

Today I’m writing about the Chardonnay Symposium. It is only days away now, and I wanted to urge everyone who may be in the Santa Barbara County area to attend this Saturday! I love this event. I have loved the idea of an event totally centered around Chardonnay ever since I first heard about last year’s Symposium, and after attending, I knew that this was the ultimate way to learn about and truly experience Chardonnay. So, if you’ve considered attending, but haven’t yet made up your mind, please do! I know it will be an truly amazing experience.

I spoke to Steve Heimoff, the wine reviewer for the Wine Enthusiast and one of the Chardonnay Symposium’s two panel moderators, a couple of weeks ago. I asked him questions about a lot of different things, but mostly about the Chardonnay Symposium, his involvement, and why he has been a passionate supporter of it from the start.

So, what first attracted you to the Chardonnay Symposium?

What attracted me was a couple of things. First of all, I love Chardonnay, I’ve never been an ABC person, and I try to defend Chardonnay all the time. Especially on my blog when people bash it, and I tell them that they’re crazy, and if they can’t appreciate a good Chardonnay they should probably be drinking beer. And also, I have a lot of respect for Nick Miller, and it was Nicholas, I believe, who first invited me last year, but I couldn’t go because it conflicted with our annual summer editorial meeting in New York at Wine Enthusiast magazine. When Nicholas re-invited me this year we were able to make the date work. And third of all, I love this kind of thing, you know? It’s fun.

Have you done other events like this before that just focus on just one varietal?

Yeah, I’ve done Pinot Noir stuff and Alsatian varietal stuff. It’s fairly par for the course.

So, you are going to be one of the two moderators for the discussion panels?

That’s right.

Are you going to come up with a bunch of questions before the event and then ask them or are you going to just go along with the conversation?

No, I think we’re going to have some pre-planning. I’ve already reached to the people on my panel and heard from a couple of them. I don’t want this to be too rehearsed because then it becomes boring and stale. And you want as much spontaneity as you can have because then it keeps the energy up. But I think in general that the people that invited me to do it had read something that I’d written in my blog about Chardonnay, and it was a fairly long quote about how Chardonnay can go bad – I mean it can be too sweet and it can be over-oaked and it can be too flabby and so on and so forth – and they said “Well why don’t we talk about that?”. And then they posed the question of, “Can an unoaked Chardonnay be as great as an oaked Chardonnay?” So I think we’ll just put those questions out to the panelists. Of the six on the panel, several have made unoaked wines. So I think I’ll put it out to them and hopefully the panelists will have strong enough views that we’ll have good, forceful dialogues going.

Were there any other issues or questions that you were hoping to bring up at the panel?

Nothing specific. I mean, generally, the way that I like to work is to think on the spot, so as I say, I don’t want to go in there with a rehearsed bunch of questions. You know, when I first started being a reporter years ago I would go into an interview and have, like, thirty or forty questions, and I realized after a while that that’s not the best approach because the best thing is to have a conversation, and to let the conversation meander wherever it wants to go. And when you have prepared questions, if you just stick to your script, they you may miss your opportunity to let the conversation go off script and go in unexpected, exciting ways. So I don’t know where this conversation is going to go. It could go into questions of the market, and what consumers want, and if there is a marketing value in advertising that a wine is unoaked, or a marketing value in advertising that it is oaked, and how do you determine pricing if its less expensive to make an unoaked wine if you don’t have to purchase barrels, and it’s less expensive to make an unoaked wine? So there are many issues that I think are interesting, but I would prefer to let reality dictate the conversation. And if reality flags, and the conversation flags, then I will obviously stimulate the conversation.

How did you first get involved in wine writing and wine criticism?

Oh my god, how much time do you have? Umm, well, let’s put it this way. In the late ‘80’s when I was trying to have a quote unquote “real job” that involved my wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase that did not work out, because its not who I am, and I realized that I needed to do something that I loved that I was passionate about and that it would let me be myself, who I really was, instead of pretending to be somebody that I wasn’t. And the only two things I really loved were writing and wine, and so I put the two together and I said, “Well, I will be a wine writer” and I made it happen. And a lot of people who want to be wine writers call me up now and they ask me for advice, and really the thing is that when I came in, wine writing was not a really popular thing to do. You didn’t have teenagers saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a wine writer.” Today, thousands of people would love to be wine writers, and of course, as you know, we have all the wine bloggers. But in the late ’80’s when I decided to do it, there really was very little competition. So I was able to persuade Wine Spectator to hire me, and after four years, I transferred over to Wine Enthusiast, and that is where I am now.

I know that it is probably hard for you to pick out varietals which are your favorites, but would you say that Chardonnay is one of your favorite varietals?

When I open a white wine at home just for my enjoyment – and that’s usually in the late afternoon as a cocktail, which is usually my first, you know, relaxing wine of the day – it is always Chardonnay. I mean sometimes it is going to be a Champagne or a sparkling wine, but it’s really unlikely that I would open up anything besides a Chardonnay, and I mean a good Chardonnay. I just love Chardonnay, I always have. I think it is the greatest white variety in the world. And I know a lot of people would say Riesling, and that ultimately it’s just a matter of taste, but I love Chardonnay.

What do you do for fun when you are not reviewing wines or writing?

I don’t have time to do much besides reviewing wines and writing, unfortunately. I like to read. I like to cook. I like to be with my friends. And I used to have a lot of sports interests, but as I get older I can’t do sports anymore. So I just like to relax, putter around, maybe get a tattoo.

Oh yeah! I saw your new tattoo on your wine blog the other day! It looked beautiful. What is the design of?

Well, mostly its flowers, but we’ve just, in the last few weeks, been working on a tiger. Just the tiger’s head, this gorgeous, golden Bengal tiger, and he or she is just kind of poking its nose through this little tangle of orchids and grass, and its very beautiful.

Who was your tattooist?

My friend Philip did my tattoo. Philip is a wonderful tattooist. He owns a shop here in Oakland called Old Crow Tattoo. And actually Philip has been voted, for the last two years in a row, the best tattooist in the East Bay by The East Bay Express, which is our free news weekly. And that’s a pretty great honor. He’s really a wonderful tattooist. I’m trying to get everyone to get tattoos now. It has been such an extraordinary experience for me.

I think I’ve asked almost everything I wanted to ask you, except for one last question. What are you most excited about for this year’s Chardonnay Symposium?

Well, I love Santa Barbara County. I feel very close to Santa Barbara County, and people there treat me very well. So I’m excited about everything! It is a great part of my job to have the privilege to do stuff like this.

Oaked and/or Unoaked Chardonnay: a Symposium by Steve Heimoff

We just had to share Steve Heimoff’s great blog post about his upcoming trip to The Chardonnay Symposium in Santa Maria. We can’t wait!

Posted by Steve on Jul 12, 2011

I’ll be heading down to Santa Barbara on Friday July 22 to host a panel on unoaked and oaked Chardonnay at the second annual Chardonnay Symposium, which will be on July 23, at Bien Nacido Vineyard, with lunch to follow at Au Bon Climat/Qupe’s little facility, tucked away in a corner of the vineyard.

I wrote, above, “unoaked and oaked,” but I could have written “unoaked versus oaked.” I think that’s how the organizers would have preferred it, because a little controversy is always good for attracting paying customers. But I couldn’t feel it in my heart to pitch this as a contest. It’s not. It’s simply two different approaches to making Chardonnay.

Why there is even an increasingly important category of unoaked Chardonnay isn’t hard to understand. There are two reasons. First, the category did well coming out of Australia. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, it addresses the loud complaint of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd that too much Chardonnay is overoaked, sweet plonk that’s virtually undrinkable at any price. Even though I’m a confessed lover of oaky Chardonnay, I’ll agree that there’s an awful lot of terrible stuff out there, simple wines that taste oak-like even though they may never actually have seen the inside of a proper oak barrel.

So the unoaked movement has allowed Americans to taste the true flavor of Chardonnay. Of course, just because a Chardonnay is unoaked doesn’t make it interesting or good. If you don’t put oak on top of a simple Chardonnay wine, all you end up with is a simple unoaked Chardonnay. The best unoaked Chardonnay I’ve had is from Diatom, Greg Brewer’s little project (he’s on my panel), but Greg reserves the right to put a little oak on Diatom if he wants to. If he gets radically good fruit in any given vintage, he’ll let it shine with unoaked Zen purity. And given the vineyards he has access to–Clos Pepe, Babcock, Huber–it’s more likely than not he’ll find good fruit.

For Chardonnay to succeed on its own, without oak, the wine needs complexity and acidity. A touch of minerality doesn’t hurt, and of course the finish must be dry, even if the center is fat and honeyed. The first time I ever tasted an unoaked Australian Chardonnay, I was amazed at how much vanilla there was. I had thought vanilla came from oak, but apparently there’s something in Chardonnay that gives it too.

Our panel is two hours in length, a long time for which to keep an audience amused. I’m just finishing the final touches on its structure. We have six panelists (excluding me), and I think I’ll have each winemaker bring two wines. Tasting twelve wines will help fill in the time by letting us compare and contrast more. But I also want to get into other issues. There are technical questions to be discussed, and also issues involving marketing and pricing. Why do winemakers make unoaked Chardonnay anyway? Is it because they perceive a niche for it, or because it’s cheaper? Does unoaked given them a higher profit margin? Do winemakers feel a tension between appealing to the marketplace, as opposed to making the best wine they can?

Anyhow, this should be an interesting panel, and I hope to see you on the day.


Join Wine Country Orcutt and Riverbench Vineyard & Winery tomorrow, May 26 2011, to sample world class Chardonnay and participate in the global #Chardonnay Day. The 24-hour virtual Twitter event is expected to attract thousands of Chardonnay enthusiasts to share tasting notes, information and wines with Chardonnay lovers around the world.

The Wine Country Orcutt @WCOrcutt Meetup will begin at 5:30 pm with Chardonnay tastings and a live interactive twitter stream in their new location at 130 North Broadway in Old Town Orcutt. Tweeters are encouraged to bring their laptop and share their own unique wine experiences and tasting notes.

Tomorrow from 10 am to 4 pm, Riverbench Vineyard & Winery @Riverbench will feature a special tasting of their distinctive Chardonnays for $5, alongside a full day of live Chardonnay tweeting at their Foxen Canyon tasting room. Riverbench will offer a number of tasting room specials, including 20% off all Chardonnay magnums.

Friends of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country are encouraged to include The Chardonnay Symposium @ChardSymposium in their tweeting conversations to spread the word about our premiere July 22-23 (2011) weekend event. The Chardonnay Symposium is the only event of its kind in the United States enlightening wine consumers, industry professionals and the media on America’s favorite wine. Go to for information and tickets.

Presqu’ile: Almost an Island

Check out this video from Presqu’ile Winery. They have a very interesting story and are already developing a name for themselves. On July 31st, they poured their Chardonnay at The Chardonnay Symposium and received excellent reviews. Click here for a recap of the symposium as well as information about Presqu’ile’s Chardonnay.

Steve Loves California Chardonnay!

Written by Kady Fleckenstein –

Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast wrote a post on his blog today about The Chardonnay Symposium. We’re very grateful for the extra publicity and love hearing that Chardonnay is his favorite white California varietal.

Check it out:

My only comment is in response to his note about the lack of quality hotels in the area. Fortunately, accommodations in Santa Maria have greatly improved over the last year. First of all, there have been many multi-million dollar renovations (Radisson, the Historic Santa Maria Inn, Holiday Inn, Rodeway Inn). Second, there are two new hotels off Broadway. One of the most drastic renovations probably is the Rodeway Inn. From the outside it looks like a motel that might not be the ideal overnight stay for a wine connoisseur. However, take a look at the photos of the inside–it’s pretty amazing. I would like to stay there myself and I live here!

If you have a favorite chain of hotels (Radisson, Best Western, Holiday Inn, etc.) you can likely find it in Santa Maria. Check out our accomodations page on