There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Screen (or, “Why I’m Stoked About the Chardonnay Symposium”)

“There is nothing wrong with your screen. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next few days, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure…” (1)

If during the course of reading this, you start to wonder if everyone at the Santa Maria Valley Wine County has gone insane (2), don’t worry, it only means that you’re paying attention. My name is Joe Roberts, better known to the online wine world as 1WineDude, and I’ll be posting here at and taking over the SMV Wines twitter feed during the 2013 Chardonnay Symposium (3). I’ll be acting as your live-in-the-sky guide (4) during the Symposium events, and will also post a few articles right here on this blog detailing some of the producers involved, and wrapping up the general awesomeness of the event afterward.

I’m excited about the gig, and about getting back to the Santa Maria Valley, and I wanted to tell you why I’m so excited about it (5).

For starters, I am stoked about the Chardonnay Symposium because I’m generally stoked about Santa Maria Valley.


photo courtesy of Shawn Burgert

How stoked? Enough that I included the Santa Barbara area among my list of The Five Most A**-Kicking (6) Wine Regions in my Wined Down column on SMV is an anomaly, a rare breed in the dog-eat-dog world of fine wine, a place where many things can be done, and almost all of them done well. What I wrote for in 2012 still rings true for me:

“The wine area made famous by Sideways does, in fact, make ‘f**king Merlot.’ And Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and just about any other fine wine grape variety you can imagine. The a**-kicking thing is that S.B. can do it all well. It’s a best-of-both-worlds kind of scenario that produces well-balanced grapes, which means that the winemakers have to do less in the winery, which ultimately means fewer opportunities to f** up what Mama Nature’s bounty has provided. It doesn’t have the cachet of Napa Valley, but that just means prices for the best stuff are still within fiscal reach of us 99 percenters.”

But it’s not the grape-growing ability that makes SMV stand out – that honor goes to the people who are making the wines there. There aren’t too many wine-growing regions in the world where people generally, genuinely, and so generously (7) support one another. They’re a talented bunch, who applaud and reward each other when they get it right, all of which should have SMV wine fans excited because it means that despite the fact that the wines are so good now, they probably have yet to achieve their highest highs (8).

The other reason I’m so excited to participate in the Symposium this year is that I think Chardonnay is awesome. Yes, I’m being serious! (9)


photo courtesy of Shawn Burgert

As a wine critic/personality/writer/geek, but simply and most especially as a wine lover, I’m clueless as to why Chardonnay gets blamed for almost everything that the wine world does wrong. Last time I checked, Romanee-Conti, Leflaive, and Leeuwin all made fine wine from Chardonnay that would blow your wine mind so dramatically that you’d need a ladder to get your hat down off the ceiling. And don’t even get me started on Champagne (10). Chardonnay didn’t invent the over-oaked, flabby, unbalanced fine wine, it just got slapped with the sign on its back when it wasn’t looking and was minding its own business.

You want to know why Chardonnay takes the fall for those overdone wines? Because it’s so awesome. Because people love it. Because people justifiably love its seeming contradictions of vibrancy and richness, of power and poise, of volume and subtlety. Chardonnay took the hit because those it the wine world who should have known better thought that they could get away with it.

The Chardonnay Symposium is your chance to see (11) the other side, your chance to sample some of the best Chardonnay that California has on offer. I’m so stoked because now it’s my chance, too. And I’m looking forward to seeing you there!


(1) – I am, in fact, old enough to know this reference. But just barely.

(2) – They may have gone insane to let me take over much of their social media, but the effect is only temporary.

(3) – What do you mean, you “don’t have tickets to it yet?!??” Get on it, already!!!

(4) – Except that I won’t actually be in the sky… and at 5’5″ tall, I won’t even be anywhere close to being in the sky, actually.

(5) – Aside from the fact that I’m getting paid to do it. C’mon, when was the last time that you did something for free for an entity that wasn’t a charity or non-profit? Yeah, that’s what I thought…

(6) – Note: not measured scientifically.

(7) – Sorry, I ran out of “g” words here.

(8) – Other California wine regions should probably be peeing their pants over this… but AVAs don’t wear pants so let’s just forget I said that, okay?

(9) – Why are you questioning me? In front of everyone like that? You always do this when we go out together!

(10) – Unless you’re buying, in which case, by all means please feel free to get me started.

(11) – Okay, technically it’s “taste.”


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 No reservations required.

Information and tickets:

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


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

Trattoria Uliveto

Written by Cliff Stepp –

Rural charm, gourmet Italian, wood fired pizzas and a micro brewery next door. Pinch me!

Trattoria Uliveto

Trattoria Uliveto in Old Town Orcutt, a setting a like no other and combined with it’s ambience, cultured cuisine and friendly staff it’s destined to be your next destination spot for lunch or dinner. It is for me, anyway.

I’ve had Uliveto on my list of must stops for nearly four months,having heard nearly every foodie and wine person I know spoon heaps of praise on this little trattoria in the movie-set-charming town of Orcutt.

You would feel equally at home sauntering up on your pinto pony of gliding in aboard your Prius.

We started off with their Parmigiana di Melanzana; baked egglplant, tomato sauce and mozzarella. If I didn’t know Id be getting plenty o’carbs from the pasta dish I was eyeing I would of ordered their appy, Rollino Veneto; rolled pizza with braised radicchio, onion, smoked mozzarella. Served with tomato, basil and garlic.

Trattoria Uliveto's Pizza Oven

The pizzas coming out of their wood fired pizza oven were mighty tempting but I had my heart set on the Linguini Mare Monte pasta made with garlic, olive oil, shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, tomato filet and white wine. Speaking of which, the Kenneth Volk Chardonnay from Uliveto’s great wine list was the perfect pal di vino for this dish.

The entrée hit every note my palate had anticipated and more. I was thrilled with the dish. We then split a chocolate flourless cake with espresso sauce. It certainly wasn’t calorieless or caffeineless. Perfect combo of sweet tooth appeaser and mild to jolt to help me out of the chair and back to our travels.

If not for the wine and chocolate I would have made my next stop Orcutt Brewery right next store.

Gourmet relaxation in picturesque, pastoral surroundings and right down the road for most lucky residents of the Central Coast. The rest of y’all will just have to salivate while planning your next wine country vacation.

Trattoria Uliveto
285 S. Broadway St.
Orcutt, CA 93455

Costa de Oro Winemaker Dinner with Gary Burk at Central City Market

Entrance Central City Market

Featuring Winemaker Gary Burk
Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, 7:00 PM

First Course
Local Artisanal Cheese Plate
Paired with 2009 Pinot Noir Rose

Second Course
Ahi Tuna Crudo, Grilled Pineapple, Avocado Mousse
Paired with 2009 Santa Barbara Country Pinot Grigio

Third Course
Balsamic Cherry Glazed Quail, Black Pepper Polenta
Paired with 2008 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay

Fourth Course
Beef Tenderloin Medallions, Cabrales Blue Cheese, Roasted Potatoes
Paired with 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Santa Maria Strawberry and Rhubarb Napoleon
Paired with 2006 Syrah Dessert Wine

$65 per person including wine pairings
Space is very limited; please make reservations at 805-925-7766

Gourmet Central – aka Central City Market in Santa Maria’s Town Center Mall

Entrance Central City Market

The word is spreading like wildfire through the Central Coast Grapevine about the great dishes and pastries at the relatively new Central Market that opened in the freshly remolded Town Center Mall in Santa Maria.


You first enter a thoroughly modern deli with the aromas of baked veggies and rosemary infused beef mingling with faint hints of cheeses and chocolates. As you approach the “Order Here” zone you’ll discover the large, sunny atrium with lots of cafe tables and live plants.

Key Lime Torts

If you’re dieting you might want to bring your support group; the pastries are some of the finest looking and tasting I’ve experienced anywhere on the Central Coast.

Nova & Michael
Michael & Nova

How did this all come about? I really don’t know the whole story, except that I discovered that the cuisine is in the capable hands of Chef Michael Wood, who has a devoted following. And they have a Pastry Chef, Nova Bevier, that must have “magician” listed in her resumé.

I first learned of this new tasty jewel because three of the last five wine events I attended were catered by Central City Market. I liked the name because it sounded like some place Batman might go to lunch.

Be that as it may, at lunch my heart leapt into my throat when I found that they serve illy coffee at the table a la French press.

I had their Bistro Steak sandwich with grilled balsamic onions, provolone, spicy greens and horseradish peppercorn sauce. My friend had the BBQ Chop Salad that was a medley of chopped greens, grilled corn, smoked cheddar, marinated beans, crispy onions, chipotle BBQ ranch with your choice of chicken, steak or shrimp.

On Saturdays they have a Prime Rib Special for $16 that includes an 8 oz. portion of very slow roasted, herb crusted Prime rib, scalloped potatoes, fresh market vegetables, horseradish cream and au jus.

Sundays they do Wine Barrel Smoked Baby Back Ribs served with southern style creamy cole slaw, corn bread and house-made BBQ sauce for $14!
They also do “Grilled Cheese Sunday,” from 5:30 – 9:00pm; grilled cheese sandwiches with your choice of tomato soup, house-made French fries or salad.

Speaking of wine barrels; they have a great wine list (featuring local faves) at some of the best deal prices I’ve seen in any restaurant in the area.

I grabbed a flyer for the Winemaker Dinner with Kenneth Volk Vineyards they’ve got coming up April 6th at 7pm. The menu looked absolutely amazing.

There is nothing I can say that will do justice to Nova’s pastries and dessert creations. Truly a case where one photo is worth 1,000 licks.

Red Velvet Whoopie
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Central City Market is on the first floor of the Town Center, near Macy’s.

Contributed by Cliff Stepp, Marketing Manager for the Central Coast Urgent Care Medical Group. He can be reached at


“DineOut: Santa Maria Style”
Offers Special Reduced Price Menus at
Participating Santa Maria Valley Restaurants
From April 12 through April 25

Santa Maria, CA—Locals and visitors alike are invited to savor and save as eight participating restaurants in the Santa Maria Valley offer special reduced price menus from April 12 through April 25 under the banner of “DineOut: Santa Maria Style.”

The fixed menu prices start at $10.10, and continue with the “2010” theme at $20.10, $30.10 and $40.10, depending on the restaurant and meal (see below for full menus listing).

“The event dates were chosen to coincide with an established culinary event, the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, in order to encourage locals and visitors to experience a taste of the Santa Maria Valley,” said Gina Keough, manager of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau, which is coordinating the promotion.

The participating restaurants are The Hitching Post in Casmalia, Trattoria Uliveto, Far Western Tavern, Garden Room Restaurant at the Historic Santa Maria Inn, Vintner’s Bar & Grill at the Radisson Hotel Santa Maria, Portabella at the Holiday Inn and Suites, Quizno’s on South Bradley Road and Adelina’s Bistro at the Monarch Club at Trilogy Central Coast.

For example, the Historic Santa Maria Inn is offering a Grilled Salmon Filet atop grilled basil polenta for $20.10, which includes choice of soup or salad, tomato bruschetta and a dessert featuring vanilla ice cream, seasonal berries served in a caramel basket. Prices do not include tax or tip.

Diners are encouraged to make reservations in advance, and to mention the “DineOut: Santa Maria Style” promotion when dining or making a reservation as regular menu items will also be available.

Says Keough, “’DineOut: Santa Maria Style’ is a great way for people to affordably experience the variety of our local flavors.”

“DineOut: Santa Maria Style” Details

What: A two-week promotion featuring eight participating restaurants offering special prix fixe menus featuring entrees and extras.

When: Promotion runs from April 12 through April 25, 2010

Cost: Prices range from $10.10 to $40.10, depending on restaurant and menu

Menus: See below. These same details are available online at Hot Travel Deals at, or phone (805) 925-2403 x814.

3325 Point Sal Road, Casmalia
(805) 937-6151 or (866) 879-4088
Open Monday – Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Sunday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Steak & Shrimp $30.10
Australian Lobster Tail $40.10
Complete dinners include: bay shrimp cocktail, dinner salad, potato
or vegetables, entree, coffee/tea and ice cream.

899 Guadalupe Street/Highway1, Guadalupe
(805) 343-2211
Open: Tuesday – Fri day 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
LUNCH $10.10
Spinach Steak Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
DINNER $30.10
Petit (6 oz) Filet, Jumbo (9oz) Lobster Tail. Served with reduction of Syrah, polenta, roasted garlic and choice of soup or salad.

Menu pending

801 South Broadway, Santa Maria
(805) 928-7777
-Salmon Filet $20.10:
Served with grilled tomato bruschetta, choice of house made soup or salad,
grilled basil polenta garnished with a citrus salad, and vanilla ice cream and seasonal berries served in a caramel basket

-Black Angus Rib Eye Steak $30.10:
Served with grilled tomato bruschetta, coastal greens salad, creamy mashed potatos, grilled baby vegetables and crème Brulee.

-6oz Bacon Wrapped Black Angus Filet Mignon $40.10:
Served with risotto lobster cake, baby spinach salad with wonton skins, strawberries and mandarin oranges and cheesecake with vanilla bean ice cream.

2202 South Bradley Road- ONLY
Santa Maria, CA 93455
(805) 928-4280
Large sub, chips, cookie & drink retails for $10.10

PORTABELLA BAR & GRILL (Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites)
2100 North Broadway, Santa Maria
(805) 928-6000
Open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly
-Seafood Pasta $20.10:
Scallops, tiger shrimp and Atlantic salmon sautéed in garlic, butter
and white wine then served over a bed of fettuccini Alfredo.

-Beef Short Rib $20.10:
Slow cooked with a flavorful demi-glaze, served with choice
of two sides. Also served with a fresh garden salad or cup of soup.

-Atlantic Salmon $20.10:
Grilled with sun dried tomato pesto or Cajun style with herb butter.
Served with roasted asparagus and cheese-filled tortellini.
Also served with a side of scampi style shrimp.

-Steak & Ribs $30.10:
A juicy char-broiled Rib Eye and 1/2 rack of mouth watering ribs.
Served with two sides and choice of garden salad or a cup of soup.

VINTNERS GRILL (Radisson Hotel Santa Maria)
3455 Skyway Drive, Santa Maria
(805) 928-8000
Served 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. only
-English Cut Prime Rib $20.10
-Champagne Chicken Picatta $20.10
-Blackened Snapper $20.10
*Served with house glass of wine and scoop of ice cream for dessert

Pandee Pearson
Pandee Pearson, Executive Chef, Adelina’s Bistro

1645 Trilogy Parkway, Nipomo
(805) 343-7501
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Chef’s Selected Entrée $30.10
Four course menu changes nightly to include amuse bouche, choice of soup du jour or bistro salad, chef’s selected entrée, and featured dessert. Call for menu details.