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The Bright, Compelling ‘Future’ of Santa Barbara Wines

Doug Margerum and Wendy Van Horn, owner and wine director,
respectively, of the eponymous wine-centric restaurant and wine
store, The Wine Cask, have once again presented yet another
successful S.B. County Wine Futures program. Margerum and Van Horn
work tirelessly to formulate their sweeping selection of
distinctive wines, and winemakers are so enamored with this annual
event that they very rarely decline an invitation to pour. Held on
Saturday, April 22 at The Wine Cask and the adjacent El Paseo
restaurant courtyard, the tasting was teeming with seasoned wine
collectors, hip wine acolytes, and members of the Santa Barbara
wine-loving community. All were vying for the attention of
winemakers who were introducing their not-yet-released wines for
sale as “futures” — wines that are still in barrel, or have just
been bottled, but have not yet been released into the marketplace.
The Wine Cask S.B. County Futures tasting offers wine lovers the
rare opportunity to purchase much-coveted wines early; wines that
often sell out quickly once they are offered to the public.

Because Margerum and Van Horn have personally tasted all the
wines included in the tasting, it’s hard to find a bad one in the
bunch. That being said, there were a few standouts that I found
immediately attractive and truly representative of what this
wonderful county has to offer the world of wine lovers. Here are
the most memorable wines of the tasting, in alphabetical order:
Au Bon Climat, 2004 Pinot Noir “Old World Rules,” Santa
Maria Valley
This pinot noir is amazingly wrought, with a
deft minerality and earthiness that is reminiscent of the great
Burgundies of France. Jim Clendenen made only 200 cases of this
wine, and true pinot noir lovers would be well-served including it
in their cellars. Pinot noirs like this one should not be missed.
Cargasacchi, 2005 Pinot Noir, Cargasacchi Vineyard, Santa
Rita Hills
Peter Cargasacchi’s name is one to remember. He
has become a force with which to be reckoned in the wine world,
albeit a humble and sweet one. His wines have a boldness and
structure that satisfy, but they possess great balance and
structure and never fatigue the palate. This is a lovely,
transcendent rendition of pinot noir, and was one of the best I’ve
tasted in a long time. Cold Heaven, 2005 Viognier “Sanford
and Benedict Old Vines,” Santa Rita Hills
It would be too
easy to dismiss Morgan Clendenen as just another pretty face making
wine. Rather, her approach to viognier is erudite and passionate;
she has made it her mission to produce world-class viogniers and
this latest offering literally showcases the fruits of her labor. A
lush underpinning of tropical fruit notes is measured by a crisp
acidity and sexy minerality. Hitching Post, 2004 Pinot Noir
“Highliner,” Santa Barbara County
After the film Sideways,
there surfaced a rumor that the Hitching Post team of Frank Ostini
and Gray Hartley had sold out, producing more wine than usual to
capitalize on the success of the film. Well, gossip, be damned. The
latest offerings from Hitching Post puts them back on top. All of
their futures wines were lovely, focused, and well-made, but the
Highliner pinot noir, comprised of fruit from Bien Nacido,
Cargasacchi, and other esteemed vineyards, is simply gorgeous.
Paul Lato, 2004 Pinot Noir “Duende,” Gold Coast
Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley Paul Lato is an elegant, sophisticated
winemaker. He brings a high degree of class and old-world panache
to any tasting he attends, and each wine he delivers proves to be
even better than the last. The “Duende” casts a spell on any pinot
lover. He’s the producer to beat. Qupé, 2004 Syrah “Bien Nacido
Hillside Estate,” Santa Maria Valley

Bob Lindquist has proven that he has staying power. Year in and
year out, he delivers consistently powerful and delicious wines.
This cool-weather Syrah is quite different from others, with notes
of white pepper, truffles, crushed wet rocks, and boysenberries on
the nose. Samsara, 2005 Syrah “Verna’s Vineyard,” Santa Barbara
County

Chad Melville has pulled out ahead of many other young syrah
producers in California with his own Samsara label. This is a wine
that has captivated sommeliers around the country because of its
sheer beauty and unstoppable aromatics. The unmistakable note of
bergamot on the nose will remind syrah lovers of Guigal’s La
Mouline offerings. Tensley, 2005 Syrah “OGT,” Santa Barbara
County

Don’t let Joey Tensley’s renegade roots full you. He’s a proud
son of Bakersfield, California, and a die-hard NASCAR fan, but
ultra-premium, fine wines, and everyman tastes need not be mutually
exclusive terms. This beguiling syrah, named for the winemaker’s
son, Oliver Gunnar Tensely, is just one in a lineup of definitive,
singular American syrahs. Tensley is considered by some wine
critics to be one of the finest syrah producers in the country, and
his latest offerings only support that perception.

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