When winemaker Morgan Clendenen picks up my call to chat about the upcoming Pioneers Pour Again Heritage Tasting, she takes a break from capturing photos at Alma Rosa Winery for social media posts heralding the event. For she’s not just the owner/winemaker at Cold Heaven, she’s an unstoppable marketing force for the wine region, both here and now in North Carolina, where she lives part time.
Clendenen created The Pioneers of Santa Barbara County last year, when the Santa Barbara Vintners decided to no longer host the grand tasting at Celebration of Harvest. But more importantly, Clendenen wanted the tasting to be an “ode to those who helped build the reputation of the area and mentored the mavericks who came after them,” she explained. “Everyone wants to spotlight the new hot thing, but these wineries have been perfecting wine for decades — they’re not making science experiments. They have a history and put this place on the map.”
While not every pioneer will be at the November 17 event, attendees can sip superior juice from Alma Rosa to Zaca Mesa with 17 other wineries in between. Clendenen is particularly happy Bob Lindquist will be pouring his Qupe wines with last week’s news his winery has been sold by Terroir Life to Vintage Wine Estates, making him an employee, not an owner. “This could be the last vintage of hands-on Bob Lindquist wines for Qupe,” worries Clendenen.
Luckily the pioneers will be pouring themselves, so Richard Sanford and Lane Tanner and Kris Curran, to name a few, will all be able to regale event-goers not just with wine but also tales of vintages and vines. The heritage theme means “several wineries are going to be pouring older vintages and will offer library wines for sale,” Clendenen explained. “And wines that were made since the beginning are still being made today.”
The tasting also rewards those who buy tickets early, as the first 50 purchases are automatically VIPs (for no extra dough) and get to hang for a post-event champagne reception (Laurent-Perrier is the champers sponsor). Clendenen is working on a caviar sponsor, too. Most of the noshes will be provided by someone who is definitely a S.B. culinary pioneer: David Cecchini and his Cecco Ristorante. “David and his sidekick Steve Clifton, no doubt, who will probably sneak his wines in,” said Clendenen. “He’s more a maverick even though he’s been making wine here for 20 years, but it’s okay. It’s Santa Barbara. We’re not uppity here.”
As a final selling point, Clendenen asserts, “There are very few places that you can taste wines of this caliber for this price tag — it’s a great value.” She’s also proud to point out the number of vineyard-specific and reserve wines that will be open; for instance Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat will be pouring the Isabelle, one of his most acclaimed pinot noirs. She concludes, “Everyone will be bringing out their best.”
The Pioneers Pour Again Heritage Tasting is on Saturday, November 17, 2–5 p.m. at The Station, 346 Bell St., Los Alamos. See pioneersofsantabarbaracounty.com.