This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on October 28, 2022. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox each Friday, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.
For all there is to love about the latest releases of wine — I, for one, am increasingly drawn to fresh, zesty, young wines rather than bold, powerful, age-requiring monsters — there is an enchanting sense of mystery and potential magic when opening older vintages. That allure only deepens when the specific bottles reach back many decades, or come from globally renowned regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux, or represent the potential for still-emergent places like Santa Barbara County, where the existing bottles of older vintages are both hard to find and relatively untested.
So when Will Henry invites you to a cellar raid at his home near Santa Maria, you oblige. The owner of Lumen Wines and Pico Restaurant in Los Alamos, Will is the son of Warner Henry, who founded The Henry Wine Group, one of the top importers and distributors in California. When Warner died in 2020, Will inherited much of his dad’s vast cellar, and is always looking for the right time to share with his friends in the wine business. (Will also wrote this great memory about his dad’s most transcendent wine experiences for the Independent.)
Last Friday, nearly a dozen winemakers, grape growers, wine dealers, winery builders, and other assorted wine industry pros gathered at Will’s house, where we were invited to wander into his cellar — housed in a temperature-controlled storage container tucked into a hillside — and pick some bottles to assess. Some of us also brought along older bottles of wine from our own cellars as well, most notably Mike Trupiano of Industry Wine Merchant, who, incidentally, had also sold a few of us the wines we brought.
As we popped bottle after bottle, checked each for remaining life and/or any corked-ness, and then awaited transcendence, steaks and sausages hit the smoker and grill, all to be finished later by Chef Cameron Ingle, who took over Pico’s kitchen not long ago. (I am editing a feature on Cameron by our food and drink writing fellow Vanessa Vin, which I hope to run in the next couple weeks.)
I’m not gonna do a roll call of attendees — I’ll protect those guilty of such gluttonous indulgence this time — nor list all of the wines we had, because that list grew to be exceedingly long. Plus, I don’t have time to figure out the proper spelling of possibly long-gone producers from weird corners of France.
But a quick list of highlights included a 1975 Cheval Blanc and 1988 Château Beychevelle from Bordeaux, a 1955 Domaine Georges Noellat from Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy, a 1968 Louis Martini cab from Napa, a 1974 petite sirah from Mendocino by Fetzer, 1966 muscadet by Chon, and a 1990 Hermitage from the Rhône Valley by Paul Jaboulet Aîné.
Meanwhile, Lane Tanner’s 1992 pinot from Sanford & Benedict Vineyard was still youthful and vibrant, as were Ken Brown’s 1988 Byron chardonnay and Bob Lindquist’s 1989 Qupé chardonnay from Sierra Madre Vineyard. Though not quite as aged as many of the other wines, the late Jim Clendenen’s 2002 Au Bon Climat from Le Bon Climat Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley was declared by some as the wine of the night. Click here to see an Instagram reel of these wines and others.
As the bottles dwindled and the steaks vanished, Will’s older son, Cameron, took to the guitar and endured both a bevy of requests and increasingly loud banter. As the hours became wee, Will joined Cam for a powerful duet to end the night.
Both had to wake early to rehearse for their roles in the upcoming Audition, a Los Alamos Story, the next play being put on by the Los Alamos Theatre Group. I doubt you’ll find any old wine magic at those performances, which start on November 11, but I’m sure the Henrys will bring their family’s talents to the stage in other ways. Click here for tickets.
Sign up to get Matt Kettmann’s Full Belly Files, which serves up multiple courses of food & drink coverage every Friday, going off-menu from our regularly published content to deliver tasty nuggets of restaurant, recipe, and refreshment wisdom to your inbox.
Stephanie Mutz Dinner Tonight!
I hear there are only five tickets left for this special dinner at The Lark tonight featuring the seafood of famous fisherman Stephanie Mutz. She collaborated with Chef Jason Paluska to create a five-course, family-style feast, complete with stories about the ingredients and techniques involved.
It’s $175 and includes urchin paired with sparkling albariño, bluefin crudo paired with Anjou blanc, Hope Ranch mussels with a barrel-aged gin cocktail, spiny lobster with La Barge pinot noir, and cheese and pistachio brittle with a 1997 madeira.
What I’ve Been Eating
Over the last week or so, my eating adventures have included:
- Buena Onda empanadas at the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club during an Indy work party to celebrate the publishing of our annual Best of Santa Barbara issue
- Cocktail exploration with Jazz Moralez at Finch & Fork, where they’re pouring and teaching how to make four Halloween-inspired cocktails this weekend
- Dinner at Finch & Fork with my former colleague Charles Donelan, where I particularly enjoyed the scallops and the prosciutto-wrapped artichokes that came along
- Paella prepared in my backyard by by friend Travis Mañach, a Spanish teacher at Santa Barbara High School
- Egg drop soup and Chinese chicken salad at The Pickle Room, where it was great to catch up with bartender Willy Gilbert and PR pro extraordinaire Mo McFadden while awaiting my daughter’s Journeys in Jazz performance with Foothill School on the stage of the Lobero