Winemakers Unite: Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail Becomes Official

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on June 29, 2012)

For several years, the term “Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail” has been used generally to define a burgeoning group of in-town wineries and tasting rooms.  “We were a loose group of winemakers, all friends, getting together every so often to create a map, or do some joint advertising and events,” recalls winemaker Ryan Carr, who’s been making wine downtown since 2005 and who established his namesake tasting room on N. Salsipuedes Street in 2007.

But the Urban Wine Trail became an officially incorporated group of like-minded wine producers just last month, creating an effective, organized team that now hopes to better communicate with each other and better promote downtown wine tasting to tourists.

“The growing number of tasting rooms just made it necessary to set up an organization with structure, so we can bring more business and traffic to the area,” says Carr, who chairs the new group.

The SBUWT brings together an impressive 17 member wineries, all with a downtown presence.  Each member is required to hold a locally-based winegrowers’ license and whose annual production must include at least 75% Santa Barbara-sourced grapes.  And the group is non-profit, with annual dues going toward joint marketing, including a comprehensive touring and tasting map of the downtown Santa Barbara area. 

Among the members is Santa Barbara Winery, which for many years was the only downtown tasting option for wine aficionados; it was established at its Anacapa-Yanonali location way back in 1964.  Some longstanding labels in the regional winemaking scene are also members, including Jaffurs (which launched its winemaking facility on E. Montecito St. in 2001) and Whitcraft (with a winery and tasting room on S. Calle Cesar Chavez).  And there are some newer players, too, like Cottonwood Canyon, Municipal Winemakers and the cultish Sanguis.

“As more projects and efforts get put together, I think the group will start to have an impact,” says Garreth Conway, whose family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room opened right on Stearns Wharf last September.  “We can give people the impression that Santa Barbara really is the gateway for wine tasting here in California.”

The newest downtown tasting room was launched by Grassini Family Vineyards over the Memorial Day weekend.  The steady foot traffic it’s seen since has a lot to do with its central location off State Street, in the El Paseo Courtyard.  But much of it is also due to “help from other tasting rooms,” says CEO Kate Grassini, “who are always sending people over to us.”

Grassini’s family owns an esteemed vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is planted to sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon.  She touts the much larger tasting scene in towns like Los Olivos and Solvang, which rewards an extra 45-minute drive north of downtown Santa Barbara with many more tasting venues.  But she says strict ordinances are making it increasingly tough for wine producers in North County to open tasting rooms on their own properties.  By comparison, the growing cluster of Santa Barbara tasting rooms offers travelers a convenient option and, therefore, a special business opportunity.

“People love wine tasting, but they usually want to do it as part of whole downtown experience, not just by visiting one place,” says Grassini, touting the merits of joining the new SBUWT.  “As a group, we can emphasize our diversity to consumers, so they can taste Bordeaux wines at one place, try Rhones next door, and so on.  And then they can cross the street and watch a movie!”

Carr, who recently opened a second tasting room in downtown Santa Ynez, agrees.  “While many guests love to make the trip out to wine country, we understand that sometimes there’s not enough time,” he says.  “The Urban Wine Trail is a great alternative to sip and savor all the amazing wines coming from our region.”

Most of the group’s member wineries are located in the city’s expanding Funk Zone, the eclectic precinct that abuts the waterfront that also houses artists’ studios, quirky shops and enterprising restaurants.  It affords tourists the chance to get around casually, and by foot, bike or pedi cab.  And it affords them the quick detour – beach, anyone? – with ease.

To celebrate their new association, the SBUWT wineries are hosting their first Passport Weekend, July 27-29.  For $50, guests will have the three days to visit all 17 tasting rooms, which will be hosting special events, from live music to barrel tastings.  “It’s going to be very relaxed, so people can take their time at each location,” says Carr.  And to make getting around easier, pedi cabs will be offering free rides throughout the weekend and an official trolley will be looping the trail. 

For passport purchase and more information, check out

In the Spotlight: Annual Event Celebrates Chardonnay

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on June 25, 2012)

No doubt about it: chardonnay remains king among grapes.  It is still the top selling wine in the country.  And in Santa Barbara County, it is the most widely planted grape variety; the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association says more than 7000 acres of the popular white wine grape are planted throughout the region.

But at the same time, chardonnay has suffered a bit of an image issue, lately.  “We’re certainly cognizant of the fact it’s fallen out of style in certain circles and become somewhat of a punching bag,” admits Nicholas Miller, whose family owns three of celebrated Santa Barbara County vineyards, including famous Bien Nacido, which is planted mainly to chardonnay.  He attributes the seeming wave, recently, away from chardonnay in favor of other white wine varieties to a skewed focus by many wine producers.

“Many wineries started seeing [chardonnay] as just a cash flow wine instead of a centerpiece, and that ocean of chardonnay in the marketplace turned some people off,” he says.  “But people tend to be turned off by categories instead of by certain styles of wine.  The fact is that wineries that have built their programs around high end chardonnay – Au Bon Climat, Littorai, Kistler – those programs never really fell out of style.”

Indeed, chardonnay is consistently seen – both by industry stalwarts and savvy consumers – as a wine of diversity and distinction, of complexity and value, and as an especially food-friendly beverage.  And the Santa Maria Valley – with its special soils and unique maritime weather influences –is consistently regarded as one of the premier regions in the state to grow it extremely well.  So it makes sense that this is where a new movement is afoot to bring a fresh focus to this coveted grape.

The Chardonnay Symposium enters its third year next weekend when it welcomes hundreds of chardonnay fans, and many of the chardonnay-curious, to the Santa Maria Valley.  It’s the brainchild of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association.  And it holds an important distinction: it’s the only gathering in the country with a distinct focus on chardonnay.

“There are multiple events dedicated to pinot noir, and there are Rhone events and Italian wine events, and there are zin festivals,” says Miller.  “But chardonnay was a gap not being filled, and it’s one of the real strong points of Santa Maria.”

The three-day affair is expected to draw some 400 people.  It begins Friday, June 29, with a Santa Maria-style BBQ at Sierra Madre Vineyard, where attendees will bring a bottle of their favorite chard to share.  And it ends Sunday, July 1, with an open-air chardonnay brunch at Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard and an afternoon pops concert by the Santa Maria Philharmonic – with more chances to sip on chardonnay – at Tres Hermanas Vineyard.

But the pinnacle of this year’s event will be Saturday, June 30, when consumers will get unprecedented access to some of the most revered chardonnay makers in the state, and to the wines that have made them famous.  The day at Byron Vineyard begins with a panel session led by popular wine blogger and Senior West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine Steve Heimoff.  It’ll feature chardonnay superstars like Bill Wathan of Foxen and Bob Cabral of Williams Selyem, and is dubbed “Chardonnay and Terroir: What’s it All About?”

The afternoon Grand Tasting at Byron will feature dozens of chardonnay samplings from 50 wineries, and foods to match.  Guest chefs will share chardonnay food pairing tips under a demonstration tent.  And the open setup will offer visitors spectacular views of the valleys of Santa Maria.

The evening will be marked by a pair of wine dinners featuring the chardonnays of Kenneth Volk Wines (this dinner is already sold out) and Riverbench Winery.

“This is going to be an eye opener, a chance for people to taste and learn all that can be done with chardonnay,” says Laura Mohseni, general manager at Riverbench.  “And it gets winemakers excited about making chardonnay again.”

Event pricing varies.  The Friday night BBQ at Sierra Madre is $30, the Saturday Grand Tasting at Byron is $55 (or $65 at the door) and the Sunday brunch at Cottonwood is $30.  Buy tickets online at

Tiny Bubbles, Big Deal: Local Winery Steps Up Sparkling Wine Program

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on June 21, 2012)

Riverbench just became the latest Santa Barbara County winery – and one of a very few – to take bubbles seriously.

“The idea started for completely selfish reasons,” general manager Laura Mohseni tells me with a laugh.  “I just love drinking sparkling wine and my bosses are very indulgent.”

The new Riverbench lineup of sparklers was released just a few days ago at an industry gathering at its Santa Maria tasting room.  The trio – under a label playfully dubbed “Cork Jumper” – includes a blanc de blancs and a slightly sweeter blanc de blancs demi-sec, both chardonnay-based, as well as a rosy blanc de noirs, made from pinot noir grapes.  All are made entirely from proprietary fruit.

What’s exciting about this project, especially for those of us who love to sip on bubbly throughout the year (and not just on special occasions), is that it helps fill a gaping hole in Santa Barbara wine production.  True, several of our great local winemakers have, in fact, ventured into sudsy territory; talents like Chris Whitcraft, Blair Fox, Dave Potter and Steve Clifton have dabbled in bubbles.  But much of it, at least thus far, has been a singular endeavor, if not an arbitrary one on random vintages.   Norm Yost has, for many years now, been very much a lone local crusader in this arena, producing remarkable sparkling wines under his Flying Goat label.  So to have another player enter the fray with a plan to make three distinct bubblies – and to make them annually – is a boon for the industry, not to mention the palates of many a thirsty consumer.

This project started as an experiment of sorts in 2008.  Yost was sourcing some of the grapes for his own sparkling wines from Riverbench’s neighbor, Sierra Madre Vineyards.  So the thought struck Mohseni: how would sparkling wine made from their own estate fruit fare? 

Riverbench released a single Cork Jumper blanc de blancs in 2008 and then again in 2009, and the acclaim was swift and upbeat.  The wines enjoyed the added triumph of being the county’s first ever certified sustainable sparkling wines.  Riverbench, which was originally planted in 1973 and saw a second round of plantings in 2007, has long been known for its environmentally minded grape growing.

With back-to-back experiments a success, the 2010 vintage gave birth to a far more committed sparkling wine program at Riverbench.  The Blanc de Blancs (171 cases, $35) is a graceful  embodiment of the natural brilliant acidity found in the winery’s estate chardonnay grapes; elegant yeastiness and a bright mouth feel prevail, as well as clean tropical and citrus flavors.  The Blanc de Blancs Demi-Sec (99 cases, $32) is very similar in mouth feel and enjoys that traditional soft sweetness without being cloying.

The crowning achievement of the 2010 Cork Jumper series may be the pinot-based Blanc de Noir (354 cases, $45).  Vibrant and fun, yet complex and sophisticated.  Mohseni marvels at the “pomegranate and tangerine flavors we don’t normally see in our still wines.” 

Riverbench winemaker Clarissa Nagy is also touting the new sparklers, and she is excited at the “killer response” they’ve received early on.  (Like Mohseni, she’s an unabashed fan of regular sparkling wine consumption.)  She joined the winery just late last year, so she didn’t get to share in the production of the 2010 bubbles.  But she’ll be spearheading the program each vintage moving forward.

Making sparkling wine is “definitely tougher, more expensive, and more time consuming” than making still wines, she tells me.  That may account for its very limited production, locally.  “It’s a labor of love for sure,” she adds.  But based on the wines’ merits early on, and because “people do like to drink local,” Nagy is confident the program will gain consumer traction quickly.

Each vintage, Nagy will be in charge of making the sill base wines.  When I ask her if she’ll source grapes earmarked for sparklers any differently, she says, “I might pick fruit with some crisper acids and brighter fruit.”  But she insists, “I don’t have a magic number.  I pick for ripeness and for balance.”  The still wines will then be transported to Napa, where renowned French winemaker Gerald Ployez will employ traditional methode champenoise techniques to bring them to effervescent life.  “He’s got all the equipment and the space,” says Mohseni, “and the knowledge.  His family has been making Champagne for generations.”

The public will get its first chance to taste through the three new Cork Jumper sparklers this Sunday, when Riverbench is featured as part of the monthly BYOB wine dinner series.  The event, which takes place at Max’s Cucina on Upper State Street, will pair the bubblies with a special selection of cheeses and a three-course meal (including a seafood and vegetable paella).  As is customary with these BYOB dinners, each attending couple is asked to bring an extra sparkling wine or two to share during this casual, family-style yet decidedly gourmet dining experience.  Limited seating remains.  Mohseni and Nagy will attend, and I’m looking forward to jumping over a few corks that night, myself.

BYOB-Riverbench Wine Dinner
Sunday, June 24, 2012, 6pm
Max’s Cucina, 3514 State Street, Santa Barbara
$50/pp plus a bottle of sparkling wine to shareTin

Beers from Italy: Local Restaurant Pours Exclusive Brews

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on June 14, 2012)

Chef Alberto Morello, a proud Italian, makes no qualms about it.  “The Belgians and the Germans, and even the English, obviously have a head start on making these artisanal beers,” he says over lunch at his Olio Pizzeria in downtown Santa Barbara.  “But,” he adds, as he points to a chilled lineup of decorative glass bottles, “these have really been coming up in the last few years.”

Chef Morello and his wife, Elaine, launched Olio e Limone in 1999, and it’s become a gourmet standard for fresh, authentic Italian cuisine.  But the launch just two years ago of the Pizzeria – a stylish yet rustic and comfortable enoteca and bar right next door – has best afforded them the chance to introduce their clientele to a relatively new batch of artisanal Italian brews.  “Birra artiginale,” he calls them in his native tongue.

Available in both eateries, they fare best in the Pizzeria, where share-friendly items include pizzas, antipasti and a wide range of cheese and charcuterie dishes, and where the new lunchtime menu features a variety of salads, egg dishes and panini.  “In Italy, in the pizzerias, you mostly have beer, especially in the hot summers, and with pastas,” he says.   He admits that the American consumer often overlooks Italian beer for the country’s wide variety of food-friendly wines.  But his goal -- and it comes across as a genuine aspiration – is to have his clientele regularly reaching for beer, too. 

The Morellos’ current lineup of artisan brews includes 10 bottlings, and the chef says 10 other unique beers will soon be added to the list.  These crafted beverages don’t see any local distribution, currently; in fact, Mr, Morello drives to Los Angeles about once every five weeks to pick up cases as they reach the shore.  His two restaurants are exclusive carriers on the Central Coast of most every single one of these beers.

The labels are part of an admittedly new movement in Italy, which has seen the microbrew industry explode to more than 100 small producers in just the last few years.  Before then, Italian beer exports were dominated by a handful of much larger producers – Moretti and Peroni, mainly, both of which the Olio eateries also feature, at $6 and $7 a bottle, respectively.  “They’re good, mostly just refreshing,” the chef says, “with not too many flavors.”

But flavor may be one of the top selling points of the artisan selections that now dominate the Olio “birre” list.  The chef samples five of his favorites – they generally range between 4% and 8% alcohol – as he savors warm, just-out-of-the-oven pizza bread with prosciutto and a selection of fresh hamachi, tuna tartare and homemade linguini that head chef Francesco Pesce has just brought by.

The “Re Del Borgo” is an IPA (or India pale ale) from the Lazio region, near Tuscany.  It features an intense amber color but a refreshingly light and bright mouth feel.  Its flavors of orange and caramel are most intense upfront, and the finish is clean.  A 12.7-oz. bottle sells for $10.

“This is one of my favorites,” says Chef Morello as he pours the “Strade San Felice Grado” into a chilled glass.  It hails from the Piedmont region and is an earthier drink, with a creamy head, a soft nuttiness on the nose and a slightly honeyed palate.  The bottle, at 16.9 ounces, costs $13.

“There’s a lot more chestnut flavor in this one,” the chef insists with the “Malthus Birolla” from Lombardy, located west of Verona.  The beer is intense, rich and fruity – chestnut, vanilla and caramel grace the nose – yet smooth in the mouth and refreshing on the back end.  The 12.7-oz. bottle is on the list for $14.

Mr, Morello smiles as he pours the “Sella Del Diavolo” into a glass.  “The name of the label translates to ‘the saddler of the devil,’” he says of the amber ale crafted in Sardinia.  The beer is rich and complex, with roasted fruit and caramel notes and a smoky bitterness in the finish, yet with a light carbonation that makes it lithe in the mouth.  Fourteen dollars gets a 12.7-oz. bottle.

And then, the beer that pleases the chef most: the “Nora Birra Baladin” from Piedmont.  It’s made by Teo Musso, a winemaker’s son, whom Chef Morello describes as one of the superstars of the Italian microbrew movement.  Presented in a beautiful, 1-1/2 pint bottle for $21, it’s made from organic wheat and is balanced, brilliant and mouth-filling.  “This is more elegant, it has more finesse, and it’s very drinkable,” says the chef.

Chef Morello knows that price point plays a role in featuring these special brews on his menus.  “Look at this packaging,” says the chef, holding up the bottle of Baladin.  “Just the glass alone can cost one euro.”  He says he keeps his markup slim by design; the $21 Baladin means a $2 profit for the Morellos, not counting the expense involved with driving down the California coast to pick up their shipments.

“But it’s because I want people to try them” he insists.  “It’s the extra mile we go to offer novelty here and to make our customers happy.”

Olio Pizzeria and Olio e Limone Ristorante
11 W. Victoria Street, Santa Barbara

Blog: A Day in Santa Barbara Wine Country With the Kids

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I’m no stranger to Santa Barbara wine country; I love the periodic winemaker visit or wine-driven meal with my wife.  But this being the first weekend of our kids’ summer vacation, wine was not on the agenda today.  Instead, we made the drive across the fog line on Highway 154 and – 40 minutes north of downtown Santa Barbara – drove onto Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch.  This property always draws stares from passers-by hopscotching through tasting rooms; the bonsai horses are an awesome sight.  We stopped by and tried and got lucky when we tried our luck at petting what must have been a couple of foals no more than a few days old.  The visit – free everyday from 10am to 3pm – is worth it for the kids’ oohs and aahs, and the dozen or so picture-worthy moments.

Solvang is a 5-minute drive away, and the Danish town (which celebrated its centennial just last year) offered us a chance to scoop up some ice cream and stroll through the busy streets laden with quirky shops and bakeries.  No stopping at any of the dozen-plus wine tasting rooms today.

We took Highway 246 toward Buellton and, five minutes later (and just before hitting Hitching Post II) found ourselves at the aptly named Ostrich Land.  A hundred birds in all – 80 ostriches and 20 emus – and, for $12, the chance for two adults and two kids to walk around with two serving trays of food.  Ostriches are not dainty eaters; some will peck aggressively at the food, so we had our wits about us.  But the kids got a real kick, and an education (ostriches are from Africa and emus hail from Down Under).  We held an ostrich egg – a hefty four pounds and the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs when you crack them open – but left buying one for another time.

We made our way back home by taking the 101 South, though not before stopping by to hand-pick strawberries at Classic Organic; we accessed this farm by following the signs for Nojoqui Park, about four miles south of Buellton.  These berries were sparkling red, juicy and delicious.  Handpicking your own berries beats even the loftiest farmers’ market.  We picked three pints at $3 apiece and nabbed giant homegrown garlic for another buck. 

A fantastic afternoon – a five hour commitment in all – before arriving at home in quaint Carpinteria, where the sun sparkled bright on the beautiful blue Pacific.

Grape Doesn't Fall Far From Vine: Winemakers Follow in Dads' Footsteps

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on June 7, 2012)

I was lucky to have been very close to my dad.  Although, as a child, I always thought I’d go into the medical field, too, I didn’t follow in his footsteps, professionally.  In the things that matter most, though, I’m lucky to have had the perfect model.

Chris and Drake Whitcraft
But in the local wine scene, a handful of young men and women have, in fact, taken a cue from Dad.  They’ve at least been inspired by their old man to consider a career in crafting wine.  We reflected on this when I joined Chris Whitcraft and his son, Drake, over a few glasses of pinot noir at Whitcraft Winery’s downtown Santa Barbara facility last week.

“Sometimes when you make wine with your son, you butt heads so much, you split up,” admits the older Whitcraft, a veritable pioneer in the Santa Barbara wine scene who’s been making the stuff since the early 70s.  He pauses to sniff and sip his son’s 2009 Morning Dew Ranch pinot, an elegant, Burgundy-inspired red with an explosion of rose petals on the nose; the fruit was sourced from the Anderson Valley vineyard of pinot luminary (and longtime Whitcraft family friend) Burt Williams.

“Wow, good job,” he says, sincerely.

“I just didn’t mess it up,” responds Drake, matter of factly.

In that sense, Drake is, in fact, a lot like his father.  They both have a very natural, hands-off approach to winemaking.  They opt for no chemicals, no filtering and no pumping.  They use only natural yeasts.  They sort by hand and stomp by foot.  And their 100% gravity bottling line is a reflection of a no-electricity philosophy that aims to produce the purest renditions of any wine.  “Wine should not be (messed) with,” declares Chris (using a far more colorful expletive than ‘messed’).  “Buy great grapes and don’t (mess) with it,” echoes Drake.

And he adds: “I’m a transparent winemaker, I make wines all the same,” asserts Drake.  “It’s Mother Nature that gives them their quirks.”

He says this as he pours us his 2009 Rancho Santa Rosa pinot, sourced in the Lompoc-adjacent Santa Rita Hills.  Same pinot noir clone as the Morning Dew, same winemaking technique.  But a totally different wine, with a comparatively soft, fleshy, rich mouth feel. Drake mentions he has only 20 cases of this wine left to sell.  His dad savors this wine, too, and enjoys it immensely.  And I can tell he’s proud.

When Chris opened his winery along Calle Cesar Chavez in 2006, he had a 10-year plan to grow his label.  But when severe cancer-related health issues hit less than two years later, projections were put on hold, and Drake intervened.  The now-30-year-old, who was introduced to periodic tastes of wine as a child and who started helping his dad with the physical demands of the winery at the age of 11, always intended to get into the family business.  “But it happened a lot sooner because of his health,” he admits.  The Whitcraft wines from the 2008 vintage and beyond are all the handiwork of Drake.

Yes, there has been some butting of heads, especially when it comes to the way business is run.  Drake, who describes his dad’s former approach to commerce as “old school,” has focused sharply on customer relations and promotion, doing outreach through multiple social media platforms and, just 2-1/2 years ago, launching a wine club that now ships regularly to some 250 members. 

He’s also shrunk production – a testament to varying yearly fruit yields and shifting consumer demand. Chris’ output averaged 3000 cases in the early 2000s, half of that chardonnay.  Drake made 1100 cases in 2009, none in 2010 and 500 in 2011, and he’s aiming to focus much more on reds, and reds the Whitcraft label has not historically produced, like syrah and grenache.

But in the essentials, there’s agreement.  Drake tells me, “Our wine is a hand sell.  You can’t expect people to always like you.  You have to work.”  And Chris nods throughout.

The Whitcrafts may be a quintessential father-child relationship in the young history of Santa Barbara winemaking.  But there are others.  Jennifer Gehrs launched her Vixen Wines line, with a Rhone focus, about a decade ago; she put the project on hold in 2007 after she got married and moved to Nebraska. But, all along, her mentor was her talented dad, whose Los Olivos tasting room – Daniel Gehrs Wines – still sells some of the remaining Vixen reds.  Ethan and Luke Lindquist of No Limit Wines can draw inspiration from their father, esteemed pioneer and QupĂ© winemaker Bob Lindquist.  And then there are the Parkers; vintner Fess Parker’s winemaker son Eli gains continued acclaim with his Epiphany label while winemaker granddaughter (and Eli’s daughter) Tessa is making a splash with her new Tessa Marie line of wines.

The Carhartt Family
While visiting the Santa Ynez Valley this past weekend, I spent time with the Carhartts, whose Los Olivos tasting room – purportedly the smallest in the world at just 99 square feet – is always buzzing.  Brooke who makes the stellar wine, and husband Mike, who manages the vineyard and pours regularly, are now being joined by son, Chase.  The 24-year-old is graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this weekend and plans on putting his fresh enology know-how to work for the family’s label.  His dad watches on with pride as Chase speaks passionately about their wines with visitors in the charming outdoor patio.  “He never ceases to amaze me,” he tells me.

And at dinner at the Ballard Inn, I ran into Foxen co-founder and winemaker Bill Wathen, whose family feasted in celebration of daughter Riley’s return from the wine grape harvest in New Zealand, after having graduated from UCSB.  In such good spirits was dad, that samples of a couple of just-released Foxen wines --  a 2009 pinot noir and a 2009 Rhone blend, both balanced and luscious – kept making their way to our table.  Time will tell how the younger Wathen will put her newly gained skills to works on this side of the equator.

Drake Whitcraft, I find out, also spent time Down Under – in Australia in 2005 and 2006 – as part of his winemaking education.  He’s pouring a 2009 nebbiolo for me now, from a yet-to-be-labeled bottle; it’s made from Stolpman Vineyard fruit that has since been pulled.  Fruit-forward on the nose, tannic and delicious, it’ll be released to the public in about nine months.  I compliment him on it.  And his dad beams.

Gabe Saglie is proud of two accomplishments most – his sons Gabriel, age 6, and Greyson, age 4 – and counts them as blessings every day.  He’s also senior editor for  You can reach him via email at