It's certainly difficult to find food that isn't improved by a well-paired wine. Restaurants, bistros, and bars everywhere are created around this simple concept. Even our tasting room at Seal Beach Winery is stocked full of wines that, while vivacious and inviting in their own right, simply make food better--our dry roses cut through sweet and spicy flavors alike, our full-bodied reds make meat juicier and spicier, and our whites play up the more delicate aspects of our fish and seafoods. It's a shame that we don't often get to showcase just how well our wines pair with flavors and spices of all varieties. This October 1st, however, marks the date of an amazing opporunity to pair our wines and, to be sure, have an immense amount of fun.
I'm speaking, of course, about the Popcorn Pairing Palooza held right in our tasting room, when we'll be crafting gourmet popcorns with fresh herbs and spices (and heaps of melted butter!) that are designed to showcase the versatility and beauty of our wine menu. We're keeping the exact flavors our secret for right now, but there will for sure be a little something for every palate and every glass of wine.
When you walk in the door, you'll be greeted by the scent of freshly popped, buttered popcorn. You'll be directed towards several station where you'll be able to taste six of our different wines and a matching popcorn sample, which will help you become informed when you decide which glass of wine and bag of popcorn you'd like to settle in with.
During the event, we'll also be raffling off a growler filled with our Derbyshire Pinot Noir. Your entry will be included with your ticket, and winning this raffle will give you access to our growler program if you're not already filling up your growlers.
Classier than your average carrnival, tickets to the party are a steal at $5 a piece. However, these will be limited, so make sure to stop by the winery to pick one up. We're sure you were coming by for a tasting anyway.
One morning I was traversing the route between breakfast at Bob's Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos and the Winery's Crush-pad in Orcutt, when my gaze fell upon a vineyard climbing up the top of the coastal mountains. Driving down the 135 between bites of ham and cheese croissant washed down with black coffee, I pulled off the road. Where I landed was near a sign that was white with red font: Los Alamos Vineyard. Beginning at the road side the Chardonnay was on the flat ground in a bilateral cordon trellis. Rows of vines extended completely along the flat and inclined slowly up the hillside to very near the acme. The vines wound their way up as far as I could see. This was a very large Vineyard. I was intrigued and decided to explore. It was there that I first met Tavo Acosta, the Vineyard manager. This was an extremely productive vineyard that supplied lots measured in hundreds of tons to multiple famous winery labels. I told him I was looking for something unique and small; not exactly what I was looking at on the main floor of the property. I figured I was asking for something he probably was not normally sought. And, I caught his attention. He said that his place can supply quality fruit in large amounts; and that is how it was planted. However, he knew some sweet spots that were much more with huge potential and a proven track record. Several small lots had already been developed for high end Chardonnay projects by winemakers expressing finesse and Terroir. The top, he says, check out the blocks at the very top.
My first Harvest in Los Alamos was in block 18. I liked this block because it had a history of producing high-quality Chardonnay. There was right next to a very fine winemaker and chef that made Chardonnay that I appreciated. I choose a spot on a steep slope producting fantastic wine in 2015. However, in 2016 I wanted to push the envelope and see if I could find something unique. Hence, I sought something a little different.
After discussing my thoughts with Tavo, he said that he thought he had something for me. It was different in the sense that it was too small to be a part of any of his other main projects. It was only 1.74 acres. It was interesting in that it was isolated: a micro-Terroir. It was Clone 4 on the Freedom Rootstock like Block 18 but the soil, topography and row direction were different. Most importantly, it was completely isolated and would be my own slice of the vineyard; my own block of Chardonnay.
Tavo drove us up to the vineyard top in his 4 x 4 as there was no way we were going to make it without it. It was a bit dicey but we finally reached the top. As we approached the Vineyard there were two things about the top: the view and an unusual tree. From where we stopped, you could look out and could see the entire valley. The 135 now looked like a little tiny stream and cars were specks. It was am amazing expanse of the entire vallley. Second, there was this tree. It sat at the entrance of the vineyard guarding this Block. Tavo said see how it looks like a stag resting on the ground with a wide base and two separate trunks in the front that extend towards the sky. I completely agreed that look like a stag. It looked like a stag guarding my little 1.74 acre curvilinear plot of fascinating Chardonnay.
We got out of the truck he walked down the rows between the trellises. The first thing that crossed my mind is the feel of the ground. Instead of hard, solid ground my feet were sinking; it was sand. There were also several old trees randomly mixed into the vineyard. This was very interesting. The trellis was bilateral cordon with a cracked cane technique: some of the canes were directed below the canopy towards the ground. Healthy, vibrant vines with golden grapes of Chardonnay. They were beautiful. Not one bit of mildew or raisoning. I did not see any problems at all: Strong and healthy, the vine rows ran in an East West direction. They were facing the sun and there was no evidence of any sunburn. Care and time had manicured these immaculate vines. These grapes were unique. I walked around the multi-levels and felt more and more impressed. I felt connected. This is where my Chardonnay was going to grow. Then and there are I told him that this would be the land I would work. This is where I wanted to be long term. It already had a very pruned and low yield which is exactly what I wanted.
Later I was told that area before it became a vineyard was covered in rocks and dirt with nothing growing except for 1.74 acre flat where they grew a crop of flowers. It was the only use of the land in the beginning before the Vineyard was cleared and planted with grapes. This is the reason why I call this Block Flower & Stag.
The first vintage will be 2016. Stay tuned for some amazing Chardonnay.
A polar opposite to last year, Mother Nature is cooperating in 2016. The mornings are much more usual being cool and covering most of Sta. Rita Hills in morning fog. The mid-days are mild with temperatures in the mid 70s for the most part and the late afternoons cooled by ocean breezes. There have been several peaks into the high 80s to low 90s but none of the 100 plus temperature spikes that were quite common in 2015. There is no rain in site, which should play no role whatsoever in the harvesting decisions.
Long, mild days have produced well-balanced ripened grapes. The acidity is normally respirated or lost when the temperature get too high; this is done to help cool the grapes. But this year that has not been a problem and the acidity is well balanced with the continuous and steady increase in sugar. Sugar is important for measuring the ripeness but also directly equates to the amount of alcohol that will be in the final wine product.
First to come off this year was the Pinot Grigio from Runway Vineyard on August 1st. This is always earliest as it is in the Santa Maria AVA (American Viticultural Area) and tends to ripen early. Next we took Pinot Noir from the roadside portion of Rio Vista Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. Acidity was the name of the game for this harvest as these Pinot Noir Clone 667 grapes are destined to become the 2016 Rosé of Pinot. The focus of this wine is minerality, floral notes and light red fruit qualities to provide balance to food and a fine tasting Rosé.
Several weeks later in mid September, the Rio Vista Vineyard from the Hillside Pinot Noir Clone 667 and the lower bluff, Clone 777 were picked to make Pinot Noir red wine. Any day now we will finish with Rio Vista by harvesting the Clone 115 that is tucked away in a small, shady little plot up the road from the main vineyard. Around this time, the Rancho La Viña vineyard Pinot Noir should be nearing ripeness. This vineyard is up on a Hillside and overlooks the entire valley and Santa Rosa Road that splits the sides in half. Pinot Noir in 2016 will be very age-worthy with amazing balance, beautiful perfume noses, minerality and fruit concentration.
Next will be our whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Chardonnay is in Los Alamos Vineyard in Block 20 or Flower & Stag Block. It is in a 1.74 acre separated parcel that is isolated from the rest of the large vineyard. It has its own microclimate and sandy soil; stay tuned for a complete and detailed write up of this vineyard. Many fantastic and famous Chardonnays come from this site. The Sauvignon Blanc is back by popular demand. Many club members have been asking me to make Sauvignon Blanc again but it took me awhile to finally find a vineyard I liked: Two Wolves. This is abutting the Happy Canyon AVA and is the hottest of the microclimates for our wines. Sloping, steep hillside Clone 1 Sauvignon Blanc is just beautiful here and I cannot wait to make wine from this site. Look for Chardonnays with apple and pear flavors aged in oak for creaminess. The Sauvignon Blancs will be lean, with tons of minerality dominated by lots of passion fruit and guava.
After the whites are done will come Harrison-Clarke Vineyard. The upper bluff, soil-starved, stress Estrella Clone Syrah and the flat. lower expanse Alban Clone Syrah will be harvested. Both of these appear to have the perfect balance of acidity, sugar and flavor. It should be an amazing year for these Rhône varietals. I am expected intense blackberry, pepper and cola.
As the season progresses we will Harvest: Cabernet, Malbec and Merlot from Happy Canyon Vineyard, McGinley Vineyard and Tommy Town Vineyard all from the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA. At about the same time the Cabernet and Merlot from Estelle Vineyard should be ready which is located in the newest AVA: Los Olivos District. Late to the party will be the Cabernet Franc (Sanger Vineyard), Petite Sirah (Sanger Vineyard), Sangiovese (Estelle Vineyard) and Tempranillo (Tierra Alta Vineyard). To finish the season will be the Petit Verdot (McGinley Vineyard) and the grand finale the Grenache from Flower & Vine Vineyard (aka Alisos Vineyard).
I will be updating more on the Harvest as it progresses.
Fall ushers in change here in Orange County, indicating that the oppressive rays of the summer sun will shift into, well, slightly less oppressive rays of summer sun. During this season, we trade out iced coffee with pumpkin lattes, tank tops for sweaters, and our ever-running ACs for open windows and whirring fans. While the fall season signifies transitions for everyone, it does so doubly for us at Seal Beach Winery. This fall, we'll be welcoming the addition of several new wines--both by the bottle and as part of our growler program--as well as a long list of new events for our loyal members and new visitors alike to enjoy.
If fall is the season of change here at Seal Beach Winery, then it's certainly kicked off by our Cabernet Franc Release Party. Our new Cab Franc is a beautiful, dark wine with notes of fresh blackberry fruit and a lean, balanced finish featuring a small amount of spice. We've aged it in neutral French oak to truly allow the subtle and silky aspects of this gorgeous wine to shine.
As enticing as that description is on its own, a release party wouldn't be a celebration without food specifically crafted to best exemplify the flavors and aromas of our newest wine. On the menu is a copious amount of cheese from Cheese Addiction, and housemade hors d'oeuvres uniquely formulated to pair with the Cab Franc. These fancy finger foods and rich array of cheeses will not only complement the freshly tapped wine, but will also accompany the ambience of music provided by jazz pianist Reggy Woods.
Moreover, on the day of our release party, we'll be offering an exlusive promotion on growler fills of the Cab Franc (after all, it's the star of the show). On the 17th, if you fill up one growler, you'll be able to fill a second for half off the regular price.
Tickets for this awesome event will only be $5, but they'll run out quickly! If you'd like to take part, you can reserve your spot online or come by the tasting room and get your ticket. Either way, you'll be able to be a part of our first event to kick off this incredible fall season here at Seal Beach Winery.
We all have a stereotypical image of a wine snob. For me, it’s an older man in his business clothes, just back from work, sipping a glass of refined red by a fireplace, using wine as an elixir of relaxation and comfort. You may conjure up a vision of a woman at a restaurant, demanding minute details from a server or sommelier about the wine she wants to accompany her dinner with. In fact, we all probably have preconceived notions about who drinks the most wine and where. The funny thing is, we’re actually all wrong.
According to a yearly survey conducted by the Wine Market Council, millennials are now the most frequent consumers of wine in the United States. In fact, those in their mid-20s are a driving force behind the wine industry, forcing wine makers to vary their selections and create quality products. Since they’re not guzzling down the cheapest products they can find (which, I’m sure, is what we all initially assumed), and they’re also not settling in to the most standard and common varietals, the wine industry is actually given an opportunity to create non-conventional, delicious wines that everyone can enjoy. Moreover, more than just drinking more kinds of wine and more frequently, millennials actually drink the most amount of wine per serving, at an average of 3.1 glasses each time they decide to drink.
Next time you come by the tasting room, take a look around you as you drink your glass or enjoy your tasting. The face of wine is getting younger and younger, and with that comes more exciting variations on wine. Even here at Seal Beach Winery, our offerings are always expanding and aren’t always the most common California varietals, which is made possible by a growing demand from curious drinkers. And, if you’re ever in the market for a gift for a “millennial” friend or relative, remember that, at 3.1 glasses of wine a night, a growler might go over incredibly well.