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.
If you've been into the winery in the past few weeks, you've been enthusiastically told by our staff about our new cheese plates. We're so excited to serve up our new platters because we're in love with the product, and because we took a major part in the crafting of the menu. Each cheese has an ideal pair to every wine on the menu, to which our own tastebuds can attest. It would only be fair to let you in on the magic of our pairings and give an exposè of all our new delectable cheeses. Here, we have them listed in descending order from mild to wild.
P'tit Basque- We start off our cheese menu with this smooth, buttery number. This is a sheep's milk cheese from the Pyrenees Mountains in France. Nicknamed the crème brulee of cheese, P'tit Basque has a nutty flavor with caramel undertones and pairs well with fruits, which just so happen to be a part of our cheese plate. We recommend it as an accompaniment to both of our Rosès.
Snofrisk- Meaning "snow fresh" in Norway, its country of origin, Snofrisk is a rich and tangy goat's milk cheese with a surprising freshness. It is pure, slightly acidic, and pliable, as the name suggests. Fun fact: it was first introduced at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. It really shines next to our Pinot Grigio, as both are crisp and tart.
Great Ocean Road Cheddar- This Australian cheddar is sharp and crisp. Aptly named after the Aussie wind, Great Ocean Road, this cheese pairs perfectly next to fruits and meats alike, and complements our 2012 Chardonnay.
Seascape- Just like our wines, Seascape is produced in the Central Coast of California. It is a goat and cow milk blend in a cheddar style, making it somewhat crumbly with a complex tanginess. It is versatile as part of a charcuterie. We recommend trying it with our 2013 Old Vine Chardonnay.
Caña de Oveja- This Spanish cheese, literally translating to "Log of Sheep," is a crumbly sheep's milk cheese with intense flavors of tangy butter, a product of its 21-day aging process. While typically a good match for white wines, we adored this next to both our Pinot Noirs.
Mon Sire Brie- This triple cream brie cheese from France is rich, creamy, and supple. It is amazing when spread over a bread or cracker, and goes perfectly alongside fresh fruit. We recommend you try it alongside our spicy and fruity Grenaches.
Cambozola Black Label- Aged six months in Bavaria, this German bleu cheese is actually created in a brie-style. It's aging process gives in earthy blue tones with nutty, buttery flavors, and complex, grey rind, and a smooth, creamy texture. This cheese was a great pair with our 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, although it can also be put next to a crisper wine as well.
Tete de Moine- This Swiss cheese is one of the strongest on the market. From a centuries old recipe, Tete de Moine offers a sharp, nutty, and woodsy taste with heavy fruit aspects. It pairs well with prosciutto and fruity, intense wines. We enjoyed it alongside our Merlot and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cacionerone- The last of our cheese selections, Cacionerone is an Italian cow and buffalo's milk cheese in a parmigiano style. It is mild, sweet, and flavorful. This hard cheese worked wonders with our Zinfandel.
So now, with a well-informed mind and excited palate, you can head over to Seal Beach Winery and try our new cheese plate. They come in four sizes (three or five cheeses, with our without meat), and add an amazing dimension to our wine selections.
Appellation: Los Olivos District
Location: Estelle is the most Northeast of the vineyards that make up the Los Olivos District. It sits in its own corner abutting the Happy Canyon AVA.
Grape Varieties: Albariño, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Loureiro, Merlot, Mouvedre, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Verdehlo and Viognier.
Soil: Well-drained, fine, sandy loam with a clay subsoil. Fairly broad alluvial bench underlain by terrace deposits of Orcutt sand.
Climate: Mediterranean with cool wet winters and warm dry summers. The juxtaposition to the Pacific Ocean provides cooling coastal winds and morning fog. Los Olivos is warmer than its neighbor Ballard Canyon but more temperate that its eastern Happy Canyon.
Topography: The front vineyard is relatively flat with a south-facing alluvial plain. The back (Block 8&9) has a moderately sloping terrain.
Seal Beach Winery has been working with Estelle Vineyard since 2009. The first vintage was a blend of several Blocks. Presently we are working with Cabernet Sauvignon in Blocks 8 (Clone 337), Block13 (Clone 341), Block 14 (Clone 101) and Block 16 (Clone 338).
In 2016, we added Merlot Clone 181 in Block 12 and Sangiovese Clone 3 in Block 2A.
The vineyard is meticulously cared for by John and Ivan Belfy. John planted Estelle and many of the vineyards within the Santa Ynez Valley. The perfect marrying of Scion Clone, Rootstock Clone (second number after the dash—110R), soil and climate is an art form that is mystifyingly difficult and defined by an infinite number of variables. The vineyards are immaculately farmed with old school trellising and overcrops but app loaded continuous satellite monitoring. At harvest, the grapes are always beautiful and hardly require any sorting whatsoever.
It is viticulture as described above that makes the winemaking so easy. Just don’t screw it up! Is the definition of Estelle Cabernet. Crush and De-stem, into the fermenters, inoculate, press and age in barrels. It is that simple.
Merlot is blended into the Cabernet Clone Cuvee that we make. It is planned to have its own varietal bottling as well. The Sangiovese has been offered as a Growler wine but in the future we will be bottling this wine.
The overall intensity, varietal expression and vinified complexity set the character of Estelle Wines. Having a leaner fruit style than neighboring Happy Canyon but an uniform soil type allows great balance and long term aging.
SBW has long term contracts with Estelle Vineyard and a commitment to the Cabernet Project. Estelle has been with us from the beginning and will be there as we evolve into future. Expect many new blends for the Growlers and Bottled Varietals with Estelle Grapes defining the high quality that we strive to achieve in every Vintage.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 101 To Be Released
2015 Sangiovese (Growler) To Be Released
2015 Grenache (Growler) To Be Released
I was lost in a spiral of texture and flavor, engulfed in the swirl of wine and cheese that filled my mouth. I tasted each little sample of cheese in front of me—hard cheeses, soft cheeses, cow, goat, and sheep cheeses—and I tried my hardest to transfer notes from my tongue to paper. I fought to distinguish fruit and floral flavors in the wine, creaminess and nuttiness in the cheese, and sought to understand the perfect juxtaposition of flavors that made each shine.
This was the beginning of my foray into the world of cheese and wine pairing. When we at Seal Beach Winery had a staff meeting at Cheese Addiction in Long Beach, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve always had a love of wine, and I’ve been an avid cheese eater since I was young, but perfectly melding those experiences was only something I’d dabbled in when trying to impress friends and dates with homemade charcuterie assembled from grocery store cheese and crackers. And being brand new at the winery, I was afraid I would be out of my depth.
But here I was, happily nibbling on corners of cheese and suckling sips of wine, actually understanding how the flavors of each intersected. I noticed how notes in the cheese really left some wine flat. I observed strange aftertastes that didn’t exist with other pairings. I discovered on my own, but only because I chose to disregard emphatic advice, that Ginger Mango Stilton really has no business being paired with white wine. I tasted the most brilliant combination of Creamy Truffle Brie and Grenache, which, for me, was certainly the highlight of the night. I felt a spark light inside me after finding the truly perfect cheese for each wine on the menu, and similarly proud of myself when I could immediately tell that a combination we chose to test was just not going to work the way we had anticipated.
After a long night of diligently trying cheese and laboriously sipping on wine, the staffs of Seal Beach Winery and Cheese Addiction eventually crafted an amazing cheese menu with ideal pairings for each of the wines we offer. Since then, our cheese plates have morphed into amazingly catered creations with cheese selections based on the wine in front of our customers. They are gorgeously lined with artisanal crackers and rich servings of Italian meats, and are created with the knowledge and experience we gleaned from the best staff meeting that’s ever happened anywhere.
Making the Season Even Better With Growlers from Seal Beach Winery
It's Southern California, and we are in the thick of summer. That means it's time for outdoor picnics, afternoons on the sun-sparkling beach, restful days along the side of the pool, and concerts in the park. Everyone who lives in this vibrant area knows about the activities that these sunny skies open up for us—and we certainly take advantage of these opportunities as they come. But does anyone wish that their wine was portable enough to keep up with this wide range of activities?
Anybody who has tried to open a bottle of wine at the beach will attest to how difficult it is to yank a cork from a bottle while trying to balance it on sand, never mind protecting their precious wine while the wind violently blows particles into the bottle. A bigger issue is conspicuously twisting a corkscrew into a full bottle in an open area, feeling uncomfortable under the judging glares of the casual beer can drinkers around them.
So what is a wino supposed to do when summer rolls around in Southern California? At Seal Beach Winery, we think we have a solution that makes it a little bit easier to enjoy great wines—our growler program. With six unique wine options to fill up with and take home, along with the ease and versatility of the growler and growler bags themselves, it's a simple and elegant way to enjoy a glass of wine in the summer heat.
Beginning your foray into our growler program is simple: just stop by the winery and pick up your choice of a 1 liter or 1.9 liter glass growler for $9, which are refillable at any time. Or, if you're looking for a one-time use item to bring along to a BBQ or event, you can get a 1.5 liter growler bag, which retains the freshness of the wine inside for months, even after opening. These bags are filled to the brim and equipped with a spout for immediate and easy pouring. All of these options can be filled with any of our six growler wines.
What are those wines? While they are in constant rotation, our current lineup is:
Rosé of Grenache- A beautifully floral blush with summertime flavors of watermelon and strawberry. This is our only rosé selection for our growlers, and is ideal for enjoying on a sunny, hot day.
Pinot Noir- From the beachside Derbyshire Vineyard in San Simeon, these grapes grow within a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean. Its intense, dark cherry flavors can be combined with a number of activities and foods.
Merlot- Our deep and sophisticated Merlot is a little dark for summer heat, but perfect for those nights by the pool or on the patio.
Cabernet Sauvignon- This rich Cabernet packs huge amounts of fruit and vanilla with a long finish. It's perfect for summer dinner on the deck or staying at home with a home-cooked meal.
Barbera- This brand new edition to our growler lineup is young, but incredibly drinkable and bold. Its bright cherry flavors really complement a brisk summer night.
By getting our growler, you'll have access to any of these options, available to fill at any time we're open. There's also the added benefit or alleviating the Earth of some of the waste that goes into the typical glass wine bottle, but we know that's not the real reason you're getting one of our growlers the next time you stop by and visit us.
The flowers have set and budbreak is upon us. We now have a little tiny grapes making up little clusters. These green clusters will continue to grow, accumulate sugar and respire acid until Veraison; when they change color to white or Red. This is usually in mid-July.
The 2015 vintage was most representative of the California drought. The vines were stressed from a very early time period. The lack of water starved the vines and reduced yield. To compound this problem, an early Spring wind blew at the time of flowering. Flowers are very delicate and wind can blow the flowers off the vine. The flowers after pollination are what produces grape clusters. So this wind essentially thinned or reduce the clusters, which meant less grapes per vine. This reduced the overall yield.
In this Terroir, the stressed vines tend to produce small berries, less grapes per cluster and less clusters per vine.
On the bright side, this has produced fantastic wine. Dark, rich and concentrated Pinot Noir and Cabernet highlight an excellent vintage. Into 2015, we also added Petite Verdot, Merlot and we are doing our second year of Tempranillo. The Syrah on the hilltop Vineyard of Harrison-Clarke again produced amazingly rich wines with layers of depth.
Our newest addition to the Seal Beach Winery portfolio is the Natalie Grace 2012 Grenache from Alisos Vineyard. We have been working in this Vineyard since 2008. Later this year we will release the 2012 Syrah from Alisos Vineyard. We also have a new Viognier from Brickbarn vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley AVA. In August we will be bottling 2015 Chardonnay and the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 337 Estelle Vineyard Los Olivos District AVA. On June 4th, we had our first Winemaker's Dinner at Delius Restaurant in Long Beach. Everyone had a great time with wonderful Wine and Food pairings. That was the night we first offered our latest Futures purchase.
Now for a limited time, the 2014 Cabernet Clone 337 Estelle Vineyard Los Olivos District AVA is for sale in barrel. Each case of 12 bottles is offered for $300, well below the retail price of $480 and the Wine Club discounted price of $324. But this deal will be done when the wine is moved from barrel to bottle in August 2016; so if you are interested act now.
Much variety will be found in our Reds from 2014: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Syrah. Look for these wines to release throughout 2017.
As Summer nears, we are about to have our thousandth fill for each of the 1.0L & 1.9L growlers. This is an extremely popular program and if you are a Wine Club member and not yet a Growler member I encourage you to look into this further. We just added a 1.5 L disposable growler this year. It has a very low environmental profile made from recycled materials and completely is recyclable itself. It has an airtight spout dispensing system, that will keep your wine fresh as long as you drink it. Look forward to many new growler additions in the second half of 2015: Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Petite Syrah, Rosé of Grenache, Barbera, a Rhône blend of Grenache & Syrah, and many others. My plan is to have six different growler wines to choose from at all times.
Seal Beach Winery🍷 has recently redone their entire Internet site. Our website is now mobile enabled and we have links to all of our social platforms. This ease-of-use and modern update makes the website beautiful and very functional. In addition, we have a new point-of-sale software that will help serve you better with direct table-side service.
Hope to see you soon,