I was one of thousands in the Los Angeles area hard hit with the warnings about a 53-hour freeway closure to demolish two bridges on the freeway over the weekend. For one month the news media warned everyone to stay away from driving on the stretch of the 405 freeway from the 101 Freeway to the 10 Freeway. Coincidentally, I was going the opposite direction of the freeway closure to Southern California’s riviera, Santa Barbara, some 80 miles away. I had no worries, because my agenda was to take my friends far away to the annual California Wine Festival to sample an array of California wines. (Actually, I had purchased my festival ticket months in advance before the traffic armageddon was announced.) We got lucky. The traffic was unusually light, the weather was picture perfect, and the wines were incredible. The California Wine Festival is still the best big ass wine festival in the Southern California area that showcases an array of California wines from all of California’s wine regions.
I admit that I have faithfully attended the California Wine Festival for many years now. Some 50 plus wineries attended the California Wine Festival yesterday. Among them were the ever-so popular, commercially distributed J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Opolo Vineyards, and Bridlewood Estate Winery whopoured a large selection of their wines. Admittedly, I stayed clear these commercialized wineries so I could focus the boutique wineries that do not have the commercial distribution. It’s not that I don’t love their wines or that I’m not a fan. Oh hell no. It’s not like that at all. As a matter of fact, it’s always my excuse to discover new boutique wineries at a wine festival and plan a future trip with my friends to visit the winery.
In my personal opinion, the boutique wineries have the most talented wine makers and the most unique and respectable California wines around. I especially like finding a boutique wineries at a Festival with a long resume of award winning wines from wine competitions. I particularly still love the single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels at Kenneth Volk Vineyards from Santa Maria, California. I also love the old vine Zinfandel cleverly called the “Wild Thing“ from Carol Shelton Wines from Sonoma County. However, I found a few boutique wineries to add to list of wineries to visit.
Sagebrush Annie’s, nestled just one hour north of the city of Ojai, has remarkable award winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandels. Coincidentally, I found them, because they had one of the longest lines at the festival. I absolutely loved their 2005 Stone Pine Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with plenty dark plum notes, tanned leather undertones, and a well-balanced acidity level.
Of all the boutique wineries that I’ve tasted and spitted by way throughout the festival, it was Klinker Brick Winery that gets my two thumbs up! They have a phenomenal Zinfandel made from a 100 year old Zinfandel grape vine Lodi, California. I tasted both the 2007 and 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel. Both have their unique qualities, but they commonly carry spicy notes with jammy blackberry and ground pepper notes. These vintages are very fruit forward with just the right amount of tannin and acid to give you that gummy, sticky feeling at the back of your tongue. I also love their peppery, fruity, chocolate noted, cigarette spiked 2009 Syrah, which I found just as incredible as their Zinfandels. I tell ya, Lodi in the Sierra Mountain wine region makes still makes solid Zinfandel and Syrah wines, because of the hot sun and heat caresses the grapes so perfectly.
After a few hours of wine tasting, my friends and I were happily satisfied with the California Wine Festival. With a little extra time to kill before our drive back to Los Angeles, we walked some 150 feet to the sandy beach to relax and walk along the water. It couldn’t have been more perfect to attend a wine festival. There were lots of great wines to taste, a good crowd of wine enthusiasts, plenty of food to sample, and cool reggae beats to listen too. You know, the summer is not even halfway done yet. I have no idea what will top this day trip to Santa Barbara, but I hope that it involves remarkable wines again.