Altipiano Vineyard & Winery Reaches New Heights!

IMG_7517Happenstance brought me to Altipiano Vineyard & Winery in Escondido.  Eager to pursue the many wineries springing up in the Ramona Valley AVA, I ventured out and much to my surprise, found this boutique winery off Highland Valley Road, just a few miles from  San Diego.


Altipiano Vineyard & Winery was  aptly named.  Alti, (a variation of the word Alto) and the word piano,  roughly translates from the Italian words meaning  “Upper Plateau” ~ which is the ideal descriptor for the views off the back patio which overlook the dancing vines and the majestic valley below.


Peter and Denise Clarke are the owners of Altipiano Vineyard & Winery and are always on hand to personally welcome guests in the tasting room.   Denise is the winemaker and has just released her first estate wines ~   2010 Estate Brunello Sangiovese,  2012 Estate Barbera and  2012 Nero D’Avola.  


Mentored by master wine makers throughout California, Denise takes to winemaking like a duck to water.  She is enthusiastic, spirited, educated and willing to take risks to make the very best wines.  Until this vintage, the Clarke’s purchased grapes from other areas to round out the tasting menu.  It will be an exciting journey watching Denise evolve into an artisan winemaker.   Upon meeting Peter and Denise, you’re treated as “family” which makes the wine tasting experience that much richer.


This weekend marks the 2014 grape harvest, or vendemmia, which means that there will be more great wines to look forward to in the coming years!    Altipiano Vineyard & Winery is open Friday through Sunday and offers tours by appointment.   Salute!  


High In The Vines At Sta Rita Hills’ Babcock Winery


After the 2014 Wine Blogger’s Conference in Santa Barbara Wine Country in July, I had the pleasure of accepting an invite from Bryan Babcock, winemaker extraordinaire of Babcock Winery, to tour the vineyards.  Bryan spoke at the closing dinner of the conference about his revolutionary Pedestral Cane Positioning.  Curiosity got the better me, so I decided to check it out for myself.


When you meet Bryan, there’s a “McGiver” type glint in his eye.  Bryan has been farming grapes in the Sta Rita Hills AVA for over three decades with great success. It is no surprise that he is now pioneering a new farming technique, which he refers to as Pedestral Cane Positioning or Canopy Pivoting.  This innovative technique works with gravity and allows the canopy of leaves to spill toward the ground as it grows, keeping the clusters above the leaves.


In addition, a shade cloth-type canopy shields the grapes from the sun when needed. This type of trellising system, combined with the wind and gravity has led to substantial labor-saving costs.

IMG_7393Touring the vineyards with Bryan was something I will not forget.  Bryan’s passion for the land and his vines was evident ~ he is truly a remarkable winemaker and trendsetter.


Babcock Winery is tucked off Highway 246 in Lompoc, in the heart of the Sta Rita Hills AVA.  Over 65 acres are dedicated to Pinot Noir grapes, his flagship award-winning wine. In addition, Babcock Winery also produces stellar Chardonnay.  For starters, the 2012 Top Cream Chardonnay is really lovely and opens with a toasty meringue pear nose with a dash of minerality.

newTRbar1 Pinot lovers are in for a spectacular tasting of the estate’s finest wines.  A personal favorite of mine is the 2012 Microcosm Pinot Noir from Rancho La Vina in Sta Rita Hills, a spellbinding single block Pinot Noir, deep ruby-red, youthful with bright cherry undertones.  Yet, the 2012 Slice of Heaven Pinot Noir, Rita’s Crown Vineyard, rated 91 points by WIne Enthusiast, is especially daunting ~ a proprietary blend of the 667 and 777 Pinot Noir Clones.   Hands down, Babcock Winery’s Pinot Noirs are some of the best in California  and are sure to please the most discerning Pinot lovers.


Santa Ynez’s Bridlewood Estate Winery Is Totally Mesmerizing!

IMG_7276 From the moment you enter the 105 acre property through the wrought iron gates, time seems to stand still.  A grove of arched trees line the long driveway and lead to the stately entrance of the mission-style Bridlewood Estate Winery in Santa Ynez.

IMG_7285The grounds are immaculately groomed with unsurpassed panoramic views of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the San Raphael Mountains and the Purisma Hills.  The site of the Bridlewood Estate Winery was previously a rehabilitation center for race horses and still houses a full exercise track that circles the lake and vineyards.


Guests are welcome to take a bottle of wine and a picnic lunch and relax under the shade trees by the lake or to take in the view on the upper terrace overlooking the lake.


Bridlewood Estate Winery features an eclectic selection of Central Coast AVA blends, Estate Syrah and Zinfandel and Monterey County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Of particular note is the 2012 Reserve Viognier from Santa Barbara AVA.  Wafts of honeysuckle, orange blossoms and vanilla meet the nose in this Viognier from Volgelzang Ranch in nearby Happy Canyon AVA.


The 2012  Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve Chardonnay from Monterey County Chardonnay is fruit forward with flavors of pear, honey and lemony citrus tones with a creamy, mouth-filling texture ~ an excellent pairing for shellfish, pate or fresh fruits.

IMG_7292On the darker side, the 2012 Santa Rita Hills Reserve Pinot Noir is spicy, yet floral with notes of cranberry, mushroom and dark cola flavors.  And for the Syrah lover, the  2009 Estate Syrah has layers and layers of flavor. Aromas of licorice and spice are followed by flavors of melted chocolate and dried cherry, forming a nice, round palate.

IMG_7272 Carriage rides are offered around the pristine property for a nominal fee.  Bridlewood Estate Winery is truly a sight to behold with wines that rival the best in the Santa Ynez AVA.  To plan your visit, check out


Great Rounds Of Applause To The Sponsors Of WBC14!

WBC14-1.800 I would like to truly thank all the SPONSORS of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference who made this event possible.   Thanks to your support and generosity, more than 350 wine bloggers from all parts of the world were able to converge in the pristine Santa Barbara Wine Country for an unforgettable weekend in the vines.


As a Scholarship recipient, and a   first time attendee of the Wine Bloggers Conference, I must say, that it was far better than I could have hoped for and a little overwhelming at the same time.


To be in the presence of noted fellow wine bloggers and industry experts and top local wine makers was beyond fabulous!  zephyr



Looking back, one of my favorite parts of the conference, however, was meeting the Santa Barbara County wine makers.

IMG_6732I must admit that I was literally awestruck mingling among the legendary wine makers only to find out that they’re very genuine, down-to-earth people who loved to share their passion of making wine.  Best of all, there was no pretense or awkwardness as they each shared their humble beginnings and triumphs, only great pride.


Discovering the Ballard Canyon AVA through the eyes of the vintners was also very exciting   ~ I look forward to following the new AVA and and to supporting these fine Syrah wine makers.  We were fortunate to taste eight Syrahs, all which exhibited the earthy, full-bodied essence of the Ballard Canyon AVA.

imagesEvery aspect of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference was a class act!  The Friday night mystery wine excursion was absolutely priceless!  I was elated to be on the mystery bus to the Melville Vineyard & Winery where a host of eight Santa Rita Hills vintners personally poured vertical tastings of their finest 2007, 2009 and 2011 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


Thank you to all of the sponsors of the Live Wine Blogging events – both white wine and red wines!  Wine presenters had five minutes to pour and describe the wine.

Wine Bloggers had five minutes to taste the wines and tweet their reviews on Twitter to #WBC14.


Kudos to the White Wine Sponsors ~ 

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard @FollowFess Cornerstone Cellars  @CraigCamp BevMo @BevMo Hope Family Wines @hopefamilywines J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines @JLohrWines

Wente Family Estates @Wente Grassini @GrassiniWines Ferrari-Carano Winery @ferraricarano Ramey Wine Cellars @RameyWineCellar Danza del Sol Vineyard & Winery  Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard Jordan @JordanWinery

Rios de Chile @Rios_de_Chile Marianello, Consilience, & Tre Anelli Wines   @SIPtheGoodLife Bandit @BanditWines Taken Bianchi Winery  @binachiwinery Gypsy Canyon Winery  @DHallPinot Yorkville Cellars  @YorkvilleWinery J Wine @JWinery Maryhill Winery @MaryhillWinery Agnitio Wines

Concept Wine Group Charles Krug @charleskrugwine Aridus Wine Co @ariduswineco Banfi @BanfiWines Uproot Wines @DrinkUproot

E2 Family Winery E2FamilyWineryWesterly Wines @WesterlyWines Alta Maria @AltaMariaWine Urban Legend Cellars @ulcellars Terravant

 Kudos to the Red Wine Sponsors ~ 

Tantara Coquelicot Wines @coquelicotwine Cornerstone Cellars @CraigCamp BevMo @BevMo J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines @JLohrWines Davis Bynum Wines @DavisBynumWines Alexander Valley Vineyards @avvwinery Urban Legend Cellars @ulcellars Grassini @GrassiniWines Carr Winery @CarrWinery Ferrari-Carano Winery @ferraricaranoDanza del Sol Vineyard & Winery

Adelaida Cellars @AdelaidaCellars Jordan @JordanWinery  Pacific Wine Group Vineyard 511 @vineyard511 Garnett Vineyards @GarnetVineyards Marianello, Consilience, & Tre Anelli Wines Brecon Estate @BreconEstate Labyrinth Winery @LabyrinthWine Bandit @BanditWines Taken @takenWINE Trione Winery @TrioneWinery Bianchi Winery @binachiwinery

Gypsy Canyon Winery @DHallPinot Maryhill Winery @MaryhillWinery Charles Krug @charleskrugwine Ottimino @ottiminowines Casey Flat

Ranch Aridus Wine Co @ariduswineco Banfi Punch Vineyards Wines of Georgia @GeorgiaWineUSA Westerly Wines @WesterlyWines

IMG_6765Thank you to ALL the Sponsors for making the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference Memorable in every way!   Salute~

Day Three ~ 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference: It’s a Wrap!


These wine bloggers are a stealthy bunch of writers and wine drinkers!  Between the Wine Discovery breakout sessions, to the speed wine tastings, through the 2014 Wine Bloggers Awards 3-course dinner, Santa Barbara County Wines flowed freely.

IMG_5938Wrapping up the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference with the coveted Wine Writer’s Workshop where a select group of 45 wine bloggers will have writing samples critiqued.


Next year’s Wine Blogging Conference will be held in the Finger Lakes region of mid-state New York!  Besides connecting with wine bloggers from all over the world during the last three days, I was fortunate to have tasted wines from all over the world as well.  Santa Barbara County Wine Country is an amazing place with outstanding wines ~ I’m lucky to live within driving distance to get my fix anytime!



Day Two: 2014 Wine Blogger Conference In Santa Barbara Wine Country

IMG_6920So many wines, so little time!  Yesterday was an amazing event-filled day at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference.  The highlight of the day was the evening mystery excursion.  WIne Bloggers were loaded on small buses and taken to various undisclosed locations in the Santa Barbara Wine Country.


I was beyond excited to end up at Melville Vineyards, off Highway 246 in Lompoc.  Chad Melville personally greeted 40 bloggers and gave us a working knowledge of the terroir of the Santa Rita Hills AVA.  I will write a separate blog highlighting this very special evening!


We were given a tour of Melville Vineyards barrel room and romanced with vertical wine tastings (2007, 2009 and 2011) of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from eight renown Santa Rita Hills vintners.

WBC14-1.800Day Two of the 2014 WBC features three one hour breakout sessions.  WIne bloggers can choose to learn about  The Business of Wine, The Business of Blogging, Terroir of Santa Barbara County, The US Wine Consumer, Wine Certifications, or Wine Discovery of the Santa Rita Hills AVA, Ballard Canyon AVA or New Wines of Greece.

The afternoon will include Live Red WIne Blogging, a panel of print wine writers, a Wines of the World reception and dinner with the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association.  More to come..

2014 Wine Blogger Conference Opens Today In Santa Barbara Wine Country!

IMG_7018Day One of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference is finally here!  Over 350 wine bloggers will kickstart the conference at the Marriott Hotel in Buellton this morning with Discover Portugal: Influences Around the World, A food and wine pairing brunch hosted by Wines of Portugal.


Keynote speaker, Corbett Barr of Fizzle, will welcome the wine bloggers  to the pristine Santa Barbara Wine Country.   Other afternoon sessions include a panel of Santa Barbara Country Winemakers, Live Wine Blogging (whites and roses), Wine Discovery breakout sessions featuring Rutherford Hill and Duckhorn Wineries – #MerlotMe, Winebows When The Sum Is Greater Than Its Parts:  Wine Blends From Around The World and Jackson Family WinesHow The Pros Taste.

IMG_6949Topping off the day will be mystery excursions in small groups to local wineries and vineyards.  Wine Bloggers will hop on buses to vineyards in the Ballard Canyon AVA, Santa Ynez AVA, Happy Canyon AVA,  Santa Maria AVA, Santa Rita Hills AVA to be treated with wine and food pairings by groups of neighboring vintners.

IMG_7042Opening day at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference is guaranteed to be “barrels of fun”.  Words of wisdom from fellow wine bloggers who have attended the conference in previous years….  Spit, drink lots of water,  spit, laugh often, spit and network.  Did I say spit?  Tonight’s reception will be Wine Tourism Throughout North America, hosted  by Touring & Tasting Marketing and Media~ the perfect opportunity to relax and mingle, and to enjoy a glass or two of wine with fellow wine aficionados.

WBC14-1.800 Stay tuned for tomorrow’s events.  Follow me on Twitter @debmines and on Uncorked Wine Travels’ Facebook page.