San Diego wine aficionados were invited to the 2014 Fall Harvest Wine Symposium & Wine Tasting held at the prestigious rooftop Vintana Wine + Dine restaurant in Escondido last weekend.
The symposium, hosted by Cohn Restaurant Group Beverage Director Maurice DiMarino, featured a panel of seven San Diego County Winemakers and their 2014 barrel samples.
Each winemaker presented a barrel sample and discussed the particular wine presented for tasting with the specific challenges that were encountered in the 2014 growing and harvest season.
In addition to the 2014 barrel samples, the San Diego winemakers showcased previous vintages which were available for tasting and purchase.
Stehleon Vineyards‘ Winemaker Lisa Stehly’s biggest challenge was overcoming the devastation of the vines by hungry deer due to the severe drought conditions. Although the vineyards were destroyed, Stehleon Vineyards were able to harvest 1/2 ton of Sauvignon Blanc from the Valley Center vineyards.
The Stehleon Vineyards 2014 Sauvignon Blanc already exhibits white peach stone fruit, great acidity and luscious fruitiness across the palate. No doubt, this Sauvignon Blanc will continue to evolve before bottling early next year. www.stehleonvineyards.com
Husband and fellow family winemaker, Chris, hand-crafts wines at Vespar Vineyards from the historic McCormick Ranch in Valley Center where Carignan vines have thrived for decades.
Vespar Vineyard’s 2014 Rose, is an unctuous blend of Grenache and Carignan that is cold-fermented with no filter or fining.
The Rose dances with notes of cherry and rose petals, and is aromatic and brimming with fresh acidity from the granitic soil. www.vesparvineyards.com
Unbeknownst to many, San Diego also boasts a number of “urban wineries” such as Vinavanti Urban Winery in Mira Mesa.
Simply known as Eric, Vinavanti‘s winemaker, delighted the eager crowd with his 2014 Viognier. Displaying a bright citrus nose, with lemongrass, pear skin, and elements of honey and lime pith on the palate. A fun sparkling Viognier was available for tasting too.
Vinavanti Urban Winery uses minimal winemaking principles which embrace using the local fruit, spontaneous fermentation, carbonic maceration, no fining or filtering, no oak and the use of screw tops instead of cork. www.vinavanti.com
San Diego’s Ex-Fire Chief, Jeff Bowman, of Screaming Chief is now the chief in his own vineyard, growing Malbec and Cabernet Franc. The name, “Screaming Chief,” is a tribute to firefighting in the 19th century where the commands were fired through the air by none other than the fire chief.
Jeff lamented that the 2014 Grand Cuvee took four separate harvests, several weeks apart, in order to achieve the ripening and quality he desired. His 2014 vintage is marked with lots of red fruit and vegetal green-stemmy flavors and juicy acids. www.screamingchiefwine.com
Justin Mund, winemaker at Orfila Vineyards & Winery in Escondido poured a vertical tasting of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Orfila Petite Sirah. Hailing from the Central Coast, Justin cited unusually warm conditions prompted earlier than normal harvest at the end of July. While the crop yielded 10% less this year, the small berry clusters were good with concentrated juice. When asked about the future of Syrah in San Diego County, he replied that, “Syrah was making a comeback”. The old Chardonnay rootstock at Orfila is now grafted with Syrah. Kind of a “Que Sera, Syrah” moment! www.orfila.com
Tom Hart of Milagro Farms in Ramona Valley AVA offered a vertical tasting of his 2012, 2013 and 2014 Barbera. Barbera is well-suited to the warm climate of San Diego county, however, is often under-appreciated. The 2014 Milagro Farms Barbera was ultra rich in color with an exceptional floral nose, bursting with acidity. This food-friendly wine is sure to age well. Milagro Farms also makes a Cabernet Sauvignon, which is somewhat rare in San Diego County. www.milagrofarmwinery.com
New friends of Coyote Oaks Vineyards winemaker, Karen Sherman raised a glass of the 2011 Mongrel Magic, a Super Tuscan inspired blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. All the grapes were sourced from San Diego County. Coyote Oaks Vineyards is considered a “micro-boutique” winery in Escondido, and has a tasting room inside the Mediterranean-style chateau castle on the Escondido Wine & Culinary Campus. www.coyoteoaksvineyards.com
Fallbrook Winery‘s Ira Gourvitz and winemaker Vernon Kindred featured the 33° N Estate 2014 Bdx, a complex red blend of the five traditional Bordeaux grapes ~ Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
In addition, Syrah, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese are all estate grown on Fallbrook Winery‘s 36 acres which interestingly enough, sits at the 33° N parallel, which is the same parallel as France’s Bordeaux region. www.fallbrookwinery.com
Rounding out the San Diego Fall Harvest Winemaker event were Winemakers Jim and Judi Brady of the Roadrunner Ridge Winery. They poured an estate Petite Sirah which was surprisingly very fruit forward. The inky-black Petite Sirah was super aromatic with mint and black pepper meeting the nose.
Roadrunner Ridge WInery sits at 1500 feet elevation with a microclimate zone that emulates the Mediterranean. With only 400 cases of annual production, Roadrunner Ridge Winery’s main focus is on crafting small lots of Rhone and other warm weather varietals. An impressive array of estate grapes include Mouvedre, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Petite Verdot, Tempranillo, Malbec, Viognier, Roussanne, Picpoul Blanc, and Grenache Blanc. www.roadrunnerridgewinery.com
Many thanks to Maurice DiMarino for hosting the symposium and wine tasting event on the beautiful rooftop at Vintana Wine + Dine. www.cohnrestaurants.com/vintana