Wednesday, March 29 , 2017, 2:19 pm | Fair 69º


5th Annual Winter Wine Classic Uncorks the Best of California’s Wines

Oenophiles gather at The Fess Parker to taste fine wines from state’s premier wine-growing regions

Laurie Counihan-Childs of Melville Vineyards & Winery outside Lompoc was among the representatives of more than 40 wineries pouring their products at the Fifth Annual Winter Wine Classic at The Fess Parker. Click to view larger
Laurie Counihan-Childs of Melville Vineyards & Winery outside Lompoc was among the representatives of more than 40 wineries pouring their products at the Fifth Annual Winter Wine Classic at The Fess Parker. (Gail Arnold / Noozhawk photo)

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Hundreds of Santa Barbara wine lovers packed The Fess Parker for this year’s Winter Wine Classic, where they sampled fine wines from 43 of California’s best wineries. Premier wine-growing regions from around the state were represented, including Napa, Sonoma, Carmel Valley, Paso Robles, and of course, Santa Barbara.

From Napa, the venerable Charles Krug Winery and well-established Whitehall Lane Winery shared some of their highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignons along with other varietals.

Other highly regarded Napa wineries pouring their latest vintages included Ahnfeldt Wines, Lieff Wines, Etude Wines and Rombauer Vineyards.

From Sonoma, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery delighted guests with its legendary Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Closer to home, Alma Rosa Winery, Ampelos Vineyard & Cellars, Beckmen Vineyards, Brewer-Clifton, Central Coast Group Project, Cinque Stelle Winery, Epiphany Cellars, Ferguson CrestFess Parker Winery & VineyardHartley Ostini Hitching Post Winery, Kessler-Haak Vineyard & Wines, La Montagne Winery, Le Cuvier, Lone MadroneMelville Winery, Pegasus Estate WineryPence Ranch, Sunstone Vineyards & Winery, Tablas Creek VineyardTuriya​WinesVerdadVina RoblesVinemark CellarsWesterly Wines and Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards welcomed the 550 guests, who were eager to sample their latest vintages and talk to winery representatives.

Adam Henkel of Westerly Wines was among the winemakers and proprietors on hand at the fifth annual Winter Wine Classic, which was presented by Santa Barbara-based California Wine Festival LLC on Feb. 20.

“Winemaking is full of mostly irreversible decisions that need to be made quickly and confidently,” he said of his winemaking style. “So I rely heavily on my intuition and blissful arrogance to do what I think will make the best wines that reflect where they are from.”

“‘Sense of place’ is a tricky thing to talk about when it comes to wine — but I indisputably know it when I smell and/or taste it,” he added.

Henkel’s intuition has served him well with the wines he was pouring. The 2013 Westerly Cote Blonde (Santa Ynez Valley, 93 percent Syrah) is truly exceptional, with rich dark fruit, a complex character, velvety mouth feel and a finish that lingers magically on one’s palate.

Regarding the 2015 harvest, Henkel recounted that “a relatively cool flowering season turned into a light crop set, and the drought conditions didn’t help with the yield either.”

“It was an extremely light harvest, but the quality of wines is very high,” he said. “The whites are vibrant and bright with good acidity, and the reds are already showing off nice balance, depth and length on the palate.”

Along with the wide array of fine wines at the event, there were tantalizing, gourmet offerings from local restaurants and food companies, including Rodney’s Grill, Blush Restaurant + Lounge, Cielito Restaurant & Tequila Bar, Enterprise Fish Company and Cupcakes in Wonderland.

Guests enjoyed the lovely sounds of guitarists and singers Tony Ybarra and Mitch Espe from Ybarra Music. The  flamenco Latino music provided a soft, pleasant backdrop for the festive occasion.

California Wine Festival LLC generously donated 25 percent of the day’s profits from the event to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.  Each year the foodbank, working with more than 300 nonprofit partners, distributes 9.7 million pounds of food to those in need throughout the county. One in four county residents receives food from the organization.

For the past 12 summers, California Wine Festival LLC has also run the California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara. This year’s festival is scheduled for July 14-16. Click here for more information.

Click here for more information about the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. Click here to make an online donation

Noozhawk contributing writer Gail Arnold can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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