Santa Barbara, California (full episode) – “V is for Vino” wine show
Welcome to Santa Barbara County! A one
sleepy wine region turned top travel destination by the film “Sideways”- where
Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, famously declared his detest for Merlot, but more
importantly his love for Pinot Noir. And that’s why we’re here. Get ready to watch
learn and drink. Welcome to V is for Vino! I’m here in downtown Santa Barbara which
is about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles. It’s a perfect getaway for us
Los Angelenos trying to get out of the city and do a little hotels restaurants
you name it Santa Barbara has anything for as long as you need to recharge. So
while Santa Barbara the city has that warm SoCal weather that we love, Santa
Barbara the wine growing region is actually fairly cool. It’s about 45
minutes north of here. It’s cool because the Santa Ynez Mountains on either side
act as a funnel to funnel the cool ocean air right through the vineyards. And if
you couple that with the fact that because of low average rainfall the
winemakers don’t have to harvest before the fall rains come in, you’re left with
a nice long cool growing season which is perfect for Burgundian style grapes
like Chardonnay and more importantly Pinot Noir. So how did winemaking get
started in Santa Barbara? Well a lot the same way that it got started in most of
California- church. Let me explain. See back in the day, like late 1700s, the
Spanish occupied California and they wanted to impose Christianity onto the
Native Americans who were living in California at the time. So what did they
do? Well they established 21 religious outposts or missions all the
way from San Diego up the coast to Sonoma. And if you’ve ever driven up the
101 freeway in California and seen the bells marked “El Camino Real” -meant “The
kingsroad” those are symbolic markers of the journey between each of the missions.
At these missions they grew livestock, and crops, and most importantly religious
ceremonial wine. And then eventually just wine. Despite all that, Santa Barbara
winemaking as we know it is actually fairly young. It started really in the
1960s but didn’t take off until the 1990s. There’s over a hundred wineries in
Santa Barbara County now -it’s one of the youngest and most exciting areas in
California and we’re gonna go to one of the wineries right now. We took the hour drive up to the Santa
Maria Valley to learn a bit more about the grapes we’ll be drinking today -Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir. The winemakers who make it deserve a medal
or plaque or at least a pat on the back because it’s one of the most difficult
grapes to grow for a couple reasons- it’s prone to a lot of mutations while it’s
here on the vine. Some of these mutations are good -we like Pinot Blanc, Pinot
Meunier, you probably know Pinot Grigio- all members of the Pinot family. But the
real problem is the thin skins that Pinot Noir has- see these are extra
susceptible to mold rot mildew anything under the Sun- literally the Sun- it can
get sunburned. Pinot Noir also has a notoriously low yields, it doesn’t produce
a lot of grapes so winemakers don’t have a lot of leeway. It needs a nice long
cool dry growing season- but when winemakers do it right it’s really
fantastic -it’s silky and supple and smooth and elegant it produces red fruit
flavors in the realm of pomegranate and cranberry, cherries a big one. But it’s
with age where Pinot Noir really shines. Think barnyard, truffle, mushroom, dried
meats, dried leaves, and earth- really everything under the sun, that’s what’s
so cool about it. Now I talked a little bit about how Pinot Noir has thin skins-
and because of this it doesn’t have a lot of tannin. Now tannin is that element
in wine that kind of dries out your mouth and give it a bitterness. Because
the tannins are low, Pinot Noir doesn’t necessarily need food- it’s great to
drink on a Tuesday afternoon. But it also goes very well with a lot of food
because it has high acid- it goes just as well with the steak as it does with
chicken and even pairs really well with salmon, that’s one of the most famous
pairings for Pinot. Chardonnay Everybody loves Chardonnay because
Chardonnay loves everybody. It’s really versatile, it’s grown in almost every
wine region in the world because it likes any type of climate. In really cold
climates like Chablis and Champagne, I’m talking really cold, it can produce wines
that are very steely and minerally, high acid, crisp, -think yellow fruits, lemon
and green apple. When it gets a little warmer can get even a tropical notes
like mango and pineapple. Now there’s a big
misconception that Chardonnay tastes like oak or Chardonnay tastes like
butter -but those are actually winemaker decisions those aren’t necessarily
Chardonnay characteristics. See a winemaker decides if he’s going to oak
his wine or if he’s gonna let it go through what’s called malolactic
fermentation which, without getting a little nerdy, is when harsh malic acid
turns into lactic acid; literally like lactate; and that’s where you get those
butter and those custardy flavors. It generally tends to be a medium to fuller
bodied white wine- it’s gonna taste like minerals or fruit or have low acid or
high acid largely based on the region that it was grown. Speaking of where it’s
grown it’s usually grown with Pinot Noir. It’s actually a pretty known fact that
if a winery makes good Pinot Noir they make good Chardonnay and vice versa-
and why is that? Well if you have any uncle’s who are really into ancestry.com
he could tell you Chardonnay is the daughter of Gouais Blanc and Pinot Noir.
But the real reason is a place called Burgundy in France- see Burgundy
is a place that makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by law exclusively for
hundreds of years. We tend to emulate in the new world what France does in the
old world. France is kind of like the Beatles of the wine world- it’s arguable
if they were the best but they are definitely one of the first at what they
do and when climates matched we don’t reinvent the wheel. And they’re even
sometimes blended together- Champagne is Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir,
and Chardonnay. I’ve met some pretty smart people in my
life but Wes Hagen, the winemaker for J Wilkes wines, he’s on a different level.
Vince: How you doing man?
Wes: I’m doing good, welcome to the vineyards.
V: Thanks for having
Wes: We can see the beautiful Santa Maria Valley behind us- this is kind of a
place that’s sort of the heart and soul of Santa Barbara winemaking. If you’re
looking for wines that are elegant restrained more European and style if
you’re looking for something complex if you’re looking for something that really
represents the soil that comes from I don’t think it gets better for the money
than Santa Barbara County.
V: What is your background how did you get into this in
the first place?
V: Well I was I was a high school English teacher and the kids
drove me to drink and I went pro! Got a call from my mom and my stepfather said
we just bought a piece of property near Lompoc and I worked there as the
vineyard manager in the winemaker for about 22 years with my wife Chanda. My
family decided to get out of the wine business and to lease the vineyard out
and now little over two years now I’ve been the winemaker and the brand
ambassador for J Wilkes wines up here in Santa Maria Valley. Jeff Wilkes was the
vineyard salesperson for these vines that you see behind us, there’s 900 acres
of vines here in this vineyard. Jeff was extremely influential in getting people
to understand the importance of Santa Barbara County in Santa Maria Valley.
2010 Jeff actually passed away at the age of 56 which was a huge tragedy for
all of us and now we’ve kept the brand alive hoping that not only are we
celebrating Jeff’s legacy and what he did for Santa
Barbara County winemaking but also to put out delicious balanced high-value
V: Beautiful way to be be honored for Jeff, and I know a big thing for him was
you know wine is all about the people you share it with I always say that it’s
far more important who we drink with than what we drink.
Wes: I’d rather drink lucky
lager with my boys than Romanée-Conti with my enemies, unless it’s a really
great vintage then I’ll put up with their douchery.
V: We’re gonna talk
today I think a little bit about Pinot and Chardonnay, tell me a little bit
about your philosophy behind what those grapes should be.
Wes: Well you know I you
know sideways was 12 years ago that weird movie really brought all these
people up that we’d never seen before in busloads.
V: And they all wanted Pinot.
Wes: In a post sideways world I think what we’re recognizing is that
Chardonnay is the best grape we grow in Santa Barbara County because 95% of all
chardonnays are grown in areas that are way too warm. So I’m gonna go on the
record to say the best grape we grow in Santa Barbara both in the Santa Rita
hills and Santa Maria Valley- Chardonnay is the best grape we grow. It’s the most
expressive, you can do whatever you want it: Chardonnay is sort of like the
editorial model of the wine world- it’s not so much about her but the clothes
you hang on her. If it was a woman I’d want her in a little black dress, no coat
or no big sort of Carmen Miranda hat. Sshowing off the quality of the grapes
and the quality of the place where they’re grown. With Pinot Noir we’re
about you know 25 to 30 percent new French oak as well. The Pinot Noir here a
lot of it in the Santa Maria Valley is old vine so we have a lot of sources for
our for our fruit that really do produce amazingly intense Pinot Noir. And one
reason that is we get so much wind- you can see the fog coming in off the
Pacific Ocean right now- built-in air conditioning, fog, wind, all that
has an amazing effect on keeping the amount of growth limited in the vineyard,
the level of crop moderated and small, and the intensity and the ability to
show that beautiful sense of place. Minerality, elegance, restraint, but also a
lot of flavor. And here’s the deal, we think too much about wine we talk too
much about wine, it’s the only beverage that I know that keeps me a table with
the people I love an average of an extra hour every day of my life- and I think it
really is so important for us to get to table and to relax and have time,
delicious things, and love, and you put those things together and those are the
best experiences we’ll have as human being.
V: Yeah well on that note let’s get
to it! Let’s go try some wine! Before we taste I
thought it would be a good idea to learn a little more about those oak barrels
that wine ages in so you can better understand that wine you’re drinking. Oak. Seems pretty simple right? wine goes in, give it a little time, better wine comes out! If only it were that easy.
Well first off why oak at all? Well a couple reasons. Number one is flavor. See
wine makers aren’t beer makers, there’s only grapes in wine- you can’t
throw in coriander and orange peel. So oak gives a winemakers a way to add
their handprint onto the wine and add some flavors that you wouldn’t get from
the grapes themselves. Number two mouthfeel- it contributes to a
velvety soft mouthfeel that really helps harsher wines.
First off you have to get the barrels- where do they come from? Well trees that
are at least 100 years old, cut down dried into staves for two to three years
in the wind in the air and the elements, then taken to a Cooperage, where a Cooper
turns it into barrels- he can make a barrel a day if he’s lucky.
So we’re 103 years and one day in and we haven’t even seen any wine yet. Now
there’s two types of oak that are primarily used for wine aging -white
French oak and white American oak. Now French oak is usually used for lighter
more delicate wines -Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and imparts darker spice flavor-
espresso and clove and allspice. Whereas American oak has a lot sweeter flavors
and it’s a little more strong so it can stand up to Zinfandel and petite Syrah
and it usually adds flavors of coconut and vanilla and even dill and some cool
stuff like that. So you pick your oak and you’re done right? Wrong. How much new oak versus used oak do you want to use? A brand new barrel puts a lot of flavor,
and a couple uses a little bit. Usually winemakers will opt for some
combination of the two- say 50% new 50% used oak.
How long do you want to age? You can age anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple
years- some wines actually have requirements by law of how long you have
to age -Barolo in Italy needs to be aged for 18 months- Gran reserva Rioja 24
months. How big do you want the barrels? Smaller more effective, but they’re also
more expensive. How much char do you want on your barrel?
The staves can be toasted from light medium to heavy just like coffee and
that’s gonna affect the final flavor of the wine. And all this is assuming you
even have the money to oak at all! These barrels cost between eight hundred and
sixteen hundred dollars a pop- do you want to pass that cost on to your consumer? So
because of this a lot of winemakers use oak alternatives; oak
staves, oak chip, oak powder put right into the wine. Now this isn’t necessarily
a bad thing- see barrels wastes the whole outside of the barrel, and it’s not
necessarily eco-friendly to make these barrels to transport them and store them.
But the good news is the barrels we do make get a lot of use -barrels that are
used for sherry or bourbon tend to be repurposed for long-term aging of scotch
whiskey, and we usually end up cutting these into
furniture or wine racks or sometimes flower pots which all in all isn’t a bad
life for a tree… Now we are ready to taste. W: All right rock
and roll- going pirate style…argh! Alright so this is a brand new vintage
of Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir -this is from a single vineyard this wine is
about five months old. To read the barrel it says 2007, 23rd barrel
Francois Ferrier is the name of the barrel builder, in France from the Vosges
forest, and it is a heavy toast barrel. So that kind of that gives you kind of an
idea on how to read the barrel. It has some very nice color to it -Pinot Noir can be
very very light color somewhere between garnet and Ruby. Should be very bright
cherry fruit maybe a little bit of raspberry. We decide how to blend this
wine and how to make it into a final J Wilkes wine we also have three other
vineyards that we can blend in so we have all the different vineyards to
blend to make the wine, all the different oak treatment to blend in the wine, and
then we can decide what percentage of each goes into the final wine.
V: So you’re
not taking directly from one barrel putting in a bottle…
W: No no it takes a lot
many many days of blending trials and we really challenge ourself during the
blending trials we may spend two or three days just blending this wine
V: You guys are like fortune tellers man I mean you need to see now and you need to
see the future.
W: Our main focus is to make the wine delicious on release and we all
we just know that the vineyard sources have a great capacity for aging and
great wine takes care of itself. I would say five years is where the magic
happens between losing the baby fat and starting to show the more delicate and
complex aromas that emerge when the wine has been aged properly. Definitely get a little bit of toast
from the oak, a little of that gameyness… big bright cherry fruit, good color. Pinot
Noir is the most frustrating and ephemeral grapes in the world to handle
in the cellar because it tastes different every day. Taste it every
day for a week, two weeks, a month, and then if you figured that the wine needs
something or maybe that barrel needs to be taken out of the blend, that’s when
you do it. Pinot Noir will challenge my belief that everything can be understood
through science and laboratory analysis. I think would be a perfect opportunity
to toast Jeff Wilkes, We will continue making great wines in your name.
V: Thank you to Jeff.
W: Thank you! Welcome to the V is for Vino nerd lab we
take complicated wine topics and make them simple, today we’re talking about body. Body is one of the five major components of wine.
You’ve probably heard wine described as the light bodied or medium bodied or
full-bodied, and they’re talking about the weight or the mouthfeel that a wine
has. A lot of things contribute to body- alcohol contributes to body- higher
alcohol wines tend to feel more full. Sugar- sugary wines are more viscous.
Tannin- tannin gives wines a firmness a backbone that adds to body. And oak-
oaked wines tend to have a little more body as well. And the best way that we
can describe body in terms we may understand is milk -now this is fat-free
milk, and this will be your equivilent f a lighter bodied wine. You
can see it pour is really easy it swirls around the glass really easy and in the
mouth it feels kind of light, it’s kind of close to water whereas when you go a
little heavier- This is half and half, this would be your equivalent of a
medium bodied wine. A little more slow to go around the glass, and when you taste
it, it’s got a lot more weight, kind of coats the mouth a little more. And then
you get up to a full bodied wine- this is heavy cream. You can see slow to pour out
really thick around the glass, and really just kind of coats the inside
of your mouth and has a lot of weight to it. Now body is not necessarily an
indicator of quality, in fact some of the best wines in the world have a light
body. It’s more a function of place and grape and climate than anything else. You can
put body on a scale over here -at number one you have light bodied wines and over
here you’d have full-bodied wine. So light bodied wines think Riesling and
Prosecco then you get into medium bodied white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer. Then in the middle things get kind of
interesting you have a crossover between full-bodied whites and lighter body
dreads so Chardonnay, Viognier, and white Rhone blends have about the same weight
as Pinot Noir and Gamay in lighter bodied reds. Then you go over here the medium
bodied Reds like Barbera and Merlot and up top petite Syrah Zinfandel Cabernet
are your big full-bodied reds. You want to match your food when you’re pairing
with the weight of this scale- so down here you’d have light foods think,
oysters and Muscadet- both on this part of the scale. You get in the middle you
do maybe chicken or salmon with a full-bodied white or light bodied red
and then up here rich dishes big stews hearty steaks with the full-bodied
reds. I hope you learned a little something about body and thanks for
geeking out. We needed to learn how to cook a few dishes that would pair with
our J Wilkes wines. And for that I headed to do an industrial park in Buellton to get
the best food in Santa Barbara County. Ask anyone, and I mean anyone, where to
get food on this side of town and they’re gonna send you here. This is
Industrial Eats. Vince: All right so tell me a little bit about
Jeff: Well we we bought a catering company my wife and I 17 years
ago and the rest of this industrial building that we’re in was just was
basically storage- wine storage the rental company it was a mechanic’s kind
of place- and and and about 10 years ago I just got this idea of doing something.
I asked city if I could do this 10 years ago and they said no you can’t because
it’s not commercial it’s industrial. Around 2005 sideways comes
out and the entire valley just explodes the number of wineries quadruple and
they wanted the tax revenues you know so so they change their tune and they were
like yeah sure do it. Three years ago we opened.
V: You’re packed all the time and
in a place where you maybe shouldn’t be packed.
J: I love restaurants and
V: and everything here is a little unconventional. You look
on the walls… J: Yeah I say it to be inside of my
head. They’re just things I’ve collected over the years some antiques there the
photographs are from a good friend of ours, they’re artists that I like.
V: And you
seem to know everybody who comes to the door I mean I watch you around the room.
And I love its almost all communal space too… You meet people here when you sit… J: People give
each other food to taste, strangers give each other food to taste. I love it.
There were there were some in the valley who said don’t do communal seating it
won’t work it’s not that’s not what people here want and it was just
important to me that it had that field it really be a part of the community. And
obviously this is not fine dining but we’ve taken some of those techniques and
some of that certainly that care for the food that level of care for the food we
have that here but but it’s much more accessible. Get it to where you think
there’s enough flavor and then put in 10 times more. I hate on Yelp when I get a
three-star it’s like give me a one-star or give me a five stars dont gimme a 3 star, god! V; We’ve been talking about it long enough, you want to get to cooking?
J: Sure all right, lets do it. V: This is like learning from the master so
what are we what are we makin? J: We’re gonna do two dishes today we’re gonna do
a pretty simple roasted chanterelle mushroom dish with some thyme a little
bit of Chardonnay and some butter that’s bomb. First time in six years they’ve
been around because of the drought. We’ll do that with the Pinot I think today, and with the Chardonnay we’re gonna do some awesome Manila clams
farm-raised down in Ensenada on the Baja Peninsula by our friend Mark at the Jolly
oyster -he’s got a shack on the beach up in Ventura, we’re one of his only
wholesale clients and he ships them up to me once a week.
V: Luck us. All right let’s do it! J: Let’s get the chowder started. So
we tell people in the restaurant this is proper clam chowder the way clam chowder
is supposed to be. I don’t know when it became the wallpaper paste that most
people expect today. V: That’s a lot of garlic
J: We use a lot
of garlic here. We use a lot of everything here. We like our flavor to be
where you’d expect it to be and then ten steps beyond that. Garlic, shallots,
bacon, that’s our bacon that we make here in-house.
V: You make it in-house?
You cure your own bacon? J: We cure all our own meats, yeah. Make our own ham,
beef tongue pastrami, rosemary ham, smoke smoke our own turkey, make your own bacon, pancetta.
V: So you did the bacon and then you put on olive oil.
J: Adding lots and lots olive oil.
And these are purple potatoes. We’re gonna throw that in the oven get that
sweating a little bit. As with everything we cook as well we got our these two
V: It’s cold or it’s oven. That’s it. J: Yeah. Let’s just have a look at our potatoes…add our clams in there, add some white wine. This is our parmesan broth so we go through about 2 80 pound wheels of ground up Parmesan a week then we save all the rinds and we we take a big pot
of water and we put shallots and potato and all the parmesan rinds and we boil
that when we make essentially a stock. And a bit of heavy cream, so white wine
parm broth and heavy cream go into there. Look at our clams those are all opening
nicely. The doneness of this dish is kind of determined by when the potatoes are
done… done so that’s perfect timing. V: I’m at home I don’t have a wood fire oven, what do I do? J: Typically this is just done on a stove
V: Just throw it on the stove. J: A little bit of butter, little
thyme, little salt pepper and then a little bit of lemon. I like the
thickness of that you don’t want it too thick but the starch from the potatoes
just tighten it up just a little bit. A little toasted garlicky
breadcrumb over the top just for texture. There you go.
V: All right!
J: Check out those clams… V: Oh, that’s chowder like I’ve never seen before…that’s truth. That stock… it’s got to be the parmesan rind, that has to be
what that is cuz it’s just so good… it’s so deep there’s so many layers going on
you don’t even know where to start with it. It’s not too thick it’s not too soupy
J: Yeah the salt content of his clams and oysters is a bit higher because they’re
actually on the ocean coast so I didn’t add any salt to this.
V: There’s no salt?
J: There’s no salt in that it’s all natural salt from the clams themselves.
V: Unreal. Awesome. This is fantastic.
The clams go great
with the lightly oaed Chardonnay for a couple reasons. The creaminess of the
dish goes great with the slight creaminess of the Chardonnay
while the acid in the Chardonnay cuts through that richness. Finally a full
bodied dish with a full bodied wine makes for a great pairing.
J: We’re gonna start the mushrooms. So again garlic and shallot. Incredible mushrooms- I’m just gonna tear them a
V: The garlic reminds me of that scene from Goodfellas where he slices it so thin and you know it just dissolves in the pan.
So the base is actually
the same pretty much the same?
J: Essentially. Lots of olive oil and then we just pop that in
the oven get those mushrooms roasting. V: How hot do these guys get? J: We like to keep the one on the right which is primarily for pizzas at about nine hundred and
this one over here at about seven hundred. And that’s where we would
normally do a lot of this saute work. Tthis needs to be real hot because it has
to happen really quick.
V: Wow, yeah that’s hot as hell.
J: A couple of
ciabatta toasts that we make up to help soak up all this great sauce we’re gonna
make with the mushrooms right now. They roast it up really nice you
really you don’t you don’t need to do much but warm these, you just want a warm
up, really have such an incredible texture now we’re just gonna hit it with
a little wine fresh thyme tiny bit of chili flake and just a little bit of
butter. Gorgeous. Perfect
V: Oh god the smell… if you
could be here right now…
J: So lemon juice… a little bit of salt/pepper.. that is the
stuff… and then just right on top, a lot of that sauce will just soak into that. That’s about as nice a thing you can do
to a Chanatrelle..
V: Time to try?
J: yeah let’s do it. V: Oh my god The texture of those mushrooms it out is
sick… absolutely gangster. Enough
acid in the sauce to to kind of cut through but not so much you’re gonna
overpower anything. Bold flavor from like the garlic…look at that garlic! It’s thin enough there’s no spice to it anymore like when its raw it just
melts… got the bread soaking up everything on the bottom. Those savory
earthy notes that you get with the Pinot Noir go great with the earthy mushrooms,
and the high acid Pinot Noir cuts right through that butter.
Thank you so much! Santa Barbara is one of my favorite wine regions. We touched on Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay but they’re making everything up here: Italian varietals, Rhone varietals-
next time you’re in LA take the drive up and check it out, we’ll see you next time
on V is for Vino!