Monday, August 29, 2011

8/29-Michael Horn talks with Louis Lucas & Clay Mauritson

Louis Lucas - Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
Originally from the Central Valley of California, Louis Lucas is one of California's premier grape growers. He literally grew up in the business. His father, son of Croatian immigrants, was a leading table grape grower in California for decades. Louis is described best as part innovator and part magician, utilizing a variety growing practices and techniques. His vast knowledge and viticulture expertise span over 30 years, making him a
sought after speaker, consultant, and advisor. Louis has sold wine grapes to many wineries over the years including: Sebastiani, Korbel, Chateau Montelena, ZD, Wente Brothers, Ridge, Callaway, Bargetto, Kendall-Jackson, Robert Mondavi, Steele, Rusack, Fess Parker, Sunstone, Dan Gehrs, Austin Cellars, Foxen, Sanford, Viansa, Fiddlehead, McKeon-Phillips, Rideau and Bonny Doon.

In 1963, Louis graduated from Notre Dame University with a degree in Finance & Business Economics. Aside from his studies, Louis excelled in track and made his best attempt at Irish football. After four cold Indiana winters, Louis headed back to California to join the family's table grape, wine grape, and almond business. Several years later, he embarked on a new venture, one that would mark him as a pioneer in the California Central Coast's wine industry. In 1970, he formed Tepusquet Vineyards with his brother George and partner Alfred Gagnon to become one of the first commercial wine grape growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

In the early 1970’s, he worked with Jack Niven to form Edna Valley Vineyards and expanded Tepusquet to the Shandon region of Paso Robles. It was during these years where Louis tested all of the growing theories of the past and created some of his own. He spent several summers touring the finest wine regions of France, Italy, Spain and Germany studying their methods and systems. His conclusion was simple, as he states, " The best decision I ever made in the early 70’s was going against conventional wisdom by planting more vines per acre, adapting trellis systems to fit specific varieties, and instituting suckering, hedging, thinning and leaf removal programs. I had learned this from growing table grapes with my Father, and my travels in Europe confirmed these techniques were essential to growing quality wine grapes."

As the 1980's approached, a shift began to take place in the wine industry as a whole. Johannisburg Riesling had been the primary white, but Chardonnay was well on it's was to replacing it. Louis adjusted to this shift and converted most of his vineyards from Cabernet, Merlot, and Gamay Beaujolais to Chardonnay (only keeping the Pinot Noir). He also planted another vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley of Santa Barbara County. There he instituted the 'Geneva Double Curtain' trellis system for his Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. “This system [Geneva Double Curtain] produces a stronger more massive vine, elevating it off the ground with a large open canopy promoting greater production, quality, and health of the vine in general."

Louis’ current venture, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards (L&L), has once again placed him at the top of his class. In 1996, he joined forces with retired Judge Royce Lewellen, with two of his existing vineyards, and together, they acquired several premium wine producing properties. These vineyards are located in the three principal wine grape growing regions of Santa Barbara County: the Santa Maria Valley, the Los Alamos Valley, and the Santa Ynez Valley, allowing them to utilize the 3 different climate zones that are unique to Santa Barbara's County's coastal climate. L&L vineyards experience warm days and cool nights with long, gentle growing seasons for their over 400 acres and 24 varieties of grapes. L&L is now in the process of planning a winery and tasting room facility in the Los Alamos Valley. In Louis’s own words: "Growing great wine grapes requires a great deal of work. It is a true labor of caring to find a balance between the soil, the vine and the climate. All of these things must occur at the right time and are critical for vine maturity, resulting in real quality yields."

Never too far away from his vines, Louis, his wife Jill and their two daughters live in Solvang, California overlooking one of their beautiful vineyards.

Winemaking may have been the logical evolution in our family’s long history of farming in the Dry Creek Valley, however, it took an absence from the valley and attention to those inner voices that led Clay Mauritson back to these same vineyards that he spent planting, tending and picking as a teen. What he came to realize was that he already had a lifetime of understanding about the subtleties and strengths of each micro-climate within the Dry Creek, Rockpile and Alexander Valleys. The only thing left was to DREAM BIG!

Clay will be talking about Project Zin on October 29th.
Chef Charlie Palmer and Winemaker Clay Mauritson invite you to the First Annual Project Zin event, Saturday, October 29, 2011 at Hotel Healdsburg located in the heart of Sonoma wine country. This preeminent wine event will gather some of the most sought after Zinfandels paired with decadent bites from Chef Palmer and other local Sonoma County chefs. All proceeds will benefit the Sonoma County Down Syndrome Support Group, (SCDSS).

Monday, August 22, 2011

8/22-Michael Horn talks with Kent Humphrey & Sharon Harris

Kent Humphrey Winemaker & Owner of Eric Kent Wine Cellars

The label says Eric Kent but there is no Eric Kent. “Eric” is owner Kent Humphrey’s middle name and “Kent” is his first name. Being on the humble side, Kent just could not bear to be blatantly eponymous. He also could not imagine people in a toney restaurant asking the sommelier for a bottle of “Humphrey” Pinot Noir. So, he inverted his first and middle names and his “nom de vin” came to be. In addition, designing a logo with

two nice, short words seemed a good way to go.

Kent grew up in California around a family table that enjoyed wine. His college path, however, was not initially wine, but rather the PhD program at University of California Berkeley in French (happily with a full ride as a Regent’s Fellow). He soon opted out of academia and pursued a job in advertising. He started his own agency and the company grew to more than fifty people. That experience gave him an in-depth look at big companies - their politics, creative accounting, and inherent failure to put people first. Kent’s youthful idealism was decimated in the end and the work nearly “sucked the joy out of life.” During these ten years of real-life experiences, he sampled, savor

ed, collected and delighted in wine. When he finally decided to leave the advertising world, his friends and family encouraged him to seek a career in wine.

Initially he considered attending University of California Davis for winemaking training, but realized that many of the wines he most admired were made by people who had no formal training in wine. So he sought some hands-on experience and worked at two different winery facilities. A couple of years later, he was offered the chance to obtain some really classy fruit from top-notch vineyards. While a year earlier than he had planned, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity and Eric Kent Wine Cellars was born. Kent chose to make Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah since these were the varietals that gave him the most personal pleasure. He produced 375 cases in the inaugural 2003 vintage. He has since reached nearly 2,000 cases a year. Given his run-in with big business, he still plans to stay small with growth stopping between 3,000 and 4,000 cases. The plan for that buildup is sensibly paced and he is content to take whatever time is necessary to do it well.

Kent and his wife, Colleen, an accomplished artist, decided one day over a dinner of burgers and Zinfandel to showcase artists on their bottles. The two work in harmony, she assisting him in making blending decisions and he helping her in choosing the individual art works that grace the bottles of Eric Kent wines. Kent and Colleen freelance as an art director/copywriter team to help pay for their winemaking project.

The works of art that are part of the front label of every Eric Kent wine are quite striking. The art is from deserving, but as yet undiscovered talent. Each artist brings a unique vision that compliments the spirit behind the wines. With every vintage, a portion of the wine sales is donated to help support the work of struggling artists. As Paul Root so aptly put it, “The wines speak for themselves and the labels add another dimension to the wine by creating a built-in discussion with every cork pulled.”

Sharon Harris - Rarecat Wines


Although there to study French, I learned everything important in life through my experiences in Bordeaux: an appreciation of fine food and wine, and a joie de vivre one gets from sharing those things with friends.

Most people have long lists of accolades that define their life’s successes. For me, it is quite the opposite, my successes have been a result of fortuitous introductions, the ability to make ideas happen, and a willingness to try new things. My love of food and wine directly stem from naive gumption, charm, and a desire to learn, all of which led me to my first wine experience at Haut Brion, then to living with France’s most famed cheese making family, and to a cooking internship under the wings of Amat, a famous 2 star chef in Bordeaux, my first fine culinary experience.

I have had the desire to be in the wine industry for decades, but getting to Napa Valley has been like taking windy back roads more than efficient toll roads. I spent many years working in executive positions in publishing, advertising, and technology, luckily very successfully, before earning the ability to trade computers for vineyards.

Recently, the hardest thing I have accomplished is graduating with honors from the Universite de Bordeaux’s famed D.U.A.D. program, a technical oenology diploma taught in French. I now live in Napa Valley, married with two great kids. My passion is building connections between the women of Napa Valley and Bordeaux and the rest of the world. Our family co-owns Amici Cellars. Rarecat is my first rare beauty.

Monday, August 15, 2011

8/15-Micahel Horn talks to Jeff Mangahas & Steve Peck

Jeff Mangahas - Winemaker at Williams Selyem
Jeff Mangahas grew up in Washington State, graduating from the University of Washington in 1993 with a B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology. Beginning his career as a cancer research scientist in Seattle, Jeff started to explore Washington’s wine region. Eventually, his career took him to New York City, where his interest in wine switched into high gear as he discovered the abundant restaurants and the wines of the world they offered.

During this time, Jeff started visiting the wine regions of France. With his scientific background, he also discovered he had a real passion for learning about the winemaking process as well, and it soon became clear that his hobby should become his career path. Jeff put research science behind him and enrolled in the UC Davis winemaking program, earning his M.S. in Enology in 2003.

After a harvest at Artesa Vineyards and Winery, he went to Dutton-Goldfield Winery to dig into Pinot Noir and cool climate winegrowing. Beginning as enologist in 2002, Jeff was promoted to assistant winemaker in 2003. In 2006 Jeff became Winemaker at Hartford Family Winery specializing in Pinot Noir from cool-climate, estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast Appellations, as well as Chardonnays and Zinfandels.

In 2011 Jeff was named Winemaker at Williams Selyem winery in Healdsburg. Jeff is a true student of Pinot Noir and credits the 1996 Williams Selyem Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir as an eye-opening wine that helped spark his passion for Pinot Noir. “I have been a huge fan of Williams Selyem for years and am excited to be working with the amazing team here as well as world-class vineyards like Rochioli and Allen.”

Jeff lives with his wife Crystal and daug
hter Mia in Santa Rosa, where he spends his free time cooking, gardening, drinking wine, and enjoying the company of family and friends.

As the red winemaker for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Steve Peck combines a gifted palate, a passion for viticulture and a comprehensive technical knowledge of winemaking practices.

Born and raised in California, Steve began cultivating his love of viticulture and winemaking as a teenager while traveling to vineyards and working alongside his uncle. A dedicated home winemaker, Steve’s uncle taught him the importance of hands-on attention to detail at every step of the winemaking process. This early exposure to vineyards and winemaking inspired Steve to enroll at the University of California, Davis. While studying chemical engineering and fermentation sciences, Steve put himself through school as part of the team at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. This three-year experience augmented Steve’s academic studies with a practical understanding of premium Napa Valley winemaking methods.

After earning his degree, Steve pursued opportunities in the biotech industry, working for Merck and Co. and Genencor International. Throughout this period, Steve remained dedicated to the art of winemaking, crafting his own red wines nearly every vintage, including several Cabernet Sauvignons made from Paso Robles grapes. Eager to return to a career in winemaking, Steve joined Five Rivers Winery as winemaker in 2001. In addition to his role as winemaker for Five Rivers, Steve was also responsible for producing the red wines for Jekel Vineyards beginning with the 2004 vintage. In these capacities, Steve had the opportunity to work with an extensive array of vineyards in Monterey County, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County, and was responsible for orchestrating harvest scheduling for dozens of growers. During this period, Steve consistently earned acclaim for his red wines.

In 2007, Steve was appointed winemaker for the full portfolio of J. Lohr red wines including J. Lohr Estates, the J. Lohr Vineyard Series and the J. Lohr Cuvée Series, as well as red wines for Cypress Vineyards and Crosspoint. Working with Senior Vice President of Winemaking Jeff Meier, Steve strives to maintain the flavorful character of each wine by focusing on the natural characteristics embodied in J. Lohr’s estate vineyards. “Steve is inquisitive and intuitive,” says Jeff,” which are fundamental qualities in a superior winemaker. On top of that, he’s a genuinely personable leader with a great technical mind and a real passion for winemaking.”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

8/08-Michael Horn talks to Lorenzo Mottola & Richard Sanford

Lorenzo Mottola - Ste. Michelle Wine Estate
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the ‘String’. Our collection of estate wineries are the ‘Pearls.’ We call this our ‘String of Pearls,’ describing a collection of estate wineries whose vineyards produce some of the best wines in the world.
Significantly, it also highlights our company philosophy: We believe that each “pearl’s” luster is best revealed when the vineyard and wine-making decisions are made on site by the people who grow the grapes and make the wine. The Ste. Michelle Wine Estates company is simply the “string,” provi
ding administrative and financial support for these extraordinary wine properties.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates President and CEO Ted Baseler notes, “With Chateau Ste. Michelle as our first pearl, over the years we have developed or acquired other wineries that meet our high standards of quality and whose wines are distinctive. These wines reflect the place where they are grown.”

From Washington State’s short, warm summers and sparse soil, to the cooler climate and mineral-rich soil of the Willamette Valley to the complex soil and longer, hot summers of the Napa Valley, the terroir of the pearl on our string is as unique as each wine in our portfolio.

Discusses the Wine and Fire Event Aug 12-14.

40 Years of Sustainable Winegrowing History Richard Sanford came to the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago with the desire to create wines that would rival the best of France. First to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills (now an officially accredited American Viticultural Area as Sta. Rita Hills), and first to plant Pinot Noir vines there, Richard is a pioneer with a well established reputation for excellence in winemaking.

Working in partnership for more than 30 years, T
hekla and Richard Sanford founded multiple, successful winegrowing enterprises. Their latest venture, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, represents the culmination of a lifetime’s experience – an enterprise dedicated to creating high quality wines and setting a benchmark for organic farming, sustainable agriculture methods, and environment-friendly commerce.

The Sanford Story
Richard Sanford graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in Geography in 1965. He was immediately drafted into the military and served as a naval officer in the Vietnam war until 1968.

Returning from the war and wanting to pursue a more earth-connected occupation, Richard dreamt of discovering a local climate zone similar to the Burgundy region of France, growing Pinot Noir in California, and producing wine that would rival the best in the world. Using his background in Geography and studying the climates of California since 1900, Richard discovered a remarkable geographic anomaly – the transverse mountain range of California. These mountains run east and west, and the valleys open to the west allowing cool maritime air to blow in and moderate the growing climate.

After locating acreage with well drained soils in the chosen climate zone Richard organized a partnership to purchase a ranch, and there he planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the region (at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1970).

At that time, growing grapes of any kind in this region was unheard of, but as it turns out, Richard’s hunch about the area was correct. The climate allows for a long, cool growing season which results in high acid grapes at harvest – perfect conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since their first bottling, the wines from this region have been known for their extraordinary balance and depth, winning praise and accolades from wine writers and wine aficionados alike.

In 1976 Richard met his future wife Thekla Brumder. They married in 1978, and in 1981 they started Sanford Winery together and for the next 27 years produced award-winning wines sold in 50 states and 16 countries.

In 1983 the Sanfords planted their first 100% organic vineyard at Rancho El Jabalí. The La Rinconada and La Encantada vineyards followed, and in the year 2000 all Sanford estate vineyards were the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).

Differences in business philosophy led to a separation from their namesake winery in 2005. Richard and Thekla started in a new direction, leaving Sanford Winery to found Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, a new venture dedicated to organic farming and sustainable agriculture. The vineyards of Alma Rosa are located on an original Mexican land grant, Rancho Santa Rosa. In Spanish alma means soul; so the name Alma Rosa reflects the Sanfords’ view that their wines are a reflection of the soul of the rancho. Alma also expresses the soulful connection they enjoy with one another, their employees, and the land where they first became winegrowers more than 35 years ago.

With over 100 acres of certified organic vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards focuses on continued excellence in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir - Vin Gris (a dry rosé). All wines are food friendly and display the high acid, and extraordinary balance for which Richard Sanford’s wines have been known since 1976.

With new energy and a positive focus, Richard and Thekla Sanford are excited about Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards and hope you will continue to enjoy their efforts in bringing you and your family together to share good food, good wine, and a sustainable future.

Monday, August 1, 2011

8/1-Michael Horn talks to Sonja Magdevski & Barbara Satterfield

Sonja Magdevski - Casa Dumetz Winery

Casa Dumetz - Malibu started in 2004 with a patch of raw earth, a bucket of grapevines and plenty of sweat from family and friends who joined together to make a dream come true. From these efforts emerged a love story and a sincere commitment to producing authentic (and of course great) wine. Our production is small, yet growing, and includes our organically farmed Malibu estate Pinot Noir, as well as our Viognier, Syrah and new Syrah Rosé and Grenache additions for 2010 all from Tierra Alta Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. We are also excited to announce the upcoming creation of Sonja’s Suds Sparkling Syrah Rosé released in time for the New Year.

We simply can’t resist bubbles!

Barbara Satterfield - Executive Director at Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance
Wine and Fire returns to Sta. Rita Hills Aug. 12-14

After taking a two-year break from annual festivities, members of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance are back in the limelight with plans to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the American Viticultural Area (AVA) in August.

The Wine and Fire Weekend returns to Santa Barbara County's westernmost AVA Friday through Sunday, Aug. 12-14, with a three-day passport wine tasting, an AVA-specific seminar, wine dinners and a Grand Tasting Saturday evening on the grounds of La Purisima Mission.

Full details about daily events, participating winemakers and ticket prices can be found at

The Sta. Rita Hills AVA, approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in 2001, includes 30,720 acres. Its eastern edge is west of Buellton, and western edge just east of Lompoc; the southern boundary is the north side of the Santa Rosa Hills - along the road of the same name - and the northern edge the south side of the Purisima Hills. The Santa Ynez River courses through the middle of the AVA.

Currently planted to vineyards are approximately 2,500 acres, and of that, roughly 1,900 are pinot noir, and 500 chardonnay, said Barbara Satterfield, executive director of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance. Those grape varietals are two that especially thrive in the cooler, moisture-laden climate for which the Sta. Rita Hills is known.

When longtime local resident Satterfield was hired by the Alliance board late in 2009, its membership had cancelled two years' worth of the barbecue-based celebrations that had originated as events based on local wines and "fire."

"It was an all-volunteer board," and after the third consecutive "Wine and Fire" event took place in 2008, everything "just collapsed," she said.

In April 2010, Satterfield, who had previously been an Alliance board member, started as director, and began picking up the pieces, working to promote the AVA. She sat down with winemakers, and asked for input about how best to showcase their wines.

Starting last year at consumer and trade shows across the state, Satterfield, the board and various winemaking members talked up the region and its wines, "trying to get the word out" about Sta. Rita Hills as an entity. While many of the winemakers have successfully marketed themselves, the AVA needs more recognition as a region, she said.

"People still gravitate to the Santa Ynez Valley (area), not to us."

Two relatively newer businesses, one at each end of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, so to speak, are D'Vine Wine Bar in Lompoc, and Avant Tapas and Wine in Buellton. Both are hosting Wine and Fire opening-night events Friday, Avant a large-format (magnum) tasting, and D'Vine a food-and-wine pairing event.

Avant will host 12 Sta. Rita Hills winemakers, said Joe Padilla, manager. "Each will be pouring a large format bottle of a library wine, as well as a current release. The current-release wines will be available for purchase in Avant at a 20 percent discount to attendees," he said. The menu that night will be "localcentric," with a focus on locally produced foods, he added.

Held in conjunction with Wine and Fire were two vineyard walks, one at Foley and the other at Rio Vista Vineyard, across the Santa Ynez River on Santa Rosa Road. The free walks took place July 16, and Satterfield hopes to make similar vineyard treks a "regular feature" of the Alliance.

Events and tickets

All information and tickets available at Note that the weekend Wine Tasting Passports are not sold separately, but in conjunction with either the seminar, grand tasting or package (both events) purchase.

• Friday, Aug. 12: Large Format Reception at Avant Tapas and Wine Bar, Buellton, 6 to 8 p.m., and food and wine pairing reception with several winemakers at D'Vine Wine Bar, Lompoc, also starting at 6 p.m. Both venues will provide live music, and chances for guests to mingle with winemakers. Costs: Avant's event is $10 per person for Wine and Fire passport holders, $20 per person without. D'Vine's event: $20 for Wine and Fire passport holders, $25 without. Reservations, information: Avant, 686-4742, and D'Vine, 735-8771.

• Saturday, Aug. 13: Morning: Seminar at El Jabali Vineyard, Alma Rosa Winery, with Sta. Rita Hills' pioneering winemakers Richard Sanford, Rick Longoria, Kathy Joseph and Bruno D'Alfonso, who will discuss the past, present and future of the region. Time: 10 a.m to noon; cost: $150 (includes three-day passport ticket). Evening: Grand Tasting at La Purisima Mission, with various winemakers pouring wines, and grilled snacks available in a walk-around format on the outdoor grounds, 5 to 8 p.m. Cost: $100 (includes three-day passport ticket)

A ticket for both the Saturday El Jabali seminar and the Grand Tasting is available for $175 per person, and also includes the three-day passport.

• Sunday: Third day of Wine and Fire passport, brunch at Avant, special open houses, barrel tastings and more. See for specific winery details.

Wineries scheduled to participate in the Tasting Passport are Ampelos Cellars, Cargasacchi (Sunday only), Carr, Cold Heaven, D'Alfonso-Curran (Sunday only), Dierberg, Demetria, Dragonette Cellars, Fiddlehead Cellars, Flying Goat Cellars, Foley, Huber Cellars, Ken Brown, Liquid Farm (at Dragonette Cellars), Longoria (Lompoc Wine Ghetto tasting room only), Loring Wine Company, Pali, Prodigal and Zotovich Cellars.

Most participating Sta. Rita Hills' wineries and winemakers plan individual dinners, brunches, open houses, special discounts on purchases and more. Visit or specific winery websites for more details.