Melville Winery Tasting Notes
At two different points along the trip, I got the opportunity to be at Melville Winery. The first was with the group visit and tasting, and the second was as an overnight guest.
I am going to combine my tasting notes for these two visits so not to be repetitive.
First, I would like to thank both Chad Melville and Kurt Ammann for hosting me, as well as driving me to the shuttle bus at 5:30am. Kurt gave me a run through of current vintages on my overnight visit, while Chad lead the group tasting the previous day. I am going to cover the current vintages first as these are probably more relevant for community interests as they would be what one might buy or sell right now. The barrel samples and older vintages are certainly important for a perspective on what the wine-making philosophy and style are, and the clonal and soil samples are simply for great personal knowledge.
First a couple of bullet points:
Current Release Notes:
Melville Estate Chardonnay INOX, Sta. Rita Hills, 2015
3 Part Tasting Exercise with Chad Melville
Flight 1 - Soil Experiment
Basically they have three soil types displayed on the table for us too see, feel, and smell, and the point of this flight was to show purely what the influence of soil is on the wine when all other aspects of wine-making are the same. We had three barrel samples, each made exactly the same, from the same block, clone and whole cluster inclusion level.
There is a lot of debate among "Stem-Heads" on how much whole clusters and stems to include in the fermentation process. Basically this is where the three of what I call "umbrella components" are influenced - color, aroma and texture. Chad offered us three barrel samples, each made exactly the same with the exception of the level of whole-clusters included.
To note - typically the Estate PN has about 40% inclusion, but the small block wines will have 80-100%. Looking for aromatics, lift and texture...
Flight 3 - Aging Exploration through the eyes of Chardonnay
Here it was pretty simple - three vintages of Chardonnay to see how the impact of the winemaking process can help to extend the life of cool-climate wines. Remember, no ML means more acid, which typically means better age-ability - sorry all you overly sweet, oaky, full-ML Chards - you have no life.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of travelling to Santa Barbara County and visiting the wine regions over a four day trip which was sponsored by the Santa Barbara Vintners association. This was the second year the trip was held, and the purpose is to expose Sommeliers and other wine industry professionals to what is happening in Santa Barbara wine, as well as give a great educational tour of each AVA through out the area.
This year the trip involved just about 50 attendees, coming from across the entire United States.
There were primarily Somms from California, but we had many who had traveled (such as myself) in from farther regions like Florida, Massachusetts and other eastern States. Turned out to be a very good mix of people and very good representation of the wine industry. The talk on the bus through the three days was very much centered around what study level folks are at with the qualifications, but eventually everyone stopped trying to impress each other and really just talked shop or moved onto other topics - such as coffee. This for me is why I go on these trips. It allows me to interact with others in the business and exchange thoughts and ideas, plus perhaps some concepts of best practices or other things to make our work lives easier.
The organizer of the trip is the head of the Santa Barbara Vintners association, Morgen McLaughlin. Morgen put a lot of energy into getting us in front of as many of the vintners as possible while not over doing it for us. There was a lot of travel and a lot of wines to taste all in a very short period of time, but for the mot part we powered through.
I have learned over the years of doing win trips that I will be in much better shape if I do not drink into the night, go to bed at a reasonable time, and get up in the morning to go for a walk or run before breakfast. I know...boring, but it helped a lot on this trip to be from the east coast, as my timing was for early to bed and early to rise. I was able to get in an hour or two of work each morning before we left for the day.
I am going to detail the individual stops and trips in other posts but the general outline for the trip is below.
Mission: Santa Barbara 2016
3 days of travel and seminars in every AVA of the region
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Arrived in LA and transferred to Solvang. More on Solvang later, but suffice to say, everyone should make a stop at some point - its great Americana.
First Night for Dinner - Welcome BBQ at Clendenen Ranch - hosted by Jim Clendenen, of course, and we had loads of older bottles and met lots of the vintners and other personalities we would meet up with over the next couple of days.
Dinner was catered by the Hitching Post - Burgers!
Monday, April 18, 2016
After breakfast we met at the Landsby Hotel in Slovang for an overview presentation of Santa Barbara County.
This was a great intro seminar to set us up for the next few days and give a perspective of what is going on in Santa Barbara. Seminar hosted by the Central Coast writer for Wine Enthusiast - Matt Kettmann.
After the seminar we piled on the bus and sorted out the seating a bit.
We were on for a bit as the exploration headed north to Santa Maria Valley and Presqu’ile Winery. Here we had a walk through tasting hosted by Wes Hagen and 10 other winemakers from the region. This was a very cool tasting where we worked blind through three flights of Chards, Pinots and Syrah from Santa Maria Valley (all cool climate of course).
Once completed we piled back on to the bus (where was the coffee??), and headed over to lunch at Bien Nacido Vineyard.
Best Beans ever!
More large format and older bottles but a lot of cool wines, and Wes Hagen did his History of Wine in 5 Minutes TED Talk. Check it out - definitely worth a listen.
After lunch we headed out on an exploration of Sta. Rita Hills and ultimately ended up at Sanford & Benedict for a great double seminar and tasting. Our tour guide for this leg of the bus ride was Richard Sanford - the man who planted vines here in 1971.
The discussion was in the barn on Sanford & Benedict Vineyard - very cool, and beautiful views.
We were not done yet!
And still no coffee, but another bus ride around the mountains and over to Melville Winery. Another very in depth tasting exploring three aspects of the terroir and winemaking concepts used for extreme cool climate regions such as Sta. Rita Hills.
Chad Melville and his dad lead us through a soil impact tasting, a stem/whole cluster inclusion exercise, and age seminar with their estate Chardonnay. This was great tasting.
This was followed by dinner at Melville, behind the winery.
Yeah, "dinner" does not do this justice - it was a mini farmers market style walk around with the In & Out Burger Food Truck (it’s a Semi with a full restaurant attached to it), plus local farmers with veggies, best chanterelle quesadillas by the guy who owns Industrial Eats (look it up), the one and only woman Uni diver in the US, all kinds of good stuff to eat. Plus a dozen Sta. Rita Hills vintners pouring wines, including - Fess Parker, Ampelos, Foxen, Melville, Hitching Post, and more.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Up early for my walk around Slovang an some breakfast - finally, coffee!
Can't get enough of the Adelskivvers
Hit the bus and this time exploration of Santa Barbara County, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos District at Brander Vineyard.
Great intro-seminar by Fred Brander followed by a tasting with a number of Santa Yez producers - Seth Kunin, Steve Clifton of Palmina, Zaca Mesa, Whitcraft, Andrew Murray and a ton of others.
The Brander SB and Reserve SB, was bottled an hour before we tasted it - mighty good stuff
From here we headed to lunch at Grimm’s Bluff Winery.
This place is a little insane, and by this time we were figuring out that you had to be a billionaire to open a winery, these days.
Lunch was catered by S.Y. Kitchen (look it up) and (more on them later).
I sat with Andrew Murray from Andrew Murray Winery.
Thoughtful coffee service was provided!
Back on the bus and an exploration of Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara at Star Lane / Dierberg (stupid money), followed by tasting of wines from Happy Canyon AVA.
One of the suppliers was kind enough to have some beers in the car, which she made available to several of us.
Quick trip over to Ballard Canyon AVA and Larner Vineyard & Winery, with the seminar on warm climate Syrah in the barn at Larner. Ballard Canyon is the newest AVA in Santa Barbara Cty.
Kaena Winery wines are tasty!
We were all getting a little fatigued by this time, and the warm weather was not helping, but most of us powered through and enjoyed the presentation and wines.
After the tour and taste at Larner Winery we headed to the final night dinner with a tasting and tour at Stolpman Vineyards.
Yeah, that is not quite right - we had the craziest tour and tasting.
Pick-up truck tour through the vineyards.
Rajat Parr joined us in the vineyard. Trousseau!
These guys have a crazy amount of money.
Awesome farewell dinner at Stolpman.
Unbelievable food and setting.
I went home early - some people got into the tequila...
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
I took the extra day, which was set up by Morgen - turned out to be a great experience and more learning.
Full private tour of SeaSmoke in the morning - Land Rover up the mountain with glasses of Sparkling in your hand...Pinot Noir!
Then toured Hillard Bruce Vineyard - another billionaire property, but their new winemaker is Greg Brewer.
This was followed by a full tour lunch and and tasting at Melville Winery.
They gave me the keys to the place and everyone left at 5pm.
Very quiet, very beautiful setting, and I was all alone with all the wine.
Out from LAX the next morning early...back to reality.
Thanks for the ride 5:30am ride Chad.
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.
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