Research Trip to Central Coast CA – Day 3 D’Alfonso-Curran etc.

6 Sep

Day 3 started off with a call to Bruno, at D’Alfonso-Curran, the

D'Alfonso-Curran

recommendation from dinner the night before, and this turned out to be the highlight of the day. We’d never heard of them before…totally not on our radar…but this is one of the reasons we like to travel to different wine areas. A group from Avant Tapas and Wine restaurant, and a person switching careers from being a lawyer to wine, and Lori and I, met at an unmarked location, their wine-making facility off of Santa Rosa Road.

 

Bruno and Chris are the principals of D’Alfonso-Curran, and don’t currently have a tasting room or winery with their names pasted on signs,…the directions were to take a left at a mailbox and go down a gravel road. Make no mistake, they are scientific winemakers with years of experience at famous wineries, who have gone out on their own. We’d been told that Chris and Bruno are characters, and that was evident in a big way….we had a ball, tasting fabulous wines and listening to their stories. Their wines are the highlight of this trip to date, and we hope to find a way to bring them into MA….distributors take note. The first several wines were out of the barrel/tanks, and then they opened a couple bottles as everyone talked. Bruno told about a blind tasting they did with some of the big name wines and winemakers….with bottles up to $500 retail. The no 1 wine was one Bruno had made from grapes that one of the “big names” had been planning to throw out (chagrin all over the place). Bruno and Chris have a lot of disdain for many “winemakers who don’t know what they are doing.”  They explained why the aging of Pinot Noir in French oak for 40 months results in smoother, more balanced and complex wine than aging for 11 months (which is typical). What happens is that over time long polymer chains are formed which remove the harshness of tannins and add flavor. Chris’ analogy was that stepping on one nail will puncture the foot, but a bed of nails won’t. Their wines are superior and the prices are quite reasonable for what they are. We spent a couple hours there and could have stayed longer (but we had another appointment). Chris and Bruno, who are married, are people of great accomplishment (one was winemaker at Sanford and the other Seasmoke), with big personalities and strong opinions. All that wouldn’t matter if they didn’t also make superior wine. We learned a lot about winemaking during this visit, while having a chance to taste wines that are hard to come by.

 

Next we headed to Los Olivos, which has a gaggle of tasting rooms. We had an appointment at Dragonette Cellars, which had been set up for us by one of our distributors (and Ray had seen a write-up on their Sauvignon Blanc). It’s a family affair, with the Dragonette brothers, wives, in-laws etc. running the show. John Dragonette tasted us, and we met Brandon (in the picture)

Brandon at Dragonette

, both of which used to work with Alex Hay of Vineyard Road (a Mass distributor) at a fancy wine shop in LA (the wine shop to the “stars”). Their SB was indeed delicious, with good value. It was a nice tasting…we especially enjoyed tasting wine samples John had pulled from barrels in the morning (the winery is at a different location) for us to taste and also the Sauvignon Blanc grapes that were on the tasting bar. The 2010 Clone 113 Pinot Noir from the Fiddlestix vineyard was especially excellent. Dragonette uses a small percentage of full clusters (not de-stemmed), which adds “ash” notes. In addition, this wine has a big luscious nose with black raspberry, and black fruit and green pepper on the palate. We hope to get this wine after it’s been bottled.

 

Bottles at Artiste

We revisited Artiste, which combines art and winemaking. Each bottle has a painting (see pic) on it, and the paintings are changed quarterly. They sell only out of the store, and have an extensive wine club…no advertising…and a small production of funky blends. Anyone who visits the store can produce art, and Artiste hangs it on the ceiling…the real art is

Ceiling of Art

impressive. The last time we were there we bought a bottle, only to find out the pourer was the artist, so we still have a signed bottle in our wine cellar.

 

At the morning tasting, the group suggested going to Kaena, a relatively new winery by the winemaker at Beckman. Their symbol is a beautiful Syrah Leaf, with a huge metal one on the wall, in tribute to

Syrah Leaf

Hawaiian quilting patterns. The wines are excellent, but the winery is so small that there’s not much distribution. The co-owner and wife, Sally Sigouin would be interested in having their wines in Mass…we’ll see..it’s hard to make that happen without becoming a distributor.

 

We headed back to Lompoc and decided not to go out for dinner, but to have something relatively light for a change. We needed a wine though, so we stopped in at the Wine Ghetto, and saw that Jalama was open, one we’d missed. We wanted a relatively full bodied white for salad, cheese, etc. and were rewarded with a delicious and unusual blend of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc that had been barrel fermented. We’d get this Clementina again, if possible, but this is another small winery with only local distribution.

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