California wines on the road less traveled

Between the California coastal city of Lompoc and the town of Buellton, just west of the 101, lies 30,700 square acres of the Sta. Rita Hills.

This pristine, peaceful land is located in Santa Barbara County and is part of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area).

Its history as Sta. Rita Hills AVA dates back only to 2005, but Franciscan missionaries were planting there as early as 1787. Today, some 2,900 acres are planted with wine grapes in rocky soil where coastal fog fills the valley and hills, intensifying a cool-climate influence — what’s needed for quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pinot makes up about 78 percent of the vines in the area.

Natural acidity, balanced with firm structure, is a common thread in the wines throughout the region where some 60 vineyards and wineries have been established.

My sources for this article included two enthusiastic disciples of the Sta. Rita Hills wine country. Joshua Orr is the in-house sommelier and bar manager at Marina Kitchen, in the Marriott Marquis and Marina in downtown San Diego.

In my conversations with him about wines with unique characteristics, his passion for Sta. Rita Hills poured out, and he revealed plans for an afternoon wine tasting of the region and a barbecue dinner to follow March 30.

The consumer tasting will start at 3 p.m., with the barbecue at 5:30 p.m.  That caught my attention, so I called the other disciple, Barbara Satterfield, who is the executive director of the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Growers Alliance.

“We have an ideal climate for Pinot Noir with the perfect elevation, climate and soil, that define our AVA,” she said.  “We are very excited to be coming to San Diego, especially after a great 2013 harvest with high yields and quality grapes.”

The Marina Kitchen event will be a walk around with 20 wineries pouring for $20 per person.  The barbecue features many active food stations, large format bottles and more selections not found in the walk around. Cost is $45.  A discount will be offered for both. Purchase tickets at  Keyword is Sta. Rita Hills.

Bogle is Best of Breed for Value Wines

Wine Spectator recently confirmed what I have been saying ever since I discovered the wonderful world of wine and paid $9 for a Petite Sirah and fell in love with Bogle.

This 2010 version was named a “top value” by the world’s largest circulated wine magazine. Most recently Bogle increased sales by 16 percent to 1.75 million cases, the core portfolio features 10 offerings, including the most recent blend, Essential Red ($10). It contains Old Vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet and Petite Sirah and is aged 18 months in French oak.

“Our brand is really founded on value, and our core principal has always been to produce great wines for the money,” said Chris Catterton of Bogle sales and marketing in a recent column in Wine Spectator. The growth of sales was nearly out of control, until Bogle spent $50 million on a new wine facility in Clarksburg in the Sacramento Delta, adding storage of about 100,000 barrels. Concentrated, rich and savory, Bogle’s appeal is all about every person’s budget at no sacrifice in quality.  See more at

Wine Bytes

The 3rd annual San Diego International Wine Show is scheduled at the Paddock, San Diego Fairgrounds in Del Mar Apr. 26 and April 27.  Spaces are still left for wineries in California. Contact the show producer at (760) 807-6042.

RELM Wine Beer Bistro in Carlsbad will hold a cooking with wine class March 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Private Chef Victoria East shows how to prepare amazing dishes with wine.  $45.  Phone (760) 230-2077.

Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe has its next Taste of Terroirs dinner March 25, featuring Argentine wines. Owner Bertrand Hug will lead guests through six wines.  $100 per guest; RSVP at (858) 756-3085.

Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley off the 56 has a Foxen wine dinner March 27 at 6 p.m.  Five courses with five Foxen wines.  $54.50; RSVP at (858) 538-5884.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.His columns can be viewed at  He is one of the top wine commentstor on the web.  Reach him at



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