Season 1, Episode 2
Santa Barbara is my favorite California wine region. Dollar for dollar, nothing competes, especially if you love cool climate wines like Pinot Noir and elegant, restrained Chardonnay. Our restaurant on this episode has a spot close to my heart: it was the place I envisioned for V is for Vino when I came up with the idea years ago, and doggone-it, I got it done. Find out why Santa Barbara is the getaway for the celebs on this episode of V is for Vino.
filmed April, 2017 | runtime 27 minutes
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Welcome to Santa Barbara County! A onesleepy wine region turned top travel destination by the film "Sideways"- whereMiles, played by Paul Giamatti, famously declared his detest for Merlot, but moreimportantly his love for Pinot Noir. And that's why we're here. Get ready to watchlearn and drink. Welcome to V is for Vino! I'm here in downtown Santa Barbara whichis about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles. It's a perfect getaway for usLos Angelenos trying to get out of the city and do a little hotels restaurantsyou name it Santa Barbara has anything for as long as you need to recharge. Sowhile Santa Barbara the city has that warm SoCal weather that we love, SantaBarbara the wine growing region is actually fairly cool. It's about 45minutes north of here. It's cool because the Santa Ynez Mountains on either sideact as a funnel to funnel the cool ocean air right through the vineyards. And ifyou couple that with the fact that because of low average rainfall thewinemakers don't have to harvest before the fall rains come in, you're left witha nice long cool growing season which is perfect for Burgundian style grapeslike Chardonnay and more importantly Pinot Noir. So how did winemaking getstarted in Santa Barbara? Well a lot the same way that it got started in most ofCalifornia- church. Let me explain. See back in the day, like late 1700s, theSpanish occupied California and they wanted to impose Christianity onto theNative Americans who were living in California at the time. So what did theydo? Well they established 21 religious outposts or missions all theway from San Diego up the coast to Sonoma. And if you've ever driven up the101 freeway in California and seen the bells marked "El Camino Real" -meant "Thekingsroad" those are symbolic markers of the journey between each of the missions.At these missions they grew livestock, and crops, and most importantly religiousceremonial wine. And then eventually just wine. Despite all that, Santa Barbarawinemaking as we know it is actually fairly young. It started really in the1960s but didn't take off until the 1990s. There's over a hundred wineries inSanta Barbara County now -it's one of the youngest and most exciting areas inCalifornia and we're gonna go to one of the wineries right now. We took the hour drive up to the SantaMaria Valley to learn a bit more about the grapes we'll be drinking today -PinotNoir and Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir. The winemakers who make it deserve a medalor plaque or at least a pat on the back because it's one of the most difficultgrapes to grow for a couple reasons- it's prone to a lot of mutations while it'shere on the vine. Some of these mutations are good -we like Pinot Blanc, PinotMeunier, you probably know Pinot Grigio- all members of the Pinot family. But thereal problem is the thin skins that Pinot Noir has- see these are extrasusceptible to mold rot mildew anything under the Sun- literally the Sun- it canget sunburned. Pinot Noir also has a notoriously low yields, it doesn't producea lot of grapes so winemakers don't have a lot of leeway. It needs a nice longcool dry growing season- but when winemakers do it right it's reallyfantastic -it's silky and supple and smooth and elegant it produces red fruitflavors in the realm of pomegranate and cranberry, cherries a big one. But it'swith age where Pinot Noir really shines. Think barnyard, truffle, mushroom, driedmeats, dried leaves, and earth- really everything under the sun, that's what'sso 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 elementin wine that kind of dries out your mouth and give it a bitterness. Becausethe tannins are low, Pinot Noir doesn't necessarily need food- it's great todrink on a Tuesday afternoon. But it also goes very well with a lot of foodbecause it has high acid- it goes just as well with the steak as it does withchicken and even pairs really well with salmon, that's one of the most famouspairings for Pinot. Chardonnay Everybody loves Chardonnay becauseChardonnay loves everybody. It's really versatile, it's grown in almost everywine region in the world because it likes any type of climate. In really coldclimates like Chablis and Champagne, I'm talking really cold, it can produce winesthat are very steely and minerally, high acid, crisp, -think yellow fruits, lemonand green apple. When it gets a little warmer can get even a tropical noteslike mango and pineapple. Now there's a bigmisconception that Chardonnay tastes like oak or Chardonnay tastes likebutter -but those are actually winemaker decisions those aren't necessarilyChardonnay characteristics. See a winemaker decides if he's going to oakhis wine or if he's gonna let it go through what's called malolacticfermentation which, without getting a little nerdy, is when harsh malic acidturns into lactic acid; literally like lactate; and that's where you get thosebutter and those custardy flavors. It generally tends to be a medium to fullerbodied white wine- it's gonna taste like minerals or fruit or have low acid orhigh acid largely based on the region that it was grown. Speaking of where it'sgrown it's usually grown with Pinot Noir. It's actually a pretty known fact thatif 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.comhe 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 Burgundyis a place that makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by law exclusively forhundreds of years. We tend to emulate in the new world what France does in theold world. France is kind of like the Beatles of the wine world- it's arguableif they were the best but they are definitely one of the first at what theydo and when climates matched we don't reinvent the wheel. And they're evensometimes blended together- Champagne is Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir,and Chardonnay. I've met some pretty smart people in mylife 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 havingus out.Wes: We can see the beautiful Santa Maria Valley behind us- this is kind of aplace that's sort of the heart and soul of Santa Barbara winemaking. If you'relooking for wines that are elegant restrained more European and style ifyou're looking for something complex if you're looking for something that reallyrepresents the soil that comes from I don't think it gets better for the moneythan Santa Barbara County.V: What is your background how did you get into this inthe first place?V: Well I was I was a high school English teacher and the kidsdrove me to drink and I went pro! Got a call from my mom and my stepfather saidwe just bought a piece of property near Lompoc and I worked there as thevineyard manager in the winemaker for about 22 years with my wife Chanda. Myfamily decided to get out of the wine business and to lease the vineyard outand now little over two years now I've been the winemaker and the brandambassador for J Wilkes wines up here in Santa Maria Valley. Jeff Wilkes was thevineyard salesperson for these vines that you see behind us, there's 900 acresof vines here in this vineyard. Jeff was extremely influential in getting peopleto 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 forall of us and now we've kept the brand alive hoping that not only are wecelebrating Jeff's legacy and what he did for SantaBarbara County winemaking but also to put out delicious balanced high-valuewines.V: Beautiful way to be be honored for Jeff, and I know a big thing for him wasyou know wine is all about the people you share it with I always say that it'sfar more important who we drink with than what we drink.Wes: I'd rather drink luckylager with my boys than Romanée-Conti with my enemies, unless it's a reallygreat vintage then I'll put up with their douchery.V: We're gonna talktoday I think a little bit about Pinot and Chardonnay, tell me a little bitabout your philosophy behind what those grapes should be.Wes: Well you know I youknow sideways was 12 years ago that weird movie really brought all thesepeople 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 thatChardonnay is the best grape we grow in Santa Barbara County because 95% of allchardonnays are grown in areas that are way too warm. So I'm gonna go on therecord to say the best grape we grow in Santa Barbara both in the Santa Ritahills and Santa Maria Valley- Chardonnay is the best grape we grow. It's the mostexpressive, you can do whatever you want it: Chardonnay is sort of like theeditorial model of the wine world- it's not so much about her but the clothesyou hang on her. If it was a woman I'd want her in a little black dress, no coator no big sort of Carmen Miranda hat. Sshowing off the quality of the grapesand the quality of the place where they're grown. With Pinot Noir we'reabout you know 25 to 30 percent new French oak as well. The Pinot Noir here alot of it in the Santa Maria Valley is old vine so we have a lot of sources forour for our fruit that really do produce amazingly intense Pinot Noir. And onereason that is we get so much wind- you can see the fog coming in off thePacific Ocean right now- built-in air conditioning, fog, wind, all thathas 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 toshow that beautiful sense of place. Minerality, elegance, restraint, but also alot of flavor. And here's the deal, we think too much about wine we talk toomuch about wine, it's the only beverage that I know that keeps me a table withthe people I love an average of an extra hour every day of my life- and I think itreally 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 thebest experiences we'll have as human being.V: Yeah well on that note let's getto it! Let's go try some wine! Before we taste Ithought it would be a good idea to learn a little more about those oak barrelsthat 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. Seewine makers aren't beer makers, there's only grapes in wine- you can'tthrow in coriander and orange peel. So oak gives a winemakers a way to addtheir handprint onto the wine and add some flavors that you wouldn't get fromthe grapes themselves. Number two mouthfeel- it contributes to avelvety soft mouthfeel that really helps harsher wines.First off you have to get the barrels- where do they come from? Well trees thatare at least 100 years old, cut down dried into staves for two to three yearsin the wind in the air and the elements, then taken to a Cooperage, where a Cooperturns 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. Nowthere's two types of oak that are primarily used for wine aging -whiteFrench oak and white American oak. Now French oak is usually used for lightermore delicate wines -Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and imparts darker spice flavor-espresso and clove and allspice. Whereas American oak has a lot sweeter flavorsand it's a little more strong so it can stand up to Zinfandel and petite Syrahand it usually adds flavors of coconut and vanilla and even dill and some coolstuff 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 somecombination 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 coupleyears- some wines actually have requirements by law of how long you haveto age -Barolo in Italy needs to be aged for 18 months- Gran reserva Rioja 24months. How big do you want the barrels? Smaller more effective, but they're alsomore expensive. How much char do you want on your barrel?The staves can be toasted from light medium to heavy just like coffee andthat's gonna affect the final flavor of the wine. And all this is assuming youeven have the money to oak at all! These barrels cost between eight hundred andsixteen hundred dollars a pop- do you want to pass that cost on to your consumer? Sobecause of this a lot of winemakers use oak alternatives; oakstaves, oak chip, oak powder put right into the wine. Now this isn't necessarilya bad thing- see barrels wastes the whole outside of the barrel, and it's notnecessarily 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 areused for sherry or bourbon tend to be repurposed for long-term aging of scotchwhiskey, and we usually end up cutting these intofurniture or wine racks or sometimes flower pots which all in all isn't a badlife for a tree... Now we are ready to taste. W: All right rockand roll- going pirate style...argh! Alright so this is a brand new vintageof Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir -this is from a single vineyard this wine isabout five months old. To read the barrel it says 2007, 23rd barrelFrancois Ferrier is the name of the barrel builder, in France from the Vosgesforest, and it is a heavy toast barrel. So that kind of that gives you kind of anidea on how to read the barrel. It has some very nice color to it -Pinot Noir can bevery very light color somewhere between garnet and Ruby. Should be very brightcherry fruit maybe a little bit of raspberry. We decide how to blend thiswine and how to make it into a final J Wilkes wine we also have three othervineyards that we can blend in so we have all the different vineyards toblend to make the wine, all the different oak treatment to blend in the wine, andthen we can decide what percentage of each goes into the final wine.V: So you'renot taking directly from one barrel putting in a bottle...W: No no it takes a lotmany many days of blending trials and we really challenge ourself during theblending trials we may spend two or three days just blending this wineV: You guys are like fortune tellers man I mean you need to see now and you need tosee the future.W: Our main focus is to make the wine delicious on release and we allwe just know that the vineyard sources have a great capacity for aging andgreat wine takes care of itself. I would say five years is where the magichappens between losing the baby fat and starting to show the more delicate andcomplex aromas that emerge when the wine has been aged properly. Definitely get a little bit of toastfrom the oak, a little of that gameyness... big bright cherry fruit, good color. PinotNoir is the most frustrating and ephemeral grapes in the world to handlein the cellar because it tastes different every day. Taste it everyday for a week, two weeks, a month, and then if you figured that the wine needssomething or maybe that barrel needs to be taken out of the blend, that's whenyou do it. Pinot Noir will challenge my belief that everything can be understoodthrough science and laboratory analysis. I think would be a perfect opportunityto 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 wetake 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 orfull-bodied, and they're talking about the weight or the mouthfeel that a winehas. A lot of things contribute to body- alcohol contributes to body- higheralcohol 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 wecan describe body in terms we may understand is milk -now this is fat-freemilk, and this will be your equivilent f a lighter bodied wine. Youcan see it pour is really easy it swirls around the glass really easy and in themouth it feels kind of light, it's kind of close to water whereas when you go alittle heavier- This is half and half, this would be your equivalent of amedium bodied wine. A little more slow to go around the glass, and when you tasteit, it's got a lot more weight, kind of coats the mouth a little more. And thenyou get up to a full bodied wine- this is heavy cream. You can see slow to pour outreally thick around the glass, and really just kind of coats the insideof your mouth and has a lot of weight to it. Now body is not necessarily anindicator of quality, in fact some of the best wines in the world have a lightbody. It's more a function of place and grape and climate than anything else. You canput body on a scale over here -at number one you have light bodied wines and overhere you'd have full-bodied wine. So light bodied wines think Riesling andProsecco then you get into medium bodied white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer. Then in the middle things get kind ofinteresting you have a crossover between full-bodied whites and lighter bodydreads so Chardonnay, Viognier, and white Rhone blends have about the same weightas Pinot Noir and Gamay in lighter bodied reds. Then you go over here the mediumbodied Reds like Barbera and Merlot and up top petite Syrah Zinfandel Cabernetare your big full-bodied reds. You want to match your food when you're pairingwith 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 youdo maybe chicken or salmon with a full-bodied white or light bodied redand then up here rich dishes big stews hearty steaks with the full-bodiedreds. I hope you learned a little something about body and thanks forgeeking out. We needed to learn how to cook a few dishes that would pair withour J Wilkes wines. And for that I headed to do an industrial park in Buellton to getthe best food in Santa Barbara County. Ask anyone, and I mean anyone, where toget food on this side of town and they're gonna send you here. This isIndustrial Eats. Vince: All right so tell me a little bit aboutthe restaurant.Jeff: Well we we bought a catering company my wife and I 17 yearsago and the rest of this industrial building that we're in was just wasbasically storage- wine storage the rental company it was a mechanic's kindof 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 becauseit's not commercial it's industrial. Around 2005 sideways comesout and the entire valley just explodes the number of wineries quadruple andthey wanted the tax revenues you know so so they change their tune and they werelike yeah sure do it. Three years ago we opened.V: You're packed all the time andin a place where you maybe shouldn't be packed.J: I love restaurants andunconventional spacesV: and everything here is a little unconventional. You lookon the walls... J: Yeah I say it to be inside of myhead. They're just things I've collected over the years some antiques there thephotographs are from a good friend of ours, they're artists that I like.V: And youseem 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 giveeach 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 itwon't work it's not that's not what people here want and it was justimportant to me that it had that field it really be a part of the community. Andobviously this is not fine dining but we've taken some of those techniques andsome of that certainly that care for the food that level of care for the food wehave that here but but it's much more accessible. Get it to where you thinkthere's enough flavor and then put in 10 times more. I hate on Yelp when I get athree-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 sowhat are we what are we makin? J: We're gonna do two dishes today we're gonna doa pretty simple roasted chanterelle mushroom dish with some thyme a littlebit of Chardonnay and some butter that's bomb. First time in six years they'vebeen 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 clamsfarm-raised down in Ensenada on the Baja Peninsula by our friend Mark at the Jollyoyster -he's got a shack on the beach up in Ventura, we're one of his onlywholesale 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. Sowe tell people in the restaurant this is proper clam chowder the way clam chowderis supposed to be. I don't know when it became the wallpaper paste that mostpeople expect today. V: That's a lot of garlicJ: We use a lotof garlic here. We use a lot of everything here. We like our flavor to bewhere 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 thatsweating a little bit. As with everything we cook as well we got our these twoovens.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 potof water and we put shallots and potato and all the parmesan rinds and we boilthat when we make essentially a stock. And a bit of heavy cream, so white wineparm broth and heavy cream go into there. Look at our clams those are all openingnicely. The doneness of this dish is kind of determined by when the potatoes aredone... 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 stovetopV: Just throw it on the stove. J: A little bit of butter, littlethyme, little salt pepper and then a little bit of lemon. I like thethickness of that you don't want it too thick but the starch from the potatoesjust tighten it up just a little bit. A little toasted garlickybreadcrumb 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 bewhat that is cuz it's just so good... it's so deep there's so many layers going onyou don't even know where to start with it. It's not too thick it's not too soupyJ: Yeah the salt content of his clams and oysters is a bit higher because they'reactually 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 greatwith the lightly oaed Chardonnay for a couple reasons. The creaminess of thedish goes great with the slight creaminess of the Chardonnaywhile the acid in the Chardonnay cuts through that richness. Finally a fullbodied 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 alittle bit.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 actuallythe same pretty much the same?J: Essentially. Lots of olive oil and then we just pop that inthe 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 andthis one over here at about seven hundred. And that's where we wouldnormally do a lot of this saute work. Tthis needs to be real hot because it hasto happen really quick.V: Wow, yeah that's hot as hell.J: A couple ofciabatta toasts that we make up to help soak up all this great sauce we're gonnamake with the mushrooms right now. They roast it up really nice youreally you don't you don't need to do much but warm these, you just want a warmup, really have such an incredible texture now we're just gonna hit it witha little wine fresh thyme tiny bit of chili flake and just a little bit ofbutter. Gorgeous. PerfectV: Oh god the smell... if youcould be here right now...J: So lemon juice... a little bit of salt/pepper.. that is thestuff... 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 doto a Chanatrelle..V: Time to try?J: yeah let's do it. V: Oh my god The texture of those mushrooms it out issick... absolutely gangster. Enoughacid in the sauce to to kind of cut through but not so much you're gonnaoverpower 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 justmelts... got the bread soaking up everything on the bottom. Those savoryearthy 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 andChardonnay 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 timeon V is for Vino!