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An affair with wines from small vineyards

Eve's Wine 101

Posted: December 6, 2008 9:25 p.m.
Updated: December 7, 2008 4:55 a.m.

While the sunset promised by Assistance League of Santa Clarita Valley for their inaugural Sunset in the Vineyard wine tasting was scorched by recent wildfires, they still managed, quite nicely, to provide a beautiful backdrop to a very different kind of tasting. You were unable to purchase any of the wines served there, and most were not available for purchase, just yet, anywhere.

It was a unique event, with a gathering, for the very first time, of SCV private vineyards and wine makers serving local artisan wines.

Several tables stretched between two private homes, making it easy for guests to linger wherever their glasses desired. And if you wanted you could also tour some commercial wine tastings.

The Assistance League assured everyone would be more than satisfied. Some of the better-known wines served included Folie A Deux Menage a Trois, Fess Parker, Coppola, Vina Berri and Marques de Caceres.
When I realized how much territory I had to cover with wine makers from our very own Newhall, Castaic and Bouquet Canyon, I pressed on.

"We do not own a vineyard," Patty Connolly of Les Deux Chats Cellars began. "Instead we buy our grapes from high quality vineyards in both Paso Robles and Lodi and transport them back to our home in Valencia where we make our wines. We have been making wines since 1997 and our dream is to turn our hobby into a business and go commercial in the next few years. Our current 2008 vintage includes Zinfandel, Syrah, Viognier and Roussane."

And it was here that my first, Wine 101 type, non-pretentious, simple quotes were first heard. "This wine (I had to look in their ice bucket to see that it was their 2006 Marsanne) is crisp and fresh," said Lauren Lefkowitz, a Santa Claria Valley resident.

Chris Carpenter, with his glass wine thief, was drawing out barrel samples of his Cabernet Tempranillo blend from Santa Ynez grapes for Compa Vineyards. His 2007 Lost Pruners 2007 Cabernet was a favorite.

Kerry and Susie Clark had provided several varietals from their Two Hearts Vineyard in Castaic. The 2006 Cabernet from Yakima, Wash., I was lucky enough to enjoy.

Jeff and Joan Jacobson - you want to remember their names as Jeff is the wine chairman of the yearly SCV Youth Orchestra Wine Classic - brought their neighbor and novice wine drinker Leah Granen.

"Jeff is the pro but I just say, ‘I like it' when I drink with him," Granen said.

I spent about a minute perusing two bottles for auction: Opus 2002 and Insignia 2002.

Jeff Jacobson joked that I didn't need to bid; I guess I must have mentioned our membership with Joseph Phelps which we joined to insure receipt of Insignia. But at this point I was wondering how I could become a member, with my local wine makers.

Dora Zavala of Santa Clarita said she liked Juan Alonso's award winning Rosé.

Alonso, with the best local wine list available per the Wine Spectator and Eve's Wine 101 at his restaurant, Le Chene French Cuisine, was pouring wine with the help of his lovely wife Claudia, from seven to 13-year-old vines.

The unlabeled 2005 Rosé Grenache had a nose I had trouble identifying - which is sometimes the folly of a wine drinker nearing the end of her day - but I loved it. He followed that with his 2005 100 percent Grenache and a 2004 Felix Cuvee Grenache Syrah blend.

Bouquet Vineyard wines were described as "So good!" by taster Dawnelle Cook.

I found myself unable to pour out any of the 2005 Cabernet I had as well. The father and son-in-law team, Carmen D'Argenzio and Danny Mascari, were flanked by Carmen's wife and daughter, Rita D'Argenzio and Nina Mascari.

The Italian wine makers, Carmen himself making wines for 20 years, have had their vineyard since 1994.
The family affair proved to be a labor of organic wines, made without sulfites and using the "old world" method of wine making.

"It's all about a passion for wine making," said Roman Weiser of Ben's Crush Winery (Cellar Masters Silver Medal for 2005 Cabernet Franc Merlot blend). "It's refreshing as we are not here to sell anything, just to contribute to a good cause and share our love for wine. Chris Carpenter and I take special pride when our wine label wins Honorable Mention in the wine label competition of Wine making Magazine."

Trying their Mantis 2005 Syrah aptly named for the Preying Mantis that flew in during the naming process, Mara and Steve Prutting called it their "mothership."

"Stop making nice with the press and pour me some Zin," said Marlee Lauffer, of Newhall Land. She laughed and allowed me to quote her as I headed over to Dragonfly Winery.

Their newly released Batch #2 Zinfandel will closely resemble the Zin they plan to release only to SCV bars and restaurants very soon.

"I like their award-winners," Tamara Brown said, "All of them."

"They are the best so far," Bruce Brown agreed. "The wine maker did it justice."

The last wine makers I visited, Tomas and Jenny Lukas' Vineyard, were surrounded by well wishing neighbors. They were happily drinking what they enjoy at gatherings - both 2006 Prima Syrah Zinfandel blend and a 2007 Bob Cat Red Syrah.

"The Lukas' are amazing cooks," Rena Tarrant said. "And friends and wine makers."

For some reason I felt that statement like an echo. As local wine makers, in the business of making and not selling wine, do it for their friends. And I believe we made a lot more new wine friends this day, via the Assistance League.

Eve Bushman is a resident of Newhall. Her column represents her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. Contact Eve at or via her blog


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