Santa Barbara Fisherwoman Stephanie Mutz

At the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in the Santa Barbara Wine Country, a small group of bloggers enjoyed a wonderful visit to the Bridlewood Estate Winery in the Santa Ynez AVA.  The entrance to the winery is impressive, with its Spanish Mission style of architecture.  Our Apple Basket lunch of local sandwiches and salads was served overlooking Bridlewood Lake and was complemented by delicious Bridlewood wines.

Bridlewood winery

Bell Tower at Bridlewood Estate Winery in Santa Barbara wine country

Following the lunch, we had a very informative seminar in the Bridlewood cellar.  Rather than the usual panel of winery owners and winemakers, this panel included:

  • Richard Martin (Moderator), editorial director of Food Republic
  • Mark Williams, Winemaker for Bridlewood Estate Winery
  • Jeff Olsson, chef and proprietor of New West Catering and Industrial Eats Restaurant
  • Jake O’Francis, Pig farmer
  • Christopher and Johanna Finley, farmers for Finley Organic Farms
  • Stephanie Mutz, Santa Barbara Fisherwoman
fisher woman stpehanie

Photo of Stephanie Mutz by Fran Collin, francollin.com

Most interesting to me was the inclusion of Stephanie, a sea urchin fisherwoman. As Stephanie’s website states, she’s been fishing in the Santa Barbara area for 7 years and strives to make fresh, sustainable seafood available to the local population.

Stephanie got her undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara and then went on to Graduate School in Australia.  Her goal at the time was to become a Community College professor in her field of Marine Biology. While she was writing her Graduate School dissertation, she worked on urchin boats.  After a part-time teaching job ended, she decided to concentrate on fishing full time.

Being that most of the people Stephanie fishes with are male, she feels fortunate that they are accepting of her and very helpful when necessary. She usually goes out on her boat alone, unless the weather is bad or she needs extra help getting what she needs for the market.  In some cases, she joins other fishermen on their boats for fishing or diving.  Stephanie fishes for sea urchins and snails and regularly delivers her catch to local chefs when the weather and the catch are good. There seems to be a fad for sea urchin delicacies in Southern California and that demand is keeping Stephanie very busy these days. She also works closely with Jeff Olsson and his Industrial Eats Restaurant.  Stephanie does not always know what her daily catch will be and often she will bring Jeff in something different than he asked for.  She praises Jeff for being adaptable and creative in making the best of Stephanie’s haul.

After a day at sea, Stephanie unwinds by sitting in her meadow at home with a glass of wine to recap the day with her boyfriend, also a fisherman.  They discuss ways to become more efficient and productive at doing what they love to do.  She does her best to promote what the industry is all about to the entire community. She thinks its important to encourage people to have a balanced lifestyle, which includes eating local foods.

For recipes and information on how to find Stephanie’s catch, consult her website:  seastephaniefish.com

sea urchin delicacies

Appetizers prepared by Chef Jeff Olsson. On the right is sea urchin on avocado

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    The Hitching Post in Santa Barbara wine country

    Hitching post in Buelton

    To culminate our wonderful weekend in the Santa Barbara wine country following the recent Wine Bloggers Conference, we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to have dinner at the Hitching Post in Buellton. We’d last eaten there shortly before the restaurant was featured in the 2004 movie, “Sideways.” As in the movie, when Miles and Jack meet Maya and Stephanie, it’s obvious that the Hitching Post is a popular spot for locals and tourists.

    Reading the information on the menu, we found that Frank and Natalie Ostini opened the restaurant in 1986 to bring Santa Maria style Barbecue to Buellton. Today their children continue the tradition of combining old and new, and boast of serving the best French Fries in Southern California. The staff is very courteous and friendly, which is always a plus.

    When we visited on this Sunday night, the restaurant was packed with families, couples and a few singles. The menu features a good assortment of appetizers, BBQ meats, fresh salads and yummy desserts. Most of the wines, by the glass or bottle, are from the many great wineries in the Santa Barbara wine country. The restaurant also serves wines from their own winery that focuses on Pinot Noir.

     

    If you want to explore the Santa Barbara wine country and the “Sideways” wine trail, be sure you stop by the Hitching Post. You won’t be disappointed.

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      Annual Wine Bloggers Conference starts today

      wine bloggers conference

      Serious work ahead for wine bloggers

      Fifty wine bloggers will get a head start on the 7th annual wine bloggers conference with a pre-conference adventure to the Paso Robles wine country. The Paso Robles Wine Association will entertain the wine bloggers with several seminar sessions and wine tastings over a day and a half. The purpose is to showcase the Paso Robles wine country to this small group of bloggers before they head off to the main conference in the Santa Barbara wine country. This is good news for wine bloggers. Somebody out there loves us in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara!

      Pre-Conference activities in Paso Robles wine country

      We begin today in the late afternoon at the Niner Estate Winery for a seminar on the history and terroir of the Paso Robles wine country. Six wineries will present one wine each that typifies the climate and soil of the Paso Robles area.  Next we move on to Tablas Creek Vineyard where the focus will be on Rhone Varietals and the wineries that produce these Rhone style wines in Paso Robles. The Wednesday evening session will end with dinner and tasting at Daou Vineyards. Here the CAB Collective of 30 plus wineries will talk about Bordeaux wines from Paso Robles.

      On Thursday, the wine bloggers agenda will include a trip to the Vina Robles winery for a seminar on proposed AVA’s, with producers from each of these areas presenting their wines. The wine bloggers will then visit the iconic Zinfandel vineyards at Dusi Ranch. We’ll end the pre-conference with a session at the Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards, with the a sustainability discussions presented by Vineyard Team (SIP Certification) and California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

      That sounds exciting and that’s just the beginning. After leaving Wild Horse we head off to Buellton, and the events continue tomorrow evening at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott Hotel with the start of the 7th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference.

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        Winemaker Andrew Murray

        andrew murray winemaker

        Meet winemaker Andrew Murray

        Andrew Murray is one of the Santa Barbara wine country’s premiere winemakers. He has been making wine for the past 24 years. His Andrew Murray Vineyards winery is located on the Foxen Canyon Road Wine Trail. While traveling in France with his parents at age 18, he found his passion in the Rhone Valley. Today his winery’s focus is Rhone-style wines. They are extremely well-made and balanced wines in the true spirit of the Rhone. His wines are reasonably priced. Andrew Murray recently acquired a long-term lease for the Curtis Winery facility from the Firestone Family. He is planning on expanding his winemaking capabilities. Andrew Murray Vineyards is open to visitors on weekends or by appointment during the week. Andrew Murray also has a tasting room in the town of Los Olivos that is open daily.

        Three years ago, Winemaker Andrew Murray wrote a blog post on Wine Country Getaways about the Santa Ynez Valley.

        The North American Wine Bloggers Conference will be held this year in the Santa Barbara wine country. Conference attendees will visit many of the Santa Barbara wineries and we expect that the Andrew Murray Vineyards will be a popular destination.

        More information on Santa Barbara Wineries

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          Santa Barbara wine country will host wine bloggers in 2014

          At the conclusion of the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia, on Saturday, June 8th, it was announced that Santa Barbara wine country has been selected to host the 7th annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference for 2014. The conference will be held at the Santa Ynez Marriott Hotel in Buellton from July 11 to 13th.

          Bloggers a larger impact than the “Sideways” movie?

          Until the movie “Sideways” came out in 2004, this area of Santa Barbara had been best known for the Anderson Split Pea Soup factory and for the Danish town of Solvang. How fitting that the Santa Barbara Wine Bloggers Conference will be held on the tenth anniversary of the movie. The movie featured the Santa Barbara wine country as the characters of Miles and Jack moved from winery to winery in search of Pinot Noir. The movie had such a following that it had an enormous effect on Pinot Noir. Because it was so esteemed in the movie, Pinot Noir sales were carried to new heights and higher prices followed. A negative mention of Merlot in the movie did just the opposite for that varietal, with popularity of the grape plummeting. When the movie was released there were five tasting rooms in Los Olivos, the center of this wine country. Today, there are 27 tasting rooms alone in the town. “Sideways” had a huge effect on the popularity of this area. Now comes perhaps an even greater influence, the 2014 North American Wine Bloggers Conference.

          There are expected to be 350 attendees at this conference. Most of these attendees not only blog, but tweet copiously, post to Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. They won’t be doing this just during the conference, but also for months before and long after the conference. As we write this post, the Tweeter feeds and Facebook posts are making their way throughout the digital wine community. This is an absolute bonanza for the Santa Barbara Wine Country Association. It will bring more attention to wine lovers around the globe to the many varietals and styles of wine that are produced in this area of the four separate AVA’s of Santa Barbara.

          Watch this two-minute video to gain a perspective of the San Barbara wine country and what it has to offer to wine lovers around the globe.

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            Napa Valley bashing at the Wine Bloggers Conference

            The Napa Valley is recognized as one of the top wine regions in the world. When you are top dog, expect to take some shots from your rivals. Napa Valley wineries had their share of good-natured bashing from Oregon wineries at the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference held in Portland, Oregon, this past weekend.

            Oregon wineries needle Napa Valley

            Willamette Valley winemaker


            What we heard along the way

            “In Willamette Valley the weather cools rapidly from afternoon winds from the Van Duzer Corridor. Night time temperatures drop dramatically. In the Napa Valley it is hot all the time.”

            “The Napa Valley Pinot Noirs from Carneros are too big.”

            “Here in the Willamette Valley the winemakers and owners share their knowledge and help one another. In the Napa Valley, it is all corporate.”

            “One thing that differentiates the Willamette Valley from the Napa Valley is that each year the growing season in the Willamette is very different. The climate varies significantly year to year. Napa does not have that fluctuation so their wines are always the same.”

            “Here in the Willamette Valley you are likely to find a winemaker or family member working the tasting room. That is something you won’t find in the Napa Valley.”

            What Oregon wineries should be saying to Napa Valley

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              First Impressions of Virginia Wine – Wine Bloggers Conference

              When the venue for the 4th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference was announced, many in the audience gasped. Virginia was chosen over Paso Robles and the Finger Lakes region of New York. How could that be, many cried? I heard one blogger shout out “Virginia wine is not that good.” We attended the wine bloggers pre-conference on Wednesday and Thursday of this week and had the opportunity to visit four wineries in the Loudoun County in Northern Virginia. I have to conclude that after tasting wines at these four wineries, the wine is very good in this part of Virginia, and a few of their varietals are stellar. I’m not about to suggest the wines are overall as good as California wines or those of the Napa Valley, but several I tried certainly measure up to our standards. I know these wineries were hand picked by the local tourist office, but this did gives us an eye opener into the quality and potential for Virginia wines.

              We visited Tarara Winery, Breaux Vineyards, Chrysalis Winery, and Boxwood Winery. At each winery the winemaker and owner presented their wines, and much like at any winery in California spoke glowingly about their wines.

              We loved all the Viognier we tried, and we can easily see why this wine is so popular in Virginia. I wish I’d had some California Viognier on the spot for comparison. These Viognier wines have excellent floral and tropical characteristics and a great mouth feel. I was less impressed with the Chardonnay wines and maybe that is because I just don’t drink that much Chardonnay to begin with. At Breaux Vineyards I rated their Meritage and the Nebbiolo at 90 points. I had not tasted as delicious a Nebbiolo in some time.

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                Wine Adventures in Washington

                We are in the state of Washington until Monday for the 3rd annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference. We have tasted Washington wines before but never to the extent that we will be tasting over the next few days. Over 50 wineries are set to pour and entertain 300 wine bloggers. I’m anxious to find out about Washington wines and the geology and climate of the region. I want to learn all about the Yakima Valley and where that is in relationship to the Columbia Valley. And what about the Walla Walla wine region? What makes the Red Mountain such a highly-prized AVA? What issues do these winemakers have compared to elsewhere? It is dry and hot for sure. On Wednesday, a pre-pre conference day for us, we visited three wineries in the Tri-Cities area near the Pasco airport. The first two wineries we visited had the Alsace Varietals of Riesling, Gerwurtztraminer, and Pinot Gris. I asked our host where these grapes were grown in relation to the red varietals. “Oh,”she said, “in the same area.” I doubt if that is the case but we plan to find out over the next few days. One thing I do know right off is that the days are much longer here than in California and thus affect the growing season. This morning I was awakened shortly after 5 am with a warm sun piercing through my window. Last evening we had a beautiful sunset overlooking the Columbia River at about 8:45. That is a lot more sunshine than we get in California.Tagaris

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                  Napa Valley Vintners Wine and Dine Bloggers

                  At last year’s first-ever wine blogger conference, the Napa Valley wineries were noticeably absent from all activities. At this year’s conference it was another story. The entire day on Saturday, 12 hours’ worth, was all Napa Valley. The Napa Valley Vintners wined and dined the conference attendees showing off what the Napa Valley is all about – wine, food, and beauty. I’m guessing the Napa Valley Vintners think that those who blog and use Twitter and Facebook are very important and influential, because they really did roll out the red carpet to impress all of us.

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                    Napa Valley Bits & Pieces of Wine News – June 15th

                    Amazon Closer to Selling Wine
                    When New Vine Logistics closed its doors a couple of weeks back many were predicting that Amazon would either drop or have a long delay in launching their plan to sell wine online. Amazon had contracted New Vine Logistics to handle the sales. New Vine Logistics is back and word has it that several key wine industry people (not me, however) have been invited to a sneak preview of the Amazon wine website. For Napa Valley wineries this just might be the help they need to clear building inventory. This is good for the consumer as well, more chances to find the ultimate wine bargain. Wine.woot is cool but Amazon will be fierce competition. My source for this information is from “Tech Flash“.

                    Events for the Wine Traveler
                    It is heating up in the Napa Valley with events and happenings scheduled for the summer wine traveler. One of the main attractions is next Saturday evening, June 20th, 6 pm to 10 pm. called the Solarbartion. This event is taking place at the new, chic, and very “green” hotel, the Bardessono in Yountville. Ten solar-powered Napa Valley wineries will be represented. This event features wine tasting, food, and live entertainment.

                    Napa Valley Vintners Auction
                    This is old news but articles are still popping up about the auction raising a measly 5.7 million. My reaction: that is a lot of money and not too shabby considering the shellacking most everyone has taken in the stock market and housing market, not to mention how many have been laid off or worked furloughed. Way to go Napa Vintners!

                    Wine Blogger Conference — Napa Valley Wineries Will Have a Presence.
                    This is the second annual event for wine bloggers taking place at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa on July 24 to 26th. At last year’s event, the Napa Valley was a no-show, while wineries from Sonoma County wined and dined the attendees. This year it is a different matter with the Napa Vintners taking the entire group of wine bloggers on a day-long Saturday outing to the Napa Valley that includes a Grand Tasting of Napa wines at Quintessa and dinner served at participating wineries. When the conference is over, the Hall Winery has invited bloggers for a tour and tasting and lunch and has negotiated $99 a night stay at the La Rsidence Inn for July 26, 27.

                    Wine Traveler Lodging Specials
                    There are many deals to be had at least through the end of June and maybe longer. I went to six lodging websites and found specials at each one. This includes the Yountville Inn, Villagio Inn, Harvest Inn, and Marriott. However, I have found Internet specials are not always the best deal. Contact the lodging establishment by phone and ask them for the best special they can offer you for your dates of travel.

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