While not directly related to writing, my attendance at the Ojai Wine Festival on June 12, 2011, was sort of related to a story that I am working on about witchcraft and a winery.

I attended with my brothers Tom and Matt, Tom’s girlfriend Debra, and her friends Cindy and Zaza. Debra’s friend Chris consented to be our designated driver, which was good since the police were searching for drunks on the road. 
The Ojai Wine Festival was held at Lake Casitas, which is a medium-sized lake nestled between rolling green hills dotted with oak and other tall leafy trees. There were some 150 or more venders, not just wine but beer, food, and do-dad merchants. There was live music. The music was very safe and pedestrian. For example, the first band played Beatles, and the second played an assortment of 70’s music, all designed to offend the least amount and appeal to the festival’s white middle-aged demographic (which we fit in).
I tasted at 12 to 14 booths, and managed not to get too much of a hangover the next day. Quite an accomplishment for me. I guess my liver is in shape finally. Of the places I tasted at, most were from Paso Robles, which I find amusing as the closest wine country is Santa Barbara County. I think there were only a smattering of Santa Barbara County wineries there – and only one that I’d heard of (Curtis, which I did not taste at as I’ve been there several times).
So here are my notes for what they are worth (that is, the pixels which make up the image of the words; e.g., not much):
   Herman Story from Paso Robles. 2009 vintages. 1 Grenache, 2 Syrahs (and a white wine that I didn’t try). The first Syrah was from Whitehawk Vineyard (Paso Robles I assume), and the second Syrah was made from a mix of grapes from other counties. I liked the straight Syrah better I think.
   Midnight Cellars from Paso Robles.  They had a good oaky buttery Chardonnay, which is how Chardonnay should be in my book. They also had a smooth Malbec and a spicy Zin that brought Chinese food to mind for some reason.
Mosby from Santa Ynez Valley. Pinot Grigio, good but not as full or as “toothy” per Cindy. Not one of her favorites she reported. They also had a Sangiovese which was average, and a Dolcetto (“little sweet one”) that was smooth. I only tried the Dolcetto.
   Motos Liberty Cellars had Almond Champagne from Ventana Vineyards in Arroyo Seco. Yuck. I’m not a sweet champagne person.
   Estrella Creek from Paso Robles. They had two blends that I tried; Stargazer and Moondancer. The Stargazer was Syrah, Cabernet Sovignon and Petit Syrah. I found it to be caramel-ly and delicious. Moondancer was Grenache and Syrah. The Moondancer was light with a touch of fruit. Both probably need to be decanted as I found particles in my glass afterward.
   Michael David from Lodi, Ca. Lodi is in the northern part of Central California, San Joaquin County. They had a Petit Syrah (called Petit Syrah I think), which was pedestrian; Lust, which was a light Zin and very drinkable.  “A summer red,” per Matt. They are the maker of 7 Deadly Zins, which is oft found at Costco. My friend Deljia enjoys that. Earthquake Cabernet was peppery but not overwhelming, and Earthquake Zin was too sweet. 7 Deadly Zins was perky yet mild for a Zin. I guess I like my Zins to be chewy. (Hell, if I’m going to Zin, I might as well get a workout!)
   Grand Courtage. Grapes came from France, and I have no idea where the winery is. They served champagne. It was nice and dry on the first taste, and harsh on the second taste.
   Peachy Canyon Winery from Paso Robles. They had a wine called Cirque de Vin (which probably should be Cirque du vin as de and le combine to make du. Maybe it’s not French). Anyway…Cirque de Vin was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zin, Petit Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It was actually nice, with a touch of caramel.
   Le Vigne from Paso Robles. Dominico Cabernet Sauvignon was good but average. Sylvester Cabernet Sauvignon was lighter and had a cherry hint.
   Les Deux Chats from Lodi. Grapes from France. They had a Roussanne, which was nice and did not have too nasty of an after taste as some Roussannes do.
   Mountain Terrace. From somewhere. I may have been drunk for this one, or I recorded notes from/for someone else. My notes say “Lone Modrone – Awesome. La Metzcala Red.”  So who knows on that one.
   Twin Poms from Lodi. They did not actually have a wine per se. They served pomegranate wine, which was fermented pomegranates. They also had a white wine mixed with pomegranates, and a sparkling pom made with forced carbonation. Good for a warm afternoon of not real drinking I guess. Tasty but not wine.
   Quady from somewhere. Elysium which was a cocktail of currant wine served with carbonated water and a lime, and Essensia which was orange muscat with carbonated water and a lemon.  Refreshing but again, not really a wine. Very sweet.
   PRP Wine International. Wine importer from Orange County. They had Oligitum Reserve from Spain, which was good. Chevalier de Bayard which was a Grenache, also good.

Of the group, my favorites were Midnight Cellars’ Chardonnay, Estrella Creek’s Stargazer, Michael David’s Lust, and the very first glass of wine (Grenache) I had at Herman Story.  The rest of our group tasted at different booths and had different favorites.
The Ojai Wine Festival is absolutely worth attending. One fee for as much wine as you can stomach. Remember to have a designated driver and wear sunscreen.

Cheers! ~Pongo

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