Syrah, Sirah or Shiraz? Same grape, different name?

June 20th, 2011

Syrah, Shiraz or Sirah?So what’s in a name? When it comes to Syrah and Shiraz, it seems not a whole lot! Both Syrah and Shiraz come from the same dark, thick-skinned grape (offspring of the Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche varities). The difference? Local naming conventions hailing from where the grapes are grown. Yes, it’s true vino detectives! The same vines sunning themselves in France’s Rhone Valley as Syrah are moonlighting in Australia under the name Shiraz. It’s a vineyard double life of vintage proportions.

While the grapes may be the same, the soil, the climate, and the conditions are not, and the naming conventions have come to denote not only the region, but a specific style. While both offer a complex but easy to drink wine good for everyday backyard BBQs to an elegant steak, Shiraz has come to denote an approachable but bright and boldly fruit-driven wine with chocolate notes, while Syrah represents a spicier, earthier, complex palate.

Adding to the mix (and the mystery), is Petite Sirah, who is a distant relative of Syrah (or Shiraz, mate). Petite Sirah, commonly referred to as the Durif grape, is cross between Syrah and Peloursin. Jammy, inky and intense with pepper overtones, Petite Sirah offers a fuller flavor but shorter mouth life making it a great blending wine.

So what is it tonight, my fellow vino fanatics? Syrah, Shiraz or Sirah? Take your pick at our Que Syrah, Sirah, Shiraz Thursday Night Tasting 6/23, and enjoy a five wine flight with apps for $18/person.


Davina DaVino

Sustainability in a bottle? Drink local!

June 6th, 2011

Locals Only Tasting 6/9We’re all doing our part to be a little more green, so why not extend that effort to your vino selection and keep it local? After all, we live in the lap of vineyard luxury in Santa Barbara and Ventura County with some of the finest Zins, Syrahs and Pinots around. By selecting wines from local vineyards, not only are you cutting down on the energy expended in packing, shipping and transport, but you’re supporting our local winemakers and economy. A glass of wine never felt so sustainably good!

Kick off your wine closet sustainability movement and join us this Thursday 6/9 for a “Locals Only!” tasting of some of our neighbor vineyards’ best. We’re pouring our favorites from neighbor Santa Barbara and Ventura County wineries Dragonette Cellars, Four Brix, Jaffurs, and Babcock for your tasting pleasure. Come taste the local bounty and go green!


Davina DaVino

Father Knows Best…and he wants wine!

May 23rd, 2011

Father's Day PromotionHot off the presses is our Father’s Day gift card promo! From now until Father’s Day (6/19) purchase a $50 gift card and receive a voucher for a free tasting for any Friday or Saturday!

Maybe you’ll give it to your dad…maybe you’ll keep it to yourself. Don’t worry, we won’t tell!

Purchase your gift cards online (enter “Father’s Day Promo” in the notes/messages box) or at the shop. Gift cards are available via in-store pickup or mail.


Davina DaVino

Thank you! We love you too!

May 23rd, 2011

Ventura County Star 2011 Readers' ChoiceWithout bumbling into a Sally Field-type speech (“you like us…you really like us!), we wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all our Wine Closet fans who voted for us in the Ventura County Star’s Reader’s Choice Awards.

What hardware did we take home thanks to your vino love? Oh…just a couple (blush)…

  • Best Wine Bar
  •  Best Place to Chill
  •  Liquor / Wine Shop Favorite


Davina DaVino

Under the influence of the wine label? Guilty as charged.

May 9th, 2011

Orin Swift - PapillonOh go ahead and call the wine police. I’ll confess. Have I bought under the influence of the wine label? Yes sir, officer! Guilty as charged.

But, admit it. We’ve all done it. Sure we research the vintage tasting notes, read the reviews online, keep current on the industry trends, and mine feedback on our apps. But when you’re running late for that dinner party, you’ve left your phone in the car, and there isn’t a soul to ask for a recommendation, what does it come down to? That’s right…the label.

And really, what’s wrong with that?

Chonic Cellars - Sofa King BuenoAfter all, we taste with our eyes first. We swirl the wine, pontificate its color, its brilliance, its opacity, its legs. It’s our eyes that set the stage ripe with anticipation, setting the expectations of what will soon roll over our tongue. And yet, we discard the label as unimportant, a decoration, a distraction, a rookie mistake. Isn’t the label really our first taste of the vino goodness to come? And if it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Still not convinced? Consider some of our favorite wine labels in the shop.

 Orin Swift PapillonOrin Swift - The PrisonerOrin Swift - Saldo

Orin Swift
Strong, bold and arresting with layers of complexity in the storytelling. From Papillon’s hands of third generation Napa Valley grape grower and winemaker Vince Tofanelli to Saldo’s striking red and white label maker label, Orin Swift’s labels offer a visual amuse bouche of what awaits inside.




Herman Story - On the Road, Nuts & Bolts, and TomboyHerman Story
Fresh and forward, saturated, and yet, balanced, Herman Story’s labels reach out and grab you without even a line of front text. It’s pure experience: lush, vivid and focused. And just when you think you’ve got the blend of vineyards figured out, it slaps you with a barrage of words and smirk on the back label.



Owen Roe - Sinister HandOwen Roe - Yakima RedOwen Roe
Conversation starter and finisher. Owen Roe visually tempts your taste buds with a master blend of historical richness and salt of the earth earnestness, all delivered with a wink and a smile. Look no further than Owen Roe’s Sinister Hand label. Ominous yet tempting, it tells the tale of a rowing race won by a competitor slicing off his hand and tossing it on shore to be the first to touch, and ultimately become king. Determined, focused, arresting…or at the very least, a great party conversation starter.

Sans Liege - ProphetessSans Liege - GroundworkSans Liege - Cotes-Du-CoastSan Liege
Tasting this Thursday (5/12) at The Wine Closet with the winemaker himself!
Seductive, enrapturing and powerful, San Liege promises an “anthology of sensory travels” from first glance. A visual feast rich with layers of emotion, temptation and longing, San Liege’s labels deliver that first bite of the forbidden bottled inside.

And with that your honor, I rest my case and give it to the jury. What wine designs have caught your eye and tempted your palate?

Davina DaVino


A taste of the Pacific Northwest – Owen Roe Winery

May 2nd, 2011

Owen Roe Tasting 5/5It’s hard to imagine, but not so long ago, wine experts turned up their nose at Napa. California wines, competing with their French counterparts? C’est ridicule! Yet, starting with the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 where Napa swept the reds and whites, new meccas of wine goodness have been popping up all around the country. One of the latest hotbeds to hit the vino shelves is the great Pacific Northwest. Between its diverse regions of soil and climate favorable for producing fruit with low pH and on point acidity, the Pacific Northwest has burst into the wine scene with distinct flavor, power and personality.

Owen Roe Sinister HandOne of our favorite labels from the Pacific Northwest has to be Owen Roe from David O’Reilly. From its memorable labels (like the severed hand of Sinister Hand) to its complex layers and balance of fruits and spice, Owen Roe’s wines are silky on the palate and big on personality. Such a strong core can only be developed by the history and soil it comes from. Steeped in Irish heritage, the winery is named after Owen Roe O’Neill a 17th century patriot from County Cavan Ireland (where David is originally from) who led an army against Cromwell based principles of integrity and liberty, two ideals that inspire the wines at Owen Roe and are commemorated through images on each of the Owen Roe labels. Continuing the tradition of integrity in his vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Washington’s west end Yakima Valley, Owen Roe’s grapes are hand harvested and bin fermented with manual punch downs and finally aged in French Oak bringing forth the best that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Yakima Red Owen RoeThe result? A powerful Pacific Northwest offering of some of the best Pinots and Syrah’s we’ve tasted.

  • Syrah Ex Umbris ’09: Latin for “out of the shadows”, this started as a one-off produced from the smoky grapes of a wildfire, but has become a signature Syrah. Deep plum and dark cherry greets you on the nose with a velvet palate of blackberry, peppercorn and black licorice against plush tannins.

Sinister Hand GSM ’09: Besides having one of our favorite conversation labels (depicting the result of a rowing competition between the O’Neills and O’Reillys where in order to reach land first and own it the lagging rower sliced off his hand, tossed it on shore, and became king), this Grenache blend brings a complexity that’s hard to pass up. 79% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 3% Mouvedre, and 2% Counoise.

Yakima Red Bordeaux-style Blend ‘09: Showcasing the world-class Merlot and Cabernet-Franc grapes of the Yakima Valley, the fruit is from several small vineyards from the cooler western end of the region, where the long days of sunshine and moderate temperatures in the evening conspire to produce lush aromatic grapes with lovely acidity and low ph. The result is a lush black cherry, bright red berry and cassis layers with a toasty spice finish.

Owen Roe Ex UmbrisDon’t have a weekend to jet up to the Oregon / Washington border? Never fear my wine enthusiasts, we’ll bring the Pacific Northwest to you (minus the weather). Join us this Thursday 5/5, Cinco de Mayo, to take a tour through Owen Roe’s great Northwest best paired with our own Southwest feast.

Davina DaVino

Forget the bunny. I want wine in my basket!

April 22nd, 2011

Easter Brunch Pairings Chocolate eggs are lovely, but a three hour wine-paired brunch in the backyard sun? I’m there. 

There’s something elegantly lazy but brilliant about a stretched table across the back lawn filled with traditional Easter dishes and a chilled brigade of wine. This year on our table is a new line-up of classics gleaming in the sun, ready for their paired debut. What’s on our menu? Why we thought you’d never ask.

Deviled Eggs & Salmon Crustinis
Pairing: Gruet Brut Sparkling

A brunch just wouldn’t be the same without at least one egg dish, and this year we’re kicking things off with some curried deviled eggs and some salmon custinis. Our recommendation for any egg dish this year is Gruet Brut Sparkling. Gruet Brut’s crisp, full-bodied wine offers an apple and citrus palate, toasty finish and ultra-fine bubbles perfect for getting the meal started with a kick.

Grilled Pear Salad with Roquefort & Bacon Vinaigrette & Grilled Trout
Pairing: Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer

It might be Easter, but we still fire up the grill. This year we follow up our apps with my mother’s famous grilled pear salad with Roquefort and bacon vinaigrette and a site of grilled trout. Keeping things light and balanced, we’re pairing our salad course with Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer. A perfect pairing for salad and fish courses, Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer brings a rose nose, a rich full-mouth feel of tropical fruit and exotic spices on the palate, and a long finish that balances vinaigrettes yet compliments the subtle flavor of the fish.

Ham with Crackling Spiced Brown Sugar Glaze
Pairing (white): Bodegas Botani Moscatel
Pairing (rose): Derby 07 Mosaic Rose
Pairing (red)
: Roar 09 Pinot Noir SLH

Of course we can’t forget the king of the table, the ham with its crackling goodness. This year we’re going a little sweet and a little spicy with our spiced brown sugar glaze to satisfy everyone’s tastes at the table. We could have gone the traditional Riesling route, but instead we invited three of our favorites to the table to please the pickiest of palates.

For our white lovers, we’re pairing our new favorite (right off the crate and onto the shelf): Bodegas Botani Moscatel. Sourced from organically farmed 70 year old Moscatel de Alejandria vines (Malaga, Spain), the Botani displays a sweet nose of mineral, spring flowers and tropical aromas, but delivers a refreshingly dry but very fruity palate that pairs nicely with ham.

For our Rose lovers, we’re pairing our ham with the Derby 07 Mosaic Rose. It might be a new kid to the table, but between its fruit and bright mouth feel Rose we think it’ll hold its own against the Easter ham.

For our red lovers (yes red, why not?), we’re pairing Roar’s 09 Pinot Noir SLH. This Pinot’s ripe black raspberry and blackberry notes with subtle smoke and truffle characteristics offers a nice complement to the spice and sweet of any ham.

Yum. Bring on the Easter bunny! What’s on your table this year?

Happy Easter!

Davina DaVino

Sipping and Grilling – Orin Swift Palermo

April 12th, 2011

BBQ Pizza & WineThere’s no doubt. It’s good living in Santa Barbara County. Not only are we nestled with an ocean view in the mecca of some of the best vineyards and winemakers in the world, but we’ve got perfect BBQ weather practically all year long. Great grilling and good wine…how can you possibly beat that?

Yeah, you can’t.

Getting our Wine Grilling on - Palermo

Which is why, as an admitted BBQ addict, I’m constantly on the hunt for great grilling wines. One-course, flash-in-the-pans need not apply. I’m looking for a wine that sips pleasantly round the fire pit for cocktail conversation and yet holds its own when the hot topics get fired up at dinner. We’re talking that rare garnet gem of goodness that brings a balance between easy drinking for easy living and a bold attitude ready to stand up with something to say. It might just be Tuesday, but my grill is hot and I’m lining up the bottles for the weekend.

Orin Swift PalermoTop of my BBQ list this week goes to Orin Swift’s new 2009 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot). If you’ve tasted Orin Switft’s The Prisoner , Saldo and Papillon, you know Palermo roars in with an impeccable pedigree and doesn’t disappoint. Gathered from Howell Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford, Saint Helena, and Spring Mountain grapes and aged 16 months in French Oak, Palermo brings to the table blend of the best for a full mouth coat and long finish. It pours dark garnet with a ruby rim and beautiful legs, and unfolds into a bold cherry nose, a perfect complement to a smoking Q. Inside the drink is a complex but silky balance of black raspberries, aged tobacco, and dark chocolate palate with aged oak undertones that blend beautifully with balsamic chicken or stand up to a steak. It lingers on the finish, and packs a punch with 15.5% ALC.

It might only be Tuesday, but I’ve got my Palermo on order and a tri tip in the fridge. Who says BBQing is just for the weekend?

Ready to do some grilling of your own? Swing by The Wine Closet for our Thursday Night Sippin’ and Grillin’ 5-wine flight, and get a taste of Orin Swift’s Palermo.


Davina DaVino

Bottled Passion – Bodega de Edgar

April 4th, 2011

Bodega de Edgar

What makes a good wine great and a great wine unforgettable? Passion. It might not be heading the tasting notes, but you taste it on the palate and you feel it on finish. It’s the culmination of every decision – from soil selection to aging – being driven by the winemaker’s unyielding commitment to pour every ounce of themselves, their experience, and their journey into bottled perfection. It’s both undeniable and unexplainable, but it’s present in the best. And there are few that it’s more present than in local winemaker Edgar Torres’ Bodega de Edgar wines.

Edgar Torres’ wines are handcrafted masterpieces. No surprise really, as Edgar started his journey surrounded by amazing wines as a waiter at the famous Villa Creek Restaurant, and developed from cellar rat to winemaker under the tutelage of McPrice Myers (McPrice Myers Wines) and Russell From (Herman Story Wines), two outstanding winemakers in their own rite. What Edgar pours into every vintage is his love of the art and of the land culminating in a passion for and commitment to small production, natural wines. Sourcing the same grapes as Meyers and From, Bodega de Edgar’s wines undergo natural fermentation (no yeast added), where the natural heat of Paso Robles and the yeast within the grape skin initiate fermentation, allowing the varietal and vineyard designate to pronounce itself from nose to finish.

Bodega de Edgar - BottlingAs with most masterpieces, they’re few in number and hard to come by. Bodega de Edgar’s lots are small and purposely so focusing on quality over quantity. Edgar’s Grenache/Syrah blend, E2, for example, has only 45 cases produced. His Garnacha? A select 100 cases. And his Albarino? 310 cases. But we’ve got all three, and we’re the only shop in the area that does.

This Thursday night (4/7) we’re pouring all three (E2, Garnacha, and Albarino) limited releases plus Bodega de Edgar’s newly bottled ’09 Tempranillo and ’07 Syrah. Come by and taste the passion!


Davina DaVino

Blends – the Varietal All-Star Team

March 25th, 2011

Blends - the Varietal All-Star TeamI love a good blend. I’m not talking about the bland, throw-together-whatever-we-have-leftover blends. Thanks, I’ll pass on those. I’m talking about the perfectly balanced masterpieces of vino. I’m talking about the blends that in one sniff, swirl and swallow celebrate the unique attributes of each varietal in a single, powerful union. Maybe it comes from my sports background or maybe because it’s impossible to turn on the T.V. right now without running into another March Madness game. (I’m not bitter the Gators beat my Gauchos…no, not at all.) Blends are like an all-star varietal team. Sure you could have a team of Zin power forwards dunking fruit bombs all day, but who’s going to run the court and bring some color balance to that game? Now throw a little Petite Sirah point guard in the mix, maybe a Grenache guard, and now you’re talking a power team!

Thursday 3/31 Moonstone Cellars Wine TastingWhy blend? According to one of the blend’s best, Moonstone Cellars (featured at this Thursday’s 3/31 tasting), color and balance are the top two reasons. Blending can brighten up a wine, smooth the acidity, balance the alcohol level, and bring complexity to the palate.

In our opinion, Paso Robles has taking the blend to a true art form and has a bounty of blends to pick from.  We thought we’d share a few of our favorites for your all-star vino team consideration.

  • Justin 2007 Isosceles
    A big money player, but packs a punch worth the ticket. Offers an opaque, dense purple-black core with little color change to the rim. The nose brings black and blue fruit, firm but inviting oak notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a sense of just-roasted dark-roast coffee beans with a later note of dark cocoa, a dash of black pepper, and a drop of vanilla. The palate reveals an immensely flavored wine, repeating the black fruit intensity and powerful tannins.The roster: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot
  • Chronic Cellars 2009 Sofa King Bueno
    Not every player demands a huge contract; Chronic Cellars’ 09 Sofa King Bueno brings power playing for an approachable price. Offering juicy fruits, Bing cherries and ripe blackberries followed up by notes of toasted vanilla, cinnamon spice and clove. Consistent flavor, well-integrated fruit and delicate tannins. Mouth-filling and seductive with no hard edges.The roster: 27% Petite Sirah, 25% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre and 4% Tennat 
  • Herman Story 2008 Tomboy - 90 Points, Robert Parker!
    Who said all great blends are reds? Not us! Herman Story’s 08 90 point white is a full-flavored, balls-to-the-walls, intensively flavored blend. The 08 Tomboy blend brings balance to the court with a powerful, rich white blend of marmalade and tropical fruit aromatics to a boat load of glycerin and concentration. Drink over the next 1-2 years.The roster: 40% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, and 20% Viognier

So who makes your roster?

Davina DaVino