EDITED w/ Fred`s feedback: Fred Brander`s 69th birthday party, a stellabration

Friend, Fred Brander, of The Brander Vineyards, celebrated a birthday recently, something that he has rarely done on his actual date as it is usually harvest time, but the quirks of this season allowed for it to happen on the day. Fred did it up righteously reserving the entire Uncorked Wine Tasting & Kitchen for the event.

A huge turnout showed up with some folks bringing their own wines and Fred contributing a large share as well, some old gems and a few cases of his recent Sauvignon Blanc release, Cuvee Natalie.

A few local Santa Barbara County winemakers were in attendance and a couple brought their own wines. Along with delicious appetizers from the restaurant, a massive birthday cake and a loud and boisterous crowd, it was a fun, high energy evening and a perfect tribute to a good guy.

Here’s a few of the people/wine highlights as indicated in the photos:

2011 BRWER-CLIFTON 3-D SPARKLING CHARDONNAY STA. RITA HILLS- this was my contribution to the many bottles of bubbly and the first bottle I’ve had since it was released; it showed beautifully with bight acidity, pleasing upfront and beyond citrus notes, a nice spritzy mousse and an overall grand performance. The photo with the bottle includes the owner of the restaurant, Michael Amador, who happily opened the bottle and poured the first tastes.

2014 LONGORIA BLANC de BLANC EXTRA BRUT SPARKLING WINE- made by and proudly displayed by good friend and longtime fine winemaker, Rick Longoria in the photo; this was outstanding; it was nicely balanced with spicy citrus fruit, mostly lemon and lime, had a creamy lush mouthfeel and a lingering refreshing finish. I would be hard put to ID this as a local sparkling wine. It was really exceptional and to have it poured and shared by Rick was extra special. Here’s one of those times when the wine and the occasion make for a 1 and 1 equals 3 thing.

1993 DIDIER & FREDS DEUX TERRES SAUVIGNON- a collaborative effort by Didier Dagueneau, renown winemaker from Loires Pouilly-Fume, and Fred Brander, who were great friends over many decades until Didiers tragic, way too early in life, death in 08; Fred proudly showed off the bottle {see photo} and poured me a generous amount which I gladly accepted and then shared with a few others who, like me, were in awe of how good this was; the nose was not the typical SB grassy, herbaceous kind that one usually associates with this varietal when it originates from a cool climate; it had bright citrus notes along with pear and green apple fruit; this was also true for the taste profile along with a hit of passion fruit and even some white peach; the creamy texture was superb and that helped to seal the deal at the end as it wanted to just linger on and on.

I had the privilege of seeing Didier on a few occasions when he visited Fred, Jim Clendenen, Doug Margerum and others in the Santa Barbara area and he and I hit it off immediately as we recognized we were 2 long hairs amongst a bunch of short hairs. Hippie types if you will.

Here’s some feedback re this special wine from Fred: “The 93 Didier & Fred’s Deux Terres wine is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Didier Dagueneau’s estate vineyard ( that went went into his Pur Sang wine ) and Santa Barbara grapes from the Brander vineyard ( that went into the Cuvee Nicolas blend ). The wine was trial blended in Pouilly with Didier with samples brought over by me, then brought back to Brander where one magnum and one double magnum were bottled. The double magnum was auctioned off at the KCBX wine auction {Archie McLaren`s creation} in 1994. I believe this was the first international wine Cuvee made to sell at the KCBX auction, where a CA winemaker collaborated with a foreign winemaker in making a joint Cuvee.”

2003 DOMAINE FAIVELEY CLOS des MYGLANDS MONOPOLE MERCURY 1er Cru- 3L; this bottle sat on the back counter for a long time and I noticed that others were drooling over it as I was and perhaps wondering when was this going to be opened; finally someone said it was up to Fred so I walked over to him and repeated the statement and he immediately went over to pull the cork; the lineup for pours went out the door and rightfully so as it was even better than anticipated; nice spicy and cinnamon scents to red raspberry and strawberry fruit jumped out of the glass and then back in for the taste portion of the experience; it had a soft texture and finished as it started to the delight of all who partook. Friend, Tom Arnold, pours the bottle- see photo.
NV TAITTINGER LA FRANCAISE BRUT- 3L; 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay; as impressive as the large bottle format was, the contents were equally so for this entry level bubbly that is a great go to QPR on restaurant menus when one is looking for the deal; it has a welcoming citrus profile that suggests pleasure all the way through; apple and pear also joins in and all is delivered in a light mousse which adds to its elegance; it’s very easy on the palate and yet has enough to satisfy most.

Fred did a very classy thing in that he had a 375 ml bottle of his 2108 Brander Cabernet Sauvignon Los Olivos Appellation wine for each guest to take home. Fred was mostly responsible for the appellation being recognized and did most if not all of the work behind its approval.

This was a fun evening. It was high energy and super loud and celebrative, but the outside smaller party that occurred by default had lots of good bottles of wine and full sentence conversations could actually be carried on, a subject for another write-up with full sentences.


PS: what is a stellabration? It’s a stellar celebration as coined by a good friend at my last special birthday.

That’s awesome.

I was at his winery last year, the day after his birthday.

This is a photo of the bar under the winery with the dead soldiers lined up!

Wow, Blake…looks like a great celebration.
Fred doesn’t get the credit he deserves for showing the great Bdx-like Cab could be grown in SBC after those miserable Cabs from Brooks Firestone and LouisLucas/Tepesquet.

Love it Brig. I assume you contributed to some of the dead bodies.

I totally agree Tom. Fred has pioneered some significant trends. concepts and product not thought to be possible in the area. He has brought some of his wines to blind tastings where we did Old World wines and his have always shown up well and competed highly. When they’re not tasted blind, the stigma lowers the score and degree of appreciation. Double yuk just thinking of some of those early Firestone and Ballard Canyon Cabs.

He certainly has been not only a pioneer but a mentor to so many in our area but he does not get credit for it at all. Perhaps he’s too modest, but there are so many winemakers that have come through Brander that he really should talk about it. Blake, perhaps you can get him to divulge? And not only from here - as Blake mentions, he has forged relationships with prominent folks elsewhere in CA and abroad as well . . .


Great idea Larry. I’m on it and will get back on this thread if he responds quickly.

I wish I was there!!! This was the night before I showed up.

Larry made a call and got the warden and FIL a tour with the winemaker, very nice people. And Larry too!

Still amazes me that Brander can make acid driven estate sauvignon blanc from that location east of 154.

We always have a few bottles of Brander in the frig.

The now-usual fantastic exposition, Blake. You do so well in storytelling as well as fine, fine notes, making me feel I was there.

Glad to see the positive on the 03 Faiveley–a friend and I each have a bottle of the 2015 vintage of that.

I had the Taittinger a couple weeks ago at Rob Bastuba’s in Detroit and my note echoes yours:

Taittinger Brut de Francaise NV

Light mousse and lightly buttered toast scents. Quite smooth and refined—maybe a touch too refined for me, I might want a tiny bit more spine in my Champagne, but no doubting the polish and balance here. Will be to a lot of people’s taste.

Well done and santé,


Birds of a feather Mike…

Finally, Fred responded with a short list of mentored folks:

Jim Klein- Navarro
Steve Gerbac- Rusack
Dave Whitehair- Foxen
Fabian Bravo- Bravo Wines
Graham Tatomer- Tatomer
Sam Smith- Morgan

I can think of a few others, but respect Fred`s reply and will leave it at that.

And in my humble opinion, the finest Sauvignon Blanc produced in California.

And now Fred comes back with 2 of those I thought should be listed: Jim Clendenen {Au Bon Climat} and Doug Margerum {Margerum}