LA Wine Fest’s Dr. Joel M. Fisher: Winemaker Dinner at Wood & Vine with J. Wilkes Winemaker Wes Hagen

I attended this winemaker dinner because after a couple of months I finally made contact with an old friend Wes Hagen, a major California winemaker for years. I had met Wes 15 or so years ago when he was the winemaker for Clos Pepe in Santa Barbara.  For the past several years he has been the winemaker for J Wilkes Winery in Santa Maria.  That wine was at the 2017 LA Winefest, but pre-tasted by one of my colleagues not me.  Wes did not make it last year due to a schedule conflict, but their booth was always crowded.  


WineFest Founder Joel M. Fisher, Winemaker Wes Hagen, Tim Vandergrift

Related: Follow LA Wine Fest Founder’s adventures in food and wine!

Tonight’s dinner at Hollywood’s Wood & Vine is the work of Chef Jennifer O’Neil.  I enjoyed conversation with Daily Ovation Publisher Joe Wehinger and friend of Wes, Technical Wine Director at Northern Brew, Tim Vandergrift

Tonight’s tasting began with a wine made by the now-deceased founder Wilkes.  A 2014 Pinot Blanc.  I didn’t have the salad paired with the wine.  But the wine had a good off-color, minerality was smooth, not complex but that increased in the glass.  An uncertain finish.  Later review suggested apple and a good mouth feel.  This was a well-balanced, oak taste, Wilfred Wong, formally of BevMo and another old wine buddy gave it a 93 rating.

Harvest Salad

Harvest Salad

First Plate was a Harvest Salad featuring arugula, honey apple cider, vinegar, goat cheese, almonds pomegranate. 

The J. Wilkes 2015 Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley.  This was paired with white fish.  Wes has a product with lots of fruit, spices, wood, strong with oaky tones, and medium body, lengthening finish, spicy in the mouth.  

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

Second plate was Sea Bass featuring purple roasted cauliflower, purple lavender, cauliflower puree, greens

J. Wilkes 2015 Pinor Noir from Santa Maria Valley. Great color, darker than expected, fruit forward, friendly, and acidity, less oak.  Wes described it’s lengthening as “persistent.”  Earthy tones and spices.  Oaky on the nose along with black cherry.  A balanced wine and a nice finish.

Chicken Thigh

Chicken Thigh

Third plate was Roasted Chicken Thigh featuring yam mash, cranberries, cranberry sauce, greens.

J.Wilkes  2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, Highland District.  Garnet colors, fruit forward, 15% alcohol! Thought this had oak traces on the nose, some eucalyptus on the mouth, full-bodied, more cherry, a bold wine.  Finish improving with time in the glass.  I took some home and wish I could do tri-tip with this wine.

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Meat balls

Meat balls

Fourth plate was Lamb meatballs, radish, cucumber, red wine glaze, mint garnish.

The evening ended with 2012 Late Harvest Pinot Blanc paired with date walnut puff pastry.

Thank you to Winemaker Wes Hagen, Chef Jennifer O’Neil and Wood & Wine.

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