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Leeward will introduce two new wines at 'Taste of Ventura.'

July 23, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In less than two months on the job, Michael Meagher, the new winemaker at Ventura's Leeward Winery, has helped create a couple of wines that have never been produced in Leeward's 19-year history.

Both limited-edition wines--a Santa Barbara Syrah and the Founders Selection Chardonnay--will be available for sipping, straight from the barrel, Aug. 1-2 during the winery's seventh annual "Taste of Ventura."

"The Chardonnay is really nice, real rich, something different than they've done before," said Meagher, a former Ventura College student who came to Leeward from Mt. Eden Vineyards cq in Saratoga in Santa Clara County.

The Syrah, he said, will be a light, moderately fruity version made from Santa Barbara County grapes. "It's delicate, not heavily done," Meagher said.

Leeward owner Chuck Brigham said both wines were pleasant surprises when the grapes arrived.

"It's our job to kind of find the unique lots that come about," he said. "We get three truckloads, 66 tons, each year from vineyards. They don't come all at the same time--there's bound to be unique little qualities even in a 33-ton delivery."

Only five barrels of each wine will be produced, the Chardonnay to be bottled around September and the Syrah around holiday time.

Chef Reece Keck will provide the food to go with Leeward's wine samplings. The winery is at 2784 Johnson Drive. Admission is free. The wine-tasting will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.

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As they marked their first anniversary on State Street in Santa Barbara last week, Cafe Buenos Aires owners Wally and Silvia Ronchietto did so without a head chef for their Argentine establishment.

Not that they are complaining; the husband and wife restaurateurs tried the chef thing for the first 10 months or so, and decided there were other ways to run the place.

"We are going back to what works good. I'm doing the cooking now," said Silvia Ronchietto, who headed the kitchen during the cafe's previous life, a five-year stint at a much smaller location on Santa Barbara's Victoria Street.

"This way I'm sure of what we are serving and that it is made like what I remember from Argentina," Ronchietto said. "It is really difficult to teach to somebody who didn't grow up with those flavors, who doesn't know what the flavors are. I know the taste."

Ronchietto said the restaurant's first year on State Street was rocky at times, but things are smoothing out nicely.

"It took us a year and a lot of fighting," she said. "We found that we opened too soon, we were not prepared. I think we lost some of our clients, but we are getting them back now. It is so different to go from a 37-seat restaurant to 180."

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Just a few blocks away from Cafe Buenos Aires, the Blue Shark Bistro will host a wine dinner July 30, featuring the product of Rodney Strong Vineyards in Sonoma County.

The menu will include sauteed jumbo shrimp with a grapefruit vinaigrette, pan-roasted salmon with vanilla bean sauce on spinach, peppered rack of lamb with roasted asparagus and a plate of cheeses.

Cost is $50. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. The bistro is at 21 W. Victoria St. For reservations, call 564-7100.

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