Review: Area 5.1 Majestic 12

Remember how I raved about Area 5.1’s White Light? Well, I liked the winery’s Majestic 12 just as much, if not more.

This red wine blend is jammm-my.  Playing along with the alien theme throughout the whole wine tasting room, Majestic 12 is named after a secret committee allegedly formed in 1947 to recover a UFO that intelligence officials have called bogus and a hoax. But some believers still hold fast to the conspiracy.


Area 5.1’s owners went with the alien theme because they’re…drumroll please…”resident aliens” from Australia living in the U.S.

One of the owners, Martin Brown, told the Santa Barbara Independent that the grapes used in Majestic 12, Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo, pull from different areas in Italy.

“There’s a little Piedmont, a little Tuscany, and a little Po River,” Brown said.


Now let’s check out the anatomy of the wine:

  • Sangiovese can be tart, smoky and leathery and have a cherry flavor. It’s one of the top grapes grown in Tuscany.
  • Barbera, as I’ve written about before, tends to be crisp due to its high acidity and you can feel the briskness in the Majestic 12. Barbera, also an Italian grape, is lesser known than Nebbiolo. The Barbera wines I’ve had have mostly been blends, many with Nebbiolo, and tasted like cherry and a deep anise. Blending the two tends to soften the punch of Nebbiolo.
  • Nebbiolo, like the other two, can have a strawberry flavor and like Barbera have give a wine a crisp kick due to the acidity. The grapes grow primarily in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Area 5.1
  • Type: Blend of Sangiovese, Barbera, and Nebbiolo
  • Origin: Santa Ynez
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $28
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: While sitting on a porch at night, preferably somewhere far away from light pollution so you can see the stars and ponder the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

Recipe: Steak wine marinade

I was running home late after a busy day at work and had planned to throw together a steak marinade recipe using the leftover Barbera d’Asti I reviewed earlier this month, but my boyfriend beat me to it.

In fact, he’s the one who first introduced me to using wine as a marinade for steak, a hand-me-down trick from his mom. We’ve used different kinds of wines since for varying recipes. The time prior to this, I believe I mixed some Torrontes, olive oil and zahatar I bought at Spice Station, a perfect little spice shop in my neighborhood. We’ve also tried Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec and other reds and have largely had successful outcomes.

We typically let the steak soak and then grill to medium-rear, but this time around the steak was coated in a spice rub, heated in a frying pan and then braised in the leftover Barbera.

Here are the steaks cooking in the wine:


And the finished product (swoon):



The recipe is a variation on this one from and includes:

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine


Rub the spice mixture and two tablespoons of olive oil into the steaks–we used tri-tip, but the recipe calls for flatiron–and then add the remaining oil to the frying pan. Sear both sides of the steak for two to three minutes, making sure the inside is still rear. Remove steaks with tongs and add the wine to the pan, scraping up the goodies that have burned to the bottom. Replace the steaks in the mixture and cook on low for about five minutes. Check steaks with a thermometer to get your desired level of tenderness.

The steaks were delicious, spicy and juicy.

We enjoyed them with a nice Potuguese red blend I bought at a wine store in Berkeley when I visited a friend. I plan to review it soon, promise! Check out my Facebook page for a sneak peak of my thoughts.

To read my blog post about the Barbera d’Asti, click here. 


Review: Luisi Barbera d’Asti

Barbera’s not a wine grape you hear about everyday. In fact, before I drank the 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti, I had only had Barbera in blends before.

So what is Barbera all about?


Barbera is one of the most popular grapes planted in Italy. You can also find it in Australia, thanks to UC Davis. It’s also grown in California.

Barbera wines run the gamut from fruity to medium-bodied to concentrated and intense. Often, they have a high acidity level.

When I drank the Luisi, it was ruby red and tanngyyy. After letting it sit in mouth for a bit, it felt like pop rocks. Who knew an Italian wine would bring me back to the schoolyard days?

There are two kinds of Barbera: Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba, which signify the region in Italy where the grapes come from. Asti is drier and Alba tends to be rainier and the climates impact the flavor of the wine. Luca Currado Vietti, owner of Vietti Winery, told Wine Spectator that Asti and Alba are like Napa and Sonoma, in the sense that they are two wonderful, neighboring wine regions. Some say d’Albas are fruitier and d’Asti’s are more intense, but I haven’t tried the former myself, so I can’t confirm.

I’ll add a Barbera d’Alba to my list of wines I have to try, but I won’t be getting a Vietti wine. They cost upwards of $80, which is way out of my budget, I mean out of this universe, out. If you have a suggestion for a Barbera d’Alba under $20–under $15, even better–let me know in the comments.

I wouldn’t recommend the Luisi Barbera d’Asti to everyone–especially not to those who prefer smooth wines that aren’t explosive on the taste buds.

However, if you like thick and bold, you’d probably enjoy this Barbera.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Luisi
  • Type: Barbera d’Asti
  • Origin: Italy
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $16.95
  • Alcohol content:13%
  • When to drink: Bring this to dinner with the in-laws, not to your friend’s house party.