Had a few adventures over the weekend. Saturday, was in Pasadena to get our hairs cut (yes, all of them), and actually had no other plans. Gina, the best hair artist in high heels, suggested visiting one of the wine bars within walking distance of the salon. So we walked over to Pop on Union, which was closed - would open at 4 p.m. OK, so we walked back in the other direction to the Paseo Colorado to try Bodega. Which was closed - would open at 4 p.m....sigh... But there was the D'Vine Wine Company in the same courtyard, so we ventured inside the open door. They weren't quite open yet, but we looked around the large room, admiring the dark wooden wine racks and the rustic furnishings, while being curious about the apparently small inventory displayed. It turns out that this is a franchise through which you can make your own wines or have wines personalized for you.
After a while, a young man arrived - the winemaker, Carlos Torres - and he quickly poured us his 2005 Madeira Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa). It was an interesting Cab - the nose full of leather and tobacco and earth, with some dark fruit. Firm tannins supported a tasty black cherry, but not at all fruit forward. Low alcohol, too, only 12.5%, which made for a very Old World experience - with a Napa wine!
Carlos loves French wine, and is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. And he tries very hard to make his wines as French as possible. He also poured a couple of vintages of Asuncion Ridge Pinot Noir from San Luis Obispo - a 2006 and 2007. The 2006 was really Burgundian in style; earth,and mushroom and smoke in the nose, more mushroom and forest floor in the mouth. It took a long time to open enough to find the fruit. The 2007 was pure California; fruit, fruit, fruit. It was like drinking a cocktail compared to the 2006. Did I mention fruit? 2007 had a very hot summer, so the fruit was super ripe and highly extracted.
We had a nice visit with Carlos, purchased a bottle of his Cab for $23.99, and left in search of food. After walking around the Paseo, there wasn't really anything there that was not a chain, so we walked back up Raymond to Cafe Bizou - which was closed. Would open at 5 p.m. We were hungry and didn't want to wait another 45 minutes, so we hoofed it back down to Colorado and dropped in on Mi Piace, where we had a Caesar salad followed by some delicious pasta - I had the Bolognese, JD had something with seafood - and we gilded the lily with an odd, but delicious, bread pudding. All of the above went really well with the Madeira Ranch Cabernet, so we were happy and went home exhausted.
Got up early on Sunday and hit the road to Qupé in the middle of the Bien Nacido vineyard. A good sized crowd had already accumulated - there was a long queue for the food, which was being prepared by Jim Clendenen and crew. We grabbed a few crackers and cheese and started tasting. Bob Lindquist was behind a table, pouring 20-year-old wines to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Qupé. He poured us a 1989 Rosé made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. It had aged to a very curious orange color. It had lost its fruit, but still tasted like wine. The 1989 Chardonnay was yellow. YELLOW. Not golden. It was the color of pineapple juice. It was too scary-looking to taste, but a couple of other folks there said it was like the Rosé - all the fruit was gone.
We had a kind of odd experience when we went to the Syrah table. We tasted a Syrah made by Qupé's winery manager (I'm not really sure of his name). The label was Makor La Tortuga, and it was one of the stranger Syrah's I've had. The nose was full of eucalyptus - no smokiness, no meatiness, just an odd medicinal smell. Tasted a bit strange, too. I think it was a 2006 vintage. Then we tried a Qupé Syrah, which either had the same strange eucalyptus thing going on, or our glasses were just tainted from the first one. It was very odd - we love Bob's Syrah's, and these were just weird.
We fled the Syrah table, and went to the table where Bob's sister, Sarah (?), was pouring Tempranillo and other reds. It took a bit of rinsing, but I finally got the odd Syrah out of my glass, and things started to taste like wine again. We especially like Jim's Vita Nova Acronicus, a Bordeaux-style blend.
After doing a bit more tasting, we stood in the food queue, and were rewarded for our wait by getting some 20-year-old Syrah from Bob. This was WINE. The nose still had fruit and smokiness, and it was delicious with the tri-tip and pasta and salad. We tasted a few other wines, but the crowd was huge, and we both were getting a bit crazy from it, so we bought a 2004 Clendenen Family Cellars Petit Verdot, a 2002 Acronicus and a different grape - a 2005 Il Podere Teroldego. Red and yummy. We did love Jim's Au Bon Climat 2004 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley "Knox Alexander". As always, dee-lishus!
We jumped in the old Explorer and headed back to Buellton, to attend the grand re-opening of Morgan Clendenen's Cold Heaven Cellars at the new location. It was so nice to be able to spend some time chatting with Morgan about her wines and her life -- all while tasting what we consider to be the best Viognier in the New World, Cold Heaven. JD and I first tasted Cold Heaven around 4 or 5 years ago, and it set the standard for Viognier. Besides the various and wonderful Santa Barbara County and Santa Rita Hills vineyards from which Morgan sources her grapes - Sanford and Benedict, Vogelzang, Le Bon Climat, and others - she also makes an amazing international blend made up of Sanford & Benedict vineyard fruit from Santa Barbara County, combined in equal parts with legendary winemaker Yves Cuilleron's French grapes from the Northern Rhône appellation of Condrieu. Deux C (Clendenen and Cuilleron are the 'two C's') rocks!
We also love Morgan's Domaine des Deux Mondes-Saints & Sinners Viognier, another collaboration between herself and Yves Cuilleron, and her Second Sin Syrah - which was the best Syrah I tasted on Sunday. It paired really well with the carnitas taco I had at the Cold Heaven open house. Scott is the roast/barbeque king! Great guacamole, too.
We reluctantly tore ourselves away from Cold Heaven after buying a few bottles of heaven, and headed over to Solvang to the Tastes of the Valleys wine bar thinking we'd just have a quiet glass of wine after all the conversations and crowds. Our recently-made friends, owners Ash and Lissa, weren't there when we arrived, but their barista, a lovely young woman whose name we never got, set us up at table, where we considered what we wanted to drink. We were thinking about a 2006 Toucan Red Cuveé and a Core 2006 GMS when Ash arrived, sat down with us and plied us with wine and conversation. So much fun! While we were visiting, Ray Fortune, a local musician, was setting up for an evening of music at the wine bar. Great voice and guitar work - very enjoyable. Makes me wish we lived a bit closer to Solvang, so we could stop in more often.
It was getting late, and we wanted to have dinner before we headed back to Burbank, so we went around the block to Root246 with a bottle of the Toucan Red Cuvee - Estate Zinfandel 55%/Estate Petite Sirah 9%/36% Old Vine Carignane, Evangelho Vineyard - a very interesting blend that was a delicious complement to the amazing dinner at Root246, a new restaurant in Solvang helmed by Chef Bradley Ogden. The service was a bit slow - although all the waitpersons seemed to be moving at warp speed, the delivery took a while. It was definitely worth waiting for. I had the “Ive’s Shake and Bake fried Rocky Jr. chicken,” with whipped crème fraiche potatoes, and seriously julienned fuji apples. Not your typical fried chicken, let me tell you! JD had cod with spaghetti squash and jumbo capers and other yummy items. We split the Root 246 banana split “taster”, house-made marshmallow fluff, local strawberries, hot fudge. Yum!
Then we had to drive home...sigh...and while traffic was moving at the right speed - fast - it was still a long drive home after a very long, but gratifying day. Back in the barn by around 10:15. Updated my Facebook status and fell into bed!