Friday, February 26, 2010

Dispatches from the road - Days 5, 6 and 7...

Wow, I'm way behind on my notes...

After a wonderful visit in SF with Wil and Joe, we packed our bags and hit the road south.  It was a beautiful morning, alternately rainy and bright; travel was moving well, and we were in Gilroy before we realized it.  Needed to stop and get some food, so we exited the freeway and found the Black Bear Diner, a fun, kitschy place with pretty good burgers (with flags!), and lots of strong coffee.

There was unintentional entertainment - a woman straight from a Del Shores play was in the next booth, reading a lengthy email about a spiritual intervention for some needy soul.  That set the tone - Texas accent and all - for the day.
Back on the road, refreshed and ready for wine, we were on our way to Cambria.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dispatches from the road - Days 2, 3 and 4...

After a decent sleep at the Motel 6 in Buellton (yes, even Goddesses have budgets), JD and I hit the 101 North to San Francisco.  Although there were scattered rain showers, it was a relatively easy drive.  We stopped in San Luis Obispo at the Apple Farm and breakfasted on eggs and sausage and those famous muffins.  Stopped in the gift shop and found ourselves in the middle of conversation about the Renaissance Faires - North and South.  JD and I are old rengeeks, and it's always fun finding like-minded folks.  Still, we left the Apple Farm a bit later than planned.

Driving north on the 101 takes you thru fields of grapevines, amazing ocean views, evergreen-forested mountain passes, and quick views of small farming communities like Gilroy (garlic capital of the world, I think) and Salinas (not so small), before heading into San Jose and the Silicon Valley.

We had a short unexpected stop just south of Salinas.  Cruising along, we noticed a helicopter circling around to hover over the highway.  And land.  On the highway.  Traffic, of course, stopped.  We assumed it was a Medivac helicopter, and were dismayed to see a second whirlybird land on the highway.  After a while, both 'copters took off in the general direction of Hollister, and traffic began to move.  The remains of the accident left no doubt that folks were seriously injured.  We sent good thoughts their way, and made our way cautiously out of the area.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dispatches from the road...

Been on the road since Monday the 8th.  JD and I drove up to lovely Buellton as the first step on our road to San Francisco.  Stopped at Paula's Pancake House for our usual first meal of the day - tuna melt for me, some sandwich filled with cheesy goodness for JD - and headed over to Buttonwood for a winery lesson with Karen Steinwachs.

I left my camera and notepad in the car, and just listened and tasted as Karen showed us around the winery, gave us a detailed and interesting history of Buttonwood, and pulled barrel samples for us of the 2008 and 2009 wines sitting quietly in either new French oak or neutral (used) French oak barrels.  After tasting the Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and the Malbec (she's not sure what she's going to do with it, but it was delicious!), we got a chance to taste assistant winemaker Graham's Gewurztraminer.  He was testing the sulfur dioxide levels, and poured the wine directly from a beaker!  It was delicate and lightly spiced; I think it will be wonderful with spicy Asian food!

After over two hours at Buttonwood, we bade Karen and Graham a fond farewell, and headed over to Los Olivos to check out some of the tasting rooms that have sprung up since the last time we hung out there.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wining in Beverly Hills with

Had a great time at the STARS of Santa Barbara event last night, although by the time we were able to start actually tasting, I wasn’t much in the mood, if you can believe it!  It seemed a bit crowded, and Ian was on the microphone making a lot of noise while encouraging folks to sign up for the silent auction. 

Laura and Joni and Meagan were glad we were there; we saw a bunch of friends – Mike Donovan (MD3), Deb Bizek and Kristen, her former roommate, sommelier Reneé Kuo (my new best friend), the gorgeous Karinna Zarate (pictured with us), Steve and Anne Cassidy of WineShop at Home, Sherry Campbell (formerly of LAW), winemakers Karen Steinwachs of Buttonwood, Josh Klapper of La Fenetre, Brian Loring of Loring, Michael Roth from Demetria, Teri Love from Gioia, and lots of new folks (well, new to us), too!  Everyone seemed to having a good time, great wines were being poured.  Had time at the end to chat with Karen, who gave us the remainder of her open wines – lots of stuff to sample tonight!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wining in Valencia...

Monday night, JD and I attended our first "Grape of the Night" event hosted by Rusty Dale Sly and blogger Eve Bushman at the Valencia Wine Company.  Once a month or so, Rusty and Eve collect a group of enthusiasts to taste their way through a whole lotta bottles of a single varietal.  This month's singular grape was Syrah, or as it's known in other parts of the world, Shiraz.  The criteria for each bottle is that it consist of at least 85% of the specified grape.

JD and I got there early so that we could choose a bottle from the diverse choices offered by proprietor Guy LeLarge.  Rusty said he brought a special bottle of M. Chapoutier Hermitage, and I said I was thinking about a French wine myself.  I settled on 2007 Domaine La Bastide (Vin de Pays d'Hautervie - Provence), we ordered a combination cheese and meat plate, and waited for the rest of the tasters to arrive.

By around 7:15 we had collected 17 or 18 tasters and 12 bottles of wines from France, California and Australia.  Guy began opening the bottles ably assisted by the lovely Julie and friend Vic (who is actually from another wine store - it's a small, friendly community!).  Eve and Rusty provided some background about Syrah/Shiraz and we began to taste!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wine tasting at home...

Had a lovely group of friends over on Saturday for a WineShop at Home tasting.  JD and I straightened up the house, and tried to figure out how to seat 10 guests in our tiny living room.  We set out smoked Gouda, Dubliner Cheddar, double-cream Brie, and a wonderful Stilton, along with Carr's water crackers, red table grapes and a selection of dark chocolates.  Guest Dana Amromin, a genius pastry chef, brought her homemade truffles... sigh... perfection.

The wines were as follows, and I'd like to point out that this is the order in which I served them, not the order that WineShop at Home listed on the menus: