Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wining and whiling away the time...

Time goes by so fast. Fortunately, we're doing a lot of wine tasting while it's going by!

Shai @Santa Barbara
6/25 - Santa Barbara Wine Festival at the Natural History Museum - At the very last minute, Shawn Shai Halahmy pinged me to ask if we could help him pour his wines in Santa Barbara. We said 'Sure!' and headed North. We weren't familiar with this particular festival, but it was huge! More than 70 wineries - most of whom I knew - lots of fun food, a gorgeous setting, and a really enthusiastic crowd. Shawn was pouring his 2008 Shai Cellars Adome, plus doing a sneak preview of his just-bottled 2009 Adome and 2009 Grenache. With all the great wines being shown, a significant number of guests came back to us to tell us how much they like Shai! What's not to like? Oh, and the photo of Shai is courtesy of Bob Dickey, a great photog and wine lover in Santa Barbara. No relation to JD.  Just a fortunate name.

After a long day pouring, we headed to the Union Ale Brewing Company on State Street for a sandwich and a beer. Yes, the Goddess does occasionally drink beer. It was refreshing after a whole lotta wine! Since it was Saturday night, and we really weren't ready to head home, the three of us dropped in at the Wine Cask for a glass of wine. We sat and chatted and made fun of Shawn - just because we can - and then headed for home. A long, fun day! Next year's Festival is June 30th. Looking forward to it!

6/27 - 6/30 - JD headed north to Morro Bay/Los Osos, finishing the parental move from assisted living to a board and care. He worked his butt off - pretty much by himself - and complicated by last minute requests, but he got it done. The folks are settled in, and JD is home planning the next trip up to go through the storage unit and make some hard decisions.

7/1 - JD and I met fellow wine aficionado Eve at the Salt Creek Grille for lunch. We all ordered different salads, and it was interesting to see how the very specific requests I made regarding dressing and ingredients were pretty much ignored. We brought a bottle of Beckman 2010 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rosé with us to accompany our meal on an extraordinarily hot day, and caught up on our busy lives. Eve always has so many great marketing ideas, and they pour out of her in such a torrent, that I always come away a bit dazed! I'm so happy that our friendship - which started on Facebook! - has turned into something so real.

We headed home, rested briefly, and headed to Altadena for a combination Canada Day/Independence Day celebration at Maeve and Sean's. Had a delightful time chatting about wine (shocking!) with new friends, but the highlight of the evening was the fireworks show put on by the local country club. We sat in the backyard and watched this amazing display. What a treat!

Whites @Heritage Wine
7/2 - It was a holiday weekend, and we needed more wine! Shawn pinged me to find out if we had any plans, and we agreed to meet at the Heritage Wine Company in Pasadena and see where the day took us. Christian was behind the bar as usual, pouring a flight of whites to offset the hot day.

2010 Lavender Ridge Cote du Calaveras Blanc - Sierra Foothills - turned out to be an oddly effervescent, but enjoyable, Sauvignon Blanc with maybe some Semillon blended in. The nose was lavender and honeysuckle; in the mouth, a slightly oily texture (full malolactic?) complemented the honeyed finished. Very pleasant.

2008 Doiraps Russolo Bianco - Italy - An interesting blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Not your usual Italian white! The nose was pineapple; some nice elements, but a not-quite-pleasant, kind of bitter mid-palate. We all agreed that it was a 'no'.

2010 Toccata Pinot Gris from Lucas & Lewellen. This particular label used to be under L&L's Mandolina brand. This was initially crisp and refreshing after the previous wine, but our final thought was 'meh'.

NV Domaine de Papolle Gros Manseng - Cotes de Gascogne, France. Not being familiar with the Gros Manseng grape, I was blown away by the beautiful deep gold color, the banana, pineapple, apple, pear - OK, fruit salad! in the nose and mouth. Just a lovely, lovely dessert wine from Southwest France. Yum!

We finished the white flight with a Bublë from Mendocino made by winemaker Mary Elke. This sparkling blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir was crisp, fruity, dry, and delicious. A bit pricier than we wanted to spend, but it's another charming California sparkler.

Christian poured us a taste of the 2010 Lavender Ridge Grenache Rosé, followed by a taste of a lovely Merlot/Cabernet blend, the 2006 La Fleur Bibian from Listrac-Medoc, another wine by that flying winemaker, Michel Rolland. At $26, it was a steal, and we bought it to have with dinner.

Toad in a Hole!
The three of us paid our tab and headed over to the Tam O'Shanter Inn in Glendale for dinner. Shawn's wine is on the wine list there, so we knew we couldn't bring our own bottle (even though he had it with him), so we did open the Bordeaux (above). It was a perfect match with JD's prime rib, Shawn's New York steak and my Toad in the Hole! Shawn introduced us to Brien McNally, the restaurant manager, who immediately emailed me with an invitation to a wine tasting the following Saturday!

7/9 - Breakfasted with the usual gang at Lancers. It meant a bit more this time, as Pete was returned to us after going through a horrendous heart attack and subsequent surgery. We thought we might lose him, but he's a tough old bird, and there was sufficient serendipity for him (like strangers who knew CPR and saved his life) that he's still with us, although looking a bit gaunt. Good to have you back at breakfast, Uncle Pete!

From Lancers, we headed to the LAWineFest wrap-up meeting. Over specially-labeled bottles of Grizzly Republic wine (2008 Gypsy Noir, an interesting blend of 48% Syrah, 32% Petit Sirah, 9% Mourvedre, 6% Cinsault, 5% Grenache, special for the LAWF), we conducted a friendly post mortem of what went right, what needs improvement for next year, and speculation about what might yet be. All in all, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive from customers and staff alike. Kudos to all!

JD & I sped out of there to attend the Big Bold Red tasting at the Tam O'Shanter. Brien McNally, the restaurant's manager, originally designed wine and food pairings as part of his staff's continuing education. They proved to be so popular that he opened them to the public. He and Chef Teri McLeod put together an altogether delightful event - and they have a loyal following. We were the only new kids there! Brien and staff assign seating, so we were at a table with a couple of Brien's wine reps. That made it even more interesting, as they really knew the wines we were tasting.

Big Reds @The Tam
1st Course: 2008 Domaine de Boède, Les Grès, Coteaux du Languedoc, France - A great example of modern French winemaking. Mocha, mint, anise, cinnamon on the nose, spicy red fruit with dusty tannins in the mouth. A blend of Grenache and Syrah. Delicious. Oh, and for those who think French wines are all low alcohol, this one was 15%. You read that right. But, it was nicely balanced, and paired with Sweet Potato Soup, Beef Stroganoff and Artisanal Bleu Cheese, it was just about perfect.

2nd Course: 2006 L'Arco Noir Super Tuscan, IGT, Toscana, Italy - 40% Merlot, 40% Syrah and 20% Sangiovese - Modern Italian winemaking! Earthy dark fruit, mint, anise and pepper in the nose, soft tannins, cherries, tobacco and leather in the mouth. Paired with Summer Vegetable Ratatouille, Smoked Gouda and Beef Chorizo Arancini and Dark Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry.

3rd Course: 2008 Toucan Wines, Carignane, Evangelho Vineyard, Contra Costa County - Who would have thought of Carignane coming from California? Doug Timewell, that's who! This jammy, dark wine, full of blackberries, blueberries and currants. It's big, but low tannins. No angles on this wine from old vines. Paired with Duck Confit with Lentils, Wild Mushroom Risotto and Chocolate Cake with Cherry Sauce, it was the perfect ending to a darn near perfect tasting.

We decided not to take advantage of the 10% discount being offered on dinner - because we really didn't need any dinner at that point, but it was early, and we didn't want to go home just yet. So thanked Brien and Teri for the tasting and headed up to Glendale/Montrose to taste the weekend offerings at the Rosso Wine Shop. Jeff Zammitti always has interesting, well-priced wines, so we dove in.

2010 Quinta do Ameal Branco Seco, Ponte de Lima, Portugal - A Vinho Verde made from the Loureiro grape, but not fizzy! Beautiful floral nose; crisp and refreshing with notes of lemon, pineapple and stone fruit. The low acidity made for a long, fruity finish.

2005 Arcadian Gold Coast Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria - We've had this before, and it's just delightful. Clear, light red in color, earthy red currant and bitter cherry, with a long finish. Joe Davis makes a nice wine.

2009 Chateau Dupa, Medoc, France - 60% Merlot/40% Cabernet Sauvignon - Big fruit, but soft tannins, ready to drink now. And at $13.99, we couldn't afford not to get a bottle.

So, we've been busy. More events coming up! Monday night it's Santa Clarita for Grape of the Night; this month's grape being Cabernet Franc. Thursday brings a Bastille Day dinner with WineDiscoveries.net. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Eve said...

OMG you posted before me (though mine were automatic during vacation) about our lunch. Thanks for coming out, and next time, we should BOTH bring our reporter pads to get every last DROP of knowledge FROM EACH OTHER. The feelings are mutual, can't wait to see you again friend.