Articles from November 2009

Big Mac’s Mondays: Er, Sort of

This isn’t exactly Big Mac’s Mondays. We are still on vacation in Santa Cruz (Aptos, actually), but decided to go to the local liquor store to keep up our schedule. It’s a working vacation.

Deer Park Wine & Spirits is the local liquor store, but it is actually a little fancier than Big Mac’s. Unlike Big Mac’s, you cannot buy Wonder Bread, Folger’s in a can, Cheez-Whiz or Bubbleicious; although you can rent or buy a boogie board. And the Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuissé costs $5 more.

As for wine, We went for a Sauvignon Blanc. The wine reviewed is actually the 2nd SB we had today (or, actually, His 3rd…wink wink).

The first (second) SB was at Seascape Resort, but only after We tended to a tween boy who had just fallen from a bike and had apparently broken his wrist. We sat with him and told him funny stories while We waited for his mom to arrive and take him to the hospital. He was cute. Really cute. He said “Oh no, this is my writing arm.” We told stories about our own broken bones and to each story he replied with sympathy, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” And then he asked for Vicodin.

Anonymous, newly pubescent boy, whomever you are: get well soon.

For our kindness the resort gave Us each a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, bracing, refreshing. On the way back, We stopped at Deer Park Wine & Spirits to continue that taste profile. Our reviews of what We bought are below. As usual, We didn’t do any background research on picking out the wine…We just bought what we were in the mood for that wasn’t too pricey. Later We did a little internet snooping and provide a few facts about the winery after our reviews.

tangentTangent, Edna Valley, Paragon Vineyard, San Luis Obisbo, California. ($11.99)

She Said: Pale, yellow-green color; very bright and clear. On the nose: no hint of wood but smell grass, gooseberry, wet stones, and flint. The acid of the wine is apparent just in its smell: sharp and strong. The mouth is richer than I anticipated. There is a mild creaminess, but overall it is very characteristic (or what I think as being characteristic):  bracing acid, unripe pear, gooseberry, grass, lychee. No petrol. Has a New World profile. A really good value at $11.99. Seems perfectly suited for fish, etc., goat cheese, avoid cream or heavy butter. Had a second taste (or fourth or fifth) and sensed green apple, riper fruit flavors, pineapple, stone, mineral, asparagus, green bean–seems more fresh green veg than fruit. Keep thinking about it. And this means I like it… a lot.

He Said: Very clear-watery, gold-green color. On the nose it is very grassy with light citrus and some new carpet (edit: she says that is a chemical thing I am smelling and I also crossed out floral. In the mouth there are strong flavors of pineapple and gooseberry, It’s clear, crisp and tangy with very nice acidity, which all last for a nice minute in the aftertaste. All in all, a terrific SB for the price. If I was rating on pure value it would be a 4/5. I don’t think of this as a typical SB, I may not have guessed it instantly.

Facts: It’s easy to find out about Tanget, the winery has a slick, informative website that gives all kinds of facts and accolades.Their focus is “offering fresh, crisp and vibrant wines of true varietal character… [they are the] first California winery to focus solely on alternative white wines.”

About the winemaker: “Tanget wines are made by veteran winemaker Christian Roguenant, who brings more than 20 years of winemaking experience, encompassing many countries and five continents. Born in Burgundy and educated in Dijon, Christian cut his winemaking teeth on Champagne, then California sparkling wine…”

About the vineyard: “Both of our estate vineyards, Paragon and Firepeak, have earned the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Vineyeard Certification. Farmed by our Pacific Vineyard Company, we have owned these vineyards since Jack Niven, the winegrape planting pioneer, began planting them in the early 1970s. Certification of these vineyards proves our collective commitment to environmental stewardship, economic viability, and equitable treatment of employees.”

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And this week’s challenge presents itself…

He has just declared that he can FINALLY tell the difference between sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. As His teacher I’m feeling proud, but also…sneaky.

Field Trip Fridays: Santa Cruz Saturday edition

We’re in Santa Cruz County for a Thanksgiving holiday mini-break…a seemingly perfect venue for Field Trip Fridays. We tasted through ten wines in about an hour and a half on a late, rainy afternoon. Our assessments are below. As usual, Her reviews tend to be a bit more serious (boring?) and His tend to use swear words (funny?).

beauregard-frm-road

Although we had ambitions to get up early and hit four or five tasting rooms, we, well, slept-in. It was the day after Thanksgiving…enough said. But despite not leaving the house until 3:30p, we did manage to hit two venues: Beauregard and Bonny Doon. Interestingly enough, Beauregard’s tasting room is Bonny Doon’s old tasting room. There is a hint of this in the skid stickers on the porch: aliens amongst the wine bottles.

We headed up the coast to Beauregard first. Driving there, we really felt like we were in a different place. The ocean was on our left for about 20 minutes before we crept up a winding road into a rainy Redwood forest. Even if the wines were to be bad, the experience was already terrific.

beauregard-path

She had visited the site of Beauregard a dozen years ago when it was the Bonny Doon tasting room. It’s a charming space that keeps the vibe of it’s original purpose: an out of the way roadside dive bar. The room was packed when we arrived and oddly there were half a dozen kids milling about (including two crawling on the floor). One of them kept bumping into Him and pleading her mother to smell the soap in the bathroom.

The woman who poured our wines was efficient, but maybe too much so: her spiel was robotic. Still, it was a pleasant experience, especially for the price: just $5 to taste five wines, which is refunded on any bottle purchase. And purchase we did: we chose the very reasonably priced Santa Lucia Highlands chardonnay.

The five wines we tasted:

Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, 2006 ($12.00)

She said: Clear, pale yellow color. Light wood on nose with vanilla, lemon, and pear. Good acidity in the mouth with definite wood, but not overwhelming. Tasting Bartlett pear and Red Delicious apple. Warm, silky texture, but light bodied and refreshing. Very pleasant and a terrific value.

He said: Clear yellow color. Vanilla and oak on the nose with a little apple. The nice acid travels nicely from front to back with a long finish, and maybe a little tingling frizzante. This was my favorite of the 5 we tasted here. If I was going strictly on value I would rate this a 4, but I feel I need to reserve high ratings for completely outstanding wines. Which this was not, but it was very good.

Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2006 ($22.00)

She said: Warm yellow color. Nose reveals lime, citrus, tropical notes like pineapple and mango all somewhat overpowered by oak. In the mouth the wine is lush, but like SLH chard has nice acidity. Medium to heavy bodied. Peach and oak flavors…I prefer less oak, but it is a lovely wine. Of the two chards the SLH is more to my liking, but this one shows greater complexity. 

He said: Am I smelling air freshener? It has that spray air freshener smell, like a tangy lime Plug-Ins. More acid and oak than the previous chard. I usually prefer a nice oaky, creamy chard, but this one felt out of balance. Not bad, not good; I prefer the previous.

“The Lost Weekend” NV (blend: 34% sangiovese 2008, 41% merlot 2005, 25% merlot 2006; $15.00)

She said: Muddy ruby color. The nose is dirty barnyard…nothing pretty or elegant about it. Currants, smokey bacon on the palate. Mid palate is harsh but it is bright in the finish. Seems out of balance and clunky. 

He said: Cherry on the nose, heavy tannin in the mouth. Didn’t really like it. I think this is also the one where the kid kept bumping me.

beauregard-picnic

Pinot Noir, Bald Mountain, 2006 ($45.00)

She said: Very pale, translucent and bright ruby color. Classic bacony pinot nose with notes of cherries, and cocoa. In mouth flavors of sour cherries, an earthiness, barny, herbaceous, pine. Not as elegant or tightly wound as I wish it was, but this does make it easy drinking, although I think the palate has an undesirable heaviness. Originally rated the wine 3/5, but for this price I’m changing to:

He said: Heavy spices in the nose, cinnamon and peppery. In the mouth it is earthy, spicy again. It smells and tastes like my memories of Christmas as a child; the cooking, the fireplace and the pine tree. I have been trying to avoid reading the tasting notes provided by the bartender. After I made my notes I read “showing cola” which I totally got, maybe even root beer. I also read “hints of celery root” which I have no fucking idea what that means, I think I need to go lick some celery root. I did really like this wine, but it’s not a $45 wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountain, 2005 ($35.00)

She said: Dark ruby color and bright like all the previous wines. Pretty plum and dark fruit in the nose with a hint of allspice. Structure is nice and strong with serious acid and tannin…I enjoy this type of profile although it is a bit too hot in the finish, nonetheless is an elegant wine. Have to lick my teeth after each slurp.

He said: Whoa, plum. A lot, it’s nice. I’m also smelling soap, maybe Irish Spring. Did that kid bring soap over here for her mom to smell or is this in the wine? I’m distracted, and I need more “practice” with reds. I was always a predominantly red drinker, but now that I am concentrating, the flavors and aromas in whites are much more familiar to me. I still can’t remember what black currant tastes like. The tannin in this wine sucked my mouth dry like that thing at the dentist’s office. Even 30 minutes later while driving my mouth was dry. But, I did like the wine.

beauregard-ribbons

We headed back down the hill and along coast, back into town. Bonny Doon’s new digs are slick and huge in a new warehouse building which houses several other, smaller tasting rooms. The signage and displays look a bit contrived (Disneyland-esque?), but the space is impressive with it’s flying saucer, barrel booths, and wine bottle light fixtures. And…we’re huge fans of Randal Grahm. He’s a witty, terrific winemaker.

Unfortunately, our experience in the tasting room wasn’t that great. We came through town a few months ago and really enjoyed our time here, but on this trip we had an overly hovering wine steward. After each pour she just stood there staring at us…no dialog, no story about the wine, no questions about our opinion on the wines… just an uncomfortable stare. Creepy even.

Bonny Doon’s tasting fee is $7 for five wines, refunded with a wine purchase over $35. We didn’t buy any wine this time around. And the steward didn’t push it…she just stared.

The five wines we tasted:

Orange Muscat, Ca’ del Sol, 2007 ($17.00)

She said: Mmm… made no notes? What I remember: citrus nose, residual sugar, flabby, not my thing. rate1

He said: Very floral on the nose, even potpourri. Orange, obviously. Not so much acid and kind of tastes like an orange Starburst.  I actually really like this, and I didn’t think I would.

“Metamorphosis I Aurora,” Eclectic White Cuvée, 2007 (blend: viognier, loureiro, treixadura; $22.00)

She said: Warm, light yellow color. Honeyed, warm nose with tropical fruit. Zingy in the mouth, but also very rich with peach and apricot flavors. Nice balance between the lush fruit, wood, and acid. Very enjoyable if uncomplicated…which also makes it overpriced. 

He said: A lot of apricot in the nose along with citrus and butter. More apricot in the mouth with a nice acid throughout. I feel a bit insecure with the pourer staring at me while I make my notes. Kindly go away until I’m done.

Sangiovese, San Benito County, 2006 (blend: 77% sangiovese, 16% freisa, 6% syrah, 1% grenache; $12.00)

She said: Darkish ruby color. The nose is gamey, funky, dirty. Mouth continues this trend…very brambly but also with sour cherries and herbs. Has high acid and tannin in the mouth, showing tons of structure. Enjoy the movement from funk to astringency. Priced well.

He said: Black cherry and earthy/dirty aroma. Also, smells like a wet dog after a bath, and I mean that in a good way. Very dry and chalky in my mouth, like a black cherry Flintstone’s vitamin. Tannic with a lot of acid in the finish.

bonny doon flying saucer

Le Cigare Volant, Red Rhone Blend, 2004 (blend: 38% grenache, 35% syrah, 12% mourvedre, 8% carignane, 7% cinsault; $30.00)

She said: Opaque, dark ruby color. Nose reveals dark fruit, black licorice, currants. High acid and tannin in the mouth. Like the Sangiovese it is tightly wound and has an appealing duality of dark and light notes. Would have been nice with Thanksgiving dinner.

He said: Hard for me to wrap my nose around this one.. earthy? peppery? I didn’t make very good notes, I think I was getting tired.

Angel Paille, 2007 ($20.00)

She said: Golden yellow, viscous texture. Floral nose with almond and peach notes. Disappointing in the mouth: utter lack of acid to balance all the richness of the ripe fruit, making it too sweet. That said, it is a nice ending after tasting the tight, tannic reds. But not my style of dessert wine…I like apricot, not honey. rate1-5

He said: Peaches on the nose, honey and marmalade in the mouth. I think this is the second time I have had a dessert wine (the first was this same wine at this same place a few months ago). It’s kind of gross, I can’t imagine really wanting to drink this. I won’t give up on dessert wines, but maybe these just aren’t for me. 

(Bonny Doon photo via SFwineblog.)

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A Happy (and totally on-the-fly) Thanksgiving

turkey

On Wednesday we left Los Angeles and drove to Santa Cruz (Aptos, actually) in the slow-moving holiday traffic, not yet knowing what we would do for Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe we would go out, maybe we would cook a fancy meal, or maybe we would have turkey sandwiches while watching football. We kinda knew a whole turkey was out of the question time-wise (and it’s just the two of us, so who needs a whole bird).

When we arrived to town, we stopped at the local grocery store (that just happens to have a liquor store next door with a decent wine selection) to find out what time they closed on Thanksgiving: 1:00pm. Hmm, so we needed to make a menu and do our shopping by then, if that is the route we choose.

It was the route we chose. We woke up somewhat early and brainstormed a menu. We then scoured the internet looking for recipes, Her veto-ing several of His recommendations: marshmallow yams, green bean casserole with fried onions from a can, etc. (He grew up in Texas). He finally acquiesced to these deletions, as long as there was beer bread, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs.

Here is what ended up being on our menu (links provided to all the dishes for which we used another person’s recipe).

Honey Roasted Turkey Breast
Apple + Sausage Stuffing
Soy Sauce + Onion Gravy (a throw back to Her veg days)
Cream Cheese and Chives Mashed Potatoes
Sriracha Deviled Eggs
Sweet Pickle Deviled Eggs
Curry + Parmesan Deviled Eggs
Creamed Spinach
Beer Bread
Apple Pancake + Kahlua Whipped Cream

winesAnd the wine…We decided to take advantage of Deer Park Wine and Spirits’ local-centric offerings. Our selections:

Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey, Morgan, 2007 ($12.99)

Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Storrs, 2007 ($19.99)

Carignane, Cienega Valley, Wirz Vineyard, River Run, 2006 ($18.99)

And for when we wanted to transition to hard liquor (and when does this not happen?), a jar of Limeade, Santa Cruz Organic ($4.99) to mix with vodka and top with a splash of soda.

He Said: First and foremost I am thankful for rap music. Also: the best friends and family anyone could ask for; good, local organic food on a regular basis; wine, wine & wine; the housing market and construction industry recovering (albeit slowly) so a dude can actually do some architect-ing and put his $175K education to use; a certain decadent compound in Silverlake; California in general; and more than anything, Her. Her intelligence, Her enthusiasm, Her body, Her libido, Her.

She Said: I am thankful for…artists, wine, love, beauty, my dead dog (not the dead part), my family (with special shout-outs to my mother who is the hero of my life and to Linda who I miss more than I’ve ever missed anyone or thing), cherished friends, music, the best-est (sweet-est, sexi-est, clever-est…you get the idea… but I get Him) boyfriend, and for lingering moments of optimism, joy, and purpose that come from simple things like reading Maria Kalman’s wonderful essay.

Wine Web Wednesdays


Hall of Famer Randall Grahm, we’ll see you in a couple of days; Santa Cruz for Thanksgiving. Image courtesy of Ron Wurzer/Special to The Chronicle, 2007.

He gets around: Tupac on a wine blog. We approve.

Maybe we will become a hip hop wine blog: Lil Jon is making wine, bitches.

Great idea: but maybe say “inexpensive” or “value” wines. That’s just our cheap $0.02

De Stijl-ed Wine: Great minimalist wine labels.

Gift Guide: If you happen to be friends with the Jetsons.

“If you wanna get down with us, send a case to this place.”

Some text messages are better than others. Today while I was out, She sent me a text message that read simply, “Sadat X reviews wine”. I was intrigued to say the least.

Wow. Thank you to Rockss & Fruit for posting these. Sadat X (of the very amazing early 90′s hip hop group Brand Nubian) rates wine in his “True Wine Connoisseur’s” series. Just watch. Really. Watch.

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Sunday Salon: what we drank

salon-post
(The morning after: many, many empty glasses and bottles.)

Our first Sunday Salon was a success. Fifteen of us gathered in Her living room (aka the patio) for an evening of smelling, swirling, slurping, and lively conversation (mostly about wine).

A big cheers to our guests for sharing our Sunday ritual with Us and for generously bringing along a bottle. As luck would have it, several of you brought the same wine, allowing for generous pours. Here’s the line-up:

  • Touraine, Dom. La Renaudie, 2007
  • Muscadet, Sèvre et Maine, Dom. des Trois Toits (Hubert Rousseau), 2007
  • Sancerre, Les Monts Damnés, Carl Roger & Christophe Moreux, 2007
  • Vouvray, Barton & Guestier, 2007
  • Muscadet, Sèvre et Maine, Les Dabinières, Jean-Jacques et Remi Bonnet, 2008
  • Muscadet, Sèvre et Maine, Cuveé Vielles Vignes, Clos des Brierds, 2008

(Sense a theme here? Kudos if you do.)

We’ll post a detailed recap of this delightful evening on Sunday. In the meantime, We’ve got some dishes to do.

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Field Trip Fridays: It ain’t always wine

Disclaimer: writing this post through quite the hangover.

My day began without Her as I was meeting with a client for my “real job”. After the meeting my partner and I went to The Drawing Room and I had a Vodka on the rocks. On the weekends, The Drawing Room is filled with your usual Hollywood/Silverlake/Los Feliz crowd, so it was kind of nice to see it full mid-day with some very Bukowskian Barflies.

Then I went home.

The only wine that was drunk was some leftover red from Big Mac’s (that actually tasted better than when it was opened three days ago).

Last night was the finale of the Battle at the Berrics 2. For a crowd of 600 skateboarders, there was obviously no wine. Instead there was Fireman’s Brew Beer, which was completely gone by 9:00; skaters like their beer. The event was excellent with four of the best young skateboarders competing in the final matches (I can’t reveal who won as it isn’t posted on the Berrics yet). There was also an In & Out truck, and She had her first ever In & Out Burger (she was a vegetarian for a long time). She, of course, loved it.

c-cole

Afterward we headed to Edendale Grill, another good neighborhood bar. We each had a cocktail, She had a Citron rocks and a large Pellegrino, I had a Greyhound, which was very unnecessary as I was already tired and Fireman drunk. Edendale is a great space, but I prefer it on weekday evenings when it isn’t quite so packed.

The next thing I know it’s morning and I wake up still wearing my windbreaker from the night before. I almost forgot what beer hangovers felt like.

[Update] Still totally hungover.

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Wines of Note: A Marvelous Muscadet

bottle shot

I wouldn’t say that I’m the more serious wine taster; more often than not He says, “Should we take our Tasting Notebooks?” when we head out. And this is even if we’re just going to the grocery store or someplace like that–you never know when a wine tasting opportunity will pop up. I like this kind of thinking.

But…last night He was a little less serious about the tasting part. Or rather, he was less serious about the taking notes and concentrating part; there was plenty of tasting.

As He said in his post: “Sometimes you get a little tipsy and decide to go to Cha Cha, and then forget to review the wine or the shop.”

Yes, all of these things did happen (the chicks totally kicked ass at foos ball at Cha Cha, by the way) but, I still took notes on the terrific Muscadet we tasted from the equally terrific wine shop domaineLA.

Hands down this is the best wine that I’ve tasted that’s been reviewed here. Seek it out.

Muscadet, Sèvre et Maine, Domaine de la Pepiere, 2007 ($15.99)

She said: The wine is very pale with very little color, just a hint of yellow. On the nose it is fresh and clean with strong notes of grapefruit, lime, and lots of mineral. One sip fills the entire palate. The flavors again are citrusy, especially grapefruit. Also detected oyster shells, wet stones, and a chalkiness. It has a bright, almost abrasive acidity. A bit taut here, but I like that quality in a Muscadet and in whites in general. The long, floral finish reminds me of a flowering almond tree. Truly delicious and quenching. I can imagine all kinds of foods to pair it with: shellfish, of course, but also spicy stuff like bbq or Thai, and wouldn’t sushi be perfect. It’s also a great value for the price.

Facts: The winemaker, Marc Ollivier, is highly regarded by both wine drinkers and fellow wine makers. The wines come from about 40 year old vineyards which overlook the river Sèvre. Ollivier is the only grower in the Muscadet who does not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards; they are all from original stock. What also sets Ollivier and his wines apart is his insistence on hand harvesting, a rarity in the region, and using only natural yeasts. He doesn’t inoculate the wine with additives or yeasts to speed up fermentation, rather he waits for the wine to finish naturally.

Postscript: And if you still aren’t convinced that you should seek out and try wines by this wonderful maker, just look at this face. How can you not smile and resist a wine made by this man?

mark_olivier
(Photo from Wine Anorak.)

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So, here’s the thing…

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Sometimes you have a wine blog. Sometimes you take that blog very seriously. Sometimes you visit a great new wineshop, and buy a great bottle of Muscadet. Sometimes you have every intention of reviewing the shop and the wine. Sometimes you get a little tipsy and decide to go to Cha Cha, and then forget to review the wine or the shop.

He Said: The wine shop is awesome, you should all go. The bottle of Muscadet that we bought was also awesome, we will buy another bottle and review it. But sometimes it is better to just be social, enjoy the wine, but not take it too seriously.

Sometimes life is just good that way.

(and, duh, the image of the bottle isn’t Muscadet. We just liked the editorial comments on the chalkboard. The wine we drank was Muscadet, Sévre et Maine sur Lie, Domaine de la Pepiére 2007)

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