'Field Trip Fridays'

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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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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Field Trip Fridays: Palm Springs Boozy, Not So Wine-y

Sometimes Field Trip Fridays last the whole weekend..We’ve just returned from a lazy, hazy, boozy three days in the desert oasis of Palm Springs.

parker-patio

Our intentions (beyond relaxing in the sun and checking out all the Mid-Century Modern goodness) was to continue The Wine Education, but, it turns out, Palm Springs wasn’t a wine destination for Us.

Parched and hungry from the drive (wonderfully close, under two hours), our first stop was The Parker, a swanky, kitschy hotel just down the road from where We were staying. What to drink? The wine list offered at Norma’s, the hotel’s daytime dining spot, was tiny and uneventful.

Our choices limited, it was a mimosa for Him, Bloody Mary for me. The Bloody was spicy and delicious. The mimosa, not so much. The oj appeared to be from concentrate and the bubbly had a dull, indistinguishable flavor–our guess was an inexpensive Cava or Prosecco. The lunch itself was lovely and large. I asked to take my half eaten Lox and Bagel plate with me and was very disappointed to later discover they had only included the bagel–what’s the point of that?

parker-cocktails

Surprised that a reputable boutique hotel would have such a mediocre wine list, I later looked up that of  their fine dining restaurant. I was delighted to see they had an excellent, somewhat eclectic selection. Was it not available at Norma’s?

Although the mimosa was middling, We were in good spirits–who cares, it was vacation. We drove down the road and checked into our hotel and were instantly charmed by The Ace. We surveyed our retro-camping-army/navy-chic room, unpacked, and headed out. He had read about a wine shop downtown that was supposed to be good–we needed supplies.

PS Wine gets positive, three and four star reviews on Yelp, but We found it dark and depressing. The wine selection was nice (included some favorite California producers like Paul Hobbs and Patz and Hall), but the sports on tv, upended tables and chairs, and bizarre displays (like the Cupcake Vineyards rack featuring a gigantic plastic cupcake) turned Us off. We politely browsed and then got back out into the Palm Springs sunshine.

Next stop: a liquor store. We decided to follow Julia Child’s advice who, when asked what was her favorite wine, replied “gin.” It was a big bottle of Tanqueray Rangpur for Us. A bartender told me once it was gin for beginners, but I love its limey and smooth flavors.

feet-pool

We drove around a bit and then got back to the hotel for some relaxing and gin drinking, poolside. The sun went down, the temperature cooled and We opted for dinner in our cool room–delicious burgers while watching the Lakers (sadly) lose a basketball game.

The next day We planned our architecture and design tour over breakfast at a popular spot downtown: Pinocchio’s. The place is lively, loud, and friendly. We recognized several (and equally hungover) fellow Ace Hotel-ers. And…Hello, what’s this: $3.95 bottomless “Champagne.” I mixed my “fresh squeezed” from concentrate grapefruit juice into the overly sweet Wycliffe sparkling wine and had a few palatable glasses from the screwcap bottle.

endless-champagne

Breakfast itself is basic diner fair. Nothing fancy, just good.

After breakfast We had a terrific self-guided architecture tour of the city. (See the pictures posted at our design site’s blog.)

We got back to hotel mid-afternoon for more poolside lounging (and gin and naps). Then it was time to clean up (what, oh what to wear– yes all those choices and for our two night stay).

closet

We were off to Viceroy, another sweet boutique hotel, for dinner. This time We planned on ordering a nice bottle of wine. But again We we’re not wowed by the selection, especially since they were out of our first two choices. We settled on a bottle of Casa LaPostelle Merlot from Chile. We did not take notes, We did argue about Mid-Century Modern architecture and wolf down our delicious meal.

The next morning came too soon. We turned on some football and hastily packed. For breakfast it was The Ace’s own King’s Hwy, which looks like a fancy Howard Johnson’s (which it actually was) with way better fare. We drank water. After the great meal We hit the road and headed back to the normal daily slice of paradise in Silverlake. It was a terrific trip. Next time we’ll try harder on The Wine Education. And there is definitely going to be a next time. Very soon.

palm-springs-city-hall

(A Post Script: Coincidently NotCot was staying a few doors down from us…she has some great pictures of The Ace on her site. Check them out.)

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Field Trip Fridays: Culver City Crawl

We typically enjoy wine at our homes, at friends’, or at a handful of our favorite dining spots. It’s a routine we love, but we decided we should branch out–there’s a whole lot of wine to drink out there and a whole bunch of places to slurp it. And it’s a perfect excuse for Field Trip Fridays.

Last Friday we did a Culver City crawl, starting at Bottle Rock. It was about 2p when we got there and the place only had two other tables occupied. The interior is a bit stark and reminded Her of a chain restaurant, like Chili’s or Red Lobster or something like that (not that she has ever been to those places); a bit too clean and generic. But the server was all smiles and sunshine and immediately made us feel welcome and let us know how the place works. It’s really a great idea: Bottle Rock will open any bottle they sell and serve it by the glass, you just have to order two glasses. Cameo (our sunny server) also offered to discount wines which had been opened the night before. We enjoyed two different whites (reviews below), a delicious butter lettuce salad with candied kumquats (misspelled on their menu), a good truffle grilled cheese sandwich (more truffles, please), and a Reuben (Her first ever).

We moved down the street to Ford’s Filling Station. It was the first time either of us had been there. She knows Ben Ford from way back when he was a newbie at Campanile and sees him at the Farmer’s Market. The place is very comfortable, like the hotel lobby of western hotel, complete with upright piano. Were we on the set of Deadwood? The menu looked really delightful, be we were still stuffed from Bottle Rock sandwiches. We decided bubbly would be perfect and enjoyed a glass of Schramsberg. Refreshing. We didn’t take notes, we just sipped and smiled.

Next door is Fraiche, but unfortunately (and why, why?) they close in between lunch and dinner service. So we stopped in at Kay ‘n Dave’s, a Mexican joint down the street. Time to regroup…with a margarita. It was happy hour, after all. And how good did those free, warm chips and a delicious fresh salsa taste. The bartenders were incredibly nice and eager to keep the tequila coming. We indulged in a few and then decided a walk around the neighborhood would do us some good.

On the drive back to the Eastside She said, “Wouldn’t caviar be nice? Let’s go to the Hungry Cat.” So we did. It was early still (how could this be? felt like mindnight) so there were stools available at the bar. Danielle is one of our favorite bartenders in L.A. and lucky for us–she was there. Oh, the greyhounds are gorgeous. We started with this refreshing cocktail and moved on to a carafe of Muscadet to compliment the caviar. We were feeling good. This is a nice ritual we’re starting, Field Trip Fridays.

Saturday morning came too soon. Advil was consumed. Here’s what we tasted:

Maipe Torrontés, Salt, Argentina 2007 $27/9 (Bottle Rock)

She said: The  color is a pale yellow with a hint of green. Very tropical in the nose. If the tasting was blind I would have guessed a viognier, marsanne, roussanne blend. No significant hints of oak, but the fullness and richness of nose and mouthfeel may indicate it. Lovely tropical flavors of mango, guava, and pineapple, some peach. Ultimately light and refreshing on the palate although I initially thought it would be too cloying. Nice long finish–really a lovely wine.

He said: Very apparent pineapple on the nose, but I think I “forgot” to look at the color.  I wonder why?  Light tropical flavors and full-bodied in the mouth. I’m also getting some vanilla and something flowery. To my knowledge, this is my first taste of this grape. Getting a long finish in my mouth (that’s what she said).  I have “nice” written twice in my notes.  You would think I never studied architecture; if you ever said “nice”, “good”, or “I like it” in a presentation it was suicide.  “Nice” means absolutely nothing when you review your notes, I need to know why I thought it was “nice”.  Anyhow, I liked it, it was nice and good. 

Sans Liege, “Cotes du Coast,” 2006 $34/11 (Bottle Rock)

She said: Very golden and rich in color. Tons of peach and heft in front palate. Finish not as long as I would think for such umpf up front. Oak on nose and everywhere. Not very well balanced–a bit too rich in the mouth with a lack of acid, but this is characteristic of the blend. When comparing to the Maipe Torrontés, prefer the Argentinian wine.

He said: I have an inexplicable aversion to Viognier. I don’t mind the taste so much, there is just something about the feeling that reminds me of drinking Boone’s Farm in the late 1980′s. Like maybe I’m going to have a fucking piercing migraine very soon.  But I refuse to give up on it, because I hear people rave about it. I got a lot of peach on the nose.  In the mouth I can definitely make out the Viognier, plus peach and pear.  The other grapes balance it, but still very sweet, bring on the headache.

Muscadet, Domaine de la Pépiére, 2007 $31/16/8 (The Hungry Cat)

She said: Took no notes but ordered it purposefully to go with shrimps and caviar. Which I think I remember it did. Of course it did–it’s a crisp, dry, stony white. That goes down really easy.

He said: Did we go to The Hungry Cat?  This was after many bottles of wine, some bubbly, a margarita or few… I may have to review this wine later because I have no notes or taste recollection.  The trials and tribulations of having a wine blog; sometimes you get really drunk.

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