'Tasted: American Chardonnay'

United Slurps of America: Massachusetts

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. Week nine: It’s Massachusetts.

Marco Montez of Travessia Urban Winery was one of the first people We contacted when We began our Slurpin’ USA adventure. Jill of the lovely wine shop domaineLA here in our fine city recommended Travessia (and has blogged about the wine), as did several Twitter friends. Just one week into the project, We sent off an email and Marco quickly responded, “I can certainly ship samples to you.  No commitment, you can taste the wine and review them positively or negatively, or don’t review them at all – totally up to you – how’s that for a policy?” Um, that would be a policy We like.

Marco has a wonderful,  affable manner that has made him a delight to correspond with over the last couple of months. We asked Amanda Maynard of The Wine-ing Woman if she would be interested in co-blogging with Us. We’ve been following Amanda on Twitter for awhile and admire her great enthusiasm for wine (and the Bruins). She has a lovely, approachable writing style that charms. Lucky Amanda drove down to Travessia to taste the wines (and a barrel sample, a very cool bonus) and then passed on her notes to Us. Here are our collective reviews:

Vidal Blanc, Travessia 2008 (sample, winery sells for $13)

She said: Very pale, clear yellow with a hint of green. Green apple, grapefruit, and wet stones when swirling. In the mouth I initially tasted petrol, minerals, a slight chemical-like flavor, reminding me of a dry Riesling. This gives way to tangerine, white table grapes, ripe pear, honey. The wine is very lush and ripe, but not “sweet,” rather is very refreshing. Really delightful and interesting. Would be a great to accompaniment to a summer picnic on a hot day.

He said: Pale in color, but quite bold on the nose. A lot of Sauvignon Blanc characteristics on the nose, with some pretty strong apple. My first thought upon sipping was “juicy.” There is certainly evidence of residual sugar, but in no way is it overpoweringly sweet. Great acidity that lingers in the finish. This would be a great hot afternoon wine. My favorite of the three. It’s interesting how much Vidal Blanc We have had since we started this USA project. I definitely had not even heard of it, much less tasted it, and I don’t think I have had one I disliked yet.

The Wine-ing Woman said: Vidal Blanc is probably my favorite locally grown grape because of its ability to survive the colder weather along with the similar taste and wine structure to my beloved Riesling. I gotta say, this one does not disappoint. It looked very pale and clear in the glass, but on first whiff, it showed up big. I got a whole lot of everything, but apple and pear showed up to the party pretty early. I’m pretty good friends with them, so I was on board. It smelled really fresh and clean and I was pretty eager to dive in. Then the apple and pear party moved to my tongue. Oh boy. This has some serious structure and acidity which isn’t shy one bit. The fruit is extremely ripe, but not sweet (bonus points!). The finish was kind of like lingering apple juice. Out of the bunch, this was my favorite by far. I’ll take a few more bottles, please.

UnOaked Chardonnay, Travessia 2008 (sample, winery sells for $14)

She said: Golden yellow and bright. Would not have guessed the wine was unoaked if the label didn’t say so….on the nose is plenty of butter and caramel. Flavors of apple, lemon curd, and creme brulee with a mineral background. Fairly light bodied and with mild acidity. Easy drinking and fairly uncomplicated, which is reflected in the reasonable price. Would enjoy as an aperitif.

He said: Bright golden, it looks very much like a Chardonnay. Grassy on the nose, with buttery oak. It’s surprising to me that this is unoaked. Butterscotch-y in the mouth. A little light in the mouth and not much acid…the structure is a little weird, but the flavor is top-notch. If there was a little more weight and zing, this could be a really great wine.

The Wine-ing Woman said: On first look, it’s got a straw/golden color, which is kind of what I’d expect. It is slightly aromatically challenged in comparison to the perfumy Vidal, but I got some good green, planty thing going on. Even though this is unoaked, I did kind of get a buttery thing on the nose, so I don’t know if my brain was tricking me or if it was really there, but it’s absolutely not off-putting (and it’s not present on the palate). The palate was slightly less acidic up front than I had expected and a little thin, but not bad. Having had the previous vintage, that carried more of the acidity that I love so I was expecting something similar. However, it’s still really good. Not exactly my style, but it’s definitely appropriate in many situations. It would be great for beginners that are scared of wine but I think it would also pair wonderfully with some lighter fare (I’m eying a little baked Haddock…).

The Bastard Rosé, Travessia 2008 (sample, winery sells for $14)

She said: Deep salmon, orangey-pink. Fairly quiet on the nose, with some subtle soapy, powdery roses scents. The sweetness is subtle too, although the wine is off-dry. Initially tart in the mouth and then mellows out to a soft finish. The wine is confusing and hard to pin down. Seems out of balance. (And, yes, it’s not my mother’s rosé, as the label claims…she’s more of a Domaine Tempier woman, as am I.)

He said: Interesting color, it almost looks self-illuminated and kind of metallic. Hmm, the nose is difficult for me and it definitely doesn’t smell like any other wine I have ever smelled. Maybe hints of strawberry Jolly Rancher? It’s acidic and tart in the mouth. I had some when We opened the bottle last night and I actually like it much better today. The little bastard has settled down a little. This is a really tough wine for me to describe. I don’t love or hate it, but I prefer the Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc. 

The Wine-ing Woman said: I really love this bastard. He’s a little tricky and deceptive, but I’m into it. Let me explain. I popped the wine, poured, and noticed these slight bubbles in the bottom of the glass. None of the others had this, so I was pulled in. The color is kind of pink but more of an orange/copper shade, so right off the bat it’s getting interesting fast. Then, there’s the nose. Depending on what I focus on, I’m getting either bubble gum or a cinnamon and Christmas spice thing going on. Such an interesting side by side bunch of scents. The palate is filled with ripe strawberries and solid acid and structure, but the acid is different than that in the Vidal Blanc. This is like a secret, concealed acid. It didn’t strike me the whole way through, but on the finish, it showed up and left my mouth watering, craving another sip. This bastard, like I said, is deceptive but I’m pretty into how it’s done. It’s my runner up behind the Vidal Blanc.

9 down, 41 to go…

Summary

We said: Wow: nine states! Feels like an accomplishment, all this Slurpin’ We’ve done. Big thanks to Marco and Amanda for playing along with Us on this project We love so much…you both were kind and generous collaborators. The Vidal Blanc was delicious. We were marveling about how interesting it was to have a new favorite grape varietal that three months ago We had never even heard of.

So what’s in store for week ten? Yikes, We don’t know yet. It’s easy to get behind on the long distance coordinating, corresponding, and wine buying/sampling. Whew. We’re in talks with some great people in North Carolina, Ohio, Connecticut, Arizona, Arkansas, New Jersey, and Virgina. There is a lot of enthusiasm out there about the project, which has been really gratifying for Us. Thanks for joining Us and, please: join Us! If you live in any of those states that aren’t filled in on the map above and are interested co-blogging, send Us an email, Tweet, or comment your info. It’s fun.

Previously on USA: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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Miner? I hardly know her.

Not to harp on (or dream about) it too much, but damn my FedEx delivery guy is hot. When I answered the door a few days ago he was standing there in his little shorts, blue eyes glinting, a cute smirk on his face. “You’re going to like this,” he says to me. Oh yes…I do already. “Looks great,” I said. I may have even giggled as I signed. And oh my, what a nice package…he delivered to my door. A box of wine from Miner Family Vineyards.

I was excited and He was too (but not so much about the hunky delivery guy). It had been a long time since I’ve tasted Miner wines and He never had but had heard me raving about the wines and their national sales guy, Jack, for a while.

I met Jack in Los Angeles in the late 90′s. He is an all around great guy, wine expert, and one of my favorite people. I’m not alone in this evaluation: everybody loves Jack. The bonus is that he works for an outstanding winery. Miner Family is a top notch producer in Oakville run by Dave and Emily Miner.

Before I lived in Napa Valley I would stay at Jack’s place in Yountville when I traveled up there for trade tastings. He actually played a huge part in my eventual moving to sweet Y-town. I was relocating up to the Bay Area and couldn’t decide where to live…and the temporary housing time was running out. I was sitting at the bar at Bouchon, sipping wine and munching on salmon rilettes, feeling happy but overwhelmed. A decision needed to be made. Suddenly, Jack appeared. He was eating in the dinning room. Great. A few moments later James Hall and Anne Moses of Patz and Hall came over to say hi. I love this place, I love these people. Yes, I decided right then: I’m moving to Yountville. (Bouchon became my neighborhood corner bar and over the subsequent eight plus years many, many glasses of wine and bloody mary’s were happily shared there with Jack and the other locals–I miss this place.)

The delivery day was a hot one (like the FedEx…well, you get the idea). I put the two Miner whites in the frig and We impatiently waited for them to chill. We ended up spending the gorgeous day toiling in the garden. By the end of the afternoon We were pleasantly exhausted, dirty and super thirsty. Hello Miner Family whites.

We opened a Viognier and Chardonnay. Delicious, just as I remembered. I took my glass of chard (and what was left of the bottle) to the bathroom and drew a hot bath. The perfect end to a lovely (and stimulating) day.

Viognier, Simpson Vineyard, Miner 2008 (sample, retails $20)

She said: Bright, shiny golden yellow. In the nose the wine is distinctly viognier. There is lots of lush tropical fruit and peach blossoms. The palate is rich and full with a kind of saltiness in the finish. Plush, perfumey, soapy, and floral. The wine is very ripe, but the acid and minerality keeps it all in balance. Truly lovely.

He said: Bright yellow. Tropical fruits and flowery on the nose. I think viognier is one of the wines that I can, with some certainty, identify by the nose. There is also a little sting in the nose that I associate with viognier. I should note: I almost always dislike this varietal. In the mouth there is orange, and pineapple, which were also on the nose. There is also a definite mouthfeel that I associate with both of these fruits. I have to admit that I read “honeysuckle” on the label (which in our tasting ritual is kind of cheating) but, yes, there is definitely honeysuckle all over this wine. This is the best viognier I have had yet.

Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Miner 2008 (sample, retails $30)

She said: Okay, my notes got wet in the tub. It was splashy. But my palate remembers a fresh acidity, to compliment the ripe melon, apple, and toasty oak. Some almonds and peach flavors, a hint of spice (from the oak?). A silky mouthfeel that lingers and lingers. Rich, complex, and wonderful. The perfect “relaxing” in the bath-tub wine.

He said: So just maybe We were in the tub together. I actually don’t remember anything except for “whoa, this is good” which describes both the wine and a bubble-bath with the person you love. I think Steve McQueen enjoyed it too. Go somewhere else for specific tasting notes, but I will say simply, this was good.

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United Slurps of America: Pennsylvania

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? In the next 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America.

This week our eager palates travel to the state of “Virtue, Liberty and Independence:” Pennsylvania. For this premier edition of USA, wine blogger and Pennsylvanian 1 Wine Dude virtually tasted with us. Joe Roberts is a terrific, unique voice in the wine blog world and We are honored to have him join Us.

By way of background, last week a rather hunky UPS driver (what is it with the hot delivery guys in this neighborhood?) asked for Her signature for a box that looked suspiciously like wine. And to our delight, it was. Penns Woods Winery in Pennsylvania had shipped Us three bottles to taste, no strings attached. Fantastic. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch USA. We’re very grateful to receive samples from wineries (go ahead…ship them our way), but the feelings of joy for free booze also comes mixed with anxiety: what if We don’t like it? We pledge to always be honest in our reviews, but biting the hand that imbibes you seems harsh. Luckily for Us, We greatly enjoyed the two unique bottles reviewed below. Seek them out.

That said, let us begin:

Merlot, Reserve, Penns Woods 2005 (Pennsylvania, received as a sample, retails for $38)

She said: Very deep garnet, verging on opaque. In the nose strong wiffs of currants and blackberries with an earthy undertone. Extremely ripe and extracted fruit hits the palate immediately. Jammy stuff. There is a pleasant chalky texture, but more than any other sensation I get is lush fruit. Prefer less extraction and more structure in Merlot, but I am impressed that the wine does not get overwhelmed by the jamminess. As the bottle remained open the finish became increasingly Port-like. Very interesting wine. 

He said: Very, very dark in color. She says “garnet” and I don’t really know what She means. Kevin Garnet is quite dark, but it seems racist to describe wine that way, darling. Dark cherry, tobacco, cola, cedar and a lot of chocolate in my nose-piece. In the mouth there is a lot of fruit, but seems balanced nicely with the chalky tannins. More creamy chocolate and dark fruit flavors throughout. I am not normally a merlot drinker, but I definitely enjoyed this “big” wine. I would (and will) pair it with an American Spirit.

1WineDude said: Robust & full of dark fruits. Flirting dangerously close to over-extraction, but thoroughly enjoyable. The Merlot might blow your mind in terms of how ripe the fruit is, coming from the Right Coast.  This is because Gino Razzi (the winemaker) has spent a sh*tload of money on his small operation and equipment, and he has a horizontal fermentation vessel that can extract everything that the grapes have to offer in terms of fruit – I think you can literally dial-in the manner and depth of extraction on this machine.  Of course, you need to be careful that you don’t create an over-extracted Frankenwine Monster when you’re using that thing.

Chardonnay, Reserve, Penns Woods 2007 (Pennsylvania, received as a sample, retails for $33.50)

She said: Jumping to the bottom line: I loved this wine. It has a terrific balance of fruit/oak/acid with a deliciously long finish…a true delight. Now the specifics. Color is a pale yellow with golden hue. On the nose: apples, lemon curd, hint of wood. Great mouthfeel; very rich and full. The wine is obviously oaked, but the flavors do not overwhelm (not overburdened by butter, vanilla etc.). On the palate I taste pear and apple. There is a tangy creaminess which recalls brie and lemon curd. Some toasty notes and hazelnuts. In the finish I also sense crushed shells, but it is not a strong minerality. The finish lingers and lingers with a refreshing mix of acid and fruit (peach fuzz?). Fantastic. Where do I find it in LA?

He said: Pale gold-green in color, but as I have said before, I am colorblind so this part means almost nothing to me. Wow, very aromatic and smells damn good. Very crisp on the nose with honey and créme brûlée evident. Initial butterscotch in the mouth and very creamy, an excellent mouthfeel (a word I’m still uncomfortable with.) Getting a little something tangy, apple I think. I can taste and feel this in my entire mouth, which gives way to a long aftertaste with a nice acidity. It almost feels and tastes like a Bellini in the finish.I would drink this with anything in a cream sauce, but I would be more than happy just to drink it by itself. This wine is excellent.

1WineDude said: Vanilla, tropical fruit, VG acidity. Might be the best E. Coast Chard. I’ve EVER tasted. Period. I love what winemaker Gino Razzi is doing, and his `07 Chard made my Top 10 Most Interesting Wines of 2009 list because it’s the most balanced and nuanced white wine from the East Coast U.S. that I’ve ever tasted.  I’ve been following this one from its inception in stainless steel through barrel sampling and at multiple points after being bottled.  The amount of fruit that Gino has been able to coax out of these PA grapes is astonishing, and it was clear early on just how special this Chardonnay vintage was, and that the wine was capable of standing up to as much oak treatment as Gino was willing to give it.  It’s drinking beautifully now, a minor triumph really, and a new benchmark for PA and East Coast wines.

We Said: First of all, thank you to Jason Malumed of Penns Woods Winery, and Joe Roberts of 1WineDude for being involved for the premier edition of USA. Neither of US have ever tasted a Pennsylvanian wine, and it’s nice to get out of our oenological comfort zone; i.e. California and France. If We had to critique something about these wines, it would be the labels. We are both designers and can’t help but notice these things and how We would like to make them better (and, umm, We’re for hire).  Thankfully, the wine inside both bottles is terrific and that is what is really important.

In addition to the Merlot and Chardonnay, We also received a bottle featuring a grape neither one of Us had heard of: Traminette. We plan on tasting and reviewing it at a later date. 1WineDude gave us some insight as to what We may discover:

I tasted it while it was still fermenting in the tank and sitting on the lees (the wine, that is, not me!) and at the time Gino told me he was trying to make something simple and really fruity and refreshing.  Then, he ended up leaving on the lees so long that it gained this interesting creamy texture and more complexity.  I was like “Gino… if you were trying to make a simple wine, you failed spectacularly. This is one of most complex takes on Traminette I’ve ever tasted – you’re INCAPABLE of making a simple wine, man!!!”  We had a good laugh over that.

We’re intrigued. Will be opening the bottle sooner rather than later.

1 down, 49 to go.

We want United Slurps of America to be a collaborative project. Wineries or bloggers from states other than California who would like to be involved, contact us.

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Highly rated bargains: Us v. Wine Spectator

Perusing our “stolen” copy of Wine Spectator, we noticed editor picks and reviews of highly rated bargain wines. We decided to find as many of these and compare our notes with those of WS.

First off, it was difficult to find the wines. We avoided our local boutique wine shops in favor of liquor and grocery stores, assuming these would be pretty mainstream bottles and easier to find at these types of retailers. As it turns out, it took us three stores to find only three of the wines listed. It seems like wines being featured in such a huge magazine would make wine buyers for these retail chains take notice and stock these bottles. Right?

We took our three selections up to the cabana, by the fire, and out of the way of the looming rain.

Sauvignon Blanc, Bogle Vineyards, 2008 (California, $11.49)

Wine Spectator said: Mouthwatering and intense, with grass, lemon-lime and green papaya flavors that are highlighted by a zingy acidity. This has great intensity, with a silky finish. Drink now. Rating 88

She said: Very pale and translucent, yellow/green color. Nose is immediately hit with lime peel, gooseberry, and lychee. Also lots of acid: smells active and fresh, if a bit bracing. In the mouth limes, lychee, grapefruit, and a bit of grass. Tastes like Spring. Whew–the wine needs something spicy or sushi or some kind of food to pair with it. Enjoyable and very reasonably priced. Not very refined or elegant, but intense. A long, quenching finish. Would be great with that avocado and citrus salad we had at Canelé the other night. 

He said: Very translucent and watery in appearance. Lemon, lime, citrus on the nose. Smells crisp, clean and good. There is a little heat in the nose too. My first sip was a little disappointing, not as crisp an SB as I prefer. Subsequent sips prove crisper and the acidity is showing up. Lingers in the mouth for quite a while. I don’t really love or hate it, it’s an average-to-good drinkable wine. I will definitely finish the bottle.

Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Château Ste. Michelle, 2008 (Washington, $11.49)

Wine Spectator said: Bright and jazzy, with pretty pineapple, grapefruit, elderflower and spice flavors that linger on the finish without excess weight. This just floats on for a while. Drink now through 2012. Rating 90

She said: Golden hue. Swirl shows viscous texture. In nose: butter, wood, butterscotch, lemon curd, burnt orange peel. Rich and full on the palate. Honey, buttered popcorn, creme brulée. There is a heaviness at the beginning and then right before the swallow there is a harshness. The citrus flavors are not bright, but rather cooked or like custard. High in alcohol. Not my style, but the wine is fine, smooth, and silky. Like the Bogle we tasted, think this wine needs food to take off some of the rough edges. Would pair with trout almondine or monkfish with a cream sauce. score:

He said: Why am I smelling an herbaceous smoked turkey sandwich? Is this the wine? Wait, the fire in our “tasting room” is beginning to smoke. Ok, back to it. Golden and shiny with a little cloudiness. All butter, butterscotch and wood on the nose. Soft and big in the mouth (that’s what she…) and more butterscotch. The bottle text proclaims “subtle oak” but I don’t think it’s so subtle. I really like it, this is what I imagine a big, oaked chardonnay to taste like. And it has the creaminess I like.

Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Hogue, 2008 (Washington, $13.99)

Wine Spectator said: Bright in flavor and silky in texture, with creamy pear and apricot flavors that linger on the refined finish. Holds on nicely Drink now through 2012. Rating 89

She said: Whoa, so much wood and yuk on the nose…can barely go back for another sniff. Really smells terrible and I would say it was corked, but it’s a screwcap. Very golden color. In the mouth the wine is all wood and butter with a touch/kick of acid at the finish. The flavors in the mouth are much more pleasant than the nose. Butterscotch and some orange, and vanilla bean in the finish. I actually like the way it tastes, but it smells awful. In comparison to the Chateau Ste. Michele the flavors are more clean and fresh, but also shows an intensity. Again would pair with fish in cream sauce or even clam chowder. The stink on the nose is hard to take, but I like the mouthfeel and flavors…makes the wine very hard to rate.   score:

He said: Oh, gross. Smells like compost. I can’t pinpoint anything because I can’t keep it by my nose long enough. I would think it’s corked, but it’s a screwcap. It has the equivalent smell to the sound of the word “hogue.” Not quite as bad in my mouth, a little buttersco–wait, gross, still gross. Too much heat. I don’t want another sip. It tastes like eating old hot dogs on lunchbreak at the paper mill. Get it away from me. This should be recalled.

So, we are in agreement with WS on the Bogle and both admitted we overlooked the green papaya flavors.

We liked the Chateau Ste. Michelle but don’t agree (or understand) the flavor profile listed. She said “maybe pineapple.” But bright, light and “jazzy” this wine is not. [Note: This is Him typing: what the hell does jazzy mean?]

And finally the, urgh, (sorry I can hardly type it without remembering that stank) Hogue. We can’t believe we are tasting the same wine. This wine is bad. The other two are quite nice recommendations for their value, but this one should be avoided at any and all costs.

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Field Trip Fridays: Chocolate, Gay Mafia & Pulled Pork

Stop #1: Heath Ceramics

We have uber-talented friends who make delicious things… Libations and general festiveness began at Heath Ceramics for “Artisans United,” a collaboration between the exquisite ceramics studio, Valerie Confections and Patz and Hall. Wine, chocolate, cheese, preserves, meats…all presented on the most beautiful pottery you’ve ever seen. The event was food blogger/Yelper/Twitterer heavy. (So we fit right in.)

We sipped three wines from Patz and Hall:
Dutton Ranch Chardonnay
Chenoweth Ranch Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
No notes were taken on our slurps. All were delicious and were thoughtfully paired with exquisite chocolate and amuse-bouche prepared by VC.

(She takes full credit for this event coming to fruition, by the way. Both VC and PH are old friends and She introduced Chocolatiers Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman to the winemakers Anne Moses and James Hall at Her birthday party. Free samples is all the payment She asks for. You know our address.)

Stop #2: LACMA

tom ford

We try to be good citizens and support our local art institutions, so we are LACMA members at the avant garde level. Aside from feeling pleased with ourselves for being good people, we get invited to really, really cool private things. This time it was a special screening of Tom Ford’s film A Single Man.

We arrived early and went to the museum’s courtyard restaurant Pentimento for a pre-film drink. She had a Tanqueray & Tonic and He ordered a Rioja red. They were out of the Rioja so the bartender recommended a 2004 Celler de Capcanes “Mas Donis” Barrica from Montsant, Spain. Thank you, Bartender: it was excellent.

Before the film Ford took the stage to say a few words, and naturally he was the best dressed man in a very well-dressed room. He demurred at our enthusiastic applause, thanked David Geffen (also in attendance), and the curtain came up. Here is our review:

A-Single-Man

He Said: Totally beautiful to look at, that’s undeniable. Although the cinematography was beautiful, the music was beautiful, it kind of felt like watching a 90 minute perfume commercial (think dramatic music, soft focus on exquisitely dressed super-hot people in the snow). About 15 minutes before it ended, I was ready for it to be over. The story is nice, but not all that engaging. It’s nice for a film to show a loving relationship between gay men, but I wonder how the story would hold up if this film was “A Straight Single Man”. I imagine it would be a little cliché. The acting was terrific and Colin Firth was top-notch as usual. Also, I was happy to see a more subtle John Lautner house in a movie. Although I didn’t love it, I liked it, and would recommend seeing it, simply because it is really, really nice to look at. (And I assume that critics that recommend films get some kickbacks and I definitely want some Tom Ford Menswear.)

She Said: The film is visually gorgeous. Every single shot, vignette, scene is meticulously constructed. It is as if the pages of W Magazine have come to life. This said…Ford is a complete fetishist. He focuses on small (albeit beautiful) details that do little to progress the story. Close-ups of heavily made-up eyelids, a naked man being tossed around in water (that has the color and look of Mountain Dew), the hairy, tan legs of a young girl. And all those pretty, pretty boys. (Must they have such pink, plump lips? Gives a chick a complex.) All of this is complete eye candy, no doubt about it. But what is it’s purpose? There is nothing ugly (other than some characters attitudes about war, gays, and literature) in the entire film. The cars are pristine, a Pyscho poster looks like a Richard Prince painting that should be hanging in the Guggenheim, the men’s suits and ties are perfect, as are the pruned orange trees inside Julianne Moore’s mansion. And speaking of homes, really Lautner’s Schaffer Residence is the star of the film. I. Want. To. Live. There. A few other thoughts: the film reminded me of Sodenberg’s The Limey, both structurally and all that visual obsession; the final bedroom scene was straight out of Blue Velvet; the swimming scene and shots of the lovers on the cliff are straight out of From Here to Eternity–or maybe Herb Ritts’ Madonna version. My eyes got tired of all that glorious beauty after about 45 minutes, I had no sympathy for any of the characters, and thought the story was overly clichéd–but, damn–is A Single Man a looker.

Stop #3: Lou Winebar


(Image from Bestor Architecture)

Lou occupies a special place for us because it is where we went on our first “official” date. We had, of course, already had sex and all that, but it was are first time really sitting across from one another at a table.

When we arrived, we were seated between a 6-top and a cuddling/groping 2-top. We asked if we could move to the bar because we felt a bit crowded and, frankly, we just prefer to sit at the bar. We’re glad we did. Lou was behind there sniffing and slurping a variety of wines which he would then tell us about. Enamoring him tonight was a Croatian white with a nearly unpronounceable name. Upon sipping it, one of the servers said, “it’s contradictory in the mouth,” an assessment we both appreciated.

We began our drinking (or rather, continued) with a very pink Cava of which we have forgotten all information. This said, Lou: update your wine list on your website. For food we started with the Market Salad and Charcuterie and Cheese plate. Both were excellent, but wow, the charcuterie plate included the best cheddar cheese either of us have ever tasted (Hooks from Wisconsin–not England).

About a month ago we had signed up with Blackboard Eats for a free bottle of wine at Lou, and tonight we cashed that in and ordered a La Cabotte from the Cotes du Rhone. Lou remarked that it was a light-bodied red that would go well with both of our entrees (Her, the clam and chorizo, Him, the pulled pork sandwich), but he did pour us a glass of Pinot Noir that “is perfect with the pulled pork.” This is another reason why we love sitting at the bar.

Our dinner was wonderful. It was the perfect end to a fun, busy evening. You should all go to Lou, don’t be alarmed that it’s in a mini-mall next to a laundromat (where, coincidentally, we both used to do our laundry–before we ate here, or had sex with each other). It’s really fantastic.
La Cabotte_Cotes Du Rhone2007 Domaine d’Ardhuy Côtes du Rhône La Cabotte (Price: We forgot, because it was free)

He Said: Doing this from memory because I took no notes. I remember it almost bubbling after it was poured. Blackberry and pepper on the nose gave way to a very straightforward, light-bodied wine with hints of cola. Very nice compliment to the pulled pork sandwich. Not knowing the price, I can’t really do an honest valuation, but for free it was fucking excellent.

She Said: Deep ruby color. Pepper, earthy nose with an underlying gaminess. A slight frizzante on the tongue. Not as heavy or overly earthy in the mouth, which I was grateful for. Dark fruit, pepper, spicy wood, a little clunky, but pleasant and silky. Fine and easy drinking. And what a value: FREE!

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The Results Are In

blind-tasting-results

Wines poured for the blind tasting:

1. Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, Hess, 2007 ($9.99)
2. Bourgongne, “La Foret,” Joseph Drouhin, 2007 ($11.99)
3. Chardonnay, Koonunga Hill, South Australia, Penfolds, 2007 ($9.99)
4. Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Honig, 2008 ($13.99)

The results: He guessed #1 and #2 correctly. Half right. Half wrong.

He Said: On all steps I guessed #1 SB, #2 Chard, #3 SB #4 Chard. On the notes I scribbled, “Positive #2 is chard. Questioning #4. Don’t like #1. Prefer 3 to all of them. Questioning #3.”
When she got home she poured me a glass and right away I knew it was chardonnay. Not sure what went wrong on #3 & #4.
When we came up with this idea I said I wanted a chard and an SB vis-a-vis, not 4 wines on the table. And, it should be noted that she was super hungry when she got home and was making and eating food while preparing the test. I said loudly while I was sequestered in the bathroom, “Make sure you mark each one so you know which is which”. Well, when I asked for the results, she was flummoxed and couldn’t remember which was which. So, I’m totally disputing the outcome.
I think this shit was fixed.
Postscript: SB #1 is really gross, it smells like hot wet trash. I’m over wine, get me a beer.

She said: Easy there, Angry.
True, I was starving and was snacking and then got a little confused about which wine was which. But this was resolved quickly–I can taste and smell the difference.
How I chose the wine: I wanted a combination of different areas and styles for both grapes. I’m familiar with all four bottles and knew that like varietals would be slightly different from each other.
Getting half right is fine. I find it interesting that He doubted himself on the two He got incorrect. Trust your instincts, Boy.
As for picking the favorite, #3, it is NOT ACCEPTABLE to write: “Don’t care why…” He must begin to differentiate the smells, textures, and flavors that suit His palate. This is the point.

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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.