'Tasted: American Pinot Noir'

List w/o Commentary: Dinner at Harrison’s house last night

Pre-game:
Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Vineyards

Pre-dinner:
Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, Lucien Albrecht
Quincy, Adele Rouze 2008
Rosé, Columbia Valley, Charles and Charles 2009
aged goat cheese
French butter with fleur de sel
jamon serrano

Dinner:
Just for the Love of It, Sine Qua Non 2002
Syrah, lillian 2006
mussels in white wine with snip yourself fresh herbs
baby romaine with anchovy viaigrette
leg of lamb with rosemary, marjoram and lavender
roasted beets, potatoes, and baby carrots

Digestif:
The Balvenie 12 year old

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Wines of Note: not lost in translation

Poor boy, He’s sitting in some bland, beige windowless room with seventy-four strangers waiting to not get picked for jury duty. Or hoping not to get picked. I had to dissuade Him from wearing the vintage NWA t-shirt to the courthouse. Although it is the 15 year anniversary of Easy-E’s death, so I guess it would be appropriate. (R.I.P. Easy.)

He gave me permission to look through His notebooks for a Wines of Note post. Must admit this made me a bit giddy–love the voyeurism of looking through other’s notebooks. The thing is He has about nine Moleskine notebooks lying around my house that are half written in and I ended up having to look through them all to find the right tasting notes. I just had to look through them all. And I totally got distracted. And then I started Tweeting and Facebooking about it. And then I felt guilty.

But not so guilty that I stopped snooping, er…reading. The tasting notes were finally found. Let the translating begin (my architecting boyfriend does not have architect handwriting).

We reviewed two wines from Penns Woods Winery in our first United Slurps of America post, Pennsylvania edition. We held back the bottle of Traminette We received to taste at a later date. It was a grape neither one of Us had heard of and We both felt a bit apprehensive.

Our USA co-blogger Joe Roberts of 1WineDude had a nice story about the wine: “I tasted it while it was still fermenting in the tank and sitting on the lees…Gino [winemaker] told me he was trying to make something simple and really fruity and refreshing…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 were intrigued.

Traminette, Penns Woods 2008 (sample)

She said: Golden yellow, bright and clear. On the nose there is honeysuckle, plumeria, and hay. Or is that wheat? Complex. Rich up front: creamy and lush. Taste oyster shell and minerals. Very dry in the finish–long and lean with great acid. I love the mix of sensations and flavors. Beautiful wine.

He said: Bright gold in color. Strong scent. Minerally with some stardust [? hard to read]. Fruit. Like a German Dunkel. Shells-oyster-y, minerally. Floral wheat beer. No heat. Good acid. 11%…nice and refreshing. Not a “get drunk” wine. [He didn't leave a rating.] [Him here, editing from the courtroom, is this legal?] I give it a

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] What a terrific surprise this wine was. We regret We didn’t include it in the USA: PA edition, but sometimes delayed satisfaction is a good thing.

And now for a red. We recently received a package from Willamette Valley Vineyards. Included were some promo material and a nice note which asked Us to wait two weeks before tasting the wine to allow the bottles to recover from travel. We’ve both had jetlag, but that seemed like an awfully long time to acclimate. We’ve wanted to uncork the bottles several times, but waited. We lasted ten days.

Pinot Noir, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Wilamette Valley Vineyards 2007 (sample, retails for around $40)

She said: Translucent brownish ruby in color–quite thin. On the nose lots of dark cherry, ripe plums, pomegrante, raspberries and some spice (allspice?). On the palate most of the power is in the finish; very quiet upfront and then kind of explodes with flavor. Subsequent sniffs also reveal some mintiness. The tannins are soft. There is a fresh acidity, keeping the wine bright. Really enjoy it–glad We opened it four days early and wish We had more. (To help me pinpoint the flavors I wrote in my notes “what it is NOT: meaty, earthy, syrupy, tar, too tight, bacon, tobacco.”)

He said: Dark-like cherry juice with a deep red transluscense [sic]. Nose: tart cherry cola. Graham Cracker. Mouth fresh bread [draws arrow to space before "Graham Cracker"]/pastry. Tart. Graham Cracker. Pomegranate. Spice throughout. Maybe some cinnamon/nutmeg. Plum. Juicy. One of my fav PN’s I have ever tasted. I want more.

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] The back label of the WVV pinot is one the best We’ve seen. No tasting notes are provided (a pet peeve of both of Us–We can make our own decisions, thank you), rather there is technical info, an offer for a 10cent refund when the bottle is returned to the winery, and symbols indicating that the winery is sustainable, Salmon Safe, and part of LIVE: low input viticulture and eneology. Not only do We admire the pro-environment aspect of this, all that information is presented in a clean, easy to read grid. Nice work.

(Side note: the pictures above are not of the wine We reviewed, but they are from the winery’s website. I couldn’t find any good bottle shots and got sick of searching the internet. And also…a plea: Wineries, offer Hi Res bottle shots on your website. We’re not singling Penns Woods or Wilamette Valley Vineyards out–so many miss out on this opportunity to have pretty pictures of their wines on display here. Thank you, your fans He and She.)

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Erath single vineyard pinot noirs

We’ve spent the last week moving Her into new digs in Hollywood, an arduous but also satisfying task: the place is effing awesome. But by the end of a day of lugging and unpacking boxes (including two labeled “jello molds”) the last thing either one of Us have been in the mood to do is cook. But of course We’re always in the mood to drink wine.

We’ve picked up some nice, inexpensive bottles at a couple of Her newly local shops: hands down our favorite new spot, Locali, and across the street in the competing mini mall, the newly opened Oaks Gourmet Market. (An aside by Her: the word “gourmet” in the name of a store turns me off because of it’s inherent snobbishness, but We’ve found the liquor and food selections terrific, the staff friendly, and the prices on par with or just slightly higher than other places.)

We’ve also scouted the neighborhood for a new “corner” liquor store to supplement our Big Mac’s Mondays series. Hello, Pla-Boy Liquor: you are our winner. Soon we’ll be supplementing our smokes and gin purchases with a bottle of wine.

While we’ve taken care of the booze part of the post-moving evenings (priorities), We’ve left dinner to others: pizza delivery, sushi delivery, sandwich delivery, chicken and ribs delivery, etc. But the best meal We’ve had delivered thus far was from our friends David and Melanie last night. They graciously offered to bring dinner and arrived with a delicious, fragrant cauliflower tart and fresh from their garden herb salad. The night seemed perfect to open our second favorite delivery of the week: a box of 4 bottles from Erath. (Actually, as He aptly pointed out in His post a few days ago, there were two packages at the door that day–unfortunately for Her the foxy FedEx man was not around to share a bottle of wine with Us.)

The four of us swirled, smelled, and slurped greedily from our glasses of two of Erath’s single vineyard pinot noirs. We explained to our friends the wines were samples sent by the winery, something We were both thrilled about (free wine!) and nervous about (what if they suck?)

Pinot Noir, Prince Hill, Erath 2006 (provided as a sample, winery price: $45)

She said: Very beautiful nose: dark cherries and Knott’s Berry Farm jam, with a little hint of spice. Lush and perfumey in the nose, sensations that continue on the palate. A truly voluptuous mouthfeel: soft, creamy, rich. Very fruit forward (dark cherries and berry jam again) and ready to drink now. The structure, acid, tannin could all be stronger, but the wine is beautiful. A total crowd-pleaser. score:

He said: This smells really good. So creamy in the mouth. All fruit with a hint of spice. Drank very well with the tart and the cupcakes we had for dessert. Not really feeling a lot of tannins, but the creaminess and flavor make up for that. I would and will buy another bottle of this.

Pinot Noir, Leland, Erath 2006 (provided as a sample, winery price: $50)

She said: Another beautiful nose, this time heavy doses of cocoa and cola with dark cherry fruit. More refined in the mouth than the Prince Hill because of a touch of acid that gives it some backbone, but again very lush and voluptuous. This is another very pretty, feminine wine; downright sexy. Long cherry cola finish with mild tannin. Of the two pinots, this is my favorite. A delight. score:

He said: Cherry coke on the nose. This one feels lighter in the mouth than the previous. More acidic and less creamy. All cherry and cola and fruit-forward. A very good wine indeed, but I like the creaminess of the previous one more.

Phew. Thankfully, we really enjoyed the wine. As did our dinner guests.

Erath also sent us a Pinot Gris, which we drank with CW, chef-owner Canelé, while we discussed our cooking debut at the restaurant on February 23 (join us there Tuesday–it’s going to be a great, tasty night). We all agreed that the wine was a little shy in texture and acid, but had really nice tropical fruit flavors. All in all, this was a very good batch of wines. We, and our friends greatly enjoyed them.

And We aren’t just saying that because they were our first samples and We were excited by that. We promise.

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Field Trip Fridays: Wet, Wet, Wet & a Dry White

Today we ventured out in the rain to Hollywood for what He (for whatever reason) thought was the annual Barney’s Warehouse sale. When we arrived at the locale, Siren Studios, He mentioned something about Barney’s to which She replied:

“We’re not at Barney’s. This is the James Perse sample sale.”
“Oh. Then why the hell did I come?”
“Duh…He makes men’s clothes too.”
“Oh, OK.”

And all was seemingly fine… except for the fact that the sale is next weekend. We’ll try again.

Since we were in Hollywood, we decided to explore a little bit. He had been intrigued by the Hollywood Canteen since he drove by it a few months ago and She had never heard of it, so that was our first try. It was closed. But we’re intrigued by this little out of the way place tucked in between a million studios. We’ll try again.

After some back and forth about where to go next (this is the most organic, unplanned Field Trip Fridays ever), She told Him about Mercantile, a new wine bar He had never heard of, so He tried to make a B-Line for The Well. It was closed. We’ll try again.

Where can you get a drink in this town on a rainy Friday afternoon? After driving around for a few more minutes He gave in, and we were off to Mercantile. [This is He talking: I don't know what my trepidation was about going to Mercantile, I really don't. But I didn't want to go.]

The Mercantile


Image from Yelp.

Upon entering we were both a bit confused. Do we seat ourselves? Where do we order? Can we get wine at the counter too, or do we order that at the bar? Luckily, a waiter handed us a menu on a clipboard and told us to order at the counter. The food looked delicious. He still wasn’t convinced.

Half of the aesthetic of the place was good, half bad; the blue & white wallpaper still makes us both scratch our heads. The industrial part of the place’s design is great. The faux French/Italian café part is not. He, as an architect, likes the unfinished pine and plywood and the metal screwed to the bar top. [This is She talking: Okay, Arrogant. You don't have to be an architect to appreciate the beauty of unfinished pine. And, did I mention, as a graphic designer, I really disliked the clipart graphics on the menu?]

We sat ourselves in the corner of the bar after ordering a Croque Monsieur (for Him), Poached Ahi Salad w/ Frissé (for Her) and Potato Salad (for Us). He still wasn’t convinced.

We had only quickly browsed the wine list before ordering, because we saw it at the last minute. We both ordered reds. When we had more time to consider and peruse the list, He exclaimed excitedly “Txakolina!” We had been offered a taste of this exact same wine by Steve at Palate a few months ago and it had been kind of a Romancing The Stone treasure hunt for Him to find it again. Nobody in LA seems to have Txakolina after the summer.

His whole mood changed.

merc-1He got up to see if they sold the Txakolina by the bottle, which in fact they did for $20. Sold. Then the food came. Totally fantastic, His sandwich and Her salad were both great, and they had dueling forks in the potato salad. Then the bartender, Paul, saw that we had a bottle of Txakolina in front of us and came over to talk it up. When he found out we had tasted it before and actually knew a thing or two about it, he poured us both a complimentary taste, and talked to us about his time at Bar Pintxo and all of the other Txakolina we should try. (A rosé? We had no idea.)

The food, the wine selection, and Paul the Bartender were great enough to erase any questions we had about the place. He was totally convinced.

As we were leaving we saw Paul making everyone who worked at the restaurant taste the Txakolina, including the chef, who she thought was hot. [Him speaking again: I sometimes don't get her taste in men. She likes the uber-hot young model untouchable types, but also the heavyset, bearded, interesting (but, not "hot") looking types. Of the chef she said "I believe his smile." I think that is a very nice thing to say, and thank whatevs I don't get jealous. He does have a nice smile. And I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle of the uber-hot and the heavyset-interesting.]

Back to Paul for a minute. We just want to say “Thanks.” It’s very nice to find an engaging, intelligent, welcoming young bartender in this town. Not saying they don’t exist, just saying it’s nice, and he (along with the wine and food) really made us enjoy our experience. We’ll try it again.

2006 Bodegas Neo “Sentido” Ribera del Duero, Spain ($9/glass)

He said: Very dark in color with blueberry, cassis, tobacco and cedar on the nose. My first sip wasn’t that impressive; not bad not good. After Paul poured us Txakolina, I let this wine sit for about 45 minutes. When I drank it again it was terrific. I don’t know if it just needed to open up, or if it was the food, or my mood change, but now this wine was terrific. Milky, creamy, chocolate and coffee textured with a nice vanilla finish. Great tannins (that lightened nicely over the course of the meal.) I think I am becoming a fan of Spanish wine. Salud!

2007 St. Innocent Pinot Noir, Yamhill ($8/glass)

She Said: Bright ruby color and thin, as is typical. Aromas of sour cherries, a bit of under brush, and dried flowers. No real spice sensed. In the mouth the wine has high acid, is a bit tightly wound, but finish is long and luscious. Not an overly complex or brambly, big fruit-forward pinot. Rather it is elegant with supple, approachable tannins. Highly enjoyable. Would have chosen differently with my salad, which had a pretty acidic dressing.

2008 Talai Berri Getariako Txakolian Hondarribi Zuri, Basque Country ($20/Btl)merc2

She Said: His excitement and passion for this wine is infectious. And I love it that He has been able to make strong declarations about what He enjoys and doesn’t in a wine’s flavor profile. This is real progress. I’ve been drinking Txakolinas for years…Manfred Krankl had it on the list at Campanile when I was his assistant. For a hot summer day they can’t be beat–bright, bracing acidity, low alcohol, refreshing, mild apple and unripe pear flavors, and with a slight, zingy fizz. Turns out the wine is great with poached ahi tuna as well…should have ordered this wine with my salad. At $20 a bottle I can’t say it’s a bargain…there are plenty of delicious, quality whites for under that price out on the wine market. But Txakolina is fairly rare and I’m sure not the easiest thing to import. The price does knock down the score for me.

He said: This wine is meant to be poured into the glass from a certain height, and when Paul poured it I could see why right away. It bubbles like the Basque Ciders I remember having a few years ago. Very lemony on the nose. So refreshingly dry in the mouth with some fizz. Very high acid and again totally reminds me of drinking Cider from barrels in the wall in the Basque hills (think: bite). It should be noted that I am a Basque-o-phile. I have studied the place for years, visited on several occasions, met the greatest people, and had some of the best food of my life there. It is intrinsically connected to my life; the place is why I am an architect. I’ll just say it: I love this wine. It may be my favorite white wine I’ve ever had. It’s great by itself and I think it would be great with seafood. I can’t wait to go back to the Basque Country and visit the Museo de Txakoli, and try this in some of my favorite San Sebastian restaurant. Postscript: this morning some friends twittered us saying they were going to Mercantile and wanted recommendations. Of course, I said to try the Txakolina. They re-tweeted to say the wine was perfect, and they too bought a bottle. I really just love this wine.

drawing-room

The Drawing Room

He used to frequent this mini-mall bar semi-regularly and had just been on a recent afternoon with His architectural partner. (A business meeting with cocktails.)  At night it’s the Silverlake/Echo Park/Hollywood crowd. (Sidenote: Let’s all stop saying “hipster” to describe this crowd. It’s vague, blanketed and a little ridiculous. We’re tired of it.) It’s a much different place during the day when the place is full of quite serious day-drinkers. So we ordered as such: She had a Maker’s on the rocks, He had a Absolut+Tonic.

One of the daydrunks offered us some pizza, when we declined he opened two pizza boxes sitting on the bar to reveal they were empty. Thanks, Cocksucker. By the way, you aren’t Bukowski, get a job.

The bartendress, in between coughing, would sing along to the music on the jukebox and we were both struck by what a beautiful voice she had. We both knew we were just having one drink here. It is a nice neighborhood bar, a little dingy and scary, but everything shouldn’t be clean and safe…that would be boring.

Back Home

The rain has put a damper on our SoCal lifestyle. We tend to do most of our drinking/writing/living on Her beautiful deck ‘neath the orange tree. But the rain 86′s that. We trekked up to the cabana by the pool to light a fire and make some Hot Toddy’s while we wrote and read. Not bad for a backup outdoor office:

cabana-pano

Not bad at all…

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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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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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