Posts belonging to Category Paso Robles



Memorial Day Memories: Reds, Whites, the Blues, Paella!!

paella mandala

paella mandala

As summer’s unofficial coming out party, Memorial Day weekend has lots going for it: BBQs, wine dinners, paella spectaculars with pan fried sardines …and plenty of wine loving pals. A few pages ahead on the calendar is the Topanga Art Tour and the Playboy Jazz Fest. Officially, Memorial Day is all about the red white and blue and our fighting forces. For the tBoW tasting team it is mostly about reds and whites while listening to Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. With a salute to our veterans we report on the wines put forth by the brave tasters who fight for wines under $20 every day in the bargain bins and floor boxes of liquor and wine stores where the real gems can be found…on sale! As IGTY so aptly explains the struggle …

The IGTY Manifesto: I have to budget for 6 bottles of wine a week. At 4.3 weeks in a month that comes to ~25 bottles and at $20 per, that is a lot more than I am willing to pay. My monthly wine budget is $400 and that means hunting down wines that cost ~$16.

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Napa Trip and Golf Wines

if I drank Cab it would be Regusci

I never drink Cab but if I did it would be Regusci…stay thirsty

It may surprise the reader that Napa and golf attract similar wine hounds. Napa is the Land O’ Cab and many goffers we know do love a big rich Cabernet or Cab blend. tBoW was on assignment for Elegant Living magazine in Napa a few weeks ago; a trip followed by another plunge into hedonistic darkness a couple weeks later in a four day country club tournament. Next stop: the sanitarium.

The Napa trip included a spectacular site on top of Spring Mountain [ed. that would be Barnett Vineyards], a super collectible site also on top of Spring Mountain [ed. that would Pride Mountain Vineyards], a new hot shot R’n’R winery off Silverado Trail [ed. that would be Cliff Lede, look for the magazine], and an oldest of the old guard wineries that is undergoing a much anticipated transformation [ed. that would be Charles Krug]. There were others however I may save for a future post. In the meantime, should you find yourself in Napa I highly recommend a stop at any of the aforementioned.

The Goff Tournament was another matter. If Napa is decadent then the golf tourney is indulgent to a fault. Three days of official competition and one extra day of a warm up round added up to 81 holes in a row. Two days in matching knickers and plus fours. Add to that about 10 stogies and numerous life-giving Bloody Marys (call out your vodka) and you have a floating 12 Step program waiting to happen. It might have ended somewhat poorly if my partner and I had not backed into the Champions Derby by the logo on our balls only to lose by a quarter inch in a chip off. All this goff talk may only make sense to the goffers among tBoW readers.

Stacy Clark

Krug windfall!

What everyone will understand is that we were handed a bundle of cash for reasons we could not comprehend. And we’re going back next year just for aggravation’s sake!

Here is what we learned in Napa…about white wines! Sorry. You already know about the red wines from these houses and if you don’t you can find them written up by adoring Parker/Suckling wannabes everywhere.

Charles Krug Winery is the oldest in the Napa Valley. Peter and Robert Mondavi had the most famous Napa family spat in the last 100 years out of which Robert became world famous and Peter lived in a house on his 150 year old estate making good old Napa Cab that very few people cared about. NOT ANY MORE! The sons (brothers who get along) are building a monster new storage facility with a giant window in the adjacent tasting room where we normals can sip the new Krug blends made by super-winemaker Stacey Clark. While watching the magnificent casks that will probably be stacked 10 high! Stacy Clark was the winemaker at Pine Ridge for 30 years. I think all our readers know that the tBoW tasting team is not wild about Cab blends unless they come from Bolgheri. This does not take anything away from the absolute truth that the best Cabernet is grown in Napa. Stacy Clarke is also a superb winemaker. If this was golf someone would say “nice rescue.” While at Pine Ridge she oversaw their fantastic white wine blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier. Krug-2011SBWEBAt $14 it was and is a steal. We tasted her first wine for Krug and it shows the same style and pedigree as the super U20 Pine Ridge white.

2012 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc $14: Wine made form estate fruit. Floral nose with pears and bright flavors. Super acid spine and tones of pear fruit. The non-alcohol version would be a terrific breakfast drink! The 2011 is still on the shelves at Total Yawn but they are supposed to call me soon as the 2012 arrives. Buy it. 13%

Pride_ViognierCROPWEBPride Mountain Vineyard Mistelle de Viognier $40: Pride probably makes THE BEST VALUE collectible wines in Napa. People just love these red mountain wines. tBoW is not qualified to judge them. However, this white beauty is impressive. It has so much fruit and acid it came off like a dessert wine. But it ain’t. It is a just another crazy ripe mountain white. They make it as free run juice meaning there is no time on the less to get color or tannins. It is not late harvest but you may be fooled into thinking it is. Yummy. 14.1%

Mamie and Monica werkinit!

Mamie and Monica werkinit!

2011 Regusci Mary’s Cuvee Carneros Chardonnay $36 (at the winery not available anywhere else): This is one of our must stop wineries in Napa. The place which is a so-called ghost winery is too cool with all the rock and the 19th century legend over the arch. Te ladies behind the long tasting bar are usually tons o’ fun [ed. Monica and Mamie to the right]. Unlike many counterparts or neighbors Regusci does not make many labels. They make a big Napa Cab of course. Notes say “if I drank Cab it would be Regusci.” They also farm properties for many other labels. Check the website. We did not see this wine coming. Mamie or Monica said “white burgundy” and we thought “sure it is. Every Chard in Napa has Burgundian character.” But this has no malolactic fermentation and spends 5 years in neutral oak. It is Burgundian. Bought it. Now if only they used a different shipper I would be tasting it this Saturday. Only 252 cases. 14.2%

Isosceles08WEB2008 Justin Isosceles Reserve $250: Here is the red wine provided by The Ranch Bishop as our team shot its way into the finals while three-putting and hitting balls OB. We have always recognized Justin makes the ebst Cabernet blend in Paso Robles. In fact, we have openly wondered how they tricked it up to remove the green bell pepper character often found in Paso Cabs. We still don’t know their secret. We do know this wine is delicious. Poured into a plastic cup on a fairway one can still pick up the lovely seductive nose waiting to hit. Balance is perfect, Tannins not in the forefront at 5 years. Whatever tobacco pollution might have overwhelmed a lesser red was handily seduced by this wine. 14.3%

The Napa settings were stupendously spectacular. Justin is in the NW corner of what we consider the loveliest wine country in California. Have a great Memorial Day holiday drinking whatever wine you like.

Carl played by Bill Murray comes up with a good idea about course maintenance.

Summer Time and Summer Wine

JEff_CasanovaWEB2Dotoré can finally exhale. The summer has arrived. Even though the official Summer Equinox is June 21 ’round these parts shit is here already. Temps in 90s, hot tub running, goff any day we like. It is time to pay serious attention to bright whites, cool reds and pink ladies. (more…)

The New Era of Wine Tasters Are Not Spectators!

younguns_idealized1The new generation of adults who find an interest in wine don’t buy 100 point scoring systems. They are not interested in putting out cash to “learn” how to appreciate wine or to attend mega tasting events. They are not interested in the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker or any of the folderol that has shaped the image of wine as lifestyle since Robert Mondavi invented it. The new generation of young people prefer to figure out wines on their own. They appreciate guidance and they appreciate variety. They do not feel the urge to latch onto “Napa Big Reds” or 100 point trophy wines. Indeed, The economy has been depressed as they have matured into self-supporting adults. They do not have the discretionary income to Be A Spectator as Young Un Sawa EM put it. And so say all of us!

Here are some wines tasted with a group of Young Uns with in-their-own-words comments while immersed in the tasting of a group of wines as interesting as the tasters themselves.

gassier_sables_dazurCROP2012 Michel Gassier Cotes de Provence Sables d’Azur Rosé $10: The bottle has curves in all the right places. This Provencal wine is salmon color. The flavors are fresh with plenty of acid, of the sea. Inspired by the aromas and flavors Young Un E said “it tastes like the beach, an ocean breeze before sunrise in Normandy after a long night. It’s going to be a warm day.” tBoW feels it. Add lime back and rocky sand. 13%

1996 Giessinger Zinfandel: REL says the wine nose and flavors conjures Grand Central Station in 1958 [ed. she wasn’t even born! No matter she’s on a roll!]; worn leather and wood. I get it. These are the aromas and flavors of aged red wines usually captured in more familiar cedar box and graphite bullshit. Dr. Geissinger the astrophysicist is a local winemaker who makes all kinds of wines. It would not be unfair to describe him as a wine tinkerer. I once tasted a White Cabernet he made. He seems to favor sweet wines ergo many of his wines have a floral nose and candied flavors. He has captured the affection of Young Uns up and down the Central coast. This wine is unlabeled. Color is brick red. The sweet nose has caramel and milk chocolate. This wine has held up nicely. Flavors include molasses and pine nuts. On his website he offers the following advice under the heading “What Matters”: Drink in moderation. It is better not to drink than drink excessively.

2010 Giessinger Paso Robles Limited Vintage Malbec ~$25: Dr. G sources all his fruit. His joy is making the wine. Perfumed nose. Bordeaux flavors. Young Un E says it is medieval, Pre Golden Age. Royalty in the bottle. Think Game of Thrones. GenH says “like coming home and changing out of your work clothes into some comfy PJs, watching Teen Moms and eating a bowl of cereal. [ed. A discussion of Teen Moms breaks out]. tBoW says prunes-plus.

Dinner at local favorite Saddle Peak Lodge introduced us to a couple new tastes out of the Central Coast. Somm Jen Carter has performed some of her own wizardry with the wine list which emphasizes ONLY domestic wines. martian-ranch-vineyard-los-alamos2Jen has dug into the blooming field of new winemakers and labels from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles and peppered her wine list with a dozen or so labels that will jump out for their affordable price points and their unusual varietals. Mind you this is a winelist that for decades featured heavy hitter Cabs. Check these out.

2011 Martian Ranch & Vineyard Los Alamos ‘UFOric’ Albarino Santa Barbara County $46 (on the wine list $25 at winery): Only 300 cases. Oily feel and weight. Very flavorful with acidic melon. The perfect pre-dinner sipper. How much Albariño can be planted in Santa Barbara? She pours it by the glass ($13).

sierra-madre-vineyard-estate-pinot-blanc-santa-mariaCROP2010 Sierra Madre Pinot Blanc Santa Maria Valley $42 (on the wine list, $19 in stores): 500 cases. Herbal. spiny flavors, rich with some power. Meal wine. Nice job.

Don’t be a Spectator when it comes to Wine. There are plenty of wines worth trying out with price points under $20. Inventing your own “lifestyle” and wine language is so much more interesting. For all of us older tasters…encourage discovery…host a new gen tasting ASAP.

“Erster” Tasting at the Water Grill: Slurp, Sip, Sexitup

oyster_sexyWEBOysters are sexy.How could Georgia O’Keefe miss the inspiration? Orchids and oysters. We get it. Amy Reily makes a living writing about sexy foods and oysters are at or near the top of her list [ed. Amy blows away the competition in the sexy food and wine grouping]. I found myself in splendid company thick and tasty as a miyagi oyster. The event was the 19th Annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition sponsored by Taylor Fish Farms in Washington. The gig is more than just promoting the consumption of oysters. It is also about pairing oysters with domestic white wines. Jon Rowley is the architect of this two decade long “competition.” Longevity is a strong marker for interest but not always for quality which is best evaluated with a hands-on evidence based participation observation. This tasting hit both marks.

oyster lovers??

oyster lovers??

We arrived at the Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles at 3:00 sharp, chose a solitary table with 20 empty glasses, and waited for the glitterati to arrive. No disappointments there. Mary Sue Miliken – highly respected cute-as-a-button and sweeeter-than-honey LA food entrepreneur – sat down in an adjacent booth. LA food critic Jonathan Gold sat a few tables across. Apologies in advance for anyone not mentioned. The A-list food writers and job creators was fun. However, for tBoW the matching exercise was quite serious.

Jon officially opened the tasting with a quote from A Moveable Feast which is a collection of unpublished essays published posthumously. In one of the essays he describes chowing down on oysters, slowly, carefully, noting each nuance. For Hemingway the experience is, of course, transcendent. The urge to wonder what further stimulation awaits when pairing the slimy critters with wine seems obvious, no?

We are not strangers to oysters. In fact we love them. Acme Oyster in Nawlins is a must stop when in town. No trip to Seattle is complete without multi-raw dining. We once ate 5 dozen on a beach in Colombia… with another couple. So this was bound to be a treat.

A method was advanced. Chew the oyster first filling mouth with sea-borne flavors. Oysters are no more all alike than are acidic white wines that keep them company. Here come the platters. The first flight of glasses get three-finger fills. Generous. Sniffing before sipping is discouraged. No problem. tBoW powered through each flight directly, chewing and tasting his wine through all 20 wines. In fact, the kumamoto ersters were so delicious we polished off another half dozen for good measure. Forget about Honey Boo Boo. Oyster Boy below knows how to take down a slimy delight then pick thru the detritus for bits n’ pieces.

The kumamoto oyster is briny with a starchy texture and flavor. Each wine was bagged and tagged with a unique letter. Part of the deal is to see how well my oyster & wine palate matches with the other judges. The winning wines are announced but not in ranked order which is certainly the right decision given there is really no quantifiable argument. The only competition that truly matters is how many judges matched winning wines. A return invite could hinge on this outcome.

The tasting takes place in three cities – LA, SF and Seattle. Scores from all three tastings are combined. One LA judge and two San Fran judges matched 8 of the 10 winners. Jon Rowley points out no one has ever matched all 10. I gotta think 8 is pretty dang good. tBoW matched 3 of the top 10 wines which was the lowest matches among the judges. Gratefully, there were two others on the LA judging panel with similarly idiosyncratic palates. I found one pairing elicited a dry gin martini. Four of the top 10 wines were among my lowest ranked. Winning varietals included Sauvignon Blanc (6), Chenin Blanc (2), one Pinot Gris and one Riesling. Wineries represented California, Washington and Oregon.

All I know is this. After all the chewing and coating my mouth, then sipping on wines and spitting, and not taking one single sniff ever, I was left with a profound hunger for sourdough bread. Apparently this is something akin to how the Irish consume oysters. I will stand on Irish tradition any day except when it comes to religion. And Amy Reily walking away in heels should be available on video.

This was a wonderful affair which I hope to repeat. There are a couple oyster bars in LA that I plan to visit including L&E Oyster Bar in Sliverlake and Blue Plate in Santa Monica. The L&E GM was the 8-match dude in our group. It was all over much too soon.

Could be another match for oysters is Blue öyster Cult. Goes with slurpin’ n’ sex, no?