Showing posts with label pinot noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pinot noir. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Buvare: A Sunday at Silver Lake Wine

Thank you Silver Lake Wine for a pretty perfect Sunday afternoon!
I have been meaning to attend their popular Sunday at Three food paired wine tastings for ages, and the exuberance from Silver Lake Wine leading up to this past weekend's pairing of fresh hand-made pastas from Heirloom-LA and stellar wine from Brewer-Clifton and Palmina sold me. Winemaker Steve Clifton was in the house to introduce each tasting, while Heirloom-LA's Matthew Poley explained what they in turn created to pair with each delicious wine. The folks of Silver Lake Wine ran the 100 person event in their small shop like a well-oiled machine, and with their signature casual, good natured dispositions. Kudos to all involved, it was an experience my palate won't soon forget!Steve Clifton waxes poetic about our first taste, Palmina Botasea Rosé 2008. Actually a "Rosso Biondino" (a very small bottling of a Rosato), Botasea (translates to “Red Blonde”) is a creamier pink wine, initial floral, plum and vanilla layers melting into crisp acidity and mineral notes for a drier finish.For the next taste, a Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills 2007, Heirloom-LA passes around Organic Spinach and Confit Baby Artichoke Stuffed Borsette with Parmesean Cream. This is when the tasting really got fun. Wanting to showcase the flavors of Central Coast California, not the flavors of toasted French Oak, Clifton opts to age his wines in stainless steel and keep the focus on the fruit. Thus, this is not your mother's vanilla-rich Chardonnay. It is fresh and vivacious, quince and citrus sparkling on the palate. The delicious tender Borsette ("bank burglar bag") was a stellar match, the herbs popping like a fresh garden next to the wine. As I was, I saw the people around me also scraping every last drop of the drizzled English pea puree from their plates!The next pair was the afternoon's highlight. Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills 2007 paired with Pappardelle w/ Housemade Pancetta Amatriciana and Nutmeg Ricotta Cheese. The first thing out of my mouth tasting this Pinot was "this is so good it could be Oregonian!" (haha!) From me, that is an incredible compliment, as I hold [my old home] Oregon's Pinot Noir as a cornerstone of brainy, complex, and transcendent winemaking. Clifton's fermentations are largely carried out as whole clusters where the stem inclusion contributes tannin and savory notes from within the fruit, and this Pinot Noir couldn't make that more apparent. With a heavy mouthfeel bursting with rich fig, pomegranate, and dark berry fruit, this wine just tastes like luxury. The Pancetta Amatriciana (made with Guanciale - salt-cured pork cheek) was similarly indulgent and BIG, rounded out by plump ripe cherry tomatoes, creamy ricotta and the heavenly fresh pappardelle. A slam dunk (my date and neighbors all agreed - we could do simply with more of this.. Lots more).Though it was difficult to let our empty Pinot glasses go, the Palmina Dolcetto 2007 with Hand Rolled Potato Gnocchi w/ Colorado Lamb Ragu and Pistachio Gremolata came next. Dolcetto (loosely translated as “the little sweet one”) is the wine of Italy’s northern Piemonte region and is meant for casual enjoyment with good food. What better wine for today?? In a very different, modest way the Dolcetto won us with its no-nonsense drinkability, lush dark cherry, pepper and cocoa notes and bright acidity. This is actually the bottle I took home. The gnocchi was perfectly prepared, a delicate form for the flavorful lamb ragu. Back and forth between the Dolcetto and the gnocchi... I was not alone in my enjoyment, the room may have been its quietest then.Could this really be ending? Our last pair was the Palmina Barbera 2007 served with Carrot and Romanesco Lasagnette w/ Sage Maple Brown Butter and Burrata. Perhaps since Clifton had already found my sweet spot, the Barbera made the least impression on me, not to say it wasn't tasty! Another lovely food wine, the Barbera is bright and fruity, the sage of the lasagnette bringing out more herby floral notes from the currant and berry-full wine. We saved some Barbera to enjoy with the tray of lovely soft and buttery coconut cookies being passed around afterward, drizzled with fresh caramel and chopped almonds over a pillowy milk chocolate button.Yes, on the too-short walk back to the car, my date and I rubbed our bellies, happy as clams, feeling refreshed rather than bogged down following a large meal, and decided Sundays should really always be just. Like. This.

This Sunday 6/7 at 3:00pm: Heirloom-LA takes on Qupé Wines.
Be sure to call and make reservations.

2395 Glendale Blvd. Silver Lake, CA 90039; 323.662.9024

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Voyager Bien DAY TRIP: Foxen Canyon Wine Trail

Last year just after New Years, before returning to the grind, three friends and I set out on an impromptu adventure, heading forty miles North of Santa Barbara to the wine region made popular by tourist Danish village Solvang, a little flick called Sideways, and some damn good wines - The Santa Ynez wine country. After a delightful romp through the tasting rooms of several roadside vineyards off Highway 246 and the Solvang streets, we settled more comfortably in the quaint, more mature (and tasteful) town to the North, Los Olivos. We each even enthusiastically [read: intoxicatedly] joined the wine club at our last stop, in the humble main drag tasting room of Daniel Gehrs. After an incredible leisurely dinner at Brother's Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern, we returned to our hotel satiated from the bounty of this rich valley. But there was one region we barely touched on that I knew would prove much more fulfilling upon revisit. Just North of Los Olivos and Mattei's is a windy two lane country road leading to the source of many of the tasting room's wares, the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. All along the picturesque anicent oak studded hills are nestled modest vineyards (OK, and Firestone) producing some of the region's best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Syrah and Cab Franc.I appreciate that for my Daniel Gehrs wine membership (technically I am in their Port Club - STELLAR ports) whenever my quarterly shipments are available, I get a postcard for pickup. Sure they could be shipped for an additional fee, but there's something about "having" to drive up to Los Olivos several times a year that quite appeals to me. So I pretend that's my only option and plan accordingly. A couple of weekends ago, I decided Saturday was the day to pick up my wine. One of my friends from the previous trip had club wine ready as well, so we hit the road nice and early, coasting into Los Olivos by 11am.
After filling nearly a case with our club shipments (my friend hadn't picked up any of his wine the whole year) and enjoying our complimentary member tasting, we hit the Qupé tasting room just up Grand Ave for some earthy Rhônes, and then the Los Olivos Grocery to finish packing our perfect wine country picnic lunch (that we never got around to enjoying). And off into the Canyon we went!
We bypassed the first several vineyards, those which we hit last year, including the popular Fess Parker, trendy Andrew Murray and rustic Koehler Winery. Koehler's elegant Viognier was one of my favorite tastings and purchases from the previous trip out, well worth a stop. We pulled over alongside a weathered picket fence to try one of the vineyards a local woman at Daniel Gehrs had suggested, the aptly named Foxen Vineyard.Immediately charmed by its provincial shed-like tasting room and tastefully rudimentary logo/design, the roars of content laughter and conversation coming from inside were even a better indicator. Our sunny, good-natured (and tie-dyed) wine pourer made us feel immediately part of the pack here, and one after another poured impressive wines. A rather enthusiastic [read: intoxicated] woman insisted on taking our photos with my camera and was quite the chatty cathy. She suggested Riverbench and Rancho Sisquoc further up the road for "our tastes" (detecting snobbery), so once I wrangled my camera back and evaded her (and her eye-rolling husband) in the crowd, we headed to the car with a semblance of a plan. The clouds had thickened and a definite chill was settling into the valleys. Riverbench just up the road is a sprawling estate with gorgeous panoramic views and a contemporary farmhouse tasting room. They specialize in estate-grown Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, so I opted for the Pinot flight (love Pinot, not a huge Chard fan). Interrupting our relaxed tasting was the woman from Foxen, obvious even more tipsy (and LOUDER) than when we last met. We hurried through our flight as the woman behind the bar widened her eyes and whispered through clenched teeth to my friend that she would pay us to leave and take "our friend". We ducked out with a wink and hurried back into the darkening day to continue the tour.Rancho Sisquoc was next, and sits off the main road a short ways down a one lane dirt road, past brambly foliage, a decrepit church and a shuttered home covered in cow skulls and PRIVATE KEEP OUT signs.. all of which in the shadowy calm before the storm was rather.. foreboding. We pulled up to the barn-like tasting room and were greeted with- well, in fact we weren't greeted. A few unfriendly couples tasted quietly, echoing the creepiness outside. Once we finally got the wine pourer's attention, she seemed rather irritated to help us. The wines we tasted were decent, but nothing stood out terribly until the final pour, which was a limited library wine club exclusive blend, available to us on special. It was actually quite round and palatable; a perfect table wine (which I took to a dinner party a week later, garnering unanimous praise). We also enjoyed Sisquoc's toothsome little wine biscuits, which were slightly sweet and a perfect foil between tastes (much better than the cardboard water crackers elsewhere). But we left without a thank you or a goodbye, all they wanted were our CC receipts; a rather drab end to our tour... So we didn't end there! We called around and Tres Hermanas Winery was tasting until 6:00pm, and on our way back toward town. Voilà! To be honest I can't recall most of what we tasted here, but did end up buying a bottle of the 2006 Rosé of Syrah, the only thing that really stood out to me. Meanwhile my friend couldn't let go of how WHITE our wine pourer's teeth were, which made everyone laugh. "But you drink WINE all day..?!?" He insisted.
It had begun to rain outside and was getting dark fast. We certainly needed a fulfilling meal and a rest before anyone would be driving home, especially in rain. We retired to our beloved Mattei's Tavern at the base of the Trail for a bite in the bar (reservations generally required to get a table in the restaurant). The crackling fire and warming scent of wood-fire-cooked food brought my tired tastebuds instantly back to life. We settled into a table in the dark bar and opened a bottle of Daniel Gehr's Cabernet to have with our giant Kobe burgers.
This is happiness, I thought.
After an espresso and near perfect creme brulée (I am a connoisseur!), we were ready to head back LA. And by that I mean only that we could no longer afford our adopted lifestyle. Lazy Sunday beckoned. But it always helps leaving knowing that in another 2 months a cream-colored postcard will arrive in the mailbox inviting me back for a friendly and carefree day in the hills, relishing in the sights, smells and tastes of the rich Santa Ynez Valley countryside.Disclaimer: Please drive responsibly! The country roads are narrow and windy. Also, it is not rude to spit out your wine tastes, consider especially if you're the driver. If you do drink too much, get a hotel room for the night and take a cab if you go out for dinner (the best cabbie I've ever had was in Buellton last year). The Days Inn Buellton-Solvang (the windmill hotel just off the 101) is an inexpensive alternative to the boutique "winery suites"-type rip-offs in Solvang, and just a short drive from everything). If you do stay the night there, hit up Ellen's Danish Pancake House in Buellton for a robust homecooked breakfast before the drive home!

Get there: From LA take the 101-N just past Santa Barbara to Highway 154, a scenic pass that will take you through Los Padres National Forest and alonside tranquil Lake Cachuma. Once you reach Highway 246, turn left to head into Santa Ynez and Solvang, or keep straight on the 154 and you'll hit Los Olivos and the Foxen Canyon Trail.
If you're staying in Buellton, take the 101 all the way up along the coast until you hit Highway 246 and you're there.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Voyager Bien: Eugene, OR

The other day my mom sent me a Budget Travel survey link to submit what my "Perfect Day In Eugene" would be. After filling it out, I figured what the heck, might as well post my answers on the blog for any prospective visitors..

My Perfect Day
A brisk walk down Pearl Street from my old historic home (Emil Koppe House) hugging Skinner's Butte lands one at my favorite bakery for laid-back morning ambiance, Palace Bakery. If you're on the go though, you can't go wrong with a hazelnut croissant from Eugene City Bakery and a drive-through Dutch Bros. Coffee.
Walking or biking along the Willamette River is a lovely way to bypass downtown (also a great place to pick berries in the summer) to get to the scenic U of O campus where you can visit the redesigned Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The 5th Street Market is a Eugene staple for shopping, and if its a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday be sure to drop by the downtown Farmer's Market for field fresh produce and goods. After the market, hit the Kiva for a great cheese and local artisan bread selection and pack a picnic for a hilltop afternoon on the grass at the wooded Hendrick's Park. Stop for antiques and English tea at Ruthie B's cozy farmhouse (once a bordello for loggers) tucked beside the bridge connecting Springfield and Glenwood.
If you're in the mood for a casual dinner, head straight to veggie haven Pizza Research Institute and get the carefully hand-crafted Chef's Choice pizza, but be prepared to wait. It's worth it. Then bee-line to Sweet Life Pâtisserie for an indulgent vegan dessert. But for a top notch dining experience there is no substitute for Marché Restaurant in the 5th Street Market. Marché is my favorite restaurant on the globe, and has been ever since I left its staff in 2004. Treat yourself to the real slow food experience and see why. My favorite classy after-dinner drink spot "where everybody knows your name" is the cozy Cafe Soriah. These bartendars run the town, and make a darn good Sidecar and too. Don't be surprised if you find yourself drinking Spanish Coffees and Tijuana Speedballs into the wee after-hours. On the flipside, the nuclear hangout for the younger college set is always at the divey Horsehead. If you want to dance, pray it's 80s night and head to John Henry's down the block.
The ONLY place to stay in Eugene is the Campbell House Bed & Breakfast - Across the street from my old house on Skinner's Butte. If you want a second opinion, ask my parents! (Rooms + breakfast from $129. Stellar service!)

A quick best-of, to help us finish up:
The Best Local Shop: Marché Provisions
A Must-see Attraction: The Heceta Head Lighthouse
A Souvenir That Sums It Up: A bottle of King Estate Pinot Noir
The Best Outdoor Option: A day trip to taste the magnificent wines of the Willamette Valley
Great, and Completely Free: Drive the country road along the beautiful McKenzie River
Rub Shoulders With Locals At: Max's Tavern, alleged inspiration for the Simpsons' Moe's

Been to Eugene? Submit your perfect day to Budget Travel here.