Weekend Winos

Enthusiasts in search of quality libations to enhance weekends.


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Lake Tahoe 29th Annual Autumn Food and Wine Festival

WoodworkI don’t know if it is the altitude, good friends, wine, beer, sake, cooking demonstrations or the art but….this event is fantastic! We try to get to The Village at Northstar for the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival every year.  Although we are tempted by many of the events from Friday to Sunday, we always default to The Village Wine & Brew Walk on Saturday from noon to 4 pm. And that’s what we did this year!

With more than 35 wineries, breweries and distilleries participating, we had a full schedule. Luckily the Truckee Sourdough Company and Fab Delights Chocolate Truffles were also participating. Their bread and chocolates are “oh so delicious” and a perfect intermezzo for the libations.  Wine merchants can not sell their wines at the event, this creates a more relaxed and enjoyable experience — the type of experience you’d expect in beautiful North Lake Tahoe.

SilkwoodOnce again, we uncovered some wines that we had not tried before, some that stood out included:

Silkwood Petite Sirah: In its third reincarnation, this small Modesto, CA winery had some very smooth rich wines.  They are proud to point out that they sell their wines in 21 states, Japan and HongKong.  In fact Japan Airlines selected their Syrah as the only American Red Wine to be served in First Class.

LucchesiLucchesi Zinfandel: From their “View Forever Vineyard” in the Sierra Foothills, Mario and Linda Clough produce some delicious wines.  We all agreed to make Grass Valley a destination trip to experience the View Forever Vineyard first hand and relax as we learn more about their collection of wines, their Italian heritage and their family escapades in South America.

Schug

Schug Pinot Noir: A family affair with German roots, the winery is located in the Sonoma portion of the Carneros Appelation. What a great family story and the wines are fantastic.  On our list for our next Sonoma adventure – a self-guided tour after learning more about the wines, buy a few bottles of wine, enjoy their picnic tables and the views.

No doubt the 29th annual Lake Tahoe Wine and Food Festival was an adventure we will always remember and now the countdown begins to the 30th annual event.  We’ll be there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Escapade to Portland’s Urban Wineries

Portland Urban Wineries – what a treat!

We only had 4 hours of free time in Portland and we were determined to make the most of our search for fantastic Pinot Noirs. That is how we uncovered that although Oregon’s wine country encompasses 16 specific AVAs and spans all the way down to California there are some fantastic urban wineries right in Portland. Oregon produces wine varieties from Albarinho to Zinfandel, which we will gladly return to taste, but that day we sought out the Pinot Noirs.

TesoariaPortland is easy to navigate with its 4 distinct quadrants.  The airport seemed closest to Northeast Portland so we stayed focused to the East of the Willamette River and prioritized those that were open before 4 pm.

First stop TeSoAria,  all the reviews said this was one of the best and they are right. Since it was around 3 pm the tasting room was quiet and we had the luxury of meeting the founder and winemaker John Olson and his chef who was getting ready for the after work crowd.  Yes we were focused on Pinots which we did taste, award wining and it was fantastic, but we also enjoyed the barrel cabernet and merlot blend. John gave us a great overview of wines in Oregon and promised that when we return he would gladly help us plan a 4 day tour not a 4 hour dash.

Coopers HallWith only a few hours to spare and traffic starting to slow things down we dashed off to Coopers Hall which was only 4 blocks aways from Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery.  Great Choices!

Coopers Hall is a great place, they were getting ready for a corporate event that afternoon on the top balcony level but we were always well attended and offered a chance to see all the barrels behind all those wine spouts on the wall. How cool!  The tasting sizes were perfect for our goal of tasting variety.

Less than 2 minutes away we stopped at Cyril’s where we had a delicious cheese plate and a large glass of a very smooth 2012 Clay Pigeon Winery Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir. The outdoor patio looked like a lot of fun and the logo with the symbol of hands making a shadow puppet of a bird is very clever.

There were so many more wineries we wanted to visit: ENSO, Hip Chicks Do Wine (great name) and others, but we had reached our limit of time as well as consumption in that short time.  No doubt we will plan a more relaxing, 4 day tour with a driver!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Antique Fair Led to Santa Clara Valley Wine Discovery

GoatHillThe group had the Goat Hill Fair on our “list of places to explore” for some time.  The vintage theme, antiques and hand-made items were primarily of interest to the ladies in the group……. then, we discoverd that there are more than 20 wineries around Morgan Hill and Gilroy so the gents were happy to join.  The Goat Hill Fair outgrew its origins in a real 14 acre goat farm in the Santa Cruz mountains and now takes over the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, CA for a weekend each May and Novemeber.  With more than 80 vendors participating, there is something for everyone.  These are real antiques and vintage items, and we made the most of our afternoon at the Goat Hill Fair.

We knew we would not be able to visit all 20 wineries, and realized that we knew very little about the Santa Clara Valley Wineries.

FortinoThe website is very informative and reminds us that : “Silicon Valley” – it’s easy to forget this area’s role as California’s first premium wine production region – the Santa Clara Valley. Native Americans named it “the Valley of the Heart’s Delight.” French and Italian immigrants who settled here during the Gold Rush era recognized the rich soils and Mediteranean climate as the perfect New World home for their European grape varietals. And so it begins…

I must confess the decision of what wineries to visit was based on what time the tasting rooms opened, since we were, afterall, on our way to the Goat Hill Fair.  So we started at Fortino Winery, they opened at 11 am and then visited the others around Watsonville Road and Hacker Pass Hwy 152.   Solis Winery, Sarah’s Vineyard, Hecker Pass Winery were within walking distance, and 3 or 4 more were just up the street, but we wisely decided to make a point to return some other time to visit the rest.

The overall experience was fantastic and very realxing. There were no crowds,  people were friendly and very knowleadgeable and the wines were good.  Many of the vineyards are family owned and they mostly produce small lots that they are very proud of.  Unfortunatly our time was limited, but no doubt we will be back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Olympic Gold – 1999 Zin Rules!

This weekend a few of the winos gathered to celebrate the athletes and events of the 2014 Winter Olympics.  With temperatures in the 70s in California and 60s in Sochi it just did not feel like winter, and the slushy snow and tourists in short sleeves confirmed that. What happened to the ushankas (Russian fur hats)?

Starting off a bit unenthusiastically, have no fear, once the wine bottles were opened the group fully enjoyed the grace and skill of the ice skating competition taking place in the background.  The plan was to focus on red wines, in no particular order, and enjoy some appetizers typical of different countries – spanakopita, empanadas, meatballs, tomato-basil crostini and a large platter of charcuterie.

photoThe top four, we could not agree on three, included some very diverse wines.

  • 1999 Zinfandel, Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley: Bold, red color and complex cherry and spices aromatics. This was a pleasant surprise for the Zinfandel novices in the group and the overall winner.
  • 2004 Syrah, Midlife Crisis Winery in Paso Robles: This winery closed in 2009 with only 800 total cases produced. It was the short-lived dream of a Hollywood couple who bottled their first wines in 2004, a total of 80 cases.   The wine was very smooth and easy to drink.  The fact that we would probably never have it again, and the name, gave it an extra edge.
  • 2008 Pinot Noir, Pichetti Trouchard Vineyard in Napa Valley: A favorite winery of one of the weekend winos, we can always count on them to bring a bottle from Pichetti.  Fruity and spicy the French barrel oak comes through.
  • 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Zolo Gaucho Select from Mendoza:  Yes, this was a Cabernet, not a Malbec and it was rich with hints of chocolate and black berries.  Perfect with the meat empanadas and something I will buy for my next steak dinner.

Only one person in the group had been to Russia, some questioned the politics and leadership, but we all agreed that the history, art and the vodka would all be good reasons to visit some day.  Wine in Russia?  We’ll have to look into that!


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Napa Art and Wine

Napa here we come, pack a bag for an overnight trip.  Although Napa is not far from where most of the weekend winos live, a few of us decided to spend the night which requires a little more planning than the usual weekend adventures. First we picked where we would go tasting and everything else (hotel, restaurants, etc.) followed.  Interestingly, there was an art element to each of the winery picks.

NapaPEJU in Rutherford: The Peju Winery Art Gallery had just rotated their exhibit to An Artful Pairing with The Christopher Hill Gallery (through April 23, 2014).  We went to Peju specifically for the Cabernet Franc and it was as good as we remembered or better.  To our surprise, the less expensive wines we tasted were also excellent.  Provence, a red and white blend, is light yet complex and surprisingly good.  One of the winos was so impressed by all the wines, she joined the Peju Club.

Del Dotto Estate Winery and Cave in St.Helena: We were immediately transported to Italy via the architecture, music and the barrel tasting. Our host was very well informed and tasting the difference between a Cabernet Sauvignon from French and American oak barrels side-by-side, straight out of the barrels was a great experience.  The Ca’Nani label made us all smile.  Ca’Nani translates from Italian meaning “House of the Dwarves”, it comes from a Venetian fairy tale from the Grimm brothers in the late 1800’s.  The port with dark chocolate, that we enjoyed after some pizza and prosciutto made on site, was a favorite for most of us.

The Hess Collection Winery and Art Museum:  This was our last stop and in my personal opinion, the art gallery was just as impressive as the wines we tasted.  From 16 different options ranging from Gewurtztraminer to Malbec,  the 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay and the 2010 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon were clear winners for all the winos.  At Hess they “support responsible hospitality”  just like our group “supports responsible drinking”.

We stayed at the Napa Valley Lodge in Yountville which had been recommended by many in the group. The rooms, staff, complimentary wine tasting Friday afternoon and breakfast in the morning made us feel right at home (no better compliment than that for a hotel).  After dinner we returned to the room to find the perfect saying on our pillows:  Wine is one of the agreeable and essential ingredients of life –  Julia Child. 


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Mulled Wine – a Star is Born

mulledwinecooking1It is cold outside, the first really cold weekend this winter – perfect weather for mulled wine.  The winos met equipped with recipes to share, spices to toast, fresh baguettes, cheese and charcuterie.   We discovered that this warm wine is traditional during the cold winters around the world. Called glogg in the Nordic countries, Gluhwein in Germany and Austria,  vin chaud in France, vinho quenete in Brazil and Portugal, vine brule in Italy, Glintwein in Russia and the list goes on.

We agreed to read each of the recipes while sipping champagne with a grandiose cheese and charcuterie platter.  Then we improvised.  We knew we had a winner right away, the rich licorice-like aroma of the star anise started filling the room as we were toasting the spices.  Near the end the apricot brandy (I know we added more than 1 tablespoon) was a good finishing touch.  This is how we combined various recipes:

  • In a skillet we toasted 1 star anise petal, 4 crushed cardamom pods, 6 allspice berries,  1/2 teaspoon coriander seed and a touch of mulledwinenutmeg.
  • We then took the spices and the zest from an orange (no rind) and wrapped them in a square of cheesecloth, tied up the corners creating an infuser bag.
  • In a big soup pot, we brought to a simmer a bottle of cabernet sauvignon (it was a cheap bottle), don’t let it boil, and added the juice of one orange, the spices in the cheesecloth.   We transferred it to a crockpot and let it mull for 2 hours on very low heat.
  • At this point we added 1/4 cup maple syrup (a Canadian in the group insisted we use syrup), 1 tablespoon apricot brandy and we let it steep for another 30 minutes before drinking

Yummy, warm and cozy.  Unfortunately there were no to-go cups.  I know I’ll make it again for the Holidays.


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Friends, Turkey, Bubbles and Pinot Noir

pichettipinotA few of the winos gathered on Thanksgiving grateful for our families, friends, pets and looking forward to some delicious food and libations.  It was a smaller group so we started with a champagne toast to all the weekend winos and our host/chef and then proceeded to plan how we would approach tasting the four different Pinot Noirs.  The host had the Thanksgiving meal well under way so we continued with the bubbly telling childhood stories about Thanksgivings past.  We all agreed that this was one of our favorite Holiday gatherings and when it came to the wine, we also agreed that the 2011 Picchetti Pinot Noir stood out from the rest.  The grapes come from Los Carneros in Napa (the winery states this is a region with ideal growing conditions  for Pinot Noir) and it is aged for 12-months in French Oak.  With berry tones, this was a silky, smooth wine.  Our only regret is that we had just one bottle.

We continued with the tasting much to our surprise the 2009 Craftwork from Monterey photo-1was a very close second.             And lucky for us we had more than one bottle!

The other two we tasted – Irony from Russian River Valley and Quimay from Neuquen, Argentina –  just did not compare, extremely jammy and very light.  Same 2011 as the Picchetti, but unfortunately no comparison.  For dessert, we enjoyed the Angelica, which we already knew from previous weekend excursions would be the perfect ending to this wonderful occasion. Looking forward to reconnecting with the larger group to see what they discovered during their Thanksgiving feast.